*This is a cross post. You can find the original post here
Devil’s Playground is a game still in its relative infancy. The true depth of the strategic opportunities it offers are still being discovered, and players of all types have found their way into the fray with the worst of intentions. It’s a game that gives the underdog a puncher’s chance at the crown, and it’s a game that let’s the guy on top do what he has to do to stay there. You can win or lose in a hundred different ways by avenue of luck, negotiation, relationship management, business sense, a combination of all of it, and more.
As players continue to discover the game and all the value it has to offer, some of the folks who have been here from the beginning are really turning a corner and playing the game on a much higher level than most. Today we’re going to sit down with the one player who has risen above the rest and demonstrated, in this early stage of Devil’s Playground’s existence, what separates it from your average tabletop.
Mike Wade was a part of the play test team in the earliest stages of the game’s development, and has had a profound impact on the feel of the final version, particularly in the Contract system. In the time since the game was finished, I’ve seen him win round after round from a lot of different angles. He’s started at the top, and stayed there. He’s rolled badly during the Encounter process for an entire game, and won it anyway. He’s been penniless for turn after turn, and overcome it. He’s done it gambling, recruiting, trading, contracting, backstabbing—and found success in just about every approach so far. We just recently started tracking official stats within our game group, and appropriately, Mike came away with the first “official” victory. Today Mike is sitting down with us so we can get the chance to find out how he makes it look so easy…
Dax Christopher: Let’s just get the obvious out of the way first. You’re really good at this game. Back when it was still being developed, I had some concerns that the game was a little bit too luck-heavy and that a true strategic win might be a pipe dream. That seems silly now, unless you’re just the luckiest guy in the state. We’re going to start with a softball question: what’s your favorite way to win?
Mike Wade: Man, that’s actually a tough one. I guess that I’d have to say when someone else ends the game. For someone else to have all of their NPC’s and end it only to find out you had more money means that typically speaking you were able to remain competitive throughout, avoid massive attacks, and you played every angle without anyone noticing that you’re sitting on a vault full of cash. If you really think about it, you can’t win this way if you’ve won a lot of blackjack or have had loads of successful encounters, or even have a large entourage. Winning without calling it is my favorite because it means you really played every angle you could.
DC: I’ve put a lot of thought into what it is that’s made your run at this game so successful. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think that part of what’s made you such a dangerous player is the fact that you seem like you have a knack for putting a dollar value on everything, and knowing where your cut off numbers are in your negotiations with other people. New players don’t really get that, I don’t think—the importance of knowing not just the printed values on NPCs and such, but also, say, the value of information as it relates to your current situation. Is that just my imagination, or am I somewhere close? Can you elaborate on your technique?
MW: Everything is for sale! My technique is really pretty simple—buy what’s for sale and find a way to buy what’s not for sale. Every action in the game should have a cash value in your head regardless of its capability. What I mean by that is I will often buy a contract that someone else is willing to dump for pennies knowing that I can’t use it and you could say that it has $0 value to me. Now, with that being said, if I see an instance on the board where it can be used, I’ll give that contract away for cheap or free so I can reap the benefits/split the profits. I’ve then made free money to go along with the fact that it sours a relationship between two others, which to me is worth all the money in the game. Though it does vary by game, I really do put cash value on everything, even when being attacked. If the cost/benefit doesn’t make sense I let the damage happen opposed to trying to weasel my way out of it.
DC: I knew it. As the most successful player, and the closest thing to a veteran player that Devil’s Playground has right now, what would you say is the single most important thing to be able to do well in order to find success?
MW: Start broke and build wealth slowly. I feel dirty even telling you that as we play often, but I figured that out once blackjack was given a max bet of $1k per hand. I am the public enemy on the Playground so I’ve had to figure out how to win knowing that I can’t have another player as an ally. People are typically most powerful between turns 2-4 so the less valuable I appear in the early turns, the better chance I have of making a big move in the latter rounds. It’s easy to make money late, you just have to be versatile. You need to get every bit of value from every NPC, so capitalize on what they provide. Also, MAKE THOSE CONTRACTS WORK! The threats and implications are often more valuable than the damage they inflict so keep a loaded deck—know how to stack and use multiple contracts at once, carry security guys so you’re paid to execute, and for the love of god, treat these sweet beauties like the solid brick of gold that they are. People often sell “bad” contracts for cheap, but I’m here to tell you that I haven’t seen a single contract I didn’t love. Again, start broke and then try and double your purse every turn after about turn 3.
DC: That explains why I never see you take the money when the game starts. Me, I’ll still be trying to make $2,000 work for me out the gate. So, is there any particular type of player that you feel you have to watch out for more than the others on your way to victory? Is there a kryptonite to your Superman?
MW: A full blown wild card player. Someone who just does something “because they can” with little to no benefit to them. It’s really devastating when it happens because in this game I’m usually trying to plan my moves a turn or two in advance. If you’re a loose cannon, you probably won’t win, but you will for sure make my life hell.
DC: Note to self: make every in-game decision from now on dependent upon the outcome of a coin flip. Just kidding. Moving on, I’m always watching to see what peoples’ Contract preferences are, but I can honestly say you don’t seem to have any. Is that really the case?
MW: Well, no, actually. Con Artistry is my favorite, but me having a Con Artistry contract works about as well as a boat with holes in it. I’ve learned to love them all as I mentioned it earlier, but that’s because if you can’t work the contract system you’re going to lose. It took me quite some time to find a home for Bribery and Corruption but that’s only because they didn’t fit my style of play at first. I love any contract, but if I had a clean slate and no one knew my slick ways every time I played, I’d live off of Con Artistry.
DC: Think back. I know this is asking a lot, because you’ve had so many, but which of your wins are you most proud of? Any particular reason?
MW: A semi-recent round that included you, actually. I think the game went 6 rounds and I was actually without cash for the first 5, but somehow I squeaked out a win when the game was called. I’m always amazed when someone wins after having little to no cash. Plus a win against the original core group of players is always more gratifying.
DC: Sure, I remember that. I wish I had recorded that game so that I could use it to emphasize for people just how totally possible it is to come back from nothing in this game, you know? Anyway, go ahead and address all the Playground rookies out there for a minute. What advice would you give to the guys and gals who have only recently found their way to the game about how to get the most out of it? Do you have any savvy veteran things to say that might save them some time in their strategic development as players?
MW: A few things… One, develop a strategy and perfect it before trying something new. Every ace pitcher in baseball has a go to pitch, you should also have a go to. Two, choose your battles wisely. The game is hard enough, don’t create a vendetta unless the value was there. Three, employ your strategy from the start. If it takes a few turns before you know what you’re doing then you’ve lost. Four, understand your position at all times. If you are clearly in a bad spot after a few turns, go strike a deal. The game really only lasts about 5-8 turns on average. Five, take your time and use everything. Touch every NPC card you own and check their talent, read every contract on every turn and even between turns, make sure your NPCs are in good spots to make you money, or set up your next turn. Six, if you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this—get creative! I will literally sell you anything you want to know from my list card info to moving your player for you on my turn just for a buck. Get creative folks, and find a way to get paid while you are waiting for your turn.
DC: Here’s an easy one: which NPC is your favorite? Which is the one that you’re always looking for, regardless of situation?
MW: I don’t currently have any that I really “seek” out, but I’m always pretty happy when I find Byron, Cassandra, or Miranda. I’m not a guy who values drivers like everyone else, with the exception of Cassandra. Her movement can speed up your productivity and brings a premium if you sell her services. Byron has great talents, his NPC ability is awesome, and he is security which gets you paid for pulling off contracts. If Byron is in the casino and you can protect him, (and you have nerves of steel) you can make loads of cash. Oh, did I mention you can sell his service easily? Miranda, I think, lets you count another player’s bankroll which may actually be the most valuable talent in the game. In case you were wondering, people will pay to know someone else’s bankroll. Catch my drift? All people who can make me money WHILE helping me execute my strategy. I guess to answer the question straight forward, If I had to pick only one, Byron is my guy.
DC: We’ve come a long way from when we first started playing this game. Upper-level, out-of-the-box strategy is pretty much the norm for us these days. How suspicious were you that this entire interview was just an attempt by me to expose your in-game business model and sell the intel off to all your competitors?
MW: The real question here is if you think any of this info I gave you is valid, or if I was purely planting more seeds. You and I make a far better team than we do rivals as time would suggest (how many straight madden championships did we win?) but I’m not concerned. You aren’t shady enough to reach my level of gangster (laughs). For real though, I think the only thing I’ve said that anyone didn’t know is that I like to start broke. With that being said, anyone can try it. A word of warning though, what I said earlier is that I believe it is the most important way to find consistent success, certainly not the easiest. You better have some serious business savvy if you want to make that work. I assure you coming out of turns 3 and 4 without cash is no comfortable feeling.
DC: Thanks for taking the time, good Sir. I’d wish you luck in your endeavors to keep your successful run alive, but the truth is I’d like nothing more than to see it end and this has been the most painful interview of my life. Seriously though, are there any parting words for Playground Nation?
MW: I understand that all good things come to an end, but unfortunately for you there is no rule saying that dominant things come to an end (laughs again). Have fun ladies and gents! If anyone wants a shot at the champ, call me out on the Devil’s Playground social pages. Seriously though, hit me up! I’ll be happy to show you why I’ve been called the devil…
That’s it for this round, deviants! Extra points for you if you beat this guy. If you’d like to be interviewed about your personal exploits in Devil’s Playground, contact us on social media and tell us your accolades! Stay devious kids, and keep on bringing your worst intentions…