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Subject: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game? rss

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teg2 wrote:
After carefully reading all 3 pages in this thread, it is clear that abstract games are all those that cannot be considered non-abstract

I don't think even that is certain.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
teg2 wrote:
After carefully reading all 3 pages in this thread, it is clear that abstract games are all those that cannot be considered non-abstract

I don't think even that is certain.

Well, it's probably true abstractly speaking, at least... whistle
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I think Phil had a really good point that got lost by the wayside, which is that "abstract games are "self-contained" - they don't rely on anything outside the game components and rules themselves", and he pointed out this is what excludes trivia games, a lot of party games, etc. I think that in the same vein (and possibly a corollary), in abstract games you are playing the board and not your opponent. For example, I have a hard time classifying Stratego as an abstract, because there is a lot of guessing about your opponent. Is he the kind of person to put his flag in the corner? The center? Out in the open not behind a flag? Any simultaneous-move perfect information game would suffer from this as well. There's obviously a gray area. Take, for example, Go, where possibly a strong player is playing a much weaker player at a large handicap. The stronger player needs to decide where to make sub-optimal moves in order to catch up. There's also a flaw in this argument because maybe you know that your opponent likes to play one strategy, so you decide to force him to choose a different stragety. At the same time though, I think this intuition has merit, in that in general for abstract games the optimal play is not dependent on who your opponent is, or whether or not you think they're bluffing, but is only dependent on the state of the board.

I think another key feature of abstracts is their simplicity. Take the 2-player Puerto Rico variant, and change the rules slightly so that the plantation order is pre-defined. Now it's a two player, deterministic, perfect information game. I would still find it hard to accept it as an abstract. Yes, the fact that it has theme is a problem, but also the fact that it's just so complicated (compared to abstracts). It's certainly hard to define the complexity line, but I think the size of a rulebook can be a useful delineator between abstracts and euros.
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Interesting take on the subject. The "self contained" nature that you refer to is somewhat similar to the reference made in the OP to whether or not the theme is "pasted on". Perhaps the question is whether knowing information about the theme actually helps game play.

For example, Chess has a theme, but knowing about medieval warfare helps very little in understanding the game. Two player, perfect information Puerto Rico, though, is still a game about production and trade. Theoretically, you could understand the rules and play the game even if you knew nothing about ships and trade and production, but it sure helps to know about those things in order to understand what's going on in the game. In other words, "outside knowledge" doesn't help much in Chess, but it does in "perfect information Puerto Rico".

Then, you extrapolate logically to how much you know about your opponent, and how much it helps or is necessary. Even in two player perfect information games, some knowledge of the opponent can help. However, in games with hidden information or multiple players, that knowledge becomes much more important in attempting to win the game.

It suggests a logical reason for equating "abstract" and "combinatorial", because only combinatorial games can be played consistently without even considering the identity or personality of the other players.
 
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howeman wrote:
In general for abstract games the optimal play is not dependent on who your opponent is, or whether or not you think they're bluffing, but is only dependent on the state of the board.

I believe there's some truth to that. As you say, there's some gray area, though. And I worry that the gray area might be more problematic than we'd like it to be.

One thing that attracts me to combinatorial games like chess and go is that I want to be able to "engineer" my way to victory--i.e., just consider the board position and learn to make moves that work. Maybe even learn the best moves and thus master the game.

But even if there's just one other player, psychology always becomes a factor, as far as I can tell. I'm free to ignore that factor, and I usually do, but that doesn't make it go away.

A typical case is the "swindle" in chess. That's where a sharp player makes an unsound move on purpose, just to confuse his opponent. If his opponent reacts as hoped, the "swindler" gets an advantage. In my view, it's an undeserved advantage, because it's the result of a suboptimal move. That's why it's called a swindle. But it's fair and legal, and sometimes it works even (or maybe especially) at high levels of play. Frank Marshall was known as the Great Swindler.

I play chess almost exclusively against a computer AI. But even that doesn't completely remove psychology from the game. The AI works the way someone designed it to work, so there's a human mind behind it. If I'm using all the tools at my disposal, I ought to be observing closely and trying to see patterns in the AI's behavior.

I usually don't do that, though, because it's something I dislike. Instead, I just look for the best move I can make. I discipline myself to make sound moves and assume that success will result from that.

Yet, even the very definition of "sound" or "optimal" moves depends on what will work against a given opponent. The starting move of e4 in chess is normally sound, but it's suboptimal if played against a computer AI known to be strong at responding to it and weak at responding to d4.

I don't know if there's any way to get completely away from this "psychological" factor without turning a game into a mere puzzle. And even then, the puzzle solver has his own psychology to contend with.

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I think another key feature of abstracts is their simplicity. Take the 2-player Puerto Rico variant, and change the rules slightly so that the plantation order is pre-defined. Now it's a two player, deterministic, perfect information game. I would still find it hard to accept it as an abstract. Yes, the fact that it has theme is a problem, but also the fact that it's just so complicated (compared to abstracts). It's certainly hard to define the complexity line, but I think the size of a rulebook can be a useful delineator between abstracts and euros.

There does seem to be more than a grain of truth to that too. The more points there are where a game maps to things from real life (i.e., external to the game, often associated with the theme or subject), the less abstract it is. It's hard to do a lot of such mapping with few rules; so the more mapping there is, the longer the rules tend to be.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
One thing that attracts me to combinatorial games like chess and go is that I want to be able to "engineer" my way to victory--i.e., just consider the board position and learn to make moves that work. Maybe even learn the best moves and thus master the game.

But even if there's just one other player, psychology always becomes a factor, as far as I can tell. I'm free to ignore that factor, and I usually do, but that doesn't make it go away.

A typical case is the "swindle" in chess.


The only reason to make a swindle or trick move or (more generally) "play" your opponent is if you're behind and will lose if you both play well.

But then I think this is probably true in every 2-player game, not just abstract/combinatorial/whatever-we-call-them games. E.g. in Backgammon or 2-player Thurn & Taxis or a wargame or whatever. You should always make the best move you can. The only reason not to is if you see it's not good enough, assuming competent play by your opponent. Then you're theoretically going to lose, but you hope in practice to shake things up and make the situation confusing/complicated and hope your opponent is thus more likely to screw up.

In a multiplayer game, then the human element often becomes important, with diplomacy, kingmaking, whining, threatening, etc.
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russ wrote:

The only reason to make a swindle or trick move or (more generally) "play" your opponent is if you're behind and will lose if you both play well.

In open-info games, I guess that's so. In poker, bluffing might be good at any stage.

Also, even in chess, a player who's ahead might be wise to "play his opponent." Suppose I'm ahead of you and I see how to set a trap that will ruin your game. Knowing you, I judge there's a 70 percent chance you'll fall for the trap. I also see that if you don't fall for the trap, your best move will put me a little behind; but it looks to me like I'll be able to recover from that setback. So, it's worth a shot. I can play conservatively and probably win in the long run, or I can set the trap and possibly win more quickly.
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russ wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
One thing that attracts me to combinatorial games like chess and go is that I want to be able to "engineer" my way to victory--i.e., just consider the board position and learn to make moves that work. Maybe even learn the best moves and thus master the game.

But even if there's just one other player, psychology always becomes a factor, as far as I can tell. I'm free to ignore that factor, and I usually do, but that doesn't make it go away.

A typical case is the "swindle" in chess.


The only reason to make a swindle or trick move or (more generally) "play" your opponent is if you're behind and will lose if you both play well.


If you are losing a game and makes a sub-optimal move that changes the flow of the game in your favor (be it breaking the pace of the game or breaking your opponent psychologically), does this not qualify as the best move possible?

Patrick Carroll wrote:
In open-info games, I guess that's so. In poker, bluffing might be good at any stage.


In Texas Hold'em bluffing and reading the opponent ARE the game. (well, and statistics).

Coming back to the subject of the post: I always thought that abstracts were more concise in terms of rules and winning conditions. Chess: in your turn you move a piece accordingly. Win by check mating the king. Go: put a stone in the board. Be the one with most territory at the end of game. Mancala: take the seeds/stones of one pit and seed them one in each pit in a clockwise/anti-clockwise manner. Be the one with most seeds at the end.

There's no multiple ways to victory. There are some modern abstracts which give you some options but they are rare and the options are clearly few. Nothing like be the winner because of most VP, where you win Vps by having the most territory or killing the other players kings or having the most pieces when a given number of turns is played. And never hidden objective (As far as I know).

Also, abstracts IMHO have a strong take that approach as your best move will screw things up for your opponent (that is: high interaction and competitiveness).

p.s: edited for typo.
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PSchulman wrote:
If you are losing a game and makes a sub-optimal move that changes the flow of the game in your favor (be it breaking the pace of the game or breaking your opponent psychologically), does this not qualify as the best move possible?

I mean best in the mathematically optimal sense, not in the sense that it happened to work.

E.g. let's play a game. We'll each simultaneously pick a number from 1 to 10, and whoever picks the highest number wins. I somewhat bizarrely pick 2. You even more bizarrely pick 1. I win!

Does that mean my choice of 2 was the best move possible? I think we'd agree that picking 10 is the best move possible, even though I happened to get lucky and win by picking 2 because you didn't play well.
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russ wrote:
PSchulman wrote:
If you are losing a game and makes a sub-optimal move that changes the flow of the game in your favor (be it breaking the pace of the game or breaking your opponent psychologically), does this not qualify as the best move possible?

I mean best in the mathematically optimal sense, not in the sense that it happened to work.

Two problems with that are:
1. what's mathematically optimal often defies analysis, and
2. in a game, you win by defeating your opponent(s).

In Go, it might seem logical to make the very first move to the center point. You're thus staking a claim to a little more than half the board. Indeed, at least one famous master did start that way and win. But much more often, the first stone is played near a corner--which also seems logical, but in a different way. In any case, the mathematically optimal move is unknown. So in practice, the one that works best is best, even if it works only because it throws your opponent off stride.

Your hypothetical number game isn't really a game. But Rock Paper Scissors is. In that game, mathematics tells us that the optimal move is a purely random one. But the game is played by people, and it's probably impossible for any human being to make purely random moves. Hence, psychology and close observation (as well as reflexes and other factors) come into play.

Chinook can make mathematically optimal moves in checkers, evidently. So every Chinook-vs-Chinook game will be a perfect series of moves ending in a draw. It would be silly to try a "swindle" (trap or trick move) against Chinook; it couldn't benefit you, and it might deprive you of a chance to draw the game. But anytime you're playing against another human being, it's very different: neither you nor your opponent can usually calculate the optimal move, so you're just trying to outdo each other any way you can.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
russ wrote:
PSchulman wrote:
If you are losing a game and makes a sub-optimal move that changes the flow of the game in your favor (be it breaking the pace of the game or breaking your opponent psychologically), does this not qualify as the best move possible?

I mean best in the mathematically optimal sense, not in the sense that it happened to work.

Two problems with that are:
1. what's mathematically optimal often defies analysis, and

Of course, but we do the best we can (like most things in life).
Quote:
2. in a game, you win by defeating your opponent(s).

And if you have a winning position, you will defeat your opponent if you make the best move. But if you try a swindle, you will lose if your opponent replies competently. I.e. there's no sense throwing away a won game by trying to trick your opponent if making a good move suffices even assuming they respond as well as possible.

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So in practice, the one that works best is best, even if it works only because it throws your opponent off stride.

That's the approach that might win you the current game if you're lucky, but doesn't help you get stronger in the long run.

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Your hypothetical number game isn't really a game. But Rock Paper Scissors is.

Why isn't my hypothetical game a game? Just because the optimal strategy is obvious? But then it is in rock-paper-scissors and tic-tac-toe as well.

Quote:
In that game, mathematics tells us that the optimal move is a purely random one. But the game is played by people, and it's probably impossible for any human being to make purely random moves.

Impossible for naive humans. A competent human can make effectively random moves by various means, including simply rolling a die if all else fails.

Quote:
Chinook can make mathematically optimal moves in checkers, evidently. So every Chinook-vs-Chinook game will be a perfect series of moves ending in a draw. It would be silly to try a "swindle" (trap or trick move) against Chinook; it couldn't benefit you, and it might deprive you of a chance to draw the game. But anytime you're playing against another human being, it's very different: neither you nor your opponent can usually calculate the optimal move, so you're just trying to outdo each other any way you can.

Most strong players I've talked with advise against trying to win any way you can if it means just making crazy moves hoping to confuse your opponent or making swindles that a competent opponent will punish. They advise simply making the best "honest" move you can find. In many cases it won't be the truly optimal move, sure, but that's why deep games are interesting - trying to improve and do the best you can.

But sure, if you're in a lost position, then there's no reason not to try crazy stuff, specifically if it complicates the situation. When the opponent has a won position, they want to finish the game as quickly and simply as possible, after all.
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Abstract Games » Forums » General
Re: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game?
howeman wrote:
At the same time though, I think this intuition has merit, in that in general for abstract games the optimal play is not dependent on who your opponent is, or whether or not you think they're bluffing, but is only dependent on the state of the board.

Right, but the same thing is true even in games like Stratego. Whatever the opponent's personality is, whatever bluffs and feints he was trying to make, the game state is still wholly contained in the board and the pieces on it. And the same is true for many other games that we'd all agree are not abstracts, such as Puerto Rico. In PR, other players' personalities and play styles may affect their decisions in the game, but the results are still wholly dependent on the current state of the game components.

The self-contained criterion is not sufficient to exclude all non-abstract games. It only excludes trivia games, word games, dexterity games, and (most) party games. It does not exclude most Eurogames, wargames, card games - yes, even Poker. The information is there - self-contained by the game - even if it's hidden from you. Your opponent either has the royal flush, or he doesn't.

Human beings have personalities and play styles, regardless of the type of game: Chess, Stratego, Puerto Rico, Bridge, Poker, and even Roulette. So this can't be used as a criterion for distinguishing game types.

Quote:
I think another key feature of abstracts is their simplicity. Take the 2-player Puerto Rico variant, and change the rules slightly so that the plantation order is pre-defined. Now it's a two player, deterministic, perfect information game. I would still find it hard to accept it as an abstract.

Agreed. A better example might be two-player Caylus, which is already deterministic and has perfect information without modifying any rules. Puerto Rico is interesting because the only thing that's "random, hidden information" is the selection of plantations that come out, and they only come out *after* the Settler is chosen, so they're all known well in advance of when they're actually taken, which won't be until the next round or later. I find this a fascinating aspect of many Eurogames - that they have just a tiny amount of "luck" in them, which has a very subtle impact on the game, even though everything else is perfect information and deterministic. Another example is Goa, which is a perfect-information game for the first half, and then a random setup of available tiles happens to start the second half. But I digress.

Quote:
Yes, the fact that it has theme is a problem, but also the fact that it's just so complicated (compared to abstracts). It's certainly hard to define the complexity line, but I think the size of a rulebook can be a useful delineator between abstracts and euros.

I don't think the theme is a problem, but yes, the complexity is. As is the lack of geometry as a significant element of the game.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:

I don't think the theme is a problem, but yes, the complexity is. As is the lack of geometry as a significant element of the game.


But a strong dominant theme is highly correlated with increased complexity, thus why abstracts tend to be theme-less or lightly themed. I'd venture that 'geometry' also suffers with increasing theme; I can't think of any heavily themed games that have 'geometry' as I'm understanding you to mean it. That said, I don't know many games, so there definitely could be. But usually, heavily themed games have lots of interacting mechanics that don't lend themselves to be 'confined' to a geometrically based games. That said, I could conceive of a game that used moves on a geometric board as a kind of meta-game for other 'off-the-board' interactions, such as worker placement to 'buy' moves for the pieces interacting on the geometric board; I don't know if such a game exists.
 
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mccann51 wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:

I don't think the theme is a problem, but yes, the complexity is. As is the lack of geometry as a significant element of the game.


But a strong dominant theme is highly correlated with increased complexity, thus why abstracts tend to be theme-less or lightly themed. I'd venture that 'geometry' also suffers with increasing theme;

Quite true. However I still say that it's the presence of geometry and the absence of complexity that make a game abstract, the presence of a theme is a "side effect". Because, as I believe we all agree, that self-contained quality of abstracts is not dependent on a theme - it's the game mechanics alone that make the game. An abstract game with a theme added is still an abstract game. Puerto Rico with its theme removed is still not an abstract game.

CheapAss Games makes a whole bunch of games with really weird themes, but they're usually fairly simple games (though not abstract). But they provide a good example as to why theme is irrelevant to game type.

Quote:
I can't think of any heavily themed games that have 'geometry' as I'm understanding you to mean it.

RoboRally is highly geometric, but also complex. (I wouldn't call it an abstract because of its complexity, but not because of its theme.)

Many rail games are highly geometric and also highly themed: TransAmerica and TransEuropa are pretty close to being abstracts. The Empire Builder series (EuroRails, British Rails, India Rails, Nippon Rails, Lunar Rails, Iron Dragon, etc.) are highly geometric with their hexagonal grids (or triangular lattice), but heavy on theme. The 18XX series also have a strong geometric element, but have many more non-geometric elements and strong theme. Age of Steam and many similar newer rail games have quite a bit of geometry, and not as strong a theme as some of these other rail games, but they still aren't abstracts do to their complexity.

Carcassonne and its family have quite a bit of geometric character, and fairly weak theme, but I wouldn't call them abstracts.

I'm sure there are plenty of others like this.

Theme may inspire the design, but it doesn't determine the type.
Theme may help sell the game to customers, but it doesn't determine the type.
Theme may be pasted on or well-simulated, it may be realistic or contrived to fit the mechanics.
Theme may be removed and replaced for any number of marketing reasons or artistic reasons.
Theme can be irrelevant even to non-abstract games. And it can be added to abstract games. But it still doesn't change the type of game.
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teg2 wrote:
After carefully reading all 3 pages in this thread, it is clear that abstract games are all those that cannot be considered non-abstract




wasn't it summed up many years ago as "A & NOT-A"?
 
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
howeman wrote:
At the same time though, I think this intuition has merit, in that in general for abstract games the optimal play is not dependent on who your opponent is, or whether or not you think they're bluffing, but is only dependent on the state of the board.

Right, but the same thing is true even in games like Stratego. Whatever the opponent's personality is, whatever bluffs and feints he was trying to make, the game state is still wholly contained in the board and the pieces on it. And the same is true for many other games that we'd all agree are not abstracts, such as Puerto Rico. In PR, other players' personalities and play styles may affect their decisions in the game, but the results are still wholly dependent on the current state of the game components.

The self-contained criterion is not sufficient to exclude all non-abstract games. It only excludes trivia games, word games, dexterity games, and (most) party games. It does not exclude most Eurogames, wargames, card games - yes, even Poker. The information is there - self-contained by the game - even if it's hidden from you. Your opponent either has the royal flush, or he doesn't.

Human beings have personalities and play styles, regardless of the type of game: Chess, Stratego, Puerto Rico, Bridge, Poker, and even Roulette. So this can't be used as a criterion for distinguishing game types.

Quote:
I think another key feature of abstracts is their simplicity. Take the 2-player Puerto Rico variant, and change the rules slightly so that the plantation order is pre-defined. Now it's a two player, deterministic, perfect information game. I would still find it hard to accept it as an abstract.

Agreed. A better example might be two-player Caylus, which is already deterministic and has perfect information without modifying any rules. Puerto Rico is interesting because the only thing that's "random, hidden information" is the selection of plantations that come out, and they only come out *after* the Settler is chosen, so they're all known well in advance of when they're actually taken, which won't be until the next round or later. I find this a fascinating aspect of many Eurogames - that they have just a tiny amount of "luck" in them, which has a very subtle impact on the game, even though everything else is perfect information and deterministic. Another example is Goa, which is a perfect-information game for the first half, and then a random setup of available tiles happens to start the second half. But I digress.

Quote:
Yes, the fact that it has theme is a problem, but also the fact that it's just so complicated (compared to abstracts). It's certainly hard to define the complexity line, but I think the size of a rulebook can be a useful delineator between abstracts and euros.

I don't think the theme is a problem, but yes, the complexity is. As is the lack of geometry as a significant element of the game.


Stratego isn't an abstract because it has pieces that represent concrete things, not because of any strategic elements. If you define based on strategy or mechanics it's almost impossible, because all games share some degree of abstraction, even simulation games.
 
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
abstract to me just means absense of theme, and also pieces that arent tangibly represtational of concrete things. not so much the mechanics themselves. So a game like Hive wouldn't be an abstract as it actually has a theme - bugs and has pieces that represent bugs. Chess woudlnt be since it has things like Kings and knights. Checkers though would be since it just has discs. It's not a perfect definition as there is a lot of overlap between games that one might consider abstract versus non abstract.

So a game like Clans for example would not be an abstract, even though it's listed as an abstract strategy game. In fact it's also listed as Prehistoric as one of those themes. If you can label a game as Prehistoric, its not an abstract.

Well that's even sillier. The conclusion you'd have to draw from this is that if you play chess with the Bauhaus chess set it's an abstract game, but it you use a Staunton set, or the Civil War set from the Franklin Mint, or the Simpsons set, then it's not an abstract.
there's nothing silly about that. If you apply a theme to a game it ceases being an abstract. You could argue that Bauhaus is a theme, bit it's pretty thin. But if Bauhaus is not really a theme, then I would argue the chess bauhaus game is an abstract and the simpsons chess game is not.
And this is pretty true for all games. You can see this a lot with Reiner knizia games in particular. A lot of people argue that his themes are pretty much pasted on, and at heart his games are abstract games.
Ra could be about egypt, or it could be about gangsters or any other theme ou wanted to put on it.

But if you took a game like caylus, and removed the theme it would be just as abstract. The building could mean something in terms of theme, but you could also just look at what is required and what it gives you in terms of points and resources, which don't have to be concrete things. Absent that theme caylus is just an abstraction as are most games other than simulations.

Abstractions then are simply games where there is no concrete theme applied.
 
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I'm with you Phil, theme is irrelevant to the game classification. You can have abstracts with a theme (chess, hive), and it would be easy to construct a themeless game that's a euro (take any euro and remove the theme). However, as much as I don't care about the theme of many games, I do think that the theme and the goodness of a game are related. Having a theme helps tie together the rules of a good euro, even if the theme is pasted on. You could certainly create a themeless AT game, though it would probably not be very good. (though a game like Intrigue probably comes pretty close, it's not an AT)

I'm not sure I agree with you on the geometry definition of an abstract, but at the same time I don't have a good counter example. I do feel like you could build an abstract that has, say, warhammer like movement that doesn't take place on any sort of grid but happens on a plane. It would be hard to argue that's geometric in the same sense you're talking about (unless I don't understand what you mean).

I wasn't arguing that self-containment was a sufficient test for abstractness, but I do think that it's a key component. I would argue that Stratego is not an abstract game, not because of the theme it has, but because it has so much hidden information, and so much of it is guessing about what the other person is doing. When I play stratego, I do not feel like I'm playing an abstract. Now, I don't know where stratego should fit on this site, it's not a euro, party, or AT game. I think it's part of a different category of games which would include backgammon, probably traditional card games, possibly the trans-america games, etc, games that are abstracts in rules complexity, but contain significant amounts of hidden knowledge. There would be gray area in this group (like all groups), and there would be sub-categories, say games with unequal starting position, games with luck, etc, but I think it's probably a useful categorization of games.

 
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With wargaming, it's very easy to label a game. It's abstract if you're not really hurting anyone. It's not if you are (or can). What's NOT abstract? Real warfare and paintball.
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howeman wrote:
I'm with you Phil, theme is irrelevant to the game classification. You can have abstracts with a theme (chess, hive), and it would be easy to construct a themeless game that's a euro (take any euro and remove the theme). However, as much as I don't care about the theme of many games, I do think that the theme and the goodness of a game are related. Having a theme helps tie together the rules of a good euro, even if the theme is pasted on. You could certainly create a themeless AT game, though it would probably not be very good. (though a game like Intrigue probably comes pretty close, it's not an AT)


Chess and Hive have pretty nominal themes. You could classify the different pieces as pretty much anything and the corresponding movements would make just as much sense, ie none at all, at least in regards to the pieces being representative. Euros on the other hand require some theme that is relevant to the mechanics, to represent what each different type of play 'means', because the rules are complex and would make no sense otherwise. Thus, theme is playing a fundamental role in how these games are constructed, played, and ultimately how they're classified. If you disagree that theme - in this case, lack thereof - is important in defining an abstract, I don't think it's hard to admit that heavily themed games often bar themselves from being games by being so reliant on theme to be a cohesive game.
 
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everlong205 wrote:
Stratego isn't an abstract because it has pieces that represent concrete things, not because of any strategic elements. If you define based on strategy or mechanics it's almost impossible, because all games share some degree of abstraction, even simulation games.

So chess, which also has pieces that represent concrete things, is also not an abstract game, in your view?

And if you made a Stratego set without the pictures and just numbers, and instead of referring to them as "Majors" and "Sergeants" etc., you just call them "Fours" and "Sevens" etc., then it would be an abstract game, in your view?

everlong205 wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Well that's even sillier. The conclusion you'd have to draw from this is that if you play chess with the Bauhaus chess set it's an abstract game, but it you use a Staunton set, or the Civil War set from the Franklin Mint, or the Simpsons set, then it's not an abstract.
there's nothing silly about that. If you apply a theme to a game it ceases being an abstract. You could argue that Bauhaus is a theme, bit it's pretty thin. But if Bauhaus is not really a theme, then I would argue the chess bauhaus game is an abstract and the simpsons chess game is not.

And the standard Staunton design is not? Do you think that playing chess with a different set makes it a different game? And that it can even change categories based on the set you use?

It's like saying that if you play chess in a moving vehicle, it becomes a dexterity game.

I stand by what I said before: silly.
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mccann51 wrote:
Euros on the other hand require some theme that is relevant to the mechanics, to represent what each different type of play 'means', because the rules are complex and would make no sense otherwise. Thus, theme is playing a fundamental role in how these games are constructed, played, and ultimately how they're classified.

Yes. This is what I meant by "simulation" rather than "theme".

In Agricola, when you sow crops, you get more crops. When you build more rooms onto your house, you indeed have more room. When you have more than one of a particular type of animal, they can breed. It's not a highly detailed or realistic simulation, but it is a simulation to some extent.

In Chess, foot soldiers, cavalry, clergy, etc., move in ways that have nothing to do with how they would move in actual battle. There's no simulation there, even though there's a theme.

Going back to what I said before: abstract games may have theme, but they don't have simulation.
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Then semantics aside, we are in agreement. I see theme and simulation as pretty similar - ie a strong theme is effectively a simulation, a weak theme is just names for pieces - with abstracts at most being weakly 'themed' but definitely not 'simulations'.
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A sort of silly meta-philosophical question: if a "simulation" game is defined not by lots of fiddly detail but rather (naturally) by simulating people doing stuff, e.g. Agricola simulates farming, Acquire simulates stock investment and corporate mergers, etc, then what prevents us from saying that every game X is a simulation which simulates people playing X? E.g. can Chess not be viewed as a game which "simulates" 2 people playing Chess? I guess by definition simulations cannot be self-referential.

Yet it seems somehow strange that we consider it "valid" for a game to simulate all kinds of human activity, both pragmatic (e.g. farming and business, etc) and personal (e.g. socializing, families, tourism, etc), yet the specific human activity which gamers all have in common - playing games - is in some sense not considered a "valid" thing for a game to simulate!
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
everlong205 wrote:
Stratego isn't an abstract because it has pieces that represent concrete things, not because of any strategic elements. If you define based on strategy or mechanics it's almost impossible, because all games share some degree of abstraction, even simulation games.

So chess, which also has pieces that represent concrete things, is also not an abstract game, in your view?

And if you made a Stratego set without the pictures and just numbers, and instead of referring to them as "Majors" and "Sergeants" etc., you just call them "Fours" and "Sevens" etc., then it would be an abstract game, in your view?

Yes. If you took the theme off any game it becomes an abstract. All games are abstract mechanics at heart.. Take caylus. It's about building a castle,,but it doesn't have to be. You could strip such theme from the game and be left with math. The buildings don't have to represent buildings. The resources don't have to be meat, gold wood and stone and cloth. They could instead be colored cubes signifying nothing. If that were the case, then caylus would be an abstract, as would most games.

everlong205 wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Well that's even sillier. The conclusion you'd have to draw from this is that if you play chess with the Bauhaus chess set it's an abstract game, but it you use a Staunton set, or the Civil War set from the Franklin Mint, or the Simpsons set, then it's not an abstract.
there's nothing silly about that. If you apply a theme to a game it ceases being an abstract. You could argue that Bauhaus is a theme, bit it's pretty thin. But if Bauhaus is not really a theme, then I would argue the chess bauhaus game is an abstract and the simpsons chess game is not.

And the standard Staunton design is not? Do you think that playing chess with a different set makes it a different game? And that it can even change categories based on the set you use?

It's like saying that if you play chess in a moving vehicle, it becomes a dexterity game.
[/q] Ra is a different game than razzia but neither is an abstract. However, if you removed theme and just had you collecting sets of random shapes then it would become abstract. And it would be the same game (absent theme). People like Reiner knizia has used the same game to create mutiple games, and the only thing different is the theme.
Mechanically the games are the same but thematically they are different.take Stratego, versus Stratego legends.basically the Same game. However underneath the theme, it's basically pieces with numbers on it and lower numbers bear higher numbers. If that's all it was, then it would be abstract. Put some dwarves and elves on it and it becomes a fantasy game.
 
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