Witchhunt State of the Union 2014
03-12-2014, 08:36 AM (This post was last modified: 03-12-2014 12:48 PM by Chocolate Pi.)
Witchhunt State of the Union 2014
The other day, I was telling a friend that I had made the best version of mafia ever. He was skeptical--he had considered previous versions of of my game interesting but problematic in some ways. I assured him that the latest version was the best, assuredly perfect and flawless.
"Yeah, it's got a third-party Werewolf in it now!"
Hindsight can be as painful as it is humbling. This was the game as I posted it originally on David Sirlin's forum in May of 2009:
---Votes with the Witches each night.
A2. Warlock (Witch)
---Breaks all ties among Witch votes.
---You cannot be killed by a town vote.
---If you are killed, you may choose one additional player to kill.
---Each night you may Check one living player.
B2. Silencer (Witch)
---Your affiliation appears as innocent. If the Witches do not vote to kill someone, the Priest dies if he Checks you that night.
---You will be informed of the identity of the Priest at the beginning of the game.
B4. Grave Digger
---You appear as "evil". Each night you may Check one dead player. This Check cannot be wrong.
---Each night you may protect one person from death by Witch vote.
C2. Demon (Witch)
---If the Witches do not vote to kill someone, the Archangel dies if he protected himself.
---The first attempt to kill you will fail.
---If you vote for the Archangel in a town vote, that vote will fail to kill.
---At the start of the game, you may pick two Lovers.
D2. Assassin (Witch)
---If you vote for another Witch in a Witch vote, your vote counts twice.
---In all votes, you always have a single bonus vote cast against you.
D4. Vampire Hunter
---You may instantly kill any Vampire players by voting for them.
---You may not speak.
---You may not open your eyes during the day.
---You must immediately cast a town vote at the beginning of each day.
E4. Leeroy Jenkins
---If the town fails to kill someone during the day, you sacrifice yourself.
I'm not going to comment on the past, other than to say that things have changed a little since then. I'm not going to list every version, so this will have to do:
The rest of this post is a sort of sweeping design blog post on the state of the entire game and all its contents, with a focus on recent changes. You can think of it as a combination of game rules/encyclopaedia and contextualized changelog.
The phrase "player type" (referring to say Witch vs. Junior Witch) has been renamed "team type". All mechanical references to player type have been replaced with "exact same team type", which should be more clear. General "team" (alignment) is still "team", and "character" is still the official word for unique-ability-role-card.
Holy Villager was renamed Village Clergy to better match the others, and make learning bifurcation of team type + character easier for new players. Holy characters are still "holy characters"; we just now have a different word for the team type that gets them, to avoid confusion.
I fully anticipate everyone to continue using the word "holy" exactly as they always have.
Similar case. Peasant is now the official word for "basic villager" or "vanilla villager". It's nice to have standardized vocabulary to talk about things with.
Nothing new here. Except:
Let's get one thing out of the way: Two endgame night kills are waaaay less than double the power of one night kill. This is due to a number of reasons, but the biggest is Angels and Demons: Demons can only veto Angels from stopping one of the kills.
This also means that the final Witch wins all 1v2s against otherwise unprotected opponents, with the sole exception of Heavenly Chorus + Archangel double-whammy. In no case is there a "angel coinflip" situation between two targets.
In a night 1v3 Angels do have a 50/50 shot at protecting the second target. They can always beat it with Heavenly Chorus, and usually with Archangel. They also always beat it if any of the 3 villager targets has any form of protection, or is DOB.
A sum of these implications is that Angels have more relevance, but almost never hold the final decision of the game in their hands.
The actual balance impact of this change is surprisingly small, and is smaller the better Demons + Angels play. Given perfect Demons and Angels, net change is actually zero. (Ignoring dead player cards)
We've known for years that player groups with extreme spreads of player skill/experience are more volatile but overall significantly town-biased. In all mafia games, the Witch team is affected by a variety of competing factors that pull the team towards being as weak as its weakest player, or as strong as its strongest player. The former is almost always a much more significant force. This change's primary goal is putting a bit more focus on the latter.
The "no extra lives" condition is something I suspect is required primarily to maintain the balance in very small games.
It requires separate targets (like most other targeting mechanisms) to encourage/reward village team for spreading their resources, and not to marginalize extra lives or Gambler. (Such would also reintroduce Archangel 50/50 coinflip cases in some game outcomes.)
Advice to Villagers: Activating Last Stand means you're winning, and a watered-down second night kill is never as costly as a mislynch! Don't be afraid of killing Witches!
Advice to Witches: Mislynching is still better than two kills. Allies are still usually more useful as meatshields than dead; this is just a consolation prize, don't bus too hard! ;)
And yes, the second kill is optional and ambiguous.
These are the characters that the game assumes must exist in every game, without exception.
The Priest is still powerful, though Last Stand shifts more of the Witch team's power to the last member.
Still only knows Priest, no other holies. Good reversion.
Last Stand's last-life restriction is targeted primarily as Survivalist in small games.
Apprentice has done a good job of moderating the GD's social power, and mitigating the negative impact a N1 GD death can have on the game.
The extra life pierce bonus really made Judge way more interesting across player groups, boosted its power appropriately, and breathed new life into Judge discussions.
Apprentice has been promoted to the highest tier of roles. It has provided overall stability yet an interesting new ambiguity. It adds a sprinkle of D1 and D2 information, especially in cases where there was a crippling shortage. It's a powerful choice that players of all skill levels seem to enjoy considering, and yet only has two options with no "wrong" answer.
In custom coven draft tests, Apprentice was the second most popular coven character. (After D.O.B.)
These are characters added sequentially as the game grows, with the assumption that most games will include them.
Still great. A little weak in smaller games perhaps, but no one complains getting it on either team.
Bumped up to #8 in the lineup because it is too pro-Witch for the tinest of games with Last Stand in the mix.
Ability is now a one-shot to prevent Magician abuse. Lost the briefly tested ability to use it early on survival due to rules bloat and unneeded power.
Like D.O.B.: Ability is now a one-shot to prevent Magician abuse. Lost the briefly tested ability to use it early on survival due to rules bloat and unneeded power.
B.O.D. has been by far the least popular custom coven draft pick. Exactly zero players have ever chosen it as of this time. (While D.O.B. has been the single most popular)
New consolidated Gambler is really popular with some players. I'm surprised how many people pick even.
I was shocked how popular Fanatic was in the custom coven draft tests. A lot of people picked it for themselves, even players who would not be considered policy checks in the meta.
Still really good. Unsurprisingly, a popular custom coven draft choice.
These are optional characters with a lot of complexity. Most of them warp the early game, including D1. You can think of these characters as small alternatives to a full expansion pack; crazy characters to spice up a larger base set game.
Oracle learns the otherwise meaningless and random flavor text for the morning death announcements of the holy characters. In many ways, this is the sister card to the Gravedigger.
It previously only learned the death of one holy, selected pregame. This proved too weak, and picking Priest was a largely unactionable noob-trap.
Jester had to get nerfed pretty hard. Now the options that waste kills only give the extra life to the team aligned with that kill, so no double-whammy. Makes Inquisitor less powerful but more important, if that makes sense?
Bomb is now always passed after a lynch, with has smoother gameflow and requires a bit more trust. It almost makes holding the bomb a bit "safer"...
Diviner was renamed to the more appropriate Spiritualist, and tuned.
After it was previously discovered that letting town Diviner see Angels playing cards was too powerful and prone to Plan S schemes (because there are more of them now, not just Archangel), it was restricted to only enemy cards.
I felt this was too weak, so it was restored to all cards--but you saw nothing if you were cursed, so Demons could trivially stop any Plan S.
But what if there are no Demons yet, and the Spiritualist is a townfirm? Hence the final text--radio silence until a Demon exists. Since Angels shouldn't be playing cards before then, it's an effective solution.
Then I realized that no-curse is available as an optionto Demons even if they exist, so we can forget the cursing-Spiritualist engineered exception entirely. The end result of all this is way smoother.
Nurse was promoted to base set (albeit as an optional advanced card) because it is totally awesome. I want to earmark it as a preferred addition to L&W games though.
Assassin was moderated into a sister card to Nurse. No penalty, but a max of 3 targets. I have no idea what I was thinking--even with ONE kill, a no-penalty free-trigger Assassin is favorably comparable to the Loose Cannon.
Assassin is now single target, with a self-kill penalty. Still a valuable role. (Again, compare and contrast with Loose Cannon)
Dead Player Cards
Same core rules, but many of the cards have been tuned and Last Stand is now a Thing. Angels overall have more agency in more situations, but rarely have a say in the final mechanical decision of the game.
A common theme we will see with tweaks to the dead player cards is "no more additional targets." Outside of Heavenly Chorus, in which the second target is interchangeable with the first, the compound decisions on these cards made dead player discussion and communication obnoxious and kludgey. This is a nerf to Demons, but forgive me if I can't find a violin small enough.
Heavenly Chorus is innately more important now that it solves night 1v3s. (against Last Stand)
However it still stacks multiplicatively with all other dead player cards, and can be used to make Big Plays. It also now works with Angelic Avatar.
First, it now has clearer language with a half-keyword that doesn't call attention to itself. It also has a humorous and catchy name.
On a typical night 1, when a first-lynch Demon has no reason to curse anyone, it's the same.
On later nights, it has a cost--Demons must forego their curse to pursue Shenanigans. Given that this only matters if the Priest is alive, in which case they are probably cursing the Priest, this boils down to a clear-cut "do we want to kill the Priest, or manipulate him?" decision. Mid-game Shenanigans has a little higher value on high value peasants--people coven wouldn't mind either killing or marking.
Same, but no longer has stupid coin-flip endgame 1v2 behavior.
Backup Plan is made a tad weaker by the target restriction, but not much. It's language has been tuned to make it "incompatible" with Last Stand as well as Traitor Coup multi-kills. Still really good, just refocused on mitigating midgame disasters Demons see coming.
Targeting change is a trivial nerf, but it now works with Heavenly Chorus. Which is really powerful, and Witches can only overcome thanks to Last Stand.
Armageddon had to go; Last Stand replaced the need for it, and is incompatible with it. (It was also a lame, anti-fun band-aid.) So the Spectre effect is reborn! Like the other base set Demon cards, it is vastly more valuable if Witches are losing, and frankly useless if they are on the ball.
I might buff this to also show the Witches any other Demon cards that were played that night, so they know unambiguously if Backup Plan or any of the expansion cards are in play.
Halftime remains the "easy" expansion. It doesn't do much to help Day 1, but it does do a pretty good job of maximizing the total amount of time players spend in the game alive, as a percentage.
Dead players are always sad to not make it to Halftime, but always excited to get to watch it. I think this is more so true offline, where each action is unfolding rapidly step-by-step and no one knows what will happen next.
All unchanged. This final Junior paradigm has worked great. Witches have been accurate, but had to think.
We had a game where the Bishop lived to go off, but the town killed the last Witch going into Halftime. #firstworldproblems
Text modified to a keyword "vanish", and behaviour with DOB/BOD cleaned up. (Finally)
I've been really pleased with the townfirm info cycle across the expansions. They are complex, but players tend to like them.
Zealot was the last card changed. The extra protection makes the card a little more spicy and appealing, and ensured you always live to use any info you get. It also helps Witches set up Bishop fake-claims.
Really good role. Really, really powerful for town. Probably the most pro-town offensive role in any set.
Works pretty good. Popular.
I love the crazy relationships the IN* players end up in, in various Halftime games. It's always different and always interesting.
A solid, simple inclusion. Adds to the Halftime mythos, that anything could happen.
A bit back this was buffed to allow Alchemist to give their extra life away. I want to see more results of this, I'm not 100% positive it is a good change. (Obviously makes town Alchemist with outed holies way different...)
That said, Witch team Alchemist interacts in a really cool way with Narrow Escape...
Also crazy powerful, like Sniper. Entertainer has been town MVP more than it's fair share of history.
Like Butcher, adds a ton to the Halftime mystique.
Popular. Probably the best possible implementation of a pie-in-the-sky, maximum power neutral role.
Dead Player Cards
If a Spy died early, somebody screwed up. You can at least make a play out of it. Like all Angel cards, it synergizes with Heavenly Chorus.
Fake Last Stand. Make a survival ambiguous. Cover for a Witch-team Alchemist or Entertainer. Fake aggro at Halftime. Fake a basic self-shoot via no night kill.
All these things do cost your usual curse, but hell if they aren't great options.
King's Court Expansion
King's Court members are now publicly known. This is provides a big sense of agency, reduces some need for town secrecy, and helps Witches a lot in the event of a total Court lockout. It's also smaller in small games, as we will see.
Note that the Court is not public until after it has formed; town does not know the King/Queen/Vizier day 1. Also, the public has no idea who is who--just that they are on the court.
Witches still have the least starting info in King's Court, but as soon as they get one Traitor, they know all of them. The Traitor can also risk public communication back to his buddies.
Knights are still the same, but it is no longer absolutely imperative to purge every last Knight before killing the King:
Traitor Recruitment is way, way better. It no longer costs the Witches a precious kill, in the set where they have the fewest.
Coven *can* stack these kills, and use this to kill the King through Knights. (If they are sure how many are left.)
Note that unlike endgame kills (Last Stand), two early-game kills are close to (and sometimes superior to) double the power of two separate kills. There are more targets, the targets are more ambiguous, Coven is harder to predict, and there is value in delaying night kill information to town.
King now scales with game size. He needs Queen to survive D1 in tiny single-role KC games in order to have a court, which makes her a bit more important.
Queen is still "dominated" by the King, but is still one of the most influential and powerful roles in the existence.
Slightly nerfed to allow for vastly cleaner language. D.O.B. can kill him now, as well as Lover Suicides and Ritual of Wrath. (If you somehow have Emissary in a L&W game?)
It's important to remember what an empowering optimality Emissary enjoys regarding his own death early game. Imagine you are a town Emissary, and town is going to lynch you D1. What do you say, and what do they do? Contrast with Survivalist. Now, same questions if you are a Witch? What if you are a Witch with an Emissary ally?
Again, I really like this cycle. Squire creates a quality Judge-esque D1 mechanical discussion.
Pretty good, and easy to lie about. Burst info feels more powerful than a steady stream., somehow.
Really powerful role. More "active" than any other info role in terms of raw agency and initiative.
Has a lot of power when losing. Info on a delay is a good way of letting town safely have info.
Medic is nerfed; the life is now unknown to the person who has it (and dead players), to prevent handshakes and the town info they represent. Yes, you lose the unknown extra life before any known ones.
Merc is still strong.
Mystic is totally redone. It's a much better "trap card" character now than the old tri-gated lifelink non-sense, which created a lot of ambiguity and very little real power for anyone.
Mystic might seem bad or pointless for town, but remember, this is King's Court; town has a surplus of kills. The ability to convert some of town's kills to extra lives is a useful option in this context. Just imagine doing this on the Priest--why on earth wouldn't you? (Of course, if witch team has control over the entire living Traveler group and can lie about it...)
Minstrel can now double two or even all of his fellow Travelers, making the role way more powerful. I want to see this in action.
Dead Player Cards
This is a strictly weaker Angelic Avatar that you get sooner in the game, and can critically use on holies. Stacks with Heavenly Chorus and Archangel well.
Witch team can use this to foil a T.Merc test, foil some T.Medic tests, or survive a court/vig kill. It's reasonable to guess it might have been the work of angels, after all. It can finally also be used for generic fake self-shoots.
Love & War Expansion
Love & War got a lot of character changes. Musketeers are completely out, due to being too swingy in what is already the most swingy set by virtue of its mechanical themes.
An important change for Love & War is that all card reveals are now official extensions, and have a cooldown period for that length per player. So, you can't immediately Ritual of Lust, Nurse yourself, and Loose Cannon someone; other players have a (brief) chance to act.
I might be persuaded to look at improving the rules language clarity on Lovers some more. I've gotten a lot of questions about them.
Angels (and Demons) now see when Lovers share Angel protection, and thus can find/identify unclaimed Lovers.
Last Stand lets a last Witch shoot Lovers who only have Angel protection. Not sure how I feel about this.
Warlocks and their Rituals are all the same, though some of the no-self-target text is now more explicit.
However, in addition to the per-player cooldown for revealing cards, all Rituals share a global, shared cooldown of the same length. All this means is that other players can interrupt a Ritual party, and it's not a matter of who yells first.
No relics, now we have a sort of greatest hits Templar. At first he just got silence and a 1-target protect. Then this was changed to this "prism" effect, to let him dominate the new Engineer event.
He's mostly the same in all other cases. Archangel doesn't work on him now though. (While he is active) Not sure how I feel about that, but I like the prism presentation.
Note: Sloth (pre-emptively) counters Templar now!
Adding that extra life to this previously weak role was great.
Captain has been remixed and upgraded into this way cooler version. At first it was a private night action, but a public day one is stronger (due to the value of day kills in this set), cleaner rules language, and better for game flow and the character's narrative.
Still like these!
Moonlight Pagan has been renamed Saboteur, since the old Pagan cycle is broken and this is a much better name for the modern rules language. (As well as the set theme)
Ditto for Sunlight Pagan, which is now Detective. I'm gonna try and tie this closely to the Lovers half of the theme, somehow.
Man, this ability is just too cool. Funny interactions:
-Warlock party? GOOD LUCK, I'M OUT.
-Vanish a Lover? No shared protection, yet no suicide...
-Don't want a Captain to proc, but lynching someone else? ADVENTURE TIME.
-Town Ninja & Judge beat Witches in most 2v2 cases. Where's your Last Stand now?!?
Don't use Ninja in a Halftime set game unless you are evil.
It was one kill, which was just like... the world's worst D.O.B.
Now it's two, which is terrifying. However, town can fight back with Angels (especially Heavenly Chorus), Ninja, BOD, Nurse, and Templar. They have a lot of options to mitigate this.
The current ruling is that the game can end before the kills land. If town is 2v1 against a Witch Engineer who shoots both of them before being lynched, the game is a town win immediately regardless of whether or not the Angels can successfully block at least one of the impending kills. I may change this, since Angels can block them in the majority of cases.
Sneaky role that changes the dynamics of Nurse and BOD. Extra lives are now in some small way a potential liability!
Now once per game. Trivial nerf, increased clarity. Power also reduced by sharing with Rogue.
Everything is hilarious forever. Captain. Detective. Ninja. Engineer. Rogue. Executioner. Nurse. Assassin.
I'm gonna mention Captain, Ninja, and Engineer again.
Does *not* work on Rituals, because that's dumb and makes Greed awful. Does not work on Templar or Loose Cannon, nor DOB/BOD, for obvious rules language and game flow reasons.
Pretty good, but I feel like it might be the weakest link in the set now? That said, I have no problem with it. (Everything else is just so exciting now...)
Dead Player Cards
Less important without Musketeers, but still helpful. Its new wording more importantly does block suicides of "overrun" Lover kills, thanks to Admiral or Engineer.
Toned down slightly, but still very powerful. Setting up a perma-curse now costs the Demons their usual curse.
After GDC, I will be finishing porting the original code to Amazon's services and online alpha testing will begin. We'll also have a steady inflow of art assets, which are looking fantastic.
Thanks to everyone who has helped test the game and enabled me to develop it this far over the last 7 years; we've now been through 33 major versions, and 324 unique cards. (Including characters, team types, dead player cards, rituals, relics, and tricks)
This will be my full time job for the remainder of this year, and we will be running a Kickstarter to publish quality physical copies once the online community is established. (October is the current target.) I'll be showing the game as a variety of conventions until then, starting the GDC next week.
It's been a trip, but the exciting part is only beginning!
08-24-2015, 09:08 AM
RE: Witchhunt State of the Union 2014
Hey, didn't see a better place to post in about your Kickstarter, but congrats on it reaching 100%!