The first time I saw Nachomamma8 play Mafia, several players from mafiascum.net had been invited to join an offsite game because the host knew them. It was fascinating to watch both Nacho and the other players (buldermar, Majiffy, and Thor665) interact with players and a game format that I knew well. Nacho and the others used a largely unfamiliar mafia vocabulary, and their assumptions about the game were shaped by a totally different format from our 24 hour game days and plurality lynch mechanics. However, the home field advantage didn't last long!
Since watching that game, I've played many games with Nacho and learned a lot more about his playstyle and ethos. Put simply, playing with him is fun. He's never hostile in a game that involves roleplay around public daytime executions and murders in the night, where tempers routinely flare and feelings sometimes get hurt. He appreciates other players and game hosts no matter how challenging a game situation becomes. And yet, he's intensely competitive and puts his all into the game.
When the Mafia451 team discussed the idea of doing profiles and interviews of well known and excellent mafia players, Nacho's name was at the top of my list.
It's an honor and a pleasure to kick off our series of profiles with a Nachomamma8 interview!
This interview took place in a text chat medium to fit our disparate schedules, and spanned several days.
On Starting Mafia
fferyllt (F): How did you first learn about the game of Mafia?
Nachomamma8 (N): A long time ago, I used to play RuneScape and was an active member of Sal's RuneScape Forum. I ended up roleplaying on that forum for whatever reason, and some of the other roleplayers invited me to a mafia game one time. I've been hooked ever since.
F: What was the first game you played like? Do you still play mafia with people from the Runescape forum?
N: My first few games are mostly a huge blur; I think I followed Ellibereth a lot early on because I was amazed at how much better he seemed than everyone else, and I think that's where my interest in the game really stuck - the premise of the game seems ridiculous when you first start playing, so discovering that it was something that people were actually good at, and maybe I could be good at it too was exciting.
I've played a few games with a couple of them throughout the years, but for the most part, I outlasted them all. The sole exception is Ellibereth, who took a long break and then came back immediately after I started my own break.
F: How would you describe your playstyle?
N: My playstyle takes a lot of different forms based on available time, but it always revolves around understanding. As scum or as town, there's nothing more satisfying than getting a revelation and learning something about someone else and seeing genuine emotion pop out into the thread as a result - identify a suspected townie as town and see their sigh of relief, see someone identify you as scum and slowly lose hope as they realize that everyone buys your story.
F: What do you think makes your playstyle unique?
N: I think that I get laser focused on things that other people usually don't, which, at my best, means that I help people get heard who normally don't feel like they're being listened to. And it means that I can sometimes unravel back and forth's between other players that would otherwise devolve into white noise.
F: I've seen you do that kind of mediation as both alignments. You're able to use a tool that seems entirely pro-town to advance a scum win condition, which is pretty scary!
You're famous (or infamous) for catching up via quotestripes (and now sometimes the stripes are each in their own post). I've always thought it should be possible to figure out your alignment from your style of catch-ups but I don't think I've ever locked a read in completely that way.
N: The unique part is probably how I catch up when behind; I work on a huge quotestripe post while interacting in real time because it's what works best for me. But, it ends up confusing or infuriating everyone else. Everything else in my playstyle is either stolen from or emulated by other people.
I think I fluctuate between long as shit posts and a bunch of much shorter posts
Sometimes I post in thread with the expectation that what I'm posting is proooobably only going to be useful for me but I need to make those posts anyway
F: Do you refer back to them, or is it more about your own writing and processing?
N: It's more about writing and processing. I find that writing about thoughts helps me figure out how strongly I feel about those thoughts, and it gives people a chance to react to the thoughts in-thread, and that often helps to solidify my thoughts.
F: Are there thoughts that you tend to keep close and quiet?
N: As scum, I'm constantly looking for and guessing what weaknesses there might be in another player or what cracks are in the town in general - I usually filter those out of my posts as a matter of convenience. As town, I don't consciously filter anything out (except the obvious), but there's definitely a big difference in my posting in a game thread and a mason/hydra thread.
F: You've played in a lot of hydras! What makes a good hydra partner in your opinion?
N: The great part about hydras is finding what characteristics you bring out in others and what they bring out in you - I had the opportunity to Hydra with my girlfriend before we actually started dating (or actually met each other), and seeing how our Hydra has evolved with our relationship is actually kind of awesome.
But then I try comparing the games we play to other hydras and the experience is completely different. With Majiffy, I tend to fight constantly and angrily regardless of alignment but it's ridiculously fun; I care about being right more than I usually do and I tend to jump into things a lot harder than I usually do since I can usually reassure myself by being less wrong than he is. With you, we have a process where we can start from completely opposite places and then work to compromise in the right places. This helped my solo game, in terms of actually working with people I thought were town but disagreed strongly with. With Syryana, mafia becomes much more of an adventure than it ever would be otherwise; everything feels so light and yet so right which is of course a very double-edged sword. I could go on and on and on about players I've hydra'd with, but I definitely don't have a favorite.
F: One of the most tense game situations I've ever been in happened in our first hydra game. We were run up to L-1, mostly because people thought we were fabricating a read on another player when we scumread her quite early in the game. By all rights we should have been hammered, but the scum player not voting us at that point was asleep. We stayed up all night fighting our wagon and writing our reads lists, all the while expecting to be lynched at any moment. Your reads list was a work of art.
After we posted our reads walls, the wagon finally disintegrated and we eventually lynched the player we'd started scumreading on page 3. Part of the wagon's disintegration was due to the sheer size of your wall and the effort you put into it, but the readslist itself was golden. You correctly identified four of the five scum players in that game less than halfway through day 1. The town went on to win the Best Performance by a Town Scummie (Scummies are a set of annual awards given to players and moderators at mafiascum.net)
Do you find that you incorporate aspects of your partners into your solo play?
N: Absolutely. Hydraing with people and getting a unique view of how they approach solving a game has generally been the best way I've been able to make huge steps in my own play.
F: Do you ever worry that hydraing with someone will make it harder to play against them in the future?
N: I don't tend to worry about things like that. I'm most interested in becoming the best mafia player I possibly can be and I think the best way to do that is to give everyone all the tools they need to beat me, and then find a way to beat them anyway.
F: What's your preferred alignment?
N: My preferred alignment is mafia, werewolf, team scum, whatever you call the informed minority. I love that as scum, you have this sense of freedom - you don't have to rally town together, you don't have to risk disappointing people by not being able to read their minds. I love that as scum you control the story; the better you play as scum, the higher the ceiling for the game itself will be.
F: Do you have a favorite role?
N: My favorite role as scum is definitely a neighborizer/messenger role (roles that communicate outside the game); both these roles help immensely with seeking out a town ally and manipulating the shit out of them. My favorite role as town is Mason recruiter/weak neighborizer; having people I can vent my thoughts to helps me feel less lost/insane as town. And, being able to build your town army to crush scum is a good feeling.
On Mafia Across the Internet
F: You've played mafia on a lot of sites. What seems to be the aspects of the game that are common to most or all?
N: I think that the social aspect to the game exists wherever you go; if a mafia community exists, it generally becomes decently close knit just because of the nature of the game. I've also found that wherever I've gone, there has always been legends, people that you aspire to be. The game itself is pretty wild and chaotic, so whenever it looks like someone had a pretty decent handle on things it seems like everyone else gloms on to them.
F: In smaller communities games sometimes seem to revolve around one or two players. Everything becomes about figuring them out. Have you ever been that person that everyone focuses on figuring out?
N: Yes. It's a weird feeling, and can feel either super isolating or really cool. Sometimes it feels like you're the common thread between a bunch of other people and other times it feels like everyone has an unrealistic expectation of what you can do and how you can do it. I never really enjoyed the latter feeling; it's one of the reasons why playing town can be not so fun for me.
F: A few weeks ago, I was in a game with a player list that didn't gel at all and people seemed really demotivated. Wrestling with how to get the game to a healthier place, I kept thinking about a game we played as a hydra. In that game you managed to rally players several times and keep the game rolling, Then we both had laptop problems and semi-disappeared for a while. You talked me out of my doldrums, but weren't able to post in the game thread at that point, so I channeled you in a key interaction with another townie, and it worked! Not only did I get my own head back into the game, I was able to help another town player refocus, too.
On New Player Experience
F: Do you have thoughts on what makes for a fun game experience for new players?
N: I think that the hook to making a game experience fun for new players is a sense of mystery, giving them a little piece of the depth that can actually go into a game of mafia. I think that if someone hasn't ever played a game of mafia before and you can tell them why you know they have the role PM that they do (and they're the mafia playing type) then they're hooked for life. The other, more obvious side of things is engagement - if you're helping new players get involved, you need to give them someone to talk to that knows what they're talking about or things get boring fast.
F: Is that in terms of what a site or community needs to provide to new players?
N: No, not at all. I somehow managed to shift to thinking to what an IC needs to provide to newbies in order to create an enjoyable game. (IC is an abbreviation for "Inexperience Challenged", a tongue-in-cheek title for a player in a newbie game whose job is to teach the basics of Mafia and how the game is played on a particular site. This is a responsibility on top of their job to play the game to the best of their abilities.)
I don't think there's much a site needs to do in order to be friendly to new players - having an extensive wiki/mafia discussion area helps a ton but otherwise it's all about having good players who are willing to explain their processes in full.
The fun part of newbie games has always been seeing people's thought processes evolve in game; when you are new at something your leaps are always the largest so seeing someone go from "completely green" to "not so green" in the course of one game is awesome
F: Your play as an IC has impressed me as being more Socratic and demonstrable than dropping a lot of game theory into a single introductory post. The posts below are from the first newbie game I played with you. One of the things I liked about your style of teaching in that game was that you used live-game situations to explain mafia theory rather than posting a wall of theory like a textbook assignment at the start of the game. Your teaching was woven throughout the game.
On Favorite Game Formats
F: What are your favorite game formats?
N: For the most part I tend to like basic but balanced games with strong playerlists, but I also have a guilty pleasure for Westeros game formats (hard alt rules, symps common). I like alts because I like games with heavy flavor and being able to roleplay a tiny bit and make inside jokes from your character is cool, and hard alt rules changes the dynamic of the game in a weird way
Symps are a role where you're a traitor to the main mafia team that dies if shot at and can't win if the main team is dead, but you flip town. Absolutely horrible role if you're not expecting it, but if you are, induces paranoia like the world has never known before.
Hard alt rules means that you don't know who you're playing with and you're not allowed to reveal or hint at your own identity; you're also not allowed to hint at or reveal the identity of others.
Awkward as shit when you know someone else very well
On MU's Championship
F: Are you planning to play in the Mafia Championship again? How have you gone about preparing for the MU championship games?
N: I would like to play in the mafia championship again, but definitely not the upcoming one thanks to schedule restrictions. I don't prep for championship games unless I know that I'm scum and already have my role PM; I've always found cold meta reads to be the most effective when I can establish a baseline and expectations first and confirm/throw out later.
F: What kind of prep would you do as scum for a championship?
N: The typical scum prep is finding people who are threats and people who aren't, people who you are looking to manipulate and people you are looking to kill. In general, the players I'm looking for are players who very strongly believe in arbitrary tells (in particular, things like "scum wouldn't post that much" or "scum wouldn't bus a partner that early"); the best move you can usually make as scum is one that people don't expect, and people often telegraph their expectations pretty clearly if you go through their past games.
F: Has playing mafia given you skills and/or instincts that you use in real life?
N: Playing mafia has very weirdly given me real life skills - mafia forces you to constantly think about how you communicate with others and I think that bleeds more into real life than anything else. I work in retail and I love the fact that so much of my job revolves around how I can rally people to care about the company they're working for and how effectively I can control the experience a customer has when they walk into my store.
Advice for New Players
F: If you could give a new player a piece of advice, what would it be?
N: My advice to newer players is to make friends and play as much as you can with players you like. Not only will playing around people you respect and competing with them make you better, but the greatest part of mafia is the social aspect - a game that is engaging and fun and difficult is only all of those things when players are having fun.
F: Since you started playing, forum mafia in general has evolved. What are your thoughts about where the game will be in 5 years?
N: I've always liked how the game has tended to evolve toward something more social with more emphasis on connecting and understanding people, as opposed to making cases and being influential. This evolution seems to have caused a bit of a town resurgence. I think that soon we'll see a scum resurgence as people get better at looking genuine/manipulating people/manipulating meta.
F: It's the circle of mafia life. One side gets better and destroys the other side for a while, and then the tables turn. It's the same players with different alignments from game to game. They come up with an approach to one alignment that they can't untangle as the opposite alignment. And then one day, they can.
Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview and profile next?
N: If you want a dream suggestion, I'd suggest zMuffinMan. If you'd want a realistic suggestion, I'd suggest Whiskeyjack.
F: I would love for zMuffinMan to play again. Where does WhiskeyJack play?
N: He plays at Westeros
F: Is there a question you would particularly like to see them answer?
N: Question-wise I don't have any real ideas. I think it'd be interesting to see Muffin's thoughts on how to approach a game as someone who is unknown/doesn't have a reputation as either alignment. For Whiskeyjack, It would be interesting to see him talk about what a scum player's commitment to a game should be vs what a town player's commitment to the game should be.
We would like to congratulate Nachomamma8 for his well deserved 2017 Kodak Moment Scummie at mafiascum.net!
Thoughts? Comments? Join the discussion on this interview here!
You can also check out more interviews with featured players below: