The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Latest SR and Cineplexity

(I just finished watching baseball and I can’t sleep).

At our gaming session tonight we:

  • Ran out of Smarty Party cards (the expansion). I guess we’re done.
  • Played Union Pacific. Haven’t done that in a while.
  • Played Acquire. Ditto.
  • Played a new game …

The new game is Cineplexity. Basically it’s a movie trivia game. The judge flips up two cards. Whoever shouts out a movie that matches both cards wins the ‘older’ card. For example, if you have “Has Dustin Hoffman or Tom Hanks” and “Main character dies at the end” you have to meet both. (Note that Dustin Hoffman or Tom Hanks don’t have to die, you can fulfill each card separately). In case of arguments, the judge decides (unless you have a reference handy). That’s basically it, with some rules for getting stuck.

It’s surprisingly hard, except when it’s ridiculously easy (getting “Contains explosions” and “Stars Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, or Bruce Willis” … if Bruce wasn’t there, then maybe we’re talking difficult).

You may also have to reach into knowledge of older movies. Anyway, if you like films and party/trivia games, then this seems good enough.

And speaking of baseball … I took over the Mets (“The Nigh Mets are my favorite.”) and had my epic collapse tonight. We’re now looking at the rules for a three-way tie. (Since I had a choice, I started Glavine in the final game, win and I clinch … his choke wasn’t as epic as yesterdays, but was still sad). So I may have a playoff game (or two), but the regular season of Strat-o is over.

Jacqui calls it “Bunco for boys” and she’s right. As my opponent in tonight’s series said: “This game destroyed what little respect I had for baseball managers.” Your decisions matter, but in such a small probabilistic way that it’s noise. (If we were playing with the super-advanced rules, then there would be more scope for judgment). But I still enjoy it (as a league, anyway). It’s fun watching a 95% steal chance fail … twice in one game. Or the 95% homer split fail, twice in one game. Both of which happened (different games).

We’ll probably do a smaller (person) but more detailed league later on, and I’m looking forward to it.


Written by taogaming

October 2, 2007 at 2:58 am

8 Responses

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  1. As my opponent in tonight’s series said: “This game destroyed what little respect I had for baseball managers.” Your decisions matter, but in such a small probabilistic way that it’s noise.

    Of course, in-game decisions are a small part of what a baseball manager has to do. He has to oversee the coaching staff, he has to keep his players healthy, he has to keep them happy, and he has to keep them focused on the game. He has to work with the GM to figure out roster composition. He is usually in the loop for trades, releases, any sort of roster change. He has to evaluate rookies and work time in for them in without compromising his team’s chances. He has to manage a bullpen, much harder in real life than in tabletop. He has to work the media. The hardest part, I think, is keeping his players’ utmost respect—he needs to be the leader of the team. Professional athletes are used to being top dog; dealing with 25 huge egos is pretty tough. It’s one thing to put together a platoon in Strat—in real life, you have to get two players to share time and get them to like it.

    Read Earl Weaver’s “Weaver on Strategy,” or “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts” to regain a fair amount of respect for baseball managers.

    Of course, there are some yahoos in the position. How many seasons does Grady Little have to grenade before he stops getting chances?


    October 2, 2007 at 5:01 pm

  2. All of what Jeff says is true, but in limiting myself to the in game managing (and those goofy signs) I stand by the statement. Herding egos is, however a real skill. I also assume there’s real managing in knowing player tendencies, so as to shift players around a bit, and get the extra percent or two. But in general …

    “You there, hit a home run!”
    “OK, skip.”

    The little voice that lives in Grady Little’s head certainly proves you can have bad managers, but good is only a few percent above competent. Lots of noise in that signal.


    October 2, 2007 at 10:08 pm

  3. Brian, I’m pretty sure that a manager’s most important duties come outside of the games, in motivating his players and keeping them happy. But in-game decisions are fairly important as well. The most important ones are usually not simulated very well in tabletop baseball games and that’s handling a bullpen. Even if the games take proper rest into account, they still don’t make you warm up pitchers or penalize you if the same guy’s been up throwing for three innings. Knowing how to effectively use your bullpen is definitely a valuable skill.

    There are other skills, like resting players and putting together a good lineup (avoiding too many lefthanded hitters in a row and such), but it’s probably true that they don’t matter all that much compared to the players’ performances. Still, when I see how many managers act as if they’ve never heard of Bill James, I have to think it makes at least some difference.

    Larry Levy

    October 2, 2007 at 10:23 pm

  4. All true. Strat decisions are mostly getting an extra couple of percent here and there. Yes, the randomness is so large that the S/N ratio is miniscule. But there are things to do right and wrong. Getting Bill Buckner out before a ball rolls between his legs, walking Jack Clark, pulling Pedro when he was gassed…little edges that probably don’t matter, but …

    Strat’s simplifications make most of those decisions pretty easy. Fielding except up the middle is pretty trivial, so defensive replacements there aren’t all that important. You don’t have to rest your catchers or worry about burning out pitchers’ arms. You know when a pitcher is tired. Strat roster construction is interesting, as we discussed once before, but in all the long-term leagues I’ve played, it became pretty simple, because left-handed pitching ceased to exist. If you are managing a given team rather than selecting players from a larger pool, you don’t have to make roster decisions. No staying up all night wondering if when you pinch hit for your catcher in the bottom of the 13th will you have a runner available if the pinch hitter gets on base and you’ve already pulled a double switch earlier. (Paraphrased from “Weaver on Strategy.”) The DH rule also simplifies dealing with your roster, since you aren’t pinch-hitting much. Heck…you have the Yankees…managing them isn’t particularly complicated in Strat. Just send them out there. A team with weaknesses at key defensive positions requires a little more juggling. Strat is actually more interesting when you are managing bad teams than good ones: don’t have a second baseman who can hit a lick? Can you arrange your roster so that you can pinch hit there 2-3 times a game? A bad team may have two options at third base, none of them A-Rod. One guy may hit a little better, but the other has the better glove. If the world were perfect, one would be left-handed and the other right-handed, but on a bad team, sometimes that’s not the case. So you play your glove when Chien-Ming Wang (a ground-ball pitcher) is pitching, but the bat when Roger Clemens (a strikeout pitcher) is pitching. A tiny edge, but in a close game, it might be the difference. And you’ll want to carry a pinch hitter to use there, too, since you have an adequate replacement handy. When do you pull the trigger and use the pinch hitter and put in the other 3rd sacker?

    Baseball is a statistical game. Teams win between 40 and 60% of their games, which means that most games are roughly 50/50. The tiny edges you can get mostly don’t matter, but with 162 games in the season, there are lots and lots of them. Some of them will win or lose games. In a 10- or 15-game season, there’s no time for the randomness to even out, but if you make a good or lucky decision that wins a game, it’s pretty important. But yeah, it’s mostly what you start with and luck. After all, it’s a dice game.


    October 5, 2007 at 6:38 am

  5. Yes, managing the Mets (who I picked up for the 2nd half of the season) is more interesting than the Yankees. Just a few responses, though

    You don’t have to rest your catchers or worry about burning out pitchers’ arms. You know when a pitcher is tired.

    Actually we do have to rest catchers … (Posada is one of the most reliable catchers, though. And his year this year was damned impressive). And I argued that there should be some uncertainty about pitchers, but couldn’t think of a way to quickly model it.


    October 5, 2007 at 10:01 am

  6. I admit that my most recent copy of Strat is 1989, so if resting catchers is new, cool. Most leagues come up with some set of rules for resting players, but in a short season, they’re usually pretty minimal. Yeah, it’d be nice if there were some uncertainty about pitchers, and yes, it’s hard to accomplish. I wasn’t thinking about “is a pitcher tired,” but “can he handle this season-level workload?” For example, Torre used Vizcaino (and Proctor and Sturtze and …) constantly for several months and he came down with a “tired arm.” That’s a real tough judgment, and it’s clear that many major league managers (e.g. Dusty Baker) don’t have a good handle on the issue.


    October 5, 2007 at 6:26 pm

  7. Hmm…I meant “both ‘is a pitcher tired,’ and ‘can he handle this season-long workload.'”


    October 5, 2007 at 6:27 pm

  8. Hm. I’m not sure if Strat handles catchers very well, our league forced the catchers to rest a few games (arguably it should have been more). The “Solitaire” rest rules (which I’ve proposed we use for our next season) randomly roll a few positions and then force your proposed starter to miss take the day off (based on # of AB from the prior season).

    The core strat rules, though, basically say “Be realistic,” so it’s a league thing.


    October 5, 2007 at 9:51 pm

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