Perfect Information

Ed “Duke of BAzlandia”

First, you will not be hearing from the Sam, King of the Hilltop. He has been busy trying to get everything prepared for GenCon Online. Feel free to hit him up on social media, or say hi to him online if you get a chance. Sadly, that leaves you with just me. So, on to the subject at hand.

Most board games rely on players not having “perfect information.” The key is to understand what is meant by perfect information. Perfect information is when all factors and motives are known. All information about the game, what the current stat is, and what available options are known to all players. Abstract games tend to provide perfect information. Often in abstract games the players do not have hidden agendas that allow them to score points, a hidden one time ability card, or any kind of random input/output that can affect their decisions.

When designing a non-abstract game perfect information is not desirable. When a game has perfect information it becomes more of a puzzle. I know many gamers enjoy doing puzzles but once the puzzle has been figured out, it’s not very fun doing it again let alone several times. This can be combated by adding in randomness, random events, and etc. This is often what 1 player games or variants do. This prevents what I would call true perfect information.

Having discussed randomness in board games in a previous blog post HERE, I will not spend any more time discussing randomness. There are several other ways that perfect information can be prevented. A few of these were mentioned earlier but a few such mechanics are: hidden roles, secret abilities, hidden mission/goal, randomized hands/decks, and randomized conflict resolution (die determined outcome of conflict) to name a few. All of these mechanics obfuscate or hide information about players and why they are taking the actions they are. This is what really makes a game interesting, the player interaction, and trying to understand and counteract your opponent. This is why games don’t have perfect information, it makes most games boring and whoever can do the calculation better or faster is the winner.

I think the above and the implications of perfect information also explains why there is always a demand for new games and expansions for well-loved games. Gamers are looking to combat that perfect information. I know for myself after playing a game so many times it isn’t as fun as it used to be. It is a bell curve. There is a peak fun that is achieved somewhere between the first time playing and when I no longer suggest playing that particular game. Depending on how complicated the game is and how many options/strategies there are it gets to the point where you know what particular actions in the game mean or what all the cards could be. Even though you as a player were not given perfect information, you have perfect information or close to it due to your knowledge and experience with the game.

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