Albert B. Rampage's Guide on How to Play a Large Game
Original Publication: May 4, 2020 by Albert B. Rampage
"Am I ready to commit to a large game?"
Large games routinely spawn over 200 pages, have 21+ different players to keep track of, and face multiple replacements. Despite being a larger time investment, I hope this guide explains how Large Games flow and why they are my favorite type.
Random Voting Stage (pages 1-15)
In Large Games, RVS typically last 5-15 pages. Expect a burst of posts right off the thread unlock, where players will greet familiar names, establish rapport with each other, fluffpost, have fun with the flavor, and banter back and forth. This is a good time to create relationships with other players that may need to be called upon later for their insight or their vote when the game gets serious.
Mafia is a social game, and balancing enough suspicion with developing a connection with players who share the same affinity is a microcosm of the uninformed majority vs. informed minority dynamic in the larger picture. Full attention to RVS is unnecessary except to take note of who is friendly or familiar with who. Understanding the Metagame element will inform future decisions.
False Starts (pages 3-30)
Getting out of RVS means that players are comfortable placing opening votes that can grow into a bandwagon. Serious bandwagons that go all the way to 8-10 votes right off a RVS are rare, because agreement and consensus are usually in short supply due to the many diverging opinions in a Large Game. Day 1 quicklynches are rare.
Baby bandwagons with 2-4 votes compete with each other for attention, and if popular support isn't secured, they easily dissolve and the votes spread out or consolidate around a new player. At this point, neither alignment is fully committing to a bandwagon, and if one grows too quickly, the players who are voting decide to unvote to slow the momentum of it to extend the day for more information.
Bandwagons serve as a Reaction Test. They generate informative content, and can serve as evidence later for bandwagon analysis or PbPA (Post by Post Analysis of a single player viewed in isolation). Vote counts, like headlines in a newspaper, are a snapshot in time to document the evolving story of the game, and bandwagons are the food it needs to tell that story. Pro-town players hesitate to end the day before generating enough content that they feel confident can lead to a correct lynch.
Mounting Pressure (pages 15-50)
Large Games typically have players under pressure claiming far before L-1, especially when approaching the day's deadline. The risk of someone hammering at L-1 is considerably higher than in a mini due to the large pool of players available to hammer. There's a witch hunt dynamic that happens in Large Games where it's almost impossible that every player contributes equally, so bandwagons are comprised of bandwagon leaders and sheep.
Since levels of activity vary from player to player, it's important to secure the vote of a less active player during the window of time they are reading the thread; the less active players are usually the sheep, as they react to events after the active players, who have initiative. Bandwagon leaders can write a case to persuade the other players, or form coalitions of their townreads to create a voting block.
If a scum is found out using an investigative result, the remaining scum will endeavour to position themselves to eliminate connections players can make between them and their revealed scumbuddy.
Decision Points (pages 50-80)
Decision points are the springboard of player theories on scum and POE (Process of Elimination) scumhunting. They are "hard evidence" that everyone can objectively agree happened and interpret the motivations for them.
1) Committing to a bandwagon
Both bandwagon leaders and sheep can commit to seeing a lynch go through by their resistance to changing their votes and releasing pressure. This is a major decision point in a player's game life. Votes that can be easily shaken off are seen as a Reaction Test.
Player claims under pressure usually divide the town in a couple ways:
- The players who remain on the bandwagon seeking a hammer after the claim, and the ones who want to stop that from happening
- All the players accept the claim is good enough to not lynch outright and new bandwagons are formed.
3) Coordinating night actions / next day lynches
Players who are putting forth strategies they think are viable give more insight into how they think and their agenda. Since there's no way to guarantee that a player will keep their word about future events. The only things at stake are the player's credibility and reputation when determining if they are bluffing or intent on carrying out what they say. Compromise often happens with unreliable promises such as "I will vote your top scumread if you help me vote my top scumread tomorrow". More often than not, it doesn't happen due to the injection of new information.
4) Behavior reward and punishment
Posts and actions that are pro-town are usually rewarded: content posts, votes on scum, activity, sharing insight, providing lists of reads, and other positive contributions that can help the town win.
Anti-town behavior, such as lurking, claiming too early, self-voting, campaigning for the lynches of other town players, personal attacks, asking to be lynched, or policy lynching, while frowned upon, are non-alignment indicative outside of Metagame .
Town-aligned players can behave against the interests of the town, which the majority in a large game seek to prevent by enforcing a loose general social contract that is implicitly agreed upon.
Scum can indirectly influence anti-town behavior to sow chaos and resentment among the town. They can reward players for repeating antitown behavior that help them win, or play the long game and reward players for pro-town behaviors to solidify their own town standing.
5) Shifting gears
Players sometimes completely change their reads or views mid-day with or without any new hard evidence. This reversal is noteworthy because it marks a character progression that may seem scummy or plausibly town.
Organized Strategy vs. The Solve (pre-game to game over)
In a mini game, the scum strategies are more focused. In a Large, with 4 to 6 scum instead of 2 or 3, the strategies are the same, but have more layers of interactions between them. Playing a Large Game can feel like plotting / uncovering a major conspiracy with the evidence lining up just enough to explain why something happened but never enough to prove it without the shadow of a doubt. The line between truth and deception is coordinated through a team strategy for scum. The town's job is to theorize how the conspiracy is playing out, with the parameters of its existence written out in the setup or implied by game balance and setup creation trends. In other words, they need the winning "solve".
The strategies are adaptive to town play and change throughout the game. Here are the frequent strategies:
- distance but don't lynch scumbuddies
- bus weak scumbuddies for towncred
- go all-in (scum voting together)
- sheep opposing town leaders
- lead the town's attention away from scumbuddies by going on the offensive on multiple townies in competing bandwagons
- stall the game for a deadline scramble
Two week deadlines for the first day or two are common for Large Games. Town is always under time pressure due to the pitfall of no-lynch (giving up the town's main offensive weapon), so letting the day run out is a successful and frequent strategy to mislynch if the town players can't coalesce due to a clash of personality or perspective.
Achieving side objectives also guide the scum's night actions and increases their influence during the day:
- Uncovering town roles
- Directing night actions in their favor
- Infiltrating town blocks
- Gaining towncred
Perfect scum play can also lose due to town being right for the wrong reasons. Theories have a much larger chance to be off by a bit or completely wrong in a large game due to the amount of variables in play and confirmation bias.
Results and Momentum Swings (page 50 and on)
The flow of mafia is such that any popular theory gaining majority support is tested by the lynch, the ultimate litmus test. Theories -> result -> night actions and scum countermeasures -> results -> players seizing the initiative to advance new theories. Theories proven to be incorrect when new information is revealed are discarded.
A cohesive town can correctly PoE the scum by analyzing posts and votes and formulating accurate theories on motivations behind decision points, or surviving long enough for investigative results confirming the alignment of scum, side-stepping the dangers of false-positives in more creative and tricky setups. The influence of WIFOM can be curtailed when this happens.
Non-bastard setups are designed with balance in mind, but complex setups get swingy when there are a lot of PRs and role interactions.
The more a team can accumulate early or consecutive wins (survival of their team or follow-through in their strategy), the higher morale they will have to finish the losing team off. A lucky vig shot on a lurker/townread scum or a cop result on a godfather? That will do the trick to inspire the troops. Everyone loves winning, and most people lose motivation when they feel like they have no hope of winning, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Replacements, low activity, loss of interest, low investment posts, and bickering often plague towns who lose their PRs early, blaming each other or falling into apathy after mislynches.
It's important to read a large game in particular in the context of the shift in momentum and how each individual player is feeling about approaching or losing sight of their win condition, and how they react to it.
Bandwagon leaders who successfully lynch scum often become overconfident, and supported by a large flock of sheep, proceed to lead mislynches, which trigger a wave of momentum to wash over the game in the opposite direction.
Endgame (Lylo or 1 scum left)
By the time Lylo comes, scum are usually anticipating the payoff of their strategy and have carefully selected who they want alive on the last day to unwittingly help them win.
Similarly, when town has lynched all but the last scum left and aren't in Lylo, they usually have enough associative information to know who they want to lynch and in what order to increase the probability of a win.
In a large game, strong town players can benefit from protection until the endgame, or can be NK'd by the time it comes down to the wire. Each individual vote becomes extremely important in the endgame, as a slight mistake, a lack of re-evaluation, or an impatient decision can bring everything crashing down for your alignment.
The risk is at an all-time high, and there are many spectators waiting on the final outcome, adding to the time pressure.
That's just part of the fun.
I hope this guide has broken down Large Games for you, and I'll see you join one soon.