Troll's Dilemma, A Free Microgame in your Pocket



Here's a simple Prisoner's Dilemma party game you can try out with your friends and family, using whatever loose change you have lying around the house. You don't even need a table! Just a bunch of players and some room to walk around. It does help to have a scoreboard visible to the whole group. You should also have a timer or a clearly visible clock.

Troll's Dilemma
15 Minutes / 4-30 Players / 10 and up

Heads or tails? You decide. You're trying to build a big consensus leaning one way or the other, but you only score points when players disagree with you. So really, you're trying to coerce a major consensus, so you can betray it. But there is a twist! Oh, such a twist.

Goal
After eight rounds of play, the player with the most points wins.

Set Up
Each player should have their own coin with clearly visible HEADS and TAILS sides. I recommend Othello chips since they're black on one side and white on the other, but any coin will do. Split up all players into separate sides of the room as evenly as possible. Note: These groups are not teams, they're competing within their own group to score the most points.

Play
Each round follows three basic phases:
  • Discuss: Start the timer. Players have 30 seconds to discuss whether to choose HEADS or TAILS. 
  • Choose: When time is up, players must secretly make their choice, set their coin on the back of a hand and cover it with their other hand. There is no coin-flipping. You must decide.
  • Score: All players reveal their choices. Each player scores 1 point for each player who made a different choice than his own. For example, you're in a group of ten players: Six players have chosen HEADS while four players (including you) have chosen TAILS. Everyone who chose HEADS will get 4 points while everyone who chose TAILS will get 6 points. If everyone on a team agrees, no one gets any points.

Set Up the Next Round
Bring together both groups again. Whoever chose HEADS will go to one side of the room. Anyone who chose TAILS will go to the other side of the room. Thus, each round makes a new team.

There is a chance that one player will be lucky enough to be the outlier of their group, being the only player to choose HEADS or TAILS. This lets them score maximum points from their group, but it also mean their next group will be very small.

In a very extreme circumstance, there could be a group with just one player in it. He'll simply have to wait out this round, but still make a choice and hopefully join a big new group in the next round.

In either of these cases, big scorers from one round are usually going to be lower scorers in the subsequent round. I hope this will be a natural catch-up mechanic. Outliers in one round will be very eager to join a consensus in the next round, thus shading their interaction with the other players.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.