My sister and I use to taunt each other by informing the other in song “I know something you don’t know, I know something you don’t know.” At the time we did not realize we had stumbled upon a key mechanic to some of the best games ever made...secret information.
The art of secret information in game play should have been apparent to us. One of our favorite games as kids was Clue. At the start of Clue every player is given some secret information about who didn’t commit the murder. The point of the game was trying to force your opponents to reveal their secret information so you could be the first one to solve the murder.
Without realizing it Clue taught us the three central questions to any game based upon secret information:
What do you know?
What does your opponents know?
What do you think you know about each other?
What do I know? I know at the onset of Clue you have a handful of clues about the murder.
What does your opponent know? Well they have a different set of clues in their hand.
We learned quickly the winner tended to be the person who best answered the third question, what do you think you know about each other.
Why? Because secrete information come down to bluffing, misleading, and doing your best to limit what information reaches your opponents. If the person to the left of me has the clue for the library and they have showed it to me once, then no matter what I do in the Library I will lose a valuable turn going back to the Library because they will end up showing me the same clue again.
Or, let's say my opponent correctly deduces I 'know' the murder weapon. If they possess that weapon they will show it to me to prevent me from learning anything new on my turn.
The mental elements of bluffing are all there. I need to keep track of not only what I know, but what my opponents know, and what my opponents think I know. Otherwise I have unproductive turns in acquiring new clues to solve the murder. Just as dangerous I can reveal information to my opponents that will give them the game. Obviously I should not show them a new clue if I can show them an old clue they already know. Less obvious is avoiding questions that give away information.
Good clue players keep track of every question asked, who asked it, and who answered it. If I know my sister has two of the clues in her theory and my father shows her a clue I know what clue he showed her.
The heart of a secret information that separates one game from another always comes down how to answer the third question.
What I think I know about you will affect my gameplay in Battleship. With repeated play In Battleship you look for tendencies in your opponent. You know that your opponent is committed to their ship locations at the start of the game. Your opponent tries to convince you they have no tendencies or attempts to mislead you so you misidentify their tendencies. But if they become predictable they have less turns to discover and sink your fleet before you send their fleet to Davy Jones's Locker.
What I think I know about you will affect how I play Werewolf. If I think you are a bad liar and I am a villager then I am going to interrogate you and decide right away if I think you are a Werewolf or not. Of course, if I am a Werewolf and I think you can easily read me you can bet if I get the opportunity you will be one of the first villagers to go.
Secrete information games reveal how players make conclusions about other players and what do they do with these conclusions. They force players to pay attention to other players words, habits, and body language. The games are more than a good time, they are an opportunity to better know the friends and family you game with.