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Gaming Mechanics: Bluffing

Posted Sunday, 29-Mar-2015

Contributed by Bruce Linsey

What is a bluffing game?

One often-used game mechanic is the bluff, in which players try to convince other players that they have more power than they actually have, or are more willing to use their power than they in fact are.  Bluffing games take on many forms.

The classic bluffing game is, of course, poker.  It’s an integral part of
the game to get your opponents thinking that your hand is better than it really is, so they’ll drop out and let you win a pot you can’t win by sheer strength.


Bluffing Poker Hand
The classic bluffing game is poker.


Bluffing in Euro-style games

Bluffing exists in many Euro-style games as well.  In Liar’s Dice (more
accurately called Bluff in an earlier version), players roll hidden dice and bid on how many dice of a given number, such as 3, are under all players’ cups.  One side of each die is a star, which is wild, adding a twist to the probability calculations.



Bluffing Game Liar's Dice
Liar’s Dice

In the hard-to-find bluffing game Aladdin’s Dragons, players bid for the right to gain gems, perform certain actions or win artifacts (which are victory points) — but the bidding is blind.  That is, you can’t see what your opponent has bid for each item until all the bids have been placed, and then they’re turned up.  Is that bid marker the other player just put down a paltry “1” or a powerful “9”? You may have to just guess, but it can hurt to be outguessed!


Classic bluffing board game Aladdin's Dragons
Aladdin’s Dragons

The same blind bidding mechanism is present in Ys, a bluffing game where players vie for control of different city sections.  The twist is that each turn, you place one bid marker face-up and another face-down!  So you need to decide not only where to place them, but which will be your (potential) bluff.


Ys Bluffing Game


A more recent bluffing game

A more recent bluffing game is Sheriff of Nottingham.  This game has players hiding goods or possibly more valuable contraband inside little pouches, and trying to sneak the good stuff past an ever-watchful sheriff (a role which alternates among all the players). You can even offer bribes to get the sheriff NOT to open your pouch!


Sheriff of Nottingham Bluffing Game
Sheriff of Nottingham

Whether or not you’re good at bluffing games, they often produce much laughter and merriment as well as difficult guesses and decisions.

What are some of your favorite bluffing games?

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