The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

So, who wants to PBEM Black Vienna?

Cause I could go for some PBEM Black Vienna. As a matter of fact, some locals played it 2-3 weeks ago, and I spent a fair amount of time mocking them because so many of my games have ended with bitter tears from the incorrect answer cascading into an avalanche of suffering. But online? I’m in.

Kudos, Greg.

And yes, I put this in the correct category. Online personas shouldn’t think of themselves as people.


Written by taogaming

March 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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13 Responses

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  1. I’m in! Love Black Vienna (although I still prefer Code 777 for group play).

    Lou W

    March 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm

  2. In case anyone is interested:

    Larry Levy

    March 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm

  3. As long as it will be done by April 16th!


    March 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

  4. Thanks Brian.

    The Yahoo group ( is a decent way to request players. (Unfortunately, to join the group, I need to approve each request so there’s a bit of a lag. For whatever reason, Yahoo does not allow this setting to be changed once a group has been created.)

    Greg Aleknevicus

    April 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  5. 3 Player case started (Me, Jeff, Lou).


    April 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    • FWIW, I think 3-player BV is not a very good game. It’s not too hard for one player to get unlucky and have most or all of his cards exposed, so the other two just ask each other, and the third never gets to ask what he needs.


      April 1, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      • I’d agree that the 4-player game is superior to 3-player, but I don’t think the latter is so bad.

        The situation you describe may seem horrible at first glance but is it actually that bad? Consider that when the other two players are questioning each other, you’re getting (potentially) valuable information every turn. However, the other players are receiving useful information only every other turn. It may be that getting to ask a specific question out-weighs this advantage but it is a trade-off.

        Furthermore, having your entire hand revealed does not guarantee that you will never again be asked a question. If none of the available Investigation cards are useful to me, I’ll ask the revealed player a question so that I don’t reveal any information to anyone else. (This situation occurs more often with a greater number of players, but it can happen even in a three-player game.)

        Greg Aleknevicus

        April 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    • Case #, PW?

      Lou W

      April 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      • Ah yes…apparently my email hadn’t actually refreshed (a problem I have with Thunderbird. I welcome other suggestions for email clients).

        I’m got the info now.

        Lou W

        April 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

  6. Greg, if your opponents are capable, it is almost impossible to get asked a question once your hand is revealed and you are not eliminated. By the time another player finds all the questions useless, you should have already tried guessing the solution. You can’t wait until you know the solution, because at least one of the opponents will have beaten you to it, because if you know the answer, then all your opponents know the answer. Therefore, the last question would not have been asked, because the player being asked the last question will have already known the solution and would have solved it before the last question was asked. Therefore, as soon as you get a reasonable shot at guessing, you should go for it. It’d take immense luck to get a 1-in-2 shot, and then you are shooting for a tie against someone who has a lock; most likely your best hope is a 1-in-4, and you should probably go for a 1-in-6 if you get one.

    All bets are off if your opponents are poor players, but, for example, in the game we just started, it is pretty clear for me to assume that my opponents are playing first-order perfectly. I can imagine that one of them might delay a solve in order to prevent another player’s tying, but I’ve only seen that tried once, and it backfired.


    April 3, 2011 at 12:33 am

  7. “By the time another player finds all the questions useless…”

    I disagree with this assertion — such situations can happen remarkably early (and have on many occasions).

    I’m currently in a 4-player game where, on my most recent turn (the 22nd — 4-player games average ~38 turns total), I knew the location of every spy on all the available Investigation cards, but am nowhere near the point that a reasonable accusation is possible.

    None of the players was fully revealed, but if there was, I almost certainly would have investigated him/her. Not only does it guarantee that no-one else receives new information, but the initiative is given to a player who holds no advantage over me.

    Greg Aleknevicus

    April 3, 2011 at 1:03 am

    • For your play to occur, not only must all the questions be useless, but you must also know all the cards of another player. That doesn’t happen early very often. Furthermore, everyone has to know all his cards or you give away information you have and others do not. It is possible to know all of a player’s cards early in a 5- or 6-player game, but then it is nearly impossible that no card will help you until very near the end of the game.

      The reason I said, “almost,” is because it can happen that a card has two of your unknown spies and one of a revealed player’s. Then you’d happily ask that question of him to pin the card down so that it cannot be asked of you. It’s a bit unlikely to occur, because there’s a good chance that card will have been asked of you before you get a chance to pin it, but it could just have been drawn. Or there could be two of them. Unfortunately, if the player’s hand really is common knowledge, such a ploy is pretty transparent. Unless you are a clever double-crosser. In practice, however, most of the time that you know a player’s hand, the other players do not know you know it.

      It also appears that you play with the rule that you cannot re-ask 0-answers on yourself. That substantially increases the chances that no question is currently useful for you, because those are almost always useful questions for you to ask. In fact, they are almost always no-brainers to ask, which is probably the genesis of the rule. If you frequently are stuck with no useful question, perhaps you might choose not to use that rule.


      April 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      • My argument has less to do with the frequency of an event occurring, than with the consequences *if* it does occur.

        You original post suggested that *if* a player has his hand revealed, then he will not be asked another question. I don’t agree with that.

        Greg Aleknevicus

        April 4, 2011 at 12:19 am

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