On the workbench: dual secret game currency idea

I’m kicking around a system idea that just isn’t quite solidifying for me, so I’m opening the floor to discussion. The context for this is a self-contained one-shot game premise that involves the players being confined to a room for a period of time, during which they are tasked with a deliberation. (A short rough PDF of one hack of the game can be read here.) All of the players exist in one of two states: for purposes of this discussion, let’s say the players are either “positive” or “negative”. The task they have been given requires them to single out one player as “positive” as a win condition, but the trick is that positive and negative are not entirely binary states. Players blindly draw a number of tokens from a bag at the start of the game, representing negative or positive, and your state is determined by which token you have more of. The game also has varying win/loss states depending on whether the players discerned correctly the player that was “most positive” – everyone loses if a negative player was tagged as positive, while tagging a positive player but not the most positive is a partial win. (There’s also an alternate escape clause that a player may invoke to save themselves at the cost of the group, making this somewhat like a complicated Prisoner’s Dilemma.)

As I picture it now, the tokens are all secret, and the primary drive of the game is people roleplaying to try to ascertain the states of the other players as well as shift any attempts to tag them as positive. To this end, I would also like the tokens to serve as currency: you can spend them to take special actions in the game, such as to get information, make/deflect accusations, or other things. There are a couple of problems with this, though: for one, there’s the fact that there’s a tension between potentially spending a token in such a way that your state changes. If you have 2 positive and 2 negative tokens, spending one to take an action may put you into a state you don’t want to be in, so that influences your decision. Also, I would like the tokens to remain pretty much secret, so having the tokens tied firmly to specific actions means a player can meta-game by watching the expenditure and results of other peoples’ actions. I don’t mind this in a limited and story-focused way (if a player levels an accusation at someone across the table, everyone should be able to see the response, but should be allowed to interpret the results independently).

I also don’t want players just spending all of their positive tokens to get rid of them and avoid being caught: there should be some incentive to go along with your predetermined state. If you’re the bad guy, you should be able to leverage that in some ways, particularly without tipping your hand, but it should be a challenge – albeit mitigated by the possibility that someone else may be pressured into being a bigger bad guy.