Location: Gamex 2016, Los Angeles
Number of Players: 7
Psychics: Kyle, five complete strangers
Win: No. But so close!
We were doing pretty darn good until the very end. It took all seven hours for everyone to get to the final stage, but for a group of two friends and five strangers, most of whom had never played before, that wasn't really surprising. Especially on medium mode and with my crappy hands.
(Lots of disagreement over this one. Everyone had a good laugh over this. Especially me, because they were 100% correct to be skeptical. Neither of these were correct.)
In hour seven, the purple player switched his vote at the VERY last second... to the correct choice! I took my time telling him whether he was correct or not. It was a delicious moment of suspense.
I saved one of my three ravens for the final voting round but even that wasn't enough to save us, though. All but one of the options were voted for, and the one with two votes wasn't the correct option. But I wasn't very confident about the cards I had to give them, so I would have been pleasantly surprised if we'd managed to win.
One of the players asked me if this gets easier you play it regularly with the same people. I told him it does, depending on the players. But what I'm learning is that it also gets easier as the ghost even if you're playing with strangers. We were *so close*, and I think part of that was due to my willingness to give people clues that I knew probably wouldn't help them much, knowing that I'd probably get better cards in future rounds. The one thing I do need to rely on is that some players will be more in tune with the sort of guesswork necessary than others will be, and that they'll be able to guide the rest of the group. "Quarterbacking" isn't desirable in any game, but in this game not offering input to other players or taking others' input into account is just as bad.
One last comment. When Kyle and I showed up with my copy of the game, the GM who had arranged the event was just finishing up his 101 playthrough, and he was telling his players how much he hates the final stage in the English-language release. In the original Ukrainian edition, there is no clairvoyance track, and the final decision is collaborative like the rest of the game. I think it's a pretty common opinion that this way of doing things makes more sense since the rest of the game is cooperative - why all of a sudden have a secret voting round where you can't discuss ideas?
I disagree - I actually really like the secret final voting round. For a few reasons:
1. It fits with the gloomy, dark theme of the game. A bit of existentialism, if you will: in the end, we're all alone with our thoughts. Even psychics.
2. It dissuades excessive quarterbacking. Each player has to be paying attention for the whole game, because at the end you won't be able to lean on your teammates. Each person's ability to contribute is equally important in the last round.
3. It adds suspense. I love the moment where the players one by one have their votes revealed, and then after all that waiting for the ghost to reveal whether or not the plurality vote was correct.