Betrayers' Banquet: gourmet dining vs the Prisoner's Dilemma


Wouldn’t the game be affected by the fact that the ends of the table represent a terminal state where gains or losses are not possible?

That is, the payoff matrix near the top of the table cannot offer any differential improvement based on behavior: there is nowhere to go but down, so there’d be no gain to being the sole defector.

(On the other hand this might accurately model a conspiracy of the 1% to jointly protect their shared status.)

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There’s a fascinating report from a previous game here:

We were now some 90 minutes into the dinner, everyone was drunk, and everyone down at the bottom of the table was hurting, hungry and drunk. The game had been running for long enough that the foot of the table had become the domain of either players who’d been betrayed, or players whom the two sweating, overworked adjudicators hadn’t given their fair number of turns. It was awful. A dozen people pushing around plates of pickled radishes, all of them either too moral or, in my own case, too immoral to be good at the game.


This sounds as fun as Monopoly.


From reading Crispy75’s link, it sounds like people being moved up/down the chain are installed at the top and bottom of the table, and the rewards/punishments aren’t set in stone. It sounds like the adjudicators also will mix things up to prevent things from reaching a static equilibrium.

Sounds like the rules are kind of informal in their enforcement. Which makes it more like real life, but less interesting as a game. So far as the finite number of spots is concerned, it would obviously be possible for the table position (ordinal ranking) to simply be based on some number of points each player had, with the +10 or +6 or what have you applied to the point total. In that case, the only way to move up in position would be to do better than average. I suspect that because the game is positional the value of moving up would be perceived quite differently by different participants. Anyway, if it were done in this way I would expect the middle of the table to be stable and dominated by cooperators while a lower end of the betrayed and mutual betrayers developed, and (if the payoffs were similar to those in the original dilemma) a small and gradually shrinking upper end as the betrayers tried to cannibalize each other…

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You can find the rules on the website; you’ll be pleased that they’re very formal and exact.

Much like any social game, it’s as fun as the people you play it with!

The part that’s missing from the formal rules is how the pairs of players are selected. It seems as if this is where the “informality” mentioned above is in play: I expect certain pairs may be chosen specifically to make the game more interesting.

Also, it doesn’t seem to resolve the “ends” question. I guess the coordinators could avoid the ends, but this means that if you start at an end the only way to improve your lot is for someone to move beneath you.

That’s good. I imagine a game with rewards and punishments, and inconsistent rules, would quickly become an exercise in anger and frustration.

Games run methodically by seat. So every seat at the table gets a game, in a regular pattern. Of course, people move around a lot and swap partners, so you might not get exactly the same number of games as the next person - but I don’t think it’s possible to ensure that, and certainly not under live conditions. It’s hard to imagine if you’re not there, but the game is pretty chaotic because people are moving constantly.

At the ends, if you would move off the table, you move as far as you can.

Sorry, what’s wrong with pickled walnuts exactly? Truly marvelous with cheese or ham. Or indeed a pork pie.

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I did not read all the rules but sounds like the game could be more interesting with round table; instant drop from top to bottom etc.

I think so too! I’m also half Chinese, so chicken feet soup is something that reminds me of my childhood… but somehow not everyone agrees…

I disagree! The harder it is to keep what you earn, the less value you place in earning it.

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