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Subject: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update July 27, 2007) rss

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[NOTE: This is a living document, as such it will change from time to time. New text is in green.]

So you want to run a math trade do you? Well here are some things to consider.

First and foremost, THERE IS NO INCENTIVE TO RUNNING A MATH TRADE. You will be derided, your judgments will be criticized, and you are expected to be mistake free. (This isn't true of most of the participants, but it will happen).
Running a math trade is like running a game store, sure it sounds like something fun to do, but there is a lot of work to make it happen. Running a math trade is usually a thankless job, rewarded by only a dozen or so geekgold. If you are doing this for the tips, let me suggest you write a really good review or upload a few pictures.

Now let me suggest that you participate in several math trades before moderating one. You can learn from the experiences of others what makes for an enjoyable math trade. Hopefully, these trades offer the ability to "play at home" and you should participate in that. (I'll get into what "play at home" is later). If you do not understand the terms I'm using below, then I strongly suggest you participate in a few math trades before trying to run one.

Moderating a math trade takes time. How much time depends on your rules. But you are looking at several hours minimum and possibly much, much more.

So speaking of rules lets look at the various things you have to consider.

First the time frame.

You need to define a clear timeline for when games can be added, when sweeteners can be added, when the summary will be posted, when want lists are due, and when the final results will be posted. If your timeline is to short, you may not have much participation, if your timeline is to long and you may face a lot of complaining. The consensus seems to be that 7 to 8 days is the optimum time frame for the entire trade. That gives everyone four to five days to add games, two days to submit want lists, and a day or two to run the trade tool of your choice. In addition make sure that you are available for a few days following the trade to help resolve any disputes. Like I said, mistakes will happen and it is your job as the moderator to resolve them.

Now that you know how long to run the trade look at when those dates will fall. Weekends are bad for submitting want lists since most people will be out doing things, the same goes for holidays. Everything else can span a weekend or holiday without inconveniencing your traders.

Now that we have a time frame, you need to consider what you are allowing into your trade. Is this going to be a trade for a specific genre? Specific ratings cut off? Specific areas/countries/events? Are duplicates allowed or restricted? Do these rules apply to just the base game or do they apply to the sweeteners as well? You need to spell this out CLEARLY. The more restrictions you add the more you will have to moderate the list and potentially the smaller your trade will be. The easiest trade to run is a "No-Limit" math trade.

Next you have to consider if you want to have any caps on your math trade. Some of these caps are artificial and others are limitations of the trade tool you choose. (ie: TradeGenie can handle 499 games and up 60 wants per person, TradeResolver and GenetiTrade have no limits.) Past math trades have limited the number of games to less than the tools limits to make it easier on the moderator. You can also limit the number of games that each person can add, and/or limit the number of duplicates for each game. Again, the more limits you put in place the more you will have to moderate the list. In general I feel that unless you have access to tools that will make moderation of a trade easier, you should cap the number of games on the list to a small, but reasonable number (like 250 or 300).

To finish of the creation of you first math trade, you need to spell out all the mundane and special rules. Here are the rules I commonly use:

d10-1 - You must accurately describe your games condition, language, etc.
d10-2 - Traders from all countries are allowed. Specify your restrictions on shipping in your listing. Be prepared to have those same restrictions applied to you. If you specify a dollar amount it is your responsibility to try to stay under that dollar amount (flat rate boxes and parcel post are acceptible options). If you go over that amount, when a cheaper shipping method is available, and without consent of the person you are sending to, then it is your mistake and you must eat the difference in costs.
d10-3 - You MUST ship your game within a few days of accepting the trade offer, unless you have made prior arrangements with your recipient.
d10-4 - You must submit a want list for each game you are offering. If you don't want to trade, submit a blank list.
d10-5 - I reserve the right to remove games from the list for whatever reason. If you are on the bad traders list, your games will be removed.
d10-6 - I will use GenetiTrade.
d10-7 - I will allow play at home, result sets that are equal in size will be selected based on the lowest ascii value of the verification code.
d10-8 - You are responsible for knowing these rules, violation of the rules may result in disqualification from this trade and future trades.

You can have different rules, additional rules, fewer rules, etc.

For example, the shipping rule now states that if a participant specifies a dollar amount then they must try to stay under that dollar amount.

Before you submit your trade, you also want to consider how your summary and the want lists will be handled.

I suggest that your summary be in the format of 1-PowerGrid. That is to say, the geeklist number followed by the game name (possibly in a shortened format). This is done so that you will not have to deal with the potential, "Hey, I didn't actually want that copy of 'Crocodile Dentist'" even though they put it on their want list. It's much harder for them to say that they didn't want it when their want list reads 65-CrocDentist. This format will also reduce the chances someone transposes numbers in the game they own.

Speaking of wantlists, you will be asked how you want them, so decide this up front and add it to your rules. Do you want a separate geekmail for each game the user listed? Do you want all the games in a single geekmail separated by a blank line? How are you going to handle users who do not follow the prescribed format? You will get users that submit games separated by commas, users that submit their wants as a list (not on a single line) etc.

We still are not ready to start the trade. You need to consider if you are going to allow "play at home". "Play at home" is something I started a while back as an experiment. Simply put, once you have compiled the want lists, you post them to your forum thread or geeklist, and then let people run the trade tool at home while you are also running it. This has several advantages. First, posting the want lists right away allows people to look and see if you made a mistake when copying the want lists into the master file. Second, it provides openness about the trade process. And finally, it can generate more trades. When the deadline to post results approaches, the people who have been playing at home will send you their best result set. If the best result set comes from "play at home", it is up to you to verify the result set (with the trade tool if possible) before using it as the official results. People will also want to know what the tiebreaker will be in the event that you have two equal sized result sets. It doesn't really matter what you choose as long as you state it up front. Alphabetically by verification code or chronologically by earliest recieved are usually the best choices.

Almost all Math Trades have both the Math Trade geeklist and a forum thread.

Now that you have considered all of that and you still want to run a Math Trade, you can create your geeklist and have fun. But for the sake of consistancy throughout the whole trade, do not change your rules. Your trade will run just fine with the rules you set at the beginning. If you want to try something different, start another math trade after this one finishes and use the new rules there.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Frequently Asked Questions
(or at least ones that should have been asked)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Tools
1.1) What are the tools for solving a math trade?

The current big three are:
a) TradeGenie written by Kayvon and is available here: http://www.kayvon.org/home.html

b) TradeResolver written by msaari and is available here: http://traderesolver.sourceforge.net/

c) GenetiTrade written by dyfrgi and davean and is available here:
http://trac.slashhome.org/genetitrade/

1.2) What are the differences between those three tools?

Here is a chart:

TG = TradeGenie
TR = TradeResolver
GT = GenetiTrade


TG TR GT
Windows X X X
Other platforms X X
Random start X X X
Brute force X X
Genetic Algrthm X
Tiered trades X
SCC output X
Quality weighted X
BGG Formated X X
Verification Code X X
Max Games 499 none none
Max Wants 60 none none


1.3) What is SCC output?

SCC is the abbreviation for Strongly Connected Component. Without getting to deep into graph theory, a strongly connected component is one in which a trade path from any one game in the component to any other game in the component exists. SCC output will weed out all untradeable games, and potentially break the trade into smaller trades.


1.4) What is a genetic algorithm?

This is a tough question to answer because the answer is not very direct. Easiest way to put it is that it is a way to find the approximate best solution using methods similar to evolution. GenetiTrade will find a solution and using a "mutation" algorithm it will try to make a new solution. It checks the new solution using a "fitness" algorithm to see if the new solution is acceptible. It continues this method of "mutation" and "fitness" to continually improve the solution.

For more information about Genetic Algorithms see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm

For more information about GenetiTrade specifically see:
http://trac.slashhome.org/genetitrade/wiki/Documentation


1.5) If TradeResolver is so much better than TradeGenie, why does everyone use TradeGenie?

Speed. TradeGenie crunches trades several orders of magnitude faster than TradeResolver. With large trades the faster program is needed to generate the highest number of trades. However, since TradeResolver is open source, there is potential for improvements with in the program.

GenetiTrade is the new kid on the block and the alternate solution method it provides looks as if it will replace TradeGenie in terms of pure speed.

2. Running the Trade

2.1) Someone submitted a game to my geeklist that violates the rules of the trade, what should I do?

Remove the game from the trade and send the person a geekmail telling them why it was removed.

2.2) I need to change the deadlines for my math trade because [insert reason]. What should I do?

First, change the deadlines in the first post in your thread and in the geeklist header. Second, change the caption of your thread and geeklist to announce new deadlines. Third, post in your thread and as a comment to the geeklist about the changes and why you did it. Fourth, recieve flak for changing your deadlines (it will almost always happen, but if you do the first three you will get a lot less flak).

Make sure that your new deadlines are ones that you can uphold. Try your best to make sure that you do not have to change them a second time. Be firm and clear about the changes.

2.3) I cannot complete moderating my trade because [insert reason]. What should I do?

Never let this happen. Of course, sometimes life will force it upon you. But if you think that there is the smallest chance that you cannot complete the trade, then DON'T START IT. Find someone who can take over and finish it for you. But realize that unless they are a BGG admin, they cannot enforce your rules or close your geeklist.

2.4) Some one/several people have commented/complained about a rule of my math trade. Should I change it to make them happy?

NO. NO. NO. Changing a rule to make one person happy will upset another person. It is unfair to those that had followed the rules up to that point, and makes your trade look mis-managed. Changing rules opens the door to a LOT more complaining. Stick to your rules. If you think that a rule change would make for a better math trade. Use the new rule in your NEXT math trade.

2.5) Now that the deadline to add games has ended and I've built my summary, where should I post it?

Post it as a comment to your geeklist or edit the first post of your forum thread and post it there. If you put it in the forum thread, post a reply to let people know that the summary is on page one.

Here are two things NOT to do.

Do NOT put the summary in the geeklist description. Everyone wants to go back and look at the geeklist to see what games they may want, and having to scroll past the summary on everypage just to get to the games is VERY annoying.

Do NOT post the summary to page 5 of your geeklist and expect people to find it. It can get lost quickly. Make it as easy on the participants to find your summary as possible.

2.6) How do I reduce the chances of someone getting a game they don't want?

First, using game ids that consist of both a number and a short game name will reduce the chances of the participant making a mistake. It is very easy to type 65 instead of 165, but to type 65-CrocDentist instead of 165-Caylus is next to impossible. If they do leave the 1 off of 165-Caylus then the trade tool will be trying to find a match for them for 65-Caylus which will not exist.

Next, when compiling the want lists use copy and paste. If you try to retype everyone’s want list you will likely make a mistake. A couple of things you need to watch for are: updated want lists, erroneous lists, and lists for which the submitter is not the owner of the game.

Updated want lists happen routinely, you need to replace the previous want list with the new one. Failure to do so will result in errors in most trade tools.

Erroneous lists are lists where the user has submitted a want list that doesn't match the format you requested, does not start with the game they are offering, or has some other problem that requires you to reformat their list to match with the rules you have set forth. If you choose to fix this for them, then be careful to not fundamentally change the game ids. Using the alphanumeric construct listed above will greatly reduce the impact of an accidental edit. Your other option is to geekmail them and tell them to fix the formatting for you.

Finally, if someone submits a wantlist for a game that is not theirs. First contact them and make sure that they didn't simply forget to put their game id at the front of the list. If you believe they did this intentionally, then immediately ban them from your math trade and then geekmail me. I will act as arbitrator to make sure that this person is indeed trying to ruin a math trade and then make the decision to out them publicly or not.

2.7) The participants in my math trade are deriding me, critizing my judgements and/or pointing out every mistake I make. What should I do?

Grow thicker skin and address the complaints professionally. If you cannot take charge and handle the situation without resorting to complaining yourself, the you SHOULD NOT run a math trade. I warned you that this would happen.


3. Results

3.1) The results show that someone is getting a game they don't want. What do I do?

This is possibly the worst problem that could happen and there is no simple answer for it. First thing you should do is find out how the problem occurred. Look at the want lists that the person submitted. Does it show the game in his want lists? If so, then the error is his. If not, then the error is on you. You still need to track down were the problem came from since there is a very small chance that it was the tool that caused the error.

If the problem was the user submitted a want list then common practice says that they need to accept the trade as is. So far, no one has had a problem with that. They do have a few options and you still need to help them understand them. First, they could work out something with the person sending to them for a different game. Second, they could try to work out something with a third person who wants the game, have the sender send to them and they receive from the added person. Third, they could request that the sender hold the game and then they put it into the next math trade and the original sender then sends to the new recipient. Finally, they could elect to not receive the game at all. There are other possible solutions, but these four are the most common alternatives to simply getting a game that you didn't want.

If the problem was yours, then the problem becomes worse. You are now in the position of having to run the trade tool again with the problem fixed. Almost no body in the trade will like this. An alternative to this is to insert yourself into the trade and receive the game that you may not have wanted or find someone who wanted the game and would send the recipient something they actually want.

If the problem can be proven to be that of the trade tool, then running the trade again using a proven trade tool is the only recourse. For this reason, running a trade with an unproven tool is not something you should do without clearly stating this possibility up front.

3.2) Ok, the trade has ended and the final results have been posted. Now what?

Everyone is going to be looking to you to say it is official. For best results, wait 24 hours before declaring it offical. Announcing it to soon and people will start to ship their games. That would be really bad if there happens to be a problem that you caused. Give everyone 24 hours to make sure the results are good. They've waited several days to get to this point, what is one more day to make sure the results are ok?

3.3) I'm not going to be around immediately following the trade to resolve disputes, what should I do?

You probably shouldn't have let this happen, but if it does, simply find someone whom you trust to act as you to resolve the dispute. Remember any decision they make will reflect onto you, so choose someone you trust to be fair. If they accept the responsibility then announce in your thread that you are not going to available and your choosen person will speak with your authority.

4. Miscellaneous Information

4.1) Where is the list of deadbeat/slacker traders?

The original list was removed due to undisclosed reasons. However, due to popular request this list is back in a slightly different format here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17839

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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
Please change your subject line to all upper caps, and maybe add two (or three) exclamation marks.
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Jason Maxwell
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
Other notes I'd add:

DON'T CHANGE THE RULES! The rules are set at the beginning, and changing them midstream only upsets people. Its also unfair to those who followed the rules.

DEADLINE CHANGES: If you make deadline changes due to whatever reason (BGG downtime, list fills up early, etc.) be VERY clear on the new deadlines, post the new deadlines in the GeekList header and the first forum post with some way to draw attention to them, and enforce the new deadlines as a hard deadline, just like you would have with the old ones.
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
Regai wrote:
[NOTE] Currently, the admins and geeklist owners cannot delete games from a geeklist due to the recent rewrite of the geeklist code. In this case, add a comment to the game stating it violates the rules and do not include it in the summary.

Are we sure about this? In the wargame trade list, Michael Bourgeois (list owner) did delete entries added by users. He posted the method here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1357550#1357550:

for further reference if you go to the drop down listings at the top of the page and go to geeklists/ my geeklist... it will allow you to edit the "ENTIRE" Geeklist... if you must remove someone's entries that is the way to go about it.

I just discovered it tonight when a request came to alter my geeklist.


Edit - perhaps it is true. The list owner of the 6 Day trade just noted he can't delete entries using the above method.
 
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Tim K.
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
Regai wrote:
First and foremost, THERE IS NO INCENTIVE TO RUNNING A MATH TRADE. You will be derided, your judgments will be criticized, and you are expected to be mistake free.

Where do I sign up?!
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
RPardoe wrote:
Regai wrote:
[NOTE] Currently, the admins and geeklist owners cannot delete games from a geeklist due to the recent rewrite of the geeklist code. In this case, add a comment to the game stating it violates the rules and do not include it in the summary.

Are we sure about this? In the wargame trade list, Michael Bourgeois (list owner) did delete entries added by users. He posted the method here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1357550#1357550:

for further reference if you go to the drop down listings at the top of the page and go to geeklists/ my geeklist... it will allow you to edit the "ENTIRE" Geeklist... if you must remove someone's entries that is the way to go about it.

I just discovered it tonight when a request came to alter my geeklist.


Edit - perhaps it is true. The list owner of the 6 Day trade just noted he can't delete entries using the above method.



Just tried it on one of my old geeklists and it worked fine. I deleted an entry and when checking on it the entry I chose was gone, gone and gone. There are I believe three options... you can edit the list, edit an item and do something else... just can't remember what it is. (yep I'm useful) But the main thing is it worked. So 6 day geek trade list guy... edit and delete away... the power is yours.
 
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Richard Pardoe
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
mbourgeois wrote:
Just tried it on one of my old geeklists and it worked fine.


I think this is the key. I just created a new geeklist entirely crafted with the new code...and I could NOT delete entries by others. I suspect that your old geeklists retained some editorial control in the conversion process. Even the wargame trade was started prior to the geeklist change, so might have had this lingering ability.

For geeklists created after the conversion - the geeklist owner does not have the permission to remove items.
 
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Mike Banks
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
All hail Regai -- the just and true King of Math Trades!!

...and there was much rejoicing
 
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Richard Pardoe
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
And it's back:
Aldie wrote:
OK - I added the ability for the owner of the list to delete items from it.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1368400#1368400
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Stephen Roney
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide
Regai wrote:

d10-3 - You MUST ship your game in a timely manner.

Could you define "timely"?

 
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James Perry
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update March 2, 2007)
sroney wrote:
Regai wrote:
d10-3 - You MUST ship your game in a timely manner.

Could you define "timely"?


This is not really the place to discuss that, but I define "timely" as shipping within a few days of the trade being accepted unless you make other arrangements with the recipient. While that is not a hard fast rule, it is there to make sure that people understand that you shouldn't take a month to ship a game.
 
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update March 2, 2007)
What's wrong with what something along the lines of what you said....

You must ship your game within a few business days of trade acceptance (unless you have made arrangements with the recipient.) Do not wait to get your game before shipping your trade game away.
 
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update March 2, 2007)
Under the FAQ I would consider adding a slightly more forceful suggestion about professionalism. The last handful of math trades from newbie moderators were rife with complaints from the participants (which was expected) but also with a good amount of complaining from the moderators (I'll never do this again, it's too much work, I just want to get this thing over with, you guys have ruined my weekend, etc.).
 
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update March 3, 2007)
"DON'T CHANGE THE RULES! The rules are set at the beginning, and changing them midstream only upsets people. Its also unfair to those who followed the rules."

This is crucial: if you even hint at changing rules, the sharks circle. Once things start being shifted, there's no stopping the pressure that'll get put on.

In terms of shipping time: I don't think we need to define when to ship. I have no problem with a person taking a week or so to ship, even a little longer, AS LONG AS THEY COMMUNICATE WITH ME! Some weeks I can't get to the post office, but if I don't ship within a few days, I let the person receiving the game know when it will go out. I care more about knowing when it goes than when it goes....

Robin
 
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update March 3, 2007)
Updated.
 
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James Perry
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Updated again....
 
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Re: Math Trade Moderators Guide (Last Update July 27, 2007)
you might want to add something about JeffyJeff's online wantlist generator-it's not publicly available-e.g. it only shows when JeffyJeff is involved, but when it is, it really cuts down on the errors-check w/ JeffyJeff to see if the tool can at least be mentioned as a possible resource in this summary.
 
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Thank you for updating the guide to encourage future moderators to declare a default shipping policy when shippers specify a limit. I think that this will reduce miscommunications and result in a higher overall satisfaction level.



Regai wrote:
Updated again....
 
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In the section on creating the Summary Want List, I would ask you to consider suggesting to moderators to use nnnn-aaaaaaaa rather than n-aaaaaaaa (i.e. 0001-PowerGrid rather than 1-PowerGrid). It is just so much easier to sort the various lists if the number component of the label uses the same number of digits (even if some of them are leading zeros).
I would also ask you to consider suggesting to moderators that they use the same number of characters for each game in the alpha component of the label (i.e. 0001-PowerGrd 0099-WarKnght 1222-Raaaaaaa). This just makes the columns line up which I think makes the lists easier to read.
Just some ideas for your consideration.
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Also in the section on creating the Summary Want List, I would ask you to consider suggesting to moderators to not even START building the Summary List until AFTER the deadline for users to submit games offered.
While most MTs explicitly ask people not to delete entries, the system does not prevent it and it happens. So, any work done ahead of time is wasted.
And as more and better stuff is added prior to the deadline some users go back and add sweetners to previous entries. If the Summary List is started prior to the deadline then these sweetners may be missed.
And finally if a user needs to delete an entry for some reason (i.e. no longer available in his collection) but follows the guidelines and does not delete but instead substitutes something else as a placeholder (maintaining the numbering scheme) then the substitution can cause confusion.
And definitely definitely definitely do not post an early version of the Summary List.
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Are there any tools for generating the item keys, or is that always done by hand?
 
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Morganza wrote:
Are there any tools for generating the item keys, or is that always done by hand?


I've always done it by hand.
 
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Boomer wrote:
Morganza wrote:
Are there any tools for generating the item keys, or is that always done by hand?


I've always done it by hand.


Ditto here.
 
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RoamDog wrote:
[...] consider suggesting to moderators that they use the same number of characters for each game in the alpha component of the label (i.e. 0001-PowerGrd 0099-WarKnght 1222-Raaaaaaa). This just makes the columns line up which I think makes the lists easier to read.[...]


This is an excellent idea which has made my life much easier.

However, for short-named items (like Ra and Set) I padded the name with dashes to get to five characters (i.e. 042-SET-- ) (I forget who I stole the idea from - Boomer?) and the single most common error in the submitted lists has been people dropping the dashes off the end of the tag (i.e. 042-SET ), both for their items and for wanted items. If I do this again I'll come up with a different way to pad short names, maybe RAAAA and SETTT or RAXXX and SETXX (the former pair seem more legible.)
 
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Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
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Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
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Argh! I'm running my very first math trade [a local no-ship] and I've run into a situation that isn't completely handled by the rules I set. I was going to post this to the trade thread, but thought I'd come here for advice first:

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I said that I would post my personal list publicly, before the deadline, to eliminate the possibility for me to unfairly slant the randomizer (the way the algorithm picks between equally-useful trade chains) after seeing all the trade lists.

Right now I've got 8 (out of 19) sets of want lists proofread and fed into the hopper, with 2 more that just arrived.

The owner of xxx-AGAME has asked me why I put yyy-AGAME on my lists but not their copy, since both copies are described as new. D'oh! (It was a very late addition to my wantlists, and I didn't notice until after I'd posted my lists publicly that there were two copies being offered by different people.) They have asked me to add xxx-AGAME to my lists where I have the other copy.

What's the right thing to do here? (Disclaimer: I don't recognize either person's name or BGG userid.)
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I'm assuming that the only fair thing to do is to hold myself to my wantlist as I originally posted it, since nobody else has the benefit of friendly (if mutually beneficial) advice about their wantlists.

I'm actually tempted to offer the owner of xxx-AGAME a side trade even if I get the other copy, if theirs doesn't trade, because I think it would make a nice gift, but I know that there's nothing requiring me to go that far. [I haven't looked at their wantlist to see what of mine they might want, because I didn't want to chip away at what was left of my objectivity.]

(By the way, I've got a batch of newbie math traders here, and I didn't want to introduce the complexity of duplicate protection, so that's not part of this trade. That would have been an excellent reason not to to have put both copies on my wantlists... except that isn't what happened.)

Hm, I think I've just talked myself into the answer...
 
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