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Games Science

The Science of Game Strategy 136

First time accepted submitter JacobAlexander writes "Writing in PNAS, a University of Manchester physicist has discovered that some games are simply impossible to fully learn, or too complex for the human mind to understand. Dr Tobias Galla from The University of Manchester and Professor Doyne Farmer from Oxford University and the Santa Fe Institute, ran thousands of simulations of two-player games to see how human behavior affects their decision-making. From the article: 'In simple games with a small number of moves, such as Noughts and Crosses the optimal strategy is easy to guess, and the game quickly becomes uninteresting. However, when games became more complex and when there are a lot of moves, such as in chess, the board game Go or complex card games, the academics argue that players' actions become less rational and that it is hard to find optimal strategies.'"
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The Science of Game Strategy

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  • Even high-level players do tend to use a bit of that kind of thing. Kasparov mentioned that was one of the odd things about playing Deep Blue, that unlike playing another grandmaster, there wasn't this human meta-game element: he couldn't intimidate the machine into screwing up.

  • Re:What about Magic? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Momomoto ( 118483 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:57PM (#42584705) Homepage

    I agree 100%. A lot of people will say that you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a deck that wins. Those people are kidding themselves! Sometimes, you've just gotta pay the money to get the good cards.

    Luckily, there are formats that are designed to reward skill more than the size of your bank account: sealed deck and booster draft. Both require participants to buy unopened packs and use them, but paying $15 or $25 every once in a while is far less expensive in the long run.

  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @05:32PM (#42585681)

    It was a long space strategy game, and instead of ganking the huge fleet everyone else was attacking, I went zig instead and wiped out the home planet of the guy with the most victory points. I had quietly upgraded my ships to go further than anyone else, so it was seriously out of nowhere.

  • Re:What about Magic? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @07:44PM (#42587015)

    I'm pretty sure that the optimal strategy with Magic is just to wait until Wizards of the Coast is feeling a bit pinched and decides to release a new, more powerful, bunch of cards that you just can't stay competitive without buying and then go buy those...

    Yes, and no. Mostly no.

    You need to purchase the new cards because to be competitive, (as in participate in tournaments) you need to be using cards from the current block. The old cards, simply aren't permitted in the block.

    (Although many old cards from various old sets are reprinted in the current set, and you can play with the originals of any reprinted card if you have the original.)

    That effectively solves the power-inflation problem. This years set doesn't have to be more powerful than last years set to appeal to players because nobody is using last years set in competitions. That was, frankly, a very smart move by wotc for the overall health of the game.

    Each year the game changes, but the cards aren't on a permanent run towards ever more power. They can even print cards that are strictly inferior to existing cards and those cards can still be desirable due to what is currently allowed.

    Of course, yes, you do still have to buy this years set to play competitively which is a smart move from a business point of view. Otherwise, there'd be no reason to keep buying cards.

    But pre-constructed is just one format, and there are many; draft games are quite popular where you build your deck on the fly from a pool of available cards (which can new unopened packs in sanctioned tournements, to one of your friends piles of commons in an informal setting... and then play with that. Many many players prefer various draft formats both in tournaments and in private because it does to a large degree eliminate having to buy the expensive rares to be competitive.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter