The first game I played with Regfan, I was blissfully ignorant of how scary a town player he is for the opposition. He replaced into the game during a period of mid-Day 1 doldrums when nearly half the player list either replaced out or flaked. I was a serial killer in the setup, and the sudden evaporation of several easy lynch options was a little frustrating. The reactions of other players to his presence in the game suggested he would be formidable. Fortunately for me, the scum team nightkilled him post-haste!
Fortunately, I've always been town in the games we've played since. I've learned firsthand that he's also a formidable scum player.
Regfan kindly agreed to let me pester him with questions, so let's get to it.
On Starting Mafia
fferyllt (F): What was your intro to the game of mafia like?
Regfan (R): I was initially introduced to mafia by playing an online The Mole game on a board hosted by someone called 24mole a little over 10 years ago. One of the challenges was to get 500 points at Epic Mafia to win immunity for the round, and I was instantly hooked from there. The concept of trying to read into peoples motivations and then work towards positively influencing the game is something I very much enjoyed and was addicted to. The competitive aspect of the website re; trophies and leaderboards motivated me to constantly try to improve and tweak how I approached the game. I'd find myself reviewing my own completed games to see how I could have played it differently or what I'd missed picking up on as well as reading games of other players I respected or had difficulty reading. I ended up playing over at Epic Mafia for a few years (Under a few different names, most notably Regfan & Maxwell) before moving over to MafiaScum and several other forum sites since I found that medium much more enjoyable, challenging and better suited to my schedule before dabbling in a little bit of Video & RL mafia.
F: How long does an EpicMafia game usually last?
R: Day phases ended when every player voted or when enough people voted to kick after 10 minutes so game lengths could vary depending on the patience of the players in the game. I'd had games that lasted 10 minutes and some that lasted 2-3 hours but typically it'd last about 30 minutes.
F: Do you have a preferred gameday length?
R: I think my preference in deadlines has changed throughout my time playing forum mafia because of the evolution of my game and the amount of time I have to devote to playing. I initially preferred shorter deadlines like those at Westeros (36-48 hours) since I had plenty of spare time at university and it felt closer to the live chat aspect of Epic Mafia. Later, I enjoyed the time Mafia Scum has to offer more (2 weeks), since it gave me plenty of time to reread, assess games, and extract information from players to improve my reads. I currently think the best type of day phases for me is somewhere around 5/2 or 7/2. I've found that while longer day phases is theoretically more time to gather data, the longer deadlines at MafiaScum in particular often leads people postponing actually playing the game, not putting in the effort they should, or flaking altogether. It generally results in the game feeling like it's stalling and a chore at times. I've found a middle ground deadline like 5/2 brings a bit more urgency for players to contribute, have live discussions in thread, and actually progress the game in a more enjoyable and productive way.
Out of curiosity, what's your preference/thoughts when it comes to day lengths?
F: 12/12 or 24/12 (hours) were the deadlines I was used to before joining Mafiascum. At first, 2 weeks seemed insanely long. I joked about playing with Ents a lot during my first 6 months or so at MS.
In large games that start with 20+ players, I think 2 weeks is probably good until the player list is pared down some. But the issue of people flaking or just not playing is real, and mid-length deadlines probably help.
R: That's fair. I've just seen too many games where it feels like "Oh half the room hasn't contributed yet and deadline is approaching" in 2 week games still somehow whereas it seems to actually happen less in 5/2 type games.
F: How would you describe your playstyle?
R: My playstyle and approach to games is one that most would probably describe as logic based and methodical. A friend recently compared me to an artificial neural network in that I flourish with more information and am constantly honing and refining my thoughts on the gamestate based on the information presented. As such, I work on maximizing information in the early game, aiming for players to be as transparent about their thoughts on the game as possible and often find myself town hunting more than scum hunting early on due to it. I'll orient myself around strength of my reads, building the game off the strong ones and wanting to work with the strong town reads or players that I trust to bounce thoughts with and sort out the middle while constantly reevaluating and reaffirming my reads.
I often consider the game and players on a sliding scale in my head which is why I use reads lists like "Town (Strongest->Weakest): A, B, [Gap], C / Null: D / Scum (Strongest->Weakest)" E, [Gap], F or "[Town]--A---B---C-[D -Null -]--D------[Scum]", since it forces me to compare the strength of reads between players themselves and thus compare the reasoning I'm using for the reads. I find this sort of strategy helps weed out incorrect reads more often than not as the game progresses and allows me to better interact and with with other players when it comes to showing where my head is at. More importantly though, I find that doing this often leads towards fruitful conversations with others where I'll either convince them my view of the game state is correct or have them bring up points to make me reconsider.
F: This way of sorting a player list shows up early in the games where you replace in and have a lot of data to work with. How easy or hard is it to emulate this thought process when you aren't town?
R: It becomes increasingly more difficult as the game progresses since the reevaluation and reconsidering aspects is one of the harder ones to fake convincingly with the amount of depth of thought I would as town. I've always thought that this would make me relatively straight forward to catch and thus don't rate my scum game that highly but I've rarely had people actually read or lynch me based on this somehow.
F: How important of a tool is meta research for you?
R: Throughout the last few years I've made an active effort to reduce my usage of meta and/or meta research in games so I'd say it's probably one of the lesser important ones I use now. Ideally I'd like to use it even less than I currently do. I've seen meta be used incorrectly far too often, and that leads to losing town games. In practice, it's also often a crutch a lot of people rely on to avoid having to go into depth about reads or think about the game on a deeper level. I regularly see people make statements like "Oh X is playing like his town meta", or "X isn't playing like when he's town, he's scum!" While they'll be correct some of the time this type of reasoning limits the amount of discussion that can occur from it, and does little to convince other people a particular read is correct. It also gives little avenue for people to convince you that the read is incorrect. Ultimately, while meta can be a very strong tool when used correctly it's just one that until people actually start using it that way is better to avoid. I have found that there's enough data to obtain reads in the game without having to rely on this other than just as a baseline for players in majority of cases.
I'm curious where you stand on meta nowdays.
F: During the latter half of 2014, real life was extremely busy and intense, and I was using mafia as an occasional escape and distraction from it all. I didn't have time and spare brain cells to do intensive meta analysis for several months. Those games broke me of the habit of relying on meta research for developing early reads. I occasionally still look at a few games when trying to figure a player's style out, but I don't read exhaustively. I used to call that kind of baseline meta research "looking at textual body language".
When I stopped using meta much, I found that people expected that kind of analysis from me and they weren't particularly happy that I wasn't doing it. But, over time it worked out. As a sort of side benefit, I've run into a subset of players who really hate meta analysis, to the point that they scumread it.
R: Yeah, I'll occasionally do a similar thing; when I have difficulty trying to work out whether something a player is doing is alignment indicative or not I might browse a few of their games and see if it's also there. If it is, then I'll just put it aside as a non-alignment indicative thing. If it's not, I'll prod them and read them more on their explanation of their play than the meta.
There are a few people (Empire, Newcomb...that's it) I'd consider exceptions to my move away from relying on meta. I think I understand how they think/act/play completely, and I would be able to read them from meta, but even then I'd explain their alignment via play in the thread rather than 'meta'.
F: I was really good at reading Empire at one point. I hope I still am!
R: Having hydraed with him a lot and talked about mafia theory with him even more, I don't think I'd ever misread him if given a full day phase and the ability to interact with him.
F: What do you feel is your most useful scumhunting tool these days?
R: That's a very tough one to answer because I think my play is more a case of using a lot of tools in combination than one individual tool at this stage. I'll spend time on town hunting / motivation & ISO diving / gamestate analysis / interaction analysis & anti-alignments and a few other things. If I had to pick what I think the most useful tool is, it'd probably be townhunting and trying to box the scum in via using process of elimination as the game progresses.
I'm of the opinion that if players are transparent enough with their thoughts and reads in the thread, if they're town it'll become very noticeable. You'll be able to build and work towards having a solid town core that trust each other and can work together. I'm pretty good at being able to acknowledge the difference between a town read that I'm very confident in based on strong logic and reasoning, and a town read that's more of a feeling/weak read. I'm also pretty solid when it comes to turning around on incorrect reads as the game progresses. I think it's important to strike a balance between being able to reconsider and reevaluate town reads based on new data, and not being overly paranoid that you've got a read wrong, just for the sake of cautiousness. If you can hit that sweet spot then the strength of town reads and working with them is huge.
On Enjoyable Games
F: What makes mafia games enjoyable for you?
R: The players; whether it be interacting with or learning how new players approach games and trying to work out how to best adapt my gameplay to work with them, or playing with people I respect or like as people/players, it's always a fun experience.
I really enjoy the challenge of trying to solve the puzzle of who the mafia are and getting them lynched. However, the feeling when you read someone's post in the thread and it's exactly what you're thinking at the time, or when you lynch someone you've been confident is scum and you see that red flip, those are the things that keep me coming back to the game.
F: What kinds of mafia games do you prefer to play?
R: I generally prefer games that revolve more around day play and have minimal power roles in the game. Though, I also do like games with mechanics like White Flag, Nightless, Double Day and Pick Your Power, too. Barring role madness games or games with third parties I'm pretty happy to play almost anything if the playerlist is good.
F: What was your most memorable game so far? What made it stand out?
N: It would be Hydra Game 6 in the Hydra Championship over at Mafia Universe last year, where I hydra'ed with DeasVail under the account name Fortian, a reference to the High School we'd both attended together. There was a lot to love about the game. It had a fairly stellar playerlist with the majority of the slots actually contributing and participating in the game. There were lots of different playstyles that still managed to work in harmony for the most part. We had a few players that were really solid rocks for us inside the game which allowed us to not just discuss reads with each other but also with them. We'd started fairly weakly having a few misreads and town mslynching and misvigging D1/N1, before turning the game around on D2/D3 and pushing through lynches on scum players. That left behind a town core of all-town that the thread had agreed on fairly unanimously, boxing the final scum players in and resulting in a town win.
The best part of the game was most certainly hydraing with DV, though. We understand each other as players very well and complement each other's playstyles. We also met up in real life during the game, had some beers and food, and talked about our reads and thoughts on the game. And obviously, we'd shit talk about each other and a bunch of players in the game at the same time, especially some noob called Proph. Everything about that game reminded me why I love playing mafia. I would jump at an opportunity to hydra with him again.
F: That sounds like an awesome game experience!
I think my favorite game that we both played (which is sadly only a handful) is the Forest Fire Micro 488 where you and Empire hydra'd. It's always fun when town finds town and a town core forms quickly...provided you're town!
R: Haha, that was the second game in my mind I was considering going with, since that playerlist was….ridiculous.
F: It had a silly number of hydrae for a 9 player micro game.
R: They were all hydras of competent players too.
F: That also helps!
I've always wanted to ask you about your avatar. What do the various parts of it represent?
R: The avatar is made up of bits and pieces for a few things now, I guess. The pink background avatar is something I stole from a player I respected over at Epic Mafia when I moved over here. The party hat addition is from UPick: Mafiascum Fantasy Camp back in 2011 where a player Vi was a neighbourizer. To be able to speak in the QT when I was invited, I had to have a party hat on my avatar. And, I just kept it afterwards. The n00b addition is something more recent from a player named Nancy, but it's a more accurate description of her as a player than myself I'd like to think!
Advice for New Players
F: What advice would you like to share with new players?
R: It's very important to remember that it's a team game and that communicating and interacting with the other players is very necessary for town to actually win. You'll encounter situations where you'll be frustrated or annoyed with other players or how they're approaching the game and in those situations it's best to take a step back from the thread, have a breather and then come back and try and work with them. I also can't stress enough the importance of town players being forthright and transparent with their thoughts and reads in the thread as well as trying to keep an open mind and being willing to reassess often.
Most players in and outside of games are fairly friendly and willing to actually help however possible, so don't be afraid to ask questions at all.
F: Is there a player(s) whose interview you'd particularly like to read? And what question would you like to see them answer?
R: I'd love to see WhiskeyJack or Newcomb be interviewed, would also be interested in reading interviews from players like Nancy, Prism or Empire. I'd mostly like to hear them talk about their approach towards scumhunting in terms of what they're actually doing outside of the thread.
Many thanks to Regfan for agreeing to be interviewed and for providing fascinating detail about his approach to the game. I always look forward to playing with him, and even more so after an opportunity to pick his brain about forum mafia.
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