51 Mechanics: Secret Unit Deployment (Hidden Information)


BoardGameGeek (BGG) is a singular repository of gaming information, knowledge and wisdom that has been serving the modern board game hobby since 2000. I consult it regularly and have used its database to manage my own game collection. I also used it when I was writing my 2016 book on gamified instruction, particularly with regard to the game mechanics that BGG identified and organized content into. While there are more than 85,000 games, even now, there are just 51 mechanics. Since every mechanic offers something to the teacher who wants to use games in the classroom, I'm going to use this section of Game Level Learn and my own contributions to it to assess games from each of these 51 mechanics. Next up?

The "secret unit deployment" mechanic might be even better understood as a "hidden information" mechanic. In all of these kinds of games, players know certain kinds of information while other vital pieces of information are missing. How this works depends on the game, but in every case, you as the player have to make decisions about what to do on your turn without the benefit of full information. This strongly engages the more intuitive, more "soft skills" capacities, as opposed to the games of perfect information where you know everything that you can know. Secret Unit Deployment games ask the player to make judgments about what their fellow players are more or less likely to do based on their past behavior and so forth. They can be very tricky if you don't have a lot of experience playing with the group of players you're playing with.  Great games for the gamifying teacher because they give you a chance to measure soft skills in your students and also to help them develop their critical thinking skills.

Android: Netrunner (BGG Rank: 38)

Android: Netrunner is a living card game (LCG - a form of card game that plays a bit like a collectible card game, but where you acquire all the cards when you buy, rather than random assortments of cards) set in the Android universe. Of all of the LCGs, Netrunner is usually considered the most strategic. In this game, one player plays a mega-corporation attempting to keep corporate secrets secret. The "corp" player is opposed by a hacker who wants to steal these secrets. The ways in which the corporation protects itself and the hacker organizes its attack are concealed. If you like Blade Runner, Android is inspired by that universe.

Captain Sonar (BGG Rank: 99)

In Captain Sonar, you and your fellow players are the staff and crew of a state-of-the-art submersible. The trick - on the other side of the table are your opponents...the crew of an equally state-of-the-art submarine. Your objective - destroy the enemy ship! But what is the enemy ship doing? And is your own staff sufficiently coordinated to carry the day? 

Kremlin (BGG Rank: 843)

Kremlin is an old classic republished with some additional bibs and bobs a few years back. In Kremlin, you play factions of the Soviet Communist Party. Your objective is to control the General Secretary (the party leader) and successfully wave to the crowd at the yearly military parade. Do this three times and you win. The trick here is that you are not obligated to reveal the different Soviet politicians you have influence over until you choose to. This gives you the ability to stealth a candidate into high leadership and then without warning take him or her over.

Letters from Whitechapel (BGG Rank: 179)

Whitechapel is one of my all-time favorite games. In Whitechapel, one player takes on the role of Jack the Ripper and the others take on the role of the police trying to catch him. The Jack player commits a crime on a turn and then attempts to get back to his secret lair using a hidden movement mechanic. The police move and have the ability to investigate or arrest. If they perform an arrest action when Jack is in that numbered circle, the police win. Tense, strategic and fun.

Lifeboat (BGG Rank: 1842)

Lifeboat is a clever game in which you play a character who has been forced into a lifeboat due to the sinking of a doomed ocean liner. Each character has a couple of basic qualities that are public and a piece of hidden information. They love one character in secret and hate one character in secret. Victory points are scored if the character who is loved survives and the one you hate dies. A fun, social game that generates a lot of banter.

Cover Image from: [https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/977006/letters-whitechapel]