Resilience of Components

I was playing the Game of Thrones board game last night, and it reminded me of something I’d been meaning to write about for a long time.

When playing this game, it is important that you keep various decisions secret until they are revealed (Selection of house cards and order tokens). If another player knows what moves you are planning to make, then this will provide them with an unfair advantage.

The set we were using to play the game has been well used. As a consequence, some of the playing pieces have been worn down slightly. The most commonly used pieces belonging to each player have started to show wear, and some have fairly distinctive tells.

This is a problem, it gives players the opportunity to discover something about the hidden information held by the other player. It is not easy to counteract, nor is it cheap. In a standard card game, if you notice that a card is showing wear, then it is possible to switch the deck, at a negligible cost. With a board game that has specific components, it is much more expensive to replace a part showing wear.

The resilience of the game’s components is important in these situations where it is non-trivial to replace worn or damaged pieces. Once pieces become distinguishable, there are several strategies that can be employed, depending on your concern for the maintainence of the hidden information.

The most difficult is to replace the worn components with new pieces. This is often expensive, or impossible, without purchasing a whole new copy of the game.

Next you can work around the worn pieces, by writing down orders rather than denoting them with tokens, by using dice rather than cards to randomise choices, and so on.

Finally, you can ignore the worn components, deciding that it is easier to play with them, and accept that some of the hidden information is now available to all players.

I cannot recommend any of these approaches over the other, they all have merits and flaws, and will be more appropriate or not depending on your own play group or game, but I’ve written this to give you the opportunity to consider how to approach this issue, and to make sure it isn’t ignored.

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