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The Traitor ~The Author M~

July 11, 2010

One of the most interesting roles available in games is the traitor role. It’s prevalent in a lot of popular board games today, Shadows over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica, Saboteur. There’s something within me that delights in being the villain. There are several attributes that contribute to the “traitor” role.

  • The traitor win condition is in opposition to regular players.
  • The traitor knows they are a traitor but the regular players don’t.
  • The traitor opperates some mechanic that secretly sabotages the players ability to win

Beyond Board Games, the classic form of the “traitor” comes in the form of Murder Mystery Games. While mechanics are abandoned to social skills and acting ability, the murder mystery “traitor” has several options available to him to avoid detection. If a traitor is coopertive then suspician is alleviated from him, as it is natural to suspect someone who is uncooperative and seems like they have something to hide. However, if a traitor is too helpful in a murder mystery party, then everyone gains more information, which will likely identify the traitor. Being uncoopertaive has the reverse pro’s and con’s; your a bigger target, but there’s less concrete information. A popular tactic in murder mystery games is to shift blame around and be the person who’s doing the accusing. At a party, even if an accusation falls flat, the more accusations there are, the less strength any one of them has.

It’s incredibly interesting how many of the techniques one would use in a Murder Mystery translate dirrectly into a normal board game with a traitor mechanic. A straight cooperative or competetive board game oftentimes puts all of the focus dirrectly on the table. There are correct and inccorect methods and good and bad strategies, but all of it is in the movement of the little pieces around the board, very little of the game focuses on the pressence of other players (except, of course, in the case metagaming or mindgaming which takes a special type of board game group). However, the pressence of a traitor mechanic instantly shifts the player’s focus onto each other. If you’re trying to guess your opponent’s next move, more often you look at their strategy over their face, but when you know that another player is a traitor, it feels as though the person acquires a tangible taint that could be detected by the slightest muscle spasm. In my experiance that although one might intuitivly think that taking a player’s focus off the board would detract from the immersion and flow of the game, the opposite is true. Playing a game like Puerto Rico or Risk can immerse a player in strategy, but at the end of the day it’s all math and logic, having to devise tactics while maintaining a facade of innocence engages both right and left brain thinking.

~The Author M~

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