Fakeclaiming and intuition

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Post Post #0  (isolation #0)  » Sat Dec 15, 2018 2:35 am

No, I'm definitely not posting this in order to procrastinate packing for a flight that I'm leaving for in 7 hours. Stop being silly. *YOU* are posting this to procrastinate that.

I've historically mostly played normal games. Fakeclaiming in open games is obviously completely different, and depends entirely on the setup; fakeclaiming in theme games is generally very different, but this point can still apply sometimes. But I will be thinking about this from the perspective of normal games.

Fakeclaiming is a very small piece of good scum play, I'd say. In a lot of cases, if you have played well as scum and are widely townread, you should just claim VT. Risk/reward analysis is important, and if you believe you're ahead, you have little reason to take risks. However, the best-case scenario for scum when it comes to claims is something like this: the town just massclaimed. The total amount of power that has been claimed is approximately what would be considered balanced vs a team of goons, or likely a little more. The town can't confidently call anyone town or scum based on their claim, because there's enough town power claiming that some of it might be lying, but little enough that it could all be telling the truth, depending on how much power the scumteam has.

This is a key piece of information that the scumteam has access to, that the town doesn't: the scumteam's roles. They only get this information by killing scum. So how can scum best use this information asymmetry to their advantage?

Intuition and why it can be wrong
The intuitive answer, and I think the intuitive go-to way to fakeclaim, is to fakeclaim what you are. If you're goon, claim VT. If you're a PR, claim that PR or some other PR. But I'm going to claim that often, you should do exactly the opposite: as a goon, you should fakeclaim a town power role. If you're a scum power role, especially something really strong like a full roleblocker, you should claim VT. Why can this be powerful? In short, the reason is that the existence of a town power role compared to a vanilla townie is potentially comparable to the existence of a mafia goon compared to a mafia power role; both of these changes would benefit the town. Let's look at some examples.

Imagine a hypothetical world where everyone can agree that the setup cop + doctor + 5 vanilla townies vs goon + roleblocker is a balanced closed 9-player setup. This might not be true, but assume for the sake of argument that it is. If you're the last scum alive as the roleblocker, you might claim VT in massclaim following this advice; this would lead the town to believe that potentially, either one of the VTs is a lying mafia power role, or one of the claimed power roles is a lying mafia goon, but they might have some trouble figuring out which and therefore wouldn't be able to clear the power roles on face. On the other hand, if you claimed a town power role (say, town roleblocker), then suddenly roleblocker+cop+doctor seems like way too much power, even if the remaining scum is a strong power role; this will pseudo-clear the VT claims, because there isn't really a role that the last mafia could have to balance this much town power. So if you claim VT, everyone is a candidate for scum, because for instance cop + 6 VTs vs 2 goons might be balanced, but if you claim your actual role you will effectively clear many players, or at least make them less scummy by virtue of setup speculation.

The flip side (and, well, the first side as well) is tough to see without a bigger setup; imagine a world where people can agree that cop + doc + vig + 7 VTs vs 3 goons is balanced, again for the sake of argument. You're the last goon, and following this advice, you claim, say, tracker, and you get lucky enough to not get counterclaimed. This puts the town in a tricky spot; there are four power roles claimed, and it's possible that any three of them could be town with the fourth one being a fakeclaiming mafia goon, and the setup would be reasonably balanced (barring the fact that vig is confirmable). On the other hand, it's possible that all four power roles are telling the truth; this could be reasonable if, say, the last living mafia is a strong power role like a roleblocker. If instead our intrepid goon had fakeclaimed VT, then the setup would look imbalanced by their standards unless all three power roles were telling the truth, pseudo-confirming them as town.

A real example where I did this is Fat Boy Mafia. In this game I was the last living goon, and I claimed a somewhat complicated JoaT that happened to make sense with other roles that had been claimed. Granted, this isn't the reason I won the game, as a cop guiltied me and misread their result; but the point is still valid, in that my claim allowed me to swing a lynch on the claimed town roleblocker, instead of being limited to the VT pool as I might have been had I claimed VT myself.

The key here is that the individual mafia claiming a role knows that their piece of hidden information, whether they are a goon or a power role, will be hidden until they die; therefore, by claiming in this way, they guarantee that this information will never be revealed until it's useless from a setup speculation perspective.

Of course, there are many of these.

First, this entire analysis depends on essentially outguessing the town on their setup speculation. It won't work against towns who have a sense of balance that is different from the sense of balance of whoever designed or reviewed the setup in question. And it's pointless if people aren't actively using setup speculation. And it's pointless if people are bad at it. But regardless, it has at the very least some interesting theoretical value here, and I think it has at least some practical value as well.

Second, there are town roles that exist specifically to punish this strategy. Rolecops. Vanilla cops. Trackers. Informed roles. Weak information roles that might not be able to distinguish between town and mafia, but could perhaps distinguish between a vanilla townie and a mafia power role.

Third, some real mafia roles may need to be claimed by the person with the actual role. If you're a mafia tracker, and you want someone on your team to fakeclaim tracker using those results, it should be the actual mafia tracker or you won't have accurate results if they are later lynched. It'll also look suspicious if and when a mafia tracker turns up dead. Anything confirmable follows the same rule.

Fourth, if you're claiming a power role, there is always inherent risk. You might accidentally counterclaim someone. You might claim something that simply doesn't make sense with other claimed PRs, which I've seen lead to dead scum when someone claimed mafia watcher in a setup that had an innocent child and a bodyguard. Or you might play it safe and claim late in massclaim to get something that fits well in the setup, only to be accused of... well, playing it safe and only claiming after everyone else had claimed.

Last, and most importantly, this is not even slightly an end-all-be-all of fakeclaiming strategy. It's merely one more tool that you can keep in mind when deciding what the most powerful think you can claim is.

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