The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘Psychology

Games with unknown time delays?

Continuing my research into cognitive science, I’ve started reading The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner. One section discusses the impact of (unknown, but consistent) time delays on human reasoning (I knew that; I took way too much control theory and time delays conspired to lower my GPA. Stupid delays).

In one experiment, researchers gave the participants a control and a goal (“Get the output to be as close to X as possible for 2 simulated hours.”) and vague instructions (“You aren’t sure exactly how it works, but raising the input should raise the output.”) Some participants adopted a scientific approach (tweak the input once, then pause and watch the output until a steady state response is achieved, then use the information), but quite a few participants got completely flummoxed and started adjusting wildly, and invented (completely wrong) “rules” for how to deal with the system.

Anyway, this got me thinking. Many games have delays, and some have random triggers, but I’m racking my brain to think of a game where you don’t even really know the underlying system. (Apart from puzzle games like Black Box). Really this is the sort of things you need a computer game for, but I suppose there may be a board game like this. Any suggestions?

I suppose Eleusis qualifies as well. In fact, I seem to recall playing a game where the rule depending not on the prior card, but on the card two or three steps back. That was a tough rule to deduce, as you’d expect.

Update — In reading more from Dorner, he calls the games with hidden systems “Intransparent” (no doubt he uses a more common word in the original German, which the translator decided to not render as “Opaque”). So a more basic requirement would be “Games that are intransparent.” And that reveals (to me) that very few exist. Games may be unpredictable (Sean’s example of Fluxx), but someone with a full knowledge of the deck (in addition to the rules) could assign probabilities to events. Mao (like Eleusis) is intransparent, in that the rules are not known. Eine Geigen Eine is also in this category.

Even complex games are, for the most part, transparent. This is simply the nature of boardgames as opposed to computer games. In fact, Dorner’s studies involve a proto-Sim City game (the book was published in ’89), where the player manages a small village for a decade (population 3,800). Interestingly, the computer would model results (economy, gov’t coffers, transportation, housing, citizen happiness, crime, etc) and provide them to the experimenter, who would then convey that information via describing complaints of various citizens.

One chilling aspect of the book is how often well-meaning (and sometimes savvy) players would not understand the various linkages between systems and force the simulation into a catastophic positive feedback. A game trying to help raise a tribe (apparently based on the Maori, though that’s never said) out of subsistence lifestyle had a number of potential catastophes, and in only twelve simulations players drove into drought, overpopulation, ecosystem destruction and economic collapse. (One of the eco-system destroyers was an environmentalist who refused to use pesticides or fertilizer or any other non-natural methods. The eco-system spun out of control for other reasons). And the model was stable … without intervention (apart from mild random fluctuations assumed for rainfall, temperature, etc) the game started in a stable steady-state.

Written by taogaming

November 4, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Open Thread

Tagged with ,

Lou, I think I may have topped that game of Medici

See the full story on the SABG blog.

(Non-Lou’s are welcome to check it out, but I think he’ll really appreciate it more).

Written by taogaming

October 20, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Misc

Tagged with

An Interesting question about probability…

You are in the audience at a small, intimate theatre, watching a magic show. The magician hands a pack of cards to a random member of the audience, asks him to check that it’s an ordinary pack, and would he please give it a shuffle. The magician turns to another member of the audience and asks her to name a card at random. “Ace of Hearts,” she says. The magician covers his eyes, reaches out to the pack of cards, and after some fumbling around he pulls out a card. The question to you is what is the probability of the card being the Ace of Hearts?

Answer in the comments and then read the whole article.

(I could argue that this is related to game strategy, and it may be, but I really just like the arguments this causes.)

Written by taogaming

December 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Open Thread

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An Interesting question about probability…

You are in the audience at a small, intimate theatre, watching a magic show. The magician hands a pack of cards to a random member of the audience, asks him to check that it’s an ordinary pack, and would he please give it a shuffle. The magician turns to another member of the audience and asks her to name a card at random. “Ace of Hearts,” she says. The magician covers his eyes, reaches out to the pack of cards, and after some fumbling around he pulls out a card. The question to you is what is the probability of the card being the Ace of Hearts?

Answer in the comments and then read the whole article.

(I could argue that this is related to game strategy, and it may be, but I really just like the arguments this causes.)

Written by taogaming

December 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Open Thread

Tagged with ,

Game Theorist — “Dumb is the new Smart”

An interesting article points out that even game theoreticians don’t believe their own results (when money is on the line).

a research team repeated the experiment using professional game theorists playing for real money. But even among game theorists, game theory failed

One hypothesis is that you can get good results by playing dumb. If your opponent knows you are totally rational, then they have to give up a lot to keep from getting screwed. (This particular example deals with the Traveler’s Dilemma, but it applies to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well).

I remember a book that dealt with various puzzle aspects of Game Theory as told by Sherlock Holmes, et al. One passage discussed the prisoner’s dilemma, after a clever person tries to use it with real prisoners. When it doesn’t work, he goes to Holmes, who then sighs and calls forth one of the prisoners.

“So you know that it’s always better [to defect].”
“Yes, guv’ner.”
“Then pray explain to [this doofus] why you don’t.”
“Me mates would beat me senseless.”

Glad to see the theoreticians catching up.

Now to just figure out how this relates to unconvincing cylons, and the applications will be endless!

Written by taogaming

December 9, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Game Theory

Tagged with

Game Theorist — “Dumb is the new Smart”

An interesting article points out that even game theoreticians don’t believe their own results (when money is on the line).

a research team repeated the experiment using professional game theorists playing for real money. But even among game theorists, game theory failed

One hypothesis is that you can get good results by playing dumb. If your opponent knows you are totally rational, then they have to give up a lot to keep from getting screwed. (This particular example deals with the Traveler’s Dilemma, but it applies to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well).

I remember a book that dealt with various puzzle aspects of Game Theory as told by Sherlock Holmes, et al. One passage discussed the prisoner’s dilemma, after a clever person tries to use it with real prisoners. When it doesn’t work, he goes to Holmes, who then sighs and calls forth one of the prisoners.

“So you know that it’s always better [to defect].”
“Yes, guv’ner.”
“Then pray explain to [this doofus] why you don’t.”
“Me mates would beat me senseless.”

Glad to see the theoreticians catching up.

Now to just figure out how this relates to unconvincing cylons, and the applications will be endless!

Written by taogaming

December 9, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Game Theory

Tagged with

Games which I have revisited

and other notes…

This week saw my 50th game of Glory to Rome. Rarified air for any title. We’re pulling this out less often, but it’s a reasonable mid-length filler.

Meanwhile, Agricola remains the game of choice for us. I don’t know how many levels of expertise it has, but I’m one ahead of the local crowd. (Which I suppose is fair, since I’ve played a dozen more games).

[Incidentally, I’m tempted to organize a ‘shark game’ of Agricola by email and have the players comment on it. Do any sharks have an interest in such a thing? I’m mainly curious because it would give me an idea how much distance there is between myself and said sharks.]

Played a few games of Race with the expansion homeworlds. Soon, my precious.

[Picked up Tribune, based on general clucking. One of my rare ‘purchase before play’ in the last few years. Earlier it was common enough, though]

I really like this essay by Nassim Taleb called “The fourth quadrant.” Not gaming, but general thought about probability, skepticism, and the limits of knowledge.

Rock Band 2 has greatly impacted our game night; we’ve lost 3-4 souls for the near future. I continue to curse the Wii, but at least I’ve got Rock Band (albeit a neutered one). I assume that enterprising souls are planning to bring a copy with a projection screen to BGG Con. Aren’t they? (If so, I may even attend).

Written by taogaming

September 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with , ,

Levels of Expertise

I decided to make a geeklist about how many levels of expertise various games have. So comment over there, this time. I’ll have a followup post later, perhaps.

Written by taogaming

September 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

Web Gems

May as well jump in on the Economist article. It’s shockingly accurate. Then again, I’ve always thought the Economist had a much better standard for reporting facts than most outlets. (What was it, Volokh’s Law — “Most people recognize how much the media messes up areas they understand, but still trust it when reading about things they don’t.”)

I’ll admit that Bocchie looks like fun. Then again, I’ve never seen anything involving Bruno Faidutti that didn’t.

Based on a comment from Mikko, I looked at the vote on the Finnish Game of the Year award. That’s when I remembered that Finnish and Swedish aren’t nearly close enough to let me parse things out. Not that my Swedish is that good. But you can decipher the previous years results.

Mikko also played some Mahjongg, which I’ve played from time to time. (For a few months a decade ago, we played several times with several scoring systems). It’s not bad at all … I prefer the scoring system where only the discarder pays the winner, since it allows for offensive and defensive play. (I also don’t play with Flowers as wild or automatic doublers, since theres no skill to that, but if I were doing it for just gambling purposes …). A copy of Mhing works well, since you can just pull the wilds and flowers and have a very portable MahJongg set. (The simplified scoring rules make for a nice introduction). And I’ll admit that the Wilds speed things up quite a bit. Jacqui and I taught another couple a year or two ago…

Playing lots of Bridge recently, and poorly. But Jeff Goldsmith updated his page again this month. If you play Bridge his archives are a gold mine.

Written by taogaming

August 29, 2008 at 10:50 am

Posted in Misc

Tagged with , ,

The Week That Was

So, what did I miss?

Tom wrote a Phoenicia preview. [And he wrote a Race For the Galaxy preview a while ago].

Larry tries Colosseum and Pillars of the Earth again, and he kind of likes them. Kinda.

Caylus Magna Carta is on the way. And I was playing with a rule wrong … if nobody builds in the castle, some tokens are thrown away. This adds a timer to the game (much like the provost in the original).

The Geek reacts to the news that people aren’t rational in a game theoretic sense.

I got a recent book (ok, this is geeky) where Sherlock Holmes uses Bayes Theory and other Math things to solve crimes. (I said it was geeky). They use the prisoner’s dillema in one of them, and one warden is very impressed with it, going on and on about how the prisoners will squeal on each other. Then he gets confused when it doesn’t work, and Mycroft just grabs a criminal off the street and says “The warden has you, do you talk?”

“‘Course not, guv. Me mates ‘ould kill me.”

Just remember the old chestnut — “There’s no difference between theory and practice. In theory.”

Written by taogaming

May 26, 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Misc

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