The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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Random Thoughts

Power Grid: The Card Game …. is it an exception to my rule that “X: The Card Game” is bad? I guess. It’s fine.

Played Favor of the Pharoah again, which is a nice improvement over To Court The King, but the setup is annoying.

Played another game or two of Magic Realm, but I’m slowing down on that. Still, I’ve played it quite a bit over the last few months. Traded for a copy of Hands in the Sea, so maybe I’ll get to try that shortly. But I’m in no rush.

Mildly burned out, perhaps. I started reading the review for the Colonists, which seems like its up my alley, but after reading a page or two I get distracted. Took me several sessions to read the Hands in the Sea Rules. I’m taking a break from bridge. (I do play an hour or two online every now and again, but I don’t think I’ve got a club game scheduled for two months or so).

Anyway, nothing much going on. Media — I’ve been watching the Youtube channel No Small Parts on character actors. Flash Season 2. Nothing much.

So, I’m stuck in the Winter Doldrums. It’s not so bad. It happens.

Written by taogaming

February 25, 2017 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Ramblings

An interesting Riddler puzzle this week

More of a thought experiment game than actual “Can be solved” puzzle from the Riddler.

In a distant, war-torn land, there are 10 castles. There are two warlords: you and your archenemy. Each castle has its own strategic value for a would-be conqueror. Specifically, the castles are worth 1, 2, 3, …, 9, and 10 victory points. You and your enemy each have 100 soldiers to distribute, any way you like, to fight at any of the 10 castles. Whoever sends more soldiers to a given castle conquers that castle and wins its victory points. If you each send the same number of troops, you split the points. You don’t know what distribution of forces your enemy has chosen until the battles begin. Whoever wins the most points wins the war.

They’re having a round robin tournament, but you can’t submit a mixed strategy. Just 10 numbers. An interesting question as to how many levels you want to go. I was briefly tempted to grab a genetic algorithm framework and try to evolve a good solution (against a population of other solutions and a few fixed and random-ish strategies), but then I decided to play other games instead. Still, I may think about it and submit an answer later on.

And they have a simpler, classic pick-a-low, problem:

Submit a whole number between 1 and 1,000,000,000. I’ll then take all those numbers and find the average submission. Whoever submits the number closest to ⅔ of the mean of all of the submitted numbers wins.

Now that one’s easy. I’m just going to submit one billion, because a) those things bore me and b) game theory geeks need to be reminded now and again that in the real world people are jerks.

Written by taogaming

February 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

40,527 Days

If I’ve done my math right, that’s the total of the “Days since last played” on the Friendless “Games you should play soon which you own,” list and that number is growing by 20 per day (since there are twenty games on the list). One of my new years resolutions is to reduce that number. My goal is to have no game listed with 1000 days (which means I play my collection through every 3 years-ish).

Now, it’s not a hard rule. But it’s a guideline. Get more games to 50 plays, get rid of games on the “GYSPSWYO” list. (In some case, by getting rid of the game, if I no longer care about it).

Written by taogaming

January 24, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Design for Effect — Entangled systems

I’ve played a few more Magic Realm games …. we play for an hour or two after dinner and split a game across nights.

In one game my Black Knight used the Alchemist’s Mixture (one M*** missile attack every round for one combat and the Black Knight rolls only a single die for missile attacks)  coupled with the Potion of Speed and a few rogues to kill the Tremendous Flying Dragon and six goblins, taking no losses.  But before I found the Lair the Dragon’s wife showed up (a monster roll during regeneration day) and ate everyone while the Knight executed a hasty retreat, since he no longer had the ability to damage it. Our last game had four deaths in the first week (Bats are the undisputed Pound for Pound champion in the realm. Just call them “mini-dragons” and be done with it).

I’m pondering why I’m so attached to this game.Well, I like good games, but Magic Realm is an odd definition of ‘good,’ and this just begs the question.

Do I have a type? A taste? I like experience games, but after a dozen games of Combat Commander the ‘like‘ was more theoretical, less of a ‘Hey, I’ve played this game for 20 hours this month’ nature.

I’m wondering if its the entangled systems.

Consider bridge. You have a very interesting (to me) bidding problem. Then play. But a revealing auction may allow an alert defender to find the killing defense. A stone placed in the upper right corner threatens an opponents group but also serves as a ladder breaker for a stone across the entire board.

Puerto Rico isn’t just a “take an action, one at a time” game. You manage your action and your money. You don’t need money for everything, but you can get money a few ways. You need buildings to match your plantations. Actions and money blend. Buildings tie into the various systems.

Race isn’t just spend X cards for Y. Sometimes you spend cards for military, to get Y. Race has numerous subsystems and powers. Caylus has workers, but also money, favors etc.

Now — in general any game that isn’t a single system will have entangled system (and single system games like Chess and Go entangle the pieces position). Again I I wonder if I’m not begging the question.

So I started looking at games I rate a ‘6’ and see what’s lacking. Lots of these are simply mediocre, but let’s see what separates them from similar good games, so I’ll just look at games I’ve played at least a 3-4 times.

Anno 1503 — I may be misremembering, but the lack of a board reduces the dimensions of this (as compared to Settlers).

Ascension — Because of random purchase, you can’t plan out your combinations like Dominion.

Bang — I think this may just be too long for what it is. But it doesn’t feel like there are many entangled systems. (The ‘take that’ vs the ‘who goes there’ probably counts, though).

Battlestations — I liked this, but it’s simply too long.

Beowulf: The Legend — Hm. A meh game. I guess this does have entangled systems, but honestly for a game I’ve played 9 times, I’m not sure I remember it well enough to know.

Le Havre — Felt like a much sparser Agricola, due to the missing occupation/improvement cards. Definitely think there’s a subsystem missing.

Innovation — One of the Hall of Fame “I’m not even sure how I feel about it” games, but it has lots of subsystems (points grabbing things for the win, the alternate victory conditions).

London — Wallace is interesting, he usually has a few subsystems (money, ‘misery’ or some such, time) and I want to like his games, but they don’t grab me.  Not sure why.

Pax Porfiriana — Hm. Eklund has subsystem linkage just as much as MR. Lords of the Sierra Madre was one of the first experience games I really got into, although its way too long.

Meh, I don’t see a pattern. (Other than the fact that 4 hours for a game of Magic Realm isn’t ‘way too long.’ Partially that’s because I’m effectively playing two player and it may be a fixed fun game, whereas I played Lords of the Sierra Madre (say) with six, and it is also a fixed fun game. Hm. Perhaps I should solo/co-op some Eklund games.

I feel like I’m groping towards a point or thesis, but I can’t articulate it. There’s something about linking subsystems that intrigues me, but I can’t put me finger on why some games do and others don’t. Perhaps its that the entangled systems feel ‘organic’ to me in some games. Magic Realm would never be something that people would argue could be discovered independently by other cultures or even species (a claim made about Go that is fairly easy to imagine being true), but its design for effect composition leads to a world that feels alive, despite being mostly a simple interaction of a few numbers, makes me wonder if ‘organic’ rules are better than.

In other news, I noticed an interesting VP variant. I may try it out. I like the idea for giving characters starting bonuses and then making them get much more difficult VP conditions as an option, but even just simplifying the VP may be useful for new players and I agree that once you get a feel for the game there’s probably a ‘best formula’ for VPs, which this solves.

Written by taogaming

January 21, 2017 at 6:51 am

Posted in Magic Realm, Ramblings

Tagged with

Does one dimensional chess work?

As a gedankenexperiment, can one dimensional chess work as a game? Would it scratch the same tactical (and positional) itch? My gut feeling is that it would not, but let me try to reason out why.

Chess works (as a tactical game) because you have a variety of threats, and most of the threats deal with interactions between pieces. Some things in chess just don’t really work. A fork threatens multiple pieces. That can strictly be done in one dimension (a rook or bishop can fork by moving). Discovered attacks by moving out of the way become more difficult, unless you have pieces that effectively move every N squares (skipping over the square in between). These are one-dimensional bishops, although an argument could be made that modular arrays create a second dimension I’ll let it slide, since developing a one-dimensional chess variant that’s interesting is probably a hard problem. Given that some very clever people (including Sid Sackson and Martin Gardner) have tried, I’m going to just go ahead and say that one dimensional chess doesn’t work.

Why? There’s some interaction between the various dimensions. As we’ve forks become much more common and interesting, pins, discoveries, etc proliferate. You need restrictions in a game (as we’ve noted before, letting people move every piece doesn’t work). There’s nothing particularly magical about a single move — double move chess can work — but letting every piece move means you can’t fork, pin, and the like. The game falls apart.

Now, in most games (non-chess) the term “dimension” is more abstract. There are constraints. Not necessarily spatial. They may be temporal (X actions per turn), economic (a literal cost). You may have random constraints (roll and move or other randomizers). You may have incomplete information. You can like big sprawling games (ahem), but if it isn’t just a salad … if the design is actually good, you pare and trim. As the man said…

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Star Trek got it wrong — 3D chess isn’t an improvement over chess, but neither is 1D. Two dimensions is enough for the game to express itself. 3D chess can exist, but it exists as an inferior product. Similarly, 1D chess is inferior.

I don’t think this is particularly controversial, but perhaps I am wrong. I suspect I may be wrong trying to generalize it to other (non-abstract) games, but non-abstracts live across a huge variety of dimensions. How do you compare Food Chain Magnate (which as spatial, temporal, economic, organizational, etc) with superficially similar 18xx — both games are about building and growing a business on a spatial map, but feel nothing alike (to me). They share a few dimensions, but the dimensions they differ on (the fact that the player is 100% owner in FCM and may suffer from agency issues in 1830, for example) make the games distinct.

It’s a complex issue.

All of this propelled by the thought I had earlier tonight — If Power Grid: The Card Game works as a game, does that mean that Power Grid (the board game) is 3D chess and we just didn’t know it?

Written by taogaming

January 3, 2017 at 12:50 am

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

Holiday Time Waster?

If you’ve got some mindless game recommendation for the holidays, have at them. Open thread. I downloaded the Factorio demo, wasn’t impressed. On the hunt…

Written by taogaming

December 22, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Open Thread

Memory is the … somethingth …. thing to go.

What was the name of that space game where you are collecting aliens for an intergalactic zoo, and that is the worst job in the universe?

Written by taogaming

December 15, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Open Thread