Hidden Information

Some board games provide all the relevant information regarding the game to all players at all times. Go, Chess and Mancala are all examples of this type of game, there is nothing hidden from either player, all pieces are on the board, all the attributes of each piece and each rule of the game is visible and known in full.

Other games hide information, Development cards in Settlers, Risk cards in Risk and so on. This hiding of information adds a further level of analysis and complexity to the game. In a game without hidden information, then victory will ultimately go to the player best able to analyse the play situation, this is why we see Computers becoming the bast Chess players in the world.

Some games have apparently hidden information, which is not really hidden to those with good memories, Resource cards in Settlers and Victory points in Puerto Rico are both examples of this, they are kept secret once acquired, but each player sees all such acquisitions. To all but those with perfect memories, this information is somewhere between hidden and freely available, depending on each individual’s ability to recall details of who acquired what over a given time.

I think that hidden information provides a more social aspect to a game, it encourages the art of blag, and generally gives opportunities for negotiation and trade in the hidden information. Knowing something that is secret has value, and holding secrets can allow you to wield more influence over the game than would be possible if you converted the secrets to visible information.

So, hidden information can be said to add an extra dimension to gameplay in a given game. Too much can prove detrimental to the game. A chess game where you cannot see your opponent’s pieces might be an interesting game, but it would certainly no longer be chess. Too little will also change a game, and possibly lessen it. Making Resource or Development cards visible information in Settlers will remove most of the finer parts of the  trading game, making your Poker hand visible would destroy the entire point of that game.

When adding hidden information to a game, you need to think hard about what you are trying to achieve, whether it is truly necessary or not, and whether you are going to employ truly hidden information, or only apparently hidden information.  

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One Response to “Hidden Information”

  1. Gameplay/Game design Blogs « GameThing Says:

    […] Toadflax Games […]

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