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When to bus?

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Original Publication: August 3rd, 2017 by RadiantCowbells

Introduction

I've read a lot of very confidently stated diatribes by various people (Pine and Mastina first and foremost) expressing how bad of an idea bus is. Never bus, they say. To me, that's like someone claiming that you never lynch the first neighbour to claim. Like, sure? You can win a solid chunk of games never lynching the first neighbour to claim. Maybe the majority of the time, the first neighbour to claim is actually town! But there's going to be a non-zero number of first neighbour claims that come from scum, just as there are a non-zero number of games that you can win by bussing that you can't win by not bussing. It's a tool that needs to be in any players arsenal if they want to be as successful as they can be as scum. But before we get into any of that, let's get into some basic theory.

Winning as scum

How do you win a game as scum? By at some point in the game, attaining a majority.
This can happen in 3 way LyLo, with one scum remaining. This can happen in 5 way LyLo, with two scum remaining. This can happen in 7 way LyLo, with three scum remaining. As scum, from as early as pregame, you should be thinking about how to cross the finish line. Who can't you lynch, who can you lynch, which scumteams are obviously not a possibilities. If you're playing reactively as scum, you're defeating the purpose of being informed. YOU are the one who holds the cards. YOU control the gamestate. You can't just mislynch the easiest person every day. If in 7 way, there's you and your buddy who can potentially be connected, two confirmed innocents, and three VTs, two of whom have consistently defended each other in a way that the confirmed innocents think is kind of scummy and one of whom who is deathtunneling in a non-SvS way and is obviously not scum with either. If you lynch one of the two scummy people the first day, congratulations you just ruined LyLo. Now you HAVE to bus and push your teammate as scum with one of the others, and since you're backed into a corner reads wise it won't even look that towny if you bus. Whereas if you made the smart decision and together pushed the third person, you bring the two people who look like scum with each other into the endgame and it's a much easier lynch. You have to plan ahead, and you need to know how any of your actions will influence people's reads on the game. The future has to be in mind in every move that you make.

Why bus?

Because it increases your odds of winning.
In other words, because you think that your odds of winning a reduced player LyLo without your partner are higher than winning a greater number of player LyLo with your partner.

When is that the case?

1) If you have a really scummy partner who can be connected to you and is highly liable to get wagoned, hardbus him before the wagon starts and people will think that associative is a lot less likely. If the player was going to get lynched anyway and defending them to keep them alive probably gets you lynched the next day, you might as well get the towncred for their lynch. You're informed, milk your information advantage for all it's worth.
An example of me doing this can be found in https://forum.mafiascum.net/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=71042 where I knew that my partner was going down, so I proactively lynched them and was locktowned by Penguin for the win.

2) If you have a super townread partner in a game with no power roles to threaten them, and other obvious nightkills so as to not arouse suspicion, the easiest way for them to get caught is by associatives. In this situation, the proper play for that scum is often to systematically remove their scumbuddies to not only give them a bit more towncred but to make it less likely that the other scum spew town or point to the townread scum member.
An example of me doing this can be found in https://forum.mafiascum.net/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=71877 where I was 100% confident in my slot's ability to make endgame so I bussed Math then got Gamma copped to reduce variance.

3) If neither of your members are townread enough to make endgame and you're basically going to lose, one should bus the other and attempt to have more luck pushing associatives later. This takes good judgement in terms of knowing when this is the case because there are a lot of games things look dire for scum but aren't actually, but there are truly unwinnable situations without bussing and it's sometimes the last thing that you can try.
I rarely get into this situation but an example can be found in https://forum.mafiascum.net/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=71198 where I was just screwed and my partner was just screwed so I hard bussed them and managed to win.

When is that not the case?

1) When your partner is getting voted but not really at threat of lynch, and your vote can make an actual threat of lynch but without getting you a lot of towncred.
Everyone has seen several examples of this. Don't do this.

2) When you have stated a townread on your partner and there's no reason for you to be voting them, don't randomly vote them because you feel like you should be on your buddy's wagon for towncred.
An example of this is https://forum.mafiascum.net/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=70485 where TrueGent had no reason to vote his buddy and said weird things around it so I immediately tracked him next day for the win.

3) When you're in a situation where bussing will make it far easier to PoE scum. Examples of games like these that I've been in include 675, Civ, and Micros where you know a tracker exists. If you bussing your partner is going to make town massively stronger then fight to the death to keep them alive, because if one of you is gonna go down the both of you probably are.

Strategic VS Spontaneous bussing

Everything covered so far is spontaneous bussing. You make the determination that at whatever point in time you're in the correct move is to bus and you do it. Strategic bussing is when, long before the bus actually goes through, you make the decision that it will increase your winrate to sacrifice a player. In doing so you give the bussed player the opportunity to totally misdirect with associatives, and usually because you're doing so it gives your team some form of added utility. Sometimes this is simply 'Hi, I wanna be townread, mind if I bus you?', in which case it's often sort of dumb and pointless and shouldn't be done, but at it's best Strategic bussing can add a massive amount of value to whatever scumteam performs it.

Some great strategic busses

Divide & Conquer is an approach that I frequently take in scum games, where a portion of my scumteam buddies each other and scumreads the other portion and vice versa. You don't necessarily have to bus but by splitting your team up you obfuscate the lines of who is with who and frequently create false dichotomies where the assumption is that one block is scum and one is town when both are mixed. It also sets itself up perfectly to bussing when you know a scum member is going to go down soon either way: whichever side is doing better or has more people can quickly muster their votes onto scum on the other side, and when they get lynched. A fantastic example of this that people should emulate can be seen in https://forum.mafiascum.net/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=69418 where the entire scumteam minus Maria put her in their scumblock but didn't vote her and she took stances opposing them the entire game. Due to a mix of mechanics and play the scumteam was falling apart so they quickly piled onto Maria and her lynch bought them all enough towncred that another scum didn't get lynched for several day phases. The bus single handedly won the game for scum, in my opinion, and in anyone's opinion it was one of the pivotal moves that won scum the game.

The TvT is one that I personally avoid right now and is difficult to execute but can be fantastically strong when done right. The point of the TvT isn't necessarily to bus but more to declare mutual open war between you and your scumbuddy. The essential point of the plan is to both attack each other in such a way that both 1) everyone assumes you're both TvT and 2) everyone assumes you're definitely not SvS in the case that one of you flip. It's a very difficult balance to strike and in many games recently players will simply policy lynch one member to get everyone to shut up but in the right lobby and in the right situation it can be a very powerful play.

It's much more situational but one of the best strategic buses I've ever been a part of has been in Open 685. Me and Titus both agreed that there was very little chance of me reaching endgame without being copped in the playerlist and with my reputation, and because of the game setup she was absolutely going to claim 1-shot cop. My original plan was for her to inno me but she instead preferred claiming a guilty on me. She executed the play around it very well and while the idea was brought up no one seriously considered it besides the LyLo lynch and we went from a scary situation where Titus was mildly scumread and I had little hope of reaching endgame to Titus as a universal townread and in a perfect position to reach LyLo because she wasn't the primary expected nightkill target and we won very convincingly with a single member.


'I never bus!' and you

1) If you never bus, as soon as you flip the people you seriously pushed during the game instantly get cleared.
2) It becomes very easy to pre-flip associative hunt your slot before you are even lynched and get a good picture of what the scumteam looks like.
3) You're predictable. When someone who is all over the map flips, it's extremely blurry what any of their associatives mean. When someone who hard defends their team flips, well...
4) It's just dumb. There's so many games that you just can't win without bussing and there's no amount of honour among thieves that makes that untrue.
5) Bussing, both as the busser and the victim, is surprisingly technical and you learn a lot about the game in short periods of time by trying to manipulate associatives in that way. You learn a LOT about manipulating associatives when you're planning and executing busses and that information carries over to games where you don't bus. It's very useful.

Final words

Bussing is a strategy. Don't be someone that doesn't bus, don't be something that's a 'busser'. Contrary to popular belief I am not: the majority of my scum games this year have reached endgame with my scumteam fully intact. Be the person who makes the smart move in every situation rather than defaulting to one play: be the thinker.