The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘Artificial Opponents’ Category


Katherine of Sky (a Factorio streamer I watch) did a video (series) on Beltex and it was an easy $5 purchase (in fact, after a few minutes I was “yup” and shut off the stream, so I can experience the game myself). This is a small “cozy” factory (in that there’s no time pressure, no marauding aliens, etc). You have extractors that can “mine” numbers (at the beginning you can only mine 1s), conveyor belts, and a delivery station that wants numbers.

Initially it only demands “1s” but soon it also needs “2s” (and you’ve unlocked the “adder” station). Pretty soon you need 3s, 10s, 32s, 57s and others, and you never really stop needing the earlier numbers. You also unlock bridges (so that belts can cross over), subtractors, priority belts and whatnot.

I liked but didn’t love Shapez, this games predecessor (that involved cutting, rotating, re-assembling and painting shapes) but this is more up my alley… still not in the “going to drop hundreds of hours on this” but that’s fine. “20 minute bursts” is a solid timewaster.

Anyway, you’ll know if its for you after looking at the video on the steam page.

Beltex on Steam.

Update (in response to Jeroen’s comment) — It actually does get a bit samey. I’d written the above at ~2 hours and now (~10h) the last few hours have just been kind of “more”. You never get past multiplication (but do get copy/paste and storage). I maxed out one of the upgrades and haven’t seen anything new in an hour or two. Still, I built some shift multipliers and a few other interesting things. I might get 10 more hours out of it, I might not, but it was better money spent than shapez.

Written by taogaming

January 23, 2023 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Reviews

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Creating A Pointless Business Book(*) with Chat-GPT

(* But I repeat myself)

At several points during my prior life in a big corporation, we were “encouraged” to read some sappy business book and then have group discussions on it. At some point I had the idea of trying to come up with the worst title/idea that could conceivably sell as a business book, and spent a few hours fleshing out the joke.

The book’s title is “Today, We Are Ducks!”

Recently, a coworker (still at the same company) suggested that I have Chat-GPT write it. And so I give to you the pre-amble and chapters for my magnum opus.

Once upon a time, in a peaceful pond, lived a group of ducks. They spent their days swimming and playing in the water, and their nights huddled together on the shore. They were content with their simple routine and never gave much thought to the world outside of their pond.

One day, a new duck named Drake arrived on the scene. Drake was different from the other ducks. He had a burning desire to explore the world beyond the pond. He would often speak to the other ducks about his dreams of flying over the mountains and seeing new horizons.

The other ducks laughed at Drake, thinking he was foolish for wanting more than what they had in the pond. But Drake was determined and he continued to share his vision with the other ducks.

As time passed, the pond began to dry up and the ducks realized that they needed to adapt to the changing environment or risk losing everything. They looked to Drake for guidance, and he reminded them of his vision for exploring the world beyond the pond. With Drake leading the way, the ducks spread their wings and flew off into the unknown. They discovered new ponds, new friends, and new adventures. They had finally found the courage to leave their comfort zone and embrace the change.

Like the ducks, we must be willing to adapt to change and take risks in order to grow and succeed in the business world. “Today, We are Ducks” will inspire you to embrace change and achieve your full potential.

–Today, We Are Ducks, by ChatGPT (lightly edited)

And the Chapter List:

  1. “Drake’s Vision” – Learn about the power of having a clear vision for your future and how it can guide you towards success.
  2. “Stepping out of the Pond” – Understand the importance of leaving your comfort zone and taking the first step towards growth.
  3. “Adapting to the Drying Pond” – Learn how to be flexible and adapt to new situations in order to thrive in a constantly changing business environment.
  4. “Ducks in Formation” – Understand the importance of teamwork and how it can lead to achieving common goals.
  5. “The Drake’s leadership” – Learn how to become an effective leader and inspire others to reach their full potential.
  6. “Navigating the Unknown” – Discover strategies for overcoming obstacles and challenges on the journey towards success.
  7. “Falling like a Duck” – Learn how to use failure as a learning opportunity and turn it into a stepping stone towards success.
  8. “The Duck’s Journey” – Understand that growth and success is a lifelong journey and that there is always room for improvement.
  9. “Making a Splash” – Learn how to use your success to make a positive impact in the world and leave a legacy.
  10. “Flying to new Horizons” – Take the lessons learned and apply them to your life and business to reach new heights and achieve your wildest dreams.

I never actually got around to writing TWaD (for the obvious reason that how much time do I want to spend on something I think is worthless) but with ChatGPT now you can spam out worthless business books (and political bios, and others) at the cost of only a few hours of your time.

Still not worth it.

But as for ChatGPT — It is impressive, although it does not like to aggregate data (It will tell you the first, second, third, fourth, etc Senator from Maryland, but would not answer “How many Senators has Maryland had?). Also, I didn’t actually tell it to use the name “Drake” for the opening parable. (I did suggest that the chapter titles be “more related to ducks or the parable” after the first attempt. And I have to admit, they are pretty damn good).

Update — The TaoLing asked Dall-E to make a book cover. As he said “Dall-E has some trouble understanding what a book cover is, but I do enjoy how soulless the eyes are….

Written by taogaming

January 19, 2023 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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A bit more on the Dip AI

Watched a human player review his a game against six AIs (he knew they were AIs). Early on (after he makes a mistake as Russia and violates an agreement with Austria, provoking a response).

Russia (Human) : Germany, what do you think we should do?

Germany (AI): I think we’re screwed.

Gotta love that.

Written by taogaming

December 1, 2022 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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Switching Mediums Is a Red Flag: Slay the Spire and Ozymandias.

Whenever I start up Slay the Spire (via Steam) I’m reminded that there is a Slay the Spire boardgame on Kickstarter. I see posts for it on r/slaythespire. I’ve played 4,000 hours of Slay the Spire, it’s fair to say I like it. I own ~200 boardgames (and have bought and sold ~5x that). So, automatic pledge, right?


Apart from my natural reticence with Kickstarter, or the fact that tie-in games are usually bad, there is the simple fact that this game crosses mediums (which, come to think of it, tie-in games automatically do). I think I’ve danced around this issue before, but I’ve also been playing a bunch of Ozymandias (alternating that and StS), and it cemented some of my thoughts on this, so I felt like it might be interesting to discuss.

Lets assume, arguendo, that the Slay the Spire board game developers are honest, competent, hard working and have a ton of board game experience. (For all I know this is true, but that is certainly not the case on many Kickstarter projects). It doesn’t really matter: My goals with StS and boardgames are different.

Slay the Spire is a small exercise in optimization and risk management. Certainly many Eurogames (particularly J.A.S.E. games) exemplify that. So let’s even grant that they can turn this into a decent board game. But when I’m playing Slay the Spire (in steam), I’m getting a fundamentally solitaire experience at my own pace. I normally don’t play too carefully, and many average ~20 minutes (playing at A20, Act I is ~10 minutes, Act II is ~20 and III/IV is ~30-40). I can play slower to improve my win rate, but StS is essentially “Television” for me. Its a (mostly) mindless few hours instead of watching netflix. It’s not a competitive experience, and its not a particularly social experience.

Board games are primarily competitive and social, for me. They are relaxing, but not in the same category of “Television/Netflix.” I have different motiviations between boardgames and computer games, so even a perfect replica of Slay the Spire in board game format might bomb for me.

But what is lost in the board game format of StS (I’m assuming, not having followed it closely):

First, All the computer moderation. Slay the Spire is a deckbuilder (to be sure) but also a roguelike, and part of the joy is having 10+ modifications (via relics). But I don’t have to do anything, I can just click and play, and its handled. In a boardgame, these get overwhelming. In a competitive board game, losing because I forgot Player B has Relic Q (when each of my opponents has ~5 relics)? Ugh. (I now see that the Slay the Spire is a co-op, but it would be the same thing if we lost because we lost track of some modifier….)

A super-fiddly game is made better by an automated moderator that plays the fiddle.

Even Ozymandias (which is basically a board game) takes full advantage of the computer to handle persnickety math, shows you numerical differences in your choices and smooths things out. Calculating and resolving all the battles in 5 seconds instead of minutes of dice rolling, with no mistakes. (It could be done faster, but the computer gives time to see it).

Second, downtime. In the computer games, I take as long or as little time as I want. I get a 100% return on my time. In Slay the Spire or (theoretical) Ozymandias board game, I have downtime. Even if they aren’t fixed fun games (where the fun is divided up between players) strictly speaking, there’s some loss. Ozymandias would take a huge hit unless it managed to do a simultaneous selection.

None of that is to say that these games might not work, but the switching between mediums might mean they work in a way that is very different than what made them addictive as a computer game. (The same way the Sandman, for example, had to rework the 24/7 episode (the one in the diner) because what works in a 20 page comic you can read in 5 minutes does not work as an hour of television).

I suspect the most likely result of the Slay the Spire boardgame will be something like Thunderstone … not a bad game, but one of those games you play a few times and move on from. (Again, that’s not a knock. In the past if I got 5 plays from a board game, I considered that a reasonable purchase, but my standards are higher now).

Of course, it is certainly possible that the mold the developers are aiming for is more Gloomhaven campaign, or an epic four hour adventure. All those would be fine; but again a big change from a pringles like solitaire where I just play after dinner until I’m bored or tired.

I would certainly play the Slay the Spire Boardgame … it might be that what they end up with is satisfying as a board game. But if that is the case, it will scratch a very different itch than the computer game. And given how many board games I have, that’s not an itch I need felt the need to back.

Update — If you are new here from r/slaythespire, I have a number of StS related posts.

Written by taogaming

November 25, 2022 at 2:58 pm

Talk is Cheap, but Terminators are Expensive

So, at least until the cash from the AI generated art business starts rolling in, Skynet is working on its Diplomacy game.

The title — “Human-level play in the game of Diplomacy by combining language models with strategic reasoning” — is meant to lull you into a false sense of security.

Written by taogaming

November 22, 2022 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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A problem with computer Go engines

Ars Technica is reporting on adversarial algorithms that can defeat the (world class) Go Computers …. by exploiting the fact that they don’t really understand the rules and can be tricked into ending the game (via passing) in a position that looks dominant but actually scores against them.


Written by taogaming

November 8, 2022 at 8:07 pm

Vampire Survivors

Yet another Steam game, but I bought this one. You move your vampire hunter around the map against hordes and hordes of monsters (starting with bats and adding a new type or swarm every minute-ish). Weapons fire automatically. When you level up (roughly every 30s) you can improve a weapon or add a new one from a menu of three (sometimes four).

So — run around, don’t touch the monsters but get close to them so your weapons will kill them, grab the XP gems they drop, level up, get better weapons, face harder monsters.

This game is compressed. You “win” if you live 30 minutes (at which point Death comes for you personally). So far I haven’t gotten to minute 14. But there’s meta-scaling which I don’t mind because the game is ~15 minutes (levelling up and getting treasure freezes time) instead of four hours.

And this is also a cheap game ($4). So why not? Really my only complaint is that the animation for a treasure chest (which you get a few times per game) is way too slow (Update Right mouse or esc skips it). Spending 20s on a jackpot siren (a few times) in a 10 minute game is ludicrous.

Rating Suggest.

And I see that Twitch has people streaming this to 10k viewers, so it appears popular.

Update Indifferent. There was a sweet spot (IMO) where things were hard but progress (via metascaling) helped, and then it went quickly into games that had 15+ minutes of “Visual Spam” as noted below, and that drove me away. Still, 20 hours for $4 wasn’t bad.

Written by taogaming

October 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm

Ozymandias Quick Thoughts

Based on watching a few minutes of the Nialus video I played the Ozymandias demo. The elevator pitch is … this is a minimal Civ style game you can play in an hour or two. You have four resources (Science, Food, Money, Power), the tech tree has lots (100?) of options, but they are all mostly the same (extra Sci/Food/Money/Power per hex you have of each of 8 types, pay less food to build). You can spend money to buy science or food, and also improve storage, because “saved” resources suffer a huge penalty. Armies and Fleets are expensive in money and food, but you’ll need them. If you project power into neighboring hexes (via your native power and/or armies and navies) you might take it over.

Very simple, but each turn you are also offered a choice of two bonuses. For example, “Gain $2 per hill space, claim when you want” or “Spend $10 for a bonus power this turn.” Some bonuses take time to claim, and you can only have three. These (along with each empires native benefit) are the difference from the basics.

Various achievements (like X points of cities, X spaces, X techs, Conquer X cities) give you crowns and seven crowns wins. A demo game on “novice” level took an hour. (Correction — According to my steam “time-played” it took ~45 minutes!)

The other nice thing (at least, in theory) is that this is a simultaneous play multiplayer game. Apparently in multiplayer you get so long per turn and at the end (or when everyone has clicked “Done”) then the turn resolves and you see where everyone else tried to expand, moved armies to, bought, et cetera).

Despite all that I wonder if it will be too “samey” but its $12, so I may buy it. Haven’t decided.

Written by taogaming

October 12, 2022 at 8:36 pm

Stokfish analysis of Carlsen-Niemann

I’m a huge fan of the “Sarcastic AI mocking humans for their inept game play” genre (see also: Chthonic), so when I was offered up a video of “Stokfish” analyzing the game where Niemann is accused of cheating against Carlsen, I was all in.

You have to love a video that begins “Greetings, inferior species.” (Although I wish the voice was less Robotic. Chthonic gets big props for using the voice of George Sanders as his go-to).

(I have no real theory and wasn’t even aware of this scandal, but Hikaru seems to think Niemann’s very sus … apparently in his post game analysis he offers up a move that just hangs a bishop in a line he said he’d studied the morning of. “Stokfish” thinks its plausible either way, but I will note that he credits Carlsen … “The future former world human champion” …. with two outright blunders).

Personally when I am playing way up against strong opponents, I will often play very well for a short burst, until I relax and/or fatigue gets me, and I suspect that Magnus faces that a lot.

Written by taogaming

September 8, 2022 at 10:31 am

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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Some bridge with some robots

I’m playing last week’s free robot tournament on BBO and my first two hands are disasters, so I’m under 20%.

I pick up S: Ax H: AKJxx D: 9xx C: ATx (which is about average, since you get the best hand at the table). Philosophically, I open 1NT on these hands and hope to show my hearts later. I’d just be stuck if I opened 1 Heart and heard either 1 spade or 1 NT bids (the most likely). My robot partner bids 2 Spades which is apparently minor suit stayman. Mousing over the bids lets you see what the robot might interpret a bid as, so I see 2N is a non maximum. I have a maximum, so I bid 3NT, ending the auction.

I get the heart 5 lead and dummy is not encouraging.

Dummy S: Q H: Qxx D: KQxxx C: KJxx

Heart 5 led

Declarer S: Ax H: AKJxx D: 9xx C: ATx

Perhaps I should have moused over my 3 Hearts bid to see if it showed a 5 bagger. Declarers in hearts will be able to ruff a spade in dummy, so I need to conjure up something wonderful. At least the robot didn’t lead a spade, at which point I’d be truly boned. I play small off dummy and win east’s heart Ten with the Jack (a mistake, I should win with the King, keeping some mystery about the jack).

If I find the diamond ace onside and diamonds breaking, then I’ll have 1S + 5H + 4D and 2C for twelve tricks (as will everyone in hearts) but since I’m in NT I’ll get an undeserved top. Sounds good. I lead a diamond to the king (which holds, LHO playing the 5 and RHO the seven).

I have no idea if the robot east is good enough to duck the diamond ace.

I lead to the heart queen and RHO discards the three of spades, so I note that Hearts are 4=1. When I lead a diamond and LHO flies with the ace, so I’m getting ready to hit the claim button when RHO discards the spade jack.

OK, RHO has 11 black cards, and LHO still has JT of diamonds. Could be worse, if he’d ducked smoothly I’d have played the queen, since I was playing for a 3-2 break. LHO leads the spade four and it goes Q-K and I win.

I’m still playing to make 6NT for the matchpoint top.

RHO seems to be the odds on favorite to hold the club queen due to the law of vacant spaces … and East didn’t double an artificial two spades with KJxx and who knows how many spades.

I can afford another heart without squeezing dummy, so I lead it and pitch dummy’s fifth diamond. RHO pitches a spade. I don’t see anything to change my mind, so I lead a diamond to the ten and queen (RHO pitches the nine of spades) and lead a club to the ten.

When I open my eyes, I discover that I’ve won. I play the club ace and both follow and I’m still not out of the woods. East would be squeezed in the black suits …. but not unless west started with no spade above the six. But as it turns out clubs are 3-3 and I do in fact get my twelve tricks and a 100% score on the board.

No idea why they robot didn’t double 2 Spades with KJT98532.

I score a 75% by stopping in 2 hearts and making four. Then I pick up

S: AKJ6 H:K874 D: J874 C: A

I open 1 Diamond and play it there. Dummy isn’t bad, all things considered.

Dummy S: T3 H: Q93 D: T2 C: QJ8543

Spade 2 Led

Declarer S: AKJ6 H:K874 D: J874 C: A

Well, it’s matchpoints, so I just have to take every trick not nailed down. Assuming the two is a true card, I have three spades, the club ace and a lot of work to do.

I’ve been reading The Rodwell Files and his section on “Entry flies” where you play an honor from dummy to get an extra entry. Now’s a decent shot at it, but I can’t do anything with an entry now. Still, I think for a long time before playing low (I normally play too fast; one reason for playing this tournament is that I can take as long as I want, since the robots don’t care). It goes 2-3-8 and jack.

I can ruff a spade in dummy. Normally that would help, but my winning spade will likely get ruffed out for no net gain. But there’s another section in that book … “the shortshake”. (Rodwell believes in giving techniques memorable names, to be sure). That’s when you discard a short suit on a winner and ruff that suit instead of the main suit. Perhaps I can do that.

And I’ll need a heart at some point, and the suit has potential for more tricks since I have the nice spots. So I lead the four of hearts and LHO flies with the ace (3-6) and then plays the heart Jack.

Hm. That looks like A-J tight. I could win the queen and then finesse in hearts against RHO’s Tx, but then LHO will ruff.

Shortshake it is. I win dummy’s heart queen (RHO finishing his echo with the five). And lead the ten of spades. RHO covers with the queen (so much for my entry fly) and I win the ace and then play the spade king, pitching dummy’s heart. Next is the heart eight and — as expected — LHO shows out, pitching a club. I ruff with the diamond deuce and come back to the club ace and lead the heart king.

LHO ruffs with the queen and plays a small diamond. 3-T-K small. RHO tries to cash the club king, I ruff with the seven and somewhat surprisingly LHO over-ruffs with the 9; but the hand is over, as I still have one more trump trick due to my J8 (the opponents have only the ace higher).

Making 1 diamond (with a 5-2 trump break against me!) is a tie for top, almost 97%. Although now that I think about it, if LHO had to follow to a 3rd club, I had a chance to make an overtrick by exiting with the spade. If LHO wins, its over (as they are leading into my J8 of diamonds) and if RHO ruffs and leads small I have to guess correctly, and may not have a guess (if he ruffs or leads an honor or 9).

On the final hand I again find a similar type of play for an overtrick for another co-top, and I have managed to come in second in this pointless, no money, no masterpoint, 30 minute tournament with robots. So I at least salvage some pride.

Post Script — Australian Bridge Expert? Pro? Vlogger? Peter Hollands does these online. He didn’t have my disaster on board #1 (but did have it on board #2) and plays the hands in his video.

Written by taogaming

August 29, 2022 at 8:22 pm