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Dead Last» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Is the optimal play for a three person field for everyone to play Ambush? rss

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Matthew M
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Played my first game of Dead Last last night. It was fun, but about half way through the table came to the conclusion that whenever the field was down to three then the game breaks down as the only reasonable play is for everyone to pick Ambush.

In a three person field, if I play Ambush then almost every combination of cards the other two players play results in my either getting to the final round or all three players dying.

The only combination where that doesn't happen is if one of them targets the other and the other plays Ambush. In that case only that Ambushing player moves on. So again, their optimal play is to play Ambush.

When all three players recognize this then all three will play Ambush, leading to a null round where everyone dies. And there is no bluffing or double-bluffing out of the situation, because playing a target card will always lead to a worse outcome (ie someone else getting gold and you still being dead).

Interested to see if I can be convinced otherwise.
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Jonathan Lavallee
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Quote:
Interested to see if I can be convinced otherwise.


Easy. You all lose.

There is no "null" round. None of you voted with the majority, you all die. Gold stays there for the next round.

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Curt Covert
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Jonathan is correct.

AMBUSH is not considered a "vote" and does not get tallied in the counting of votes against a player. An AMBUSH will only save you if you have the most votes against you (or are tied for most) - and there must be at least one.

So, in the situation you outlined, no Votes are actually made. There is no 'most' and everyone dies. The gold remains for the next round.

Curt
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Smirky wrote:
Jonathan is correct.

AMBUSH is not considered a "vote" and does not get tallied in the counting of votes against a player. An AMBUSH will only save you if you have the most votes against you (or are tied for most) - and there must be at least one.

So, in the situation you outlined, no Votes are actually made. There is no 'most' and everyone dies. The gold remains for the next round.

Curt


Yes, that's what he seems to be saying. My group grappled with that issue a bit when the mathiest person said that playing Ambush and publicly declaring it is probably the best move. We didn't really come to a conclusion, but I think that was one of the issues I mentioned when I messaged Matt after our play. I'm a bit disappointed that that and the Final Showdown weren't tweaked for the final game.

I don't have a good answer, but it's obviously better for you and one other person to get to a Final Showdown, so if you and one other person can convince another to not play Ambush, you can be in good shape. Essentially, if the person you vote for doesn't Ambush and there aren't any votes on you (unless there are two on someone else), you get to a Final Showdown. If people are playing safely, then yeah, Ambush is better, but Ambush all the time is strictly suboptimal. The system only really breaks down if two people play Ambush all the time.
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Matthew M
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FirestormInk wrote:
Quote:
Interested to see if I can be convinced otherwise.


Easy. You all lose.

There is no "null" round. None of you voted with the majority, you all die. Gold stays there for the next round.



Yes...I understand that. And that's the optimal play because any other play likely results in someone else going to the money round and you still being dead.

That's the situation I don't care for - where if it comes down to three people the best play is for everyone to die and to start a new round.
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Matthew M
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MD1616 wrote:

I don't have a good answer, but it's obviously better for you and one other person to get to a Final Showdown, so if you and one other person can convince another to not play Ambush, you can be in good shape. Essentially, if the person you vote for doesn't Ambush and there aren't any votes on you (unless there are two on someone else), you get to a Final Showdown. If people are playing safely, then yeah, Ambush is better, but Ambush all the time is strictly suboptimal.


What argument can you make to convince me not to play Ambush?

Quote:
The system only really breaks down if two people play Ambush all the time.[


The system breaks down if one person plays Ambush all the time. That person is guaranteed to be in the final if there is one. As soon as that is clear the other two players will Ambush as well.

It can't be strictly suboptimal if any other play leads to the same or worse outcomes assuming good play from your opponents.
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Curt Covert
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Interesting.

Though I would say that there is so much Meta-gaming and it is so fun to try to gain the alignment of others, backstab and have a good belly laugh over it, that players are just as likely to do ANYTHING for the fun of it - including suddenly changing tactics you may expect them to use. And I believe that is where the fun of this game lies. Ha. In fact, if I were playing against you, I would use this knowledge against you. ; )
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Matthew M
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Smirky wrote:
Interesting.

Though I would say that there is so much Meta-gaming and it is so fun to try to gain the alignment of others, backstab and have a good belly laugh over it, that players are just as likely to do ANYTHING for the fun of it - including suddenly changing tactics you may expect them to use.


The problem is it doesn't matter what anyone else does.

If you know I am going to play Ambush in a three person scenario your only option to prevent me from getting bars is to sacrifice yourself to let the third player get all the bar cards or we all die.

Any other round with more players, absolutely you could use knowing what I will play against me. In this scenario you cannot. That's the issue.

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Rainer Ahlfors
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In your group, simply house rule that the current round ends and a new one begins if the game ever comes down to 3 players left.
 
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Matthew O'Malley
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So in a 3-player situation, there are 27 possible combinations of cards played.

Say you are player A. If all players play completely randomly:

- In 3.5 of the 9 scenarios where you play "kill B", you will advance to the final 2. (The .5 is because in one scenario you and C both voted to kill B and B ambushed you and will kill one of you.)

- In 3.5 of the 9 scenarios where you play "kill C", you will advance to the final 2.

- In 5 of the 9 scenarios where you play "ambush", you will advance (in 3 cases to the final 2, in 2 cases you will win the round).

So for the odds of playing a specific card, "ambush" is better by 5 to 3.5, but overall playing a "kill" or "ambush" card, a "kill" card is 7 to 5.

-----

You also mentioned that a desirable outcome (a reason to choose "ambush") might be to kill all players and restart a new round. I'm not sure I agree with that, because if there are 8 players at the table and you made it to the final 3, you want to win not restart with 8.

However, if you include "kill all players" as a desirable outcome, then add 2 successes to every one of the numbers above, since each card you play ("kill B", "kill C", and "ambush") has 2 of the 9 combinations in which everyone dies.

-----

I think you are assuming totally logical play by all players. In that scenario, you might wind up with the situation you describe. But people are not always logical.

If you see that either of the other players is planning to target the other, and they are communicating that to you, then your odds are much better if you play one of the kill cards. If you play ambush, you will lose (unless the other player also chose to kill you).

-----

However, if you know that the other players are both going to play ambush, then in that scenario your only option is to ambush as well. Which means you're all three choosing to lose that round. Isn't it better to try to convince one of them to team up against the third? You both will either advance to the final 2 or the third will ambush you, in which case you still have a 50/50 chance of advancing to the final 2, in fact a much better chance than 50/50 if you have less money (so the ambusher will target the other player).
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Curt Covert
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From the Publisher:

Hi Matthew M (Octavian)

Thanks for this post and for highlighting this situation. It's funny, I have played this game easily a hundred times at this point, with unique groups of 6-12 players most of those games. And, like me, they have all been swept up in the moment and the fun of the metagame, without analyzing things much deeper. The politics, the distrust and the second guessing of other players is certainly the focus of gameplay. It is a social game and not a heavy strategy game, so most people will likely approach the game in the spirit intended.

Of course, once the situation you point out is clear to the entire table, you are correct. It will likely lead to an overabundance of stalemate rounds, which could diminish game play.

Therefore, we are considering errata to the rules and, happily, there is a ready and thematically appropriate solution which we will put into test.

When 1 player remains, they are 'The Last Man Standing' and get all the gold.

When 2 players remain, they have a 'Final Showdown' deciding how to split the gold at gunpoint.

When 3 players remain, there is a 'Fire Fight' where Ambush cards may not be played - as there is nowhere left to hide.

Try this next time you play.
Curt
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Max DuBoff
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Octavian wrote:
MD1616 wrote:

I don't have a good answer, but it's obviously better for you and one other person to get to a Final Showdown, so if you and one other person can convince another to not play Ambush, you can be in good shape. Essentially, if the person you vote for doesn't Ambush and there aren't any votes on you (unless there are two on someone else), you get to a Final Showdown. If people are playing safely, then yeah, Ambush is better, but Ambush all the time is strictly suboptimal.


What argument can you make to convince me not to play Ambush?


It won't get you anything/any closer to winning and is thus suboptimal.

Octavian wrote:
Quote:
The system only really breaks down if two people play Ambush all the time.[


The system breaks down if one person plays Ambush all the time. That person is guaranteed to be in the final if there is one. As soon as that is clear the other two players will Ambush as well.

It can't be strictly suboptimal if any other play leads to the same or worse outcomes assuming good play from your opponents.


Yes, but the chances that the person won't get to a final also go up. If this were a three-player game, that would be fine, but it's not, and so while you're playing Ambush and making everyone die someone else could get to a Final Showdown without being down to 3 people and easily get ahead of you.
 
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Octavian wrote:
Smirky wrote:
Interesting.

Though I would say that there is so much Meta-gaming and it is so fun to try to gain the alignment of others, backstab and have a good belly laugh over it, that players are just as likely to do ANYTHING for the fun of it - including suddenly changing tactics you may expect them to use.


The problem is it doesn't matter what anyone else does.

If you know I am going to play Ambush in a three person scenario your only option to prevent me from getting bars is to sacrifice yourself to let the third player get all the bar cards or we all die.

Any other round with more players, absolutely you could use knowing what I will play against me. In this scenario you cannot. That's the issue.



Well, sure, but if it's not a problem if you get bars then I can try to get to a Final Showdown with you. If you're winning, then yeah, Ambush is obviously the best play.
 
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Smirky wrote:
From the Publisher:

Hi Matthew M (Octavian)

Thanks for this post and for unearthing this issue. It's funny, I have played this game easily a hundred times at this point, with unique groups of 6-12 players most of those games. And, like me, they have all been swept up in the moment and the fun of the metagame, without analyzing things much deeper. Because it is a social game and not a heavy strategy game, most people who play will likely continue to have a similar experience.

But once the situation you point out is clear to the entire table, you are correct. It will likely lead to an overabundance of stalemate rounds, which could diminish game play.

We are considering an errata to the rules and, happily, there is a ready and thematically appropriate solution which we will put into test.

When 1 player remains, they are 'The Last Man Standing' and get all the gold.

When 2 players remain, they have a 'Final Showdown' deciding how to split the gold at gunpoint.

When 3 players remain, there is a 'Fire Fight' where Ambush cards may not be played - as there is nowhere left to hide.

Try this next time you play.
Curt


The phrasing about its being a "social game" is rather disappointing, but I do like that house rule.
 
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MD1616 wrote:

The phrasing about its being a "social game" is rather disappointing, but I do like that house rule.


In point of fact, it is a 'social collusion' game, a bit of a wrinkle on other social games which are based in deduction.
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aggaire wrote:

Isn't it better to try to convince one of them to team up against the third?


No. And this is especially true if one of the players is already close to winning.

Quote:
You both will either advance to the final 2 or the third will ambush you, in which case you still have a 50/50 chance of advancing to the final 2, in fact a much better chance than 50/50 if you have less money (so the ambusher will target the other player).


If I am close to winning and I am not part of this deal I assume I am the target and play Ambush. If someone does try to collude with me, then I am dead anyways when the target plays Ambush. Whoever has the most money is not going to play anything other than Ambush.

That being the case, if someone else is close to winning then trying to target that player actually helps them. I may have a 50% shot at advancing but the leader has a 100% chance, and a grab and go may win the game. If trying for a 50/50 shot for myself leads to losing overall I would rather nobody gets anything.
 
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After thinking about it, I have mixed feelings about that house rule. There's still room for backstabbing and stuff, but it takes intrigue and fun out of the game (even if it's only for a final 3).

Octavian, I think we can agree that whenever someone is close to winning or even within striking distance it's best to just play Ambush. At other times, though, I still think automatically playing Ambush isn't optimal. I'm actually ok with that being the optimal play when someone's ahead, because that means you just need to coordinate to not be in a final 3 with the leader(s).
 
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The thread's original intent was to verify whether or not our conclusion about the three person scenario was correct.

I'm not a fan of house rules, personally, but having what is a very enjoyable experience grind to such an unsatisfying resolution when the situation comes up is disappointing. If I were to go with a house rule it would be the following:

When there are three players left, if all three players die then it's over and everyone at the table is back in for a new round. If anyone makes it to the finals, the player(s) eliminated draw one bar card off the top of the deck. Then the finale happens normally.

This way the player in the lead has an incentive to NOT see a mutually assured destruction scenario, but it's still possible for the other two to arrange it. However arranging it actually gives the leader the option to bluff back to playing Ambush to win.

So the tension of who will play what is still there. Ambush is still a viable, but no longer assured, option. The other players still have a main incentive to not let the leading player get to the final three. And the shootout round still happens normally.
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Octavian wrote:
When there are three players left, if all three players die then it's over and everyone at the table is back in for a new round. If anyone makes it to the finals, the player(s) eliminated draw one bar card off the top of the deck. Then the finale happens normally.


I would be interested in hearing official feedback to this change. Personally, I like it better than what was suggested earlier in the thread.
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GalaGalaxia wrote:
Octavian wrote:
When there are three players left, if all three players die then it's over and everyone at the table is back in for a new round. If anyone makes it to the finals, the player(s) eliminated draw one bar card off the top of the deck. Then the finale happens normally.


I would be interested in hearing official feedback to this change. Personally, I like it better than what was suggested earlier in the thread.



It is certainly a viable balancing option. But thematically, dead players collecting gold doesn't feel right, given the rest of the game.
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DZ Woloshyn
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I haven't played the game. I'd never heard of it before today.

Total outsider opinion:
"All players die and no one progresses towards winning" is NOT FUN.

A game like this should play fast and hard.

d10-1Dizzy's Possible Rule 1: Ménage à trois
When 3 players remain, shuffle up the 6 Final Showdown Cards and deal 2 to each player. Each player passes one card to the left. Go.

STEAL/STEAL/GRAB1 = Grab1 grabs 1, steals are dead, round is over.
STEAL/STEAL/SHARE = Share takes 4.
SHARE/SHARE/GRAB1 = Grab1 is dead (nice try!), the other two share.
SHARE/SHARE/STEAL = Steal takes 4.
GRAB1/GRAB1/STEAL = Grab1's grab 1, steal takes 2.
GRAB1/GRAB1/SHARE = Share looks at all cards, keeps 2, and gives the Grab1's one each.
GRAB1/STEAL/SHARE = Grab1 grabs 1, steal takes 3.

Let's see: the outcomes, as measured in bars, are:
SHARE: 4, 2, 0, 2 best, 0
GRAB1: 1, 0, 1, 1 worst, 1 (low risk, low reward)
STEAL: 0, 0, 4, 2, 3

That seems pretty even to me.

d10-2Dizzy's Possible Rule 2: Give this to Jenny for me.
Before proceeding, the three surviving players each secretly nominate (with a face-down card) one currently-dead player to grab 1 bar if all living players should die in the next round.
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Dizzy is Calm wrote:
I haven't played the game. I'd never heard of it before today.

Total outsider opinion:
"All players die and no one progresses towards winning" is NOT FUN.

A game like this should play fast and hard.

d10-1Dizzy's Possible Rule 1: Ménage à trois
When 3 players remain, shuffle up the 6 Final Showdown Cards and deal 2 to each player. Each player passes one card to the left. Go.

STEAL/STEAL/GRAB1 = Grab1 grabs 1, steals are dead, round is over.
STEAL/STEAL/SHARE = Share takes 4.
SHARE/SHARE/GRAB1 = Grab1 is dead (nice try!), the other two share.
SHARE/SHARE/STEAL = Steal takes 4.
GRAB1/GRAB1/STEAL = Grab1's grab 1, steal takes 2.
GRAB1/GRAB1/SHARE = Share looks at all cards, keeps 2, and gives the Grab1's one each.
GRAB1/STEAL/SHARE = Grab1 grabs 1, steal takes 3.

Let's see: the outcomes, as measured in bars, are:
SHARE: 4, 2, 0, 2 best, 0
GRAB1: 1, 0, 1, 1 worst, 1 (low risk, low reward)
STEAL: 0, 0, 4, 2, 3

That seems pretty even to me.

d10-2Dizzy's Possible Rule 2: Give this to Jenny for me.
Before proceeding, the three surviving players each secretly nominate (with a face-down card) one currently-dead player to grab 1 bar if all living players should die in the next round.


Hi DZ

Playing fast and hard - can't argue that point. Agree.
This whole issue only pokes up its head if a player decides to announce his on-going intentions to Ambush every time to the table and explains why they should too. I had never seen that happen. (Which is probably how it got missed.) Still, finding an appropriate solution seems a good course.

Very interesting solutions. I love your 3on3 chart. Though it doesn't explicitly say so, I understand that after passing, you will still be choosing just one card to Showdown with.
The effects seem well thought out and appropriate. Though explaining it at the table will cause a bit of head scratching as people try to figure out what they will do.

Rule 2: I appreciate the thematic "Give this to Jenny for me" as the reason to benefit dead players.

And I think there is still something to be said for banning Ambush from a 3 player situation, as there is no where to hide in a fire fight. You will still have people collude and lie about their true intentions, it is super simple to explain and conforms to the 'fast & hard' play style.

I'll test a bunch of things before any official errata.
But thanks for the thoughts.
Curt
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DZ Woloshyn
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Smirky wrote:
[q="Dizzy is Calm"]The effects seem well thought out and appropriate. Though explaining it at the table will cause a bit of head scratching as people try to figure out what they will do.


Yeah... erm.. wait a sec:

Steal works well unless two people play Steal.
Grab1 gets you 1 unless the others both play Share.
Share is good unless exactly 1 person plays Steal.

.. there! haha!

Thanks for the consideration! I live to serve.
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What if you only allow Ambush to work against more than 1 vote? That is, if only one person votes for you and you played Ambush, you are still killed.

In the 3 player situation, If Player 1 declares they are playing Ambush, Players 2 and 3 could choose to take a 50/50 shot and kill him anyway, but if either one of them votes for the other, then they alone would win the round. (Player 1 Ambushes, Player 2 votes for 1, Player 3 votes for 2. Player 3 wins alones since the Ambush doesn't work)

Now, since Player 1 knows that, and any switch of a vote by Player 2 or 3 would result in Player 1 being killed, Player 1 might actually decide to not Ambush. If Player 1 switches and votes for Player 2 or 3, then Player 1 can get into the final 2.

But again, if Player 2 or 3 can figure out Player 1 is going to switch, they might play Ambush. Furthermore, the other one may want to then switch back to voting for Player 1 to assure he is in the final 2 instead of 50/50.

Since I think you could keep the logic circle going and you now have motivation to not play an Ambush, this solution seems to work.

You could even make this a house rule for the entire game for ease of teaching. It only affects gameplay when 1 vote is the most that anyone got, which will probably only happen in small player counts and when players didn't coordinate enough.

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How about, to ensure there aren't any degenerate situations, if all players manage to die in a round, then any player who was not part of that round gets a gold card. It's kind of a "Thanks for f*cking it up" penalty. Double Steal in the finale is just a special case of this.
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