Books

Acknowledgments

Black Vienna Online is a computer-moderated version of the board game Black Vienna designed by Gilbert Obermair and published by Franckh-Kosmos in 1987. No claim is made against the rights of either party.

How to Play

These are instructions on how to use this web-based moderator. Rules for the game itself can be found here.

There are seven major screens that handle gameplay:

  1. New — This screen allows you to create a new case.

    Player Information - Enter the names and e-mail addresses of 3-6 players. Put your information on the first line. (Once the case is created you'll be immediately logged-in to that player's account. If this is not you, then you'll be able to see that player's hand — you wouldn't want to do that now would you?) Each name and e-mail address must be unique. E-mails will be sent to all players informing them of the case, along with their hand, username, and password. The e-mail sent to you will also confirm that you are the case's creator.

    Options allow you to customize the case to your specifications:

    • Active Players Only?: The standard rules require eliminated players to continue playing the game, conducting investigations as necessary. Enabling this option limits investigations to non-eliminated players only. If an eliminated player is the subject of an investigation, then the current player is randomly selected from the remaining, active players. (This random selection process ensures that such "free" investigations are evenly distributed amongst the remaining players — you won't get a second "free" investigation until all active players have had at least one. However, it is possible for a player to take two turns in a row if he's randomly selected for a "free" investigation immediately after conducting his normal investigation.)

    • Multiple Winners?: Normally, once a player has made a correct accusation, the case ends. Enabling this option gives all other (non-eliminated) players 24 hours from the time of the first correct accusation to make an accusation of their own. If their accusation is correct, they will also be listed as having solved the case.

    • Anonymous Winners?: (This option is only valid when 'Multiple Winners' is enabled.) Normally, when a player solves a case, his/her name is e-mailed to the other players and displayed on various screens. Enabling this option will hide solving players' names until the case has closed. (A case closes once all players have made an accusation or time expires.) Additionally, incorrect accusations made after the case has been solved will also be hidden until the case closes. (Note that incorrect accusations made before the case is solved are publicly announced regardless of the setting of this option.)

    • Restricted Specials?: Normally, a player may conduct a Special Investigation using any Investigation Card which has no chips on it, including ones in front of himself (Investigation Cards are "in front" of the player who was last investigated with that card). Enabling this option limits Special Investigations to Investigation Cards that are in front of other players.

    • 5-player Deck?: In a standard game, the Person Deck has 27 cards (A-Z, plus Ö) which means that in a 5-player game, one player is dealt one fewer than everybody else. Enabling this option (which is only allowed with five players) uses a Person Deck that has 28 cards (A-Z, plus Ö and Ü). This means that each player will receive the same number of cards.

      In order to have each letter appear on the same number of Investigation Cards, a new Investigation Deck is used as well. It features 56 cards in total and each letter appears 6 times in all.

  2. Login — This screen allows you to login to an existing case. Enter the case # and your password. (Passwords are case-insensitive so egHbG3 is the same as EGHBG3.) Once you're successfully logged in, the case # and your username will appear at the top of the screen (just below "Black Vienna Online"). You will now also have access to the View, Investigate, Accuse, Notes, and Dispatches screens. If you're playing in multiple cases, you need to log in to each one separately. (Note that you cannot be logged in to separate cases at the same time, even if you have multiple browsers running.)

  3. View — This is the main screen for each case and shows all the relevant information.

    Case Information lists the case #, the current player, and the available Investigation Cards. (At the start of the game only three Investigation Cards are available. Once all players have been the subject of an investigation and at least 6 investigations have been conducted, "Special Investigations" become available.) The number in parentheses shows the number of Investigation Cards left in the deck. Any options enabled for this case will also be displayed in this section.

    Remind player Once 24 hours have elapsed since the latest investigation, an e-mail link will appear next to the current player's name. Clicking this link will send an e-mail to that player reminding him/her that the other players are waiting. These reminders can only be sent once every 24 hours.

    Once the case has been solved (or all players have been eliminated), the Case Information section will be updated to reflect this.

    Player Information shows your hand and the cards in front of each player. Dots beside a card indicate that player's response. (Note that the same card might appear for multiple players if the response to that card was 0.) The number in parentheses after each player's name is the number of Person Cards in that player's hand. If a player has made an incorrect accusation "(Eliminated)" will appear below that player's name.

    Turn Information shows the same information as above but organized by turn order. This also tracks who conducted an investigation rather than just the response. You can also see which Investigation Cards were available on each turn by positioning your mouse over the appropriate entry in the "about" column.

  4. Investigate — This screen allows the current player (only) to conduct an investigation (i.e., take a turn). Select a player from the pulldown and choose one of the available Investigation Cards. Clicking the "Investigate" button will show whether 0,1,2, or 3 spies on the Investigation Card are in that player's hand. Turn order then passes to the investigated player. (Note: see Options - Active Players Only above.)

  5. Accuse — This screen allows you to make an accusation as to which three spies form Black Vienna. You may do this at any time, even if you are not the current player. Select the three spies from the pulldowns and click the "Accuse" button. If you are correct, you will have won the game and the View page will be updated to reflect this. If you are incorrect, the game continues but you will be unable to make any further accusations nor can you win the game. (You may still be required to conduct investigations on your turn however: see Options - Active Players Only above.)

  6. Notes — This screen allows you to create private notes about the case. Only you are able to view the notes you make. After modifying your notes, make sure to click the "Save" button.

    You also use this screen to indicate if you'd like to participate in a rematch once the case has closed. The default is "Undecided" but you can change your preference any time you like.

  7. Dispatches — This screen allows you to read and post messages from/to the other players. If there are messages that you have not yet viewed, "Dispatches" will appear in red.

About this Version

I have attempted to stick to the original rules as close as possible with the following exceptions:

  • "Special Investigations" are made instead of a normal turn rather than in addition to it. (A "special investigation" is when you select a card that is in front of another player which has no chips on it.)

  • There is no scoring system. The winner is the first player to correctly accuse Black Vienna. If none of the players manage this, then Black Vienna escapes and all players lose.

  • There is no enforced turn limit. Players may continue to conduct investigations until all Investigation Cards have been placed in front of other players.

Contact

If you have any comments, suggestions, or require any help, please contact me at greg@aleknevicus.com.

If you want to participate in discussion about the game, make suggestions, ask questions, or look for players, check out the Yahoo group Black Vienna Online.

Issues

The following problems/issues are known to exist:

  • Updates and turn-notifications are sent via e-mail from:

    "Black Vienna HQ" <greg@aleknevicus.com>

    Adding this address to your whitelist (if you have one) will ensure that it gets past any spam filters you may have. All e-mails will also have [BV] in the subject line.

  • E-mails sent to any comcast.net or sbcglobal.net address have been failing as of July 15, 2008. The spam detection software on these networks identify any e-mails sent from Black Vienna Online as spam. I have contacted both and requested removal from their blacklists. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary fix as within a few days, the site is back on the blacklist. As such, the only recommendation I have is to use an alternate e-mail address if possible. My apologies for this less-than-convenient solution.