The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘evolution

Memorial Weekend Gaming

I finally tried Evolution — we played a six player “Quick start” rules (since there were several new players). Apparently — for I did not read the rules — the difference is that all card plays are roughly simultaneous, as compared to around the board each turn. This does speed things up (and may perhaps be worthwhile to play with 3-5 players). Honestly, I like many of the evolution games I’ve tried. (Which reminds me, I need to try the Bios line … isn’t there a 2nd ed of megafauna coming out?) And judging by the umpty-million expansions, this is a popular title.

I’m firmly in the “It’s perfectly fine” camp, but both the TaoLing and the Cute One liked it, so I may pick up a copy.

Also played Songbirds, although I played a Japanese copy that had “Birdie Fight” (much better name).  You take turns playing birds in a grid, and the bird (suit) that wins each row/column scores it, but you score the bird (and value) of the card you kept. More clever than gripping.

And speaking of expansions, played Ticket to Ride: Rails and Snails. Firstly, the possibilities for knicknaming this game overwhelm the senses. (“Trails of Snails” is my favorite so far — and possibly a good band name — but it’s early days).  This is the 8th different version of TtR I’ve played; and its fine although does start to feel like a “too many notes” situation. Fiddly setup (having to count out trains and ships and then select some) and trains and ships in 6 (?) different suits, some ships being double and some cards being harbors and pretty big hands sizes. That being said, it still works. (We got a rule or two wrong, but it’s a resilient design).

I think all the new games were indifferent-ish, but I’d play them all another time or two.

As for old games….

We dusted off BSG, for my first play in years. (Sadly, one player had to leave mid-game, which made it … odd, and a Cylon rout).

Played my 100th game of Coup. Played another game of Food Chain Magnate, Too Many Cinderellas, some Jump Drive …. all told, lots of gaming.

Written by taogaming

May 29, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Evolutionary Air Baron

A local gamer strongly resisted Air Baron, claiming it took forever. But we played 6 players in the typical 90 minutes. (w/ advanced rules). Most players followed what I call the ‘typical’ strategy.

  1. Get a single hub in several spokes (to earn the $3 bonus when that spoke is drawn). Usually get ones that are valuable (to have more of your money invested), but save a few bucks for next turn.
  2. Once you’ve got a reasonable base, try to control a hub. Some prepatory moves (jumbos, foreign spokes) may help if you plan on doing this via a fare war.
  3. Now that you have market share (and income) start attacking adjacent hubs.

Let’s call this strategy “Expansive” since it spreads out quickly.

The old group would start attacking players who split up in phase 1. (They call it wimpy play). So they attack! I’m not sure on the details … but this strikes me as a non-stable strategy, on the other hand, it poisons the environment.

If we assume five opponents who will attack people who split up (“Punishers”) then an Expansive player is doomed. He expands, and then punishers attack. Even if they fail often, and cost themselves dearly, odds are that one of them will knock me out. And while they incur a large cost (paying twice as much for ~60% shot at kicking out the expander), the expander losses the whole investment as well. So in a spoke valued Y, several punishers lose 2Y (paying and failing), one looses 2Y (paying and succeeding) but has potential future income. And the expander loses all that future income. [I’m making a lot of simplifications].

Now, this clearly does suck the amount of money out of the system. In a game with all punishers, they’ll start grouped out (for safety and too avoid triggering punishment) and so will earn money at a slower rate, and increase market share quickly. That will toss in the ‘event’ chits into the bag, and those suck money out of the game too. 9 Hours seems excessive, but I could imagine three.

But put one “Mellow Defender” into the mix. Mellow won’t provoke an attack (like the expander), but won’t attack him either (unless it’s genuinely a good play). In essence, he’ll let the punishers deal with him. Given that the punishers overpay (to punish), he should win more than his fair share. Other players notice, and switch from Punishers to Mellow. If there’s only a single punisher, he’ll rarely win.

This doesn’t help the poor expanders, who were driven extinct (in that play group) long ago. Ah, group think and evolution. To complicate things, Punishers may retaliate against the ‘parasitic’ mellow player. Evolution worries about free-riders.

Written by taogaming

November 29, 2006 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Strategy

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A few papers on Evolutionary Game Theory

Mahalanobis references a few papers on Evolutionary Game Theory. You know you care.

Written by taogaming

September 28, 2005 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Game Theory

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Clever little bastards

Based on MJWills comment to a recent post, I downloaded the Puerto Rico Evolver from the geek [link to main PR page].

And you know what, I have a shockingly bad win percentage against them. Well below my normal win percentage. However, after about eight plays, I can see the implicit collusion. Evolution means adapting to your environment and the other creatures matter. [Also, the critters tend to have a very different style of mistakes]. If you took one of these babies and placed it in a game with four humans, I expect it would get crushed easily (even without any collusion). However, these tend to play to each other strengths. They do make some boneheaded plays (one time the computer took builder and passed). But they’ve got a reasonable amount of game going, and it was interesting experience. Things that the computer believes:

  • Take the harbor at the first opportunity. Even without an income source.
  • Build the small indigo and sugar plants if you’ve got nothing else to do.
  • Build a large building ASAP.

You could do worse than follow those.

Update: I can’t really analyze the program, I’ve never played with Excel as a programming environment. I’d need Visual Basic or some such. The code is on BGG, and I could probably read it easily enough, but I’m lazy right now. Here’s what I deduce (from background knowledge and the spreadsheet).

The ‘genes’ are decision making trees, and each gene answers a different “What do I do now?” question. Which building do I build, which plantation do I take, where do I place my people, which role do I take? The genes have some access to the game information. Whenever they have to make a decision, the genes provide the answer. [Judging from the length of the genes, I wager they rate each option and then the highest value is selected]. The real trick is that the ‘organisms’ play lots of games and are rated for fitness. The lowest rated are deleted, and the rest make copies (presumably the higher rated ones get more copies). I’m not sure how the copies are created (asexual duplicates or sexual mixtures). I imagine there’s some random mutation tossed into the mix.

What’s most impressive (to me) is just how crude the genes are. The basically only answer the above questions, and one other — “What stage of the game is it?” The stage question leads them to different genes for other selection (so their role selection changes based on early/mid/late game). Some simple genetic expression, I think. These buggers play a credible game for something so simple.

The organism are apparently specialized to their seat choice. (Player 1 Genes are different from player 2 genes), and specialized to a five player game.

Written by taogaming

September 4, 2005 at 9:55 am

Posted in Artificial Opponents

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