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Don't end up with a stinky finger! Using a language model to generate board game descriptions.

Martin G
United Kingdom
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At work recently, I've been investigating developments in the field of language modeling. Ever-increasing computer power has allowed researchers to train their models on *vast* quantities of text from the internet, books etc. allowing them to predict more and more accurately which word will follow another in a given context. This is the technology behind the predictive text on your phone, Google's new search feature that highlights the answer to your question on a web page, and bots that write news articles that look like they're by journalists.

The models also allow you to generate text that imitates a particular style. And it turns out it's actually pretty easy to play with them at home, using someone else's computer power. I used these two Google Colab notebooks made by Max Woolf. They allow you to supply a file with some text you want to mimic, fine-tune the pre-trained model and then spit out new examples.

My idea for training text was the new, 85-character, user-submitted descriptions that have been popping up on BGG game pages in the last few weeks. I've written a couple of these myself, and they have a particular style that I thought might be quite successfully learned by the model.

I scraped the descriptions from the 500 most-rated games in the BGG database and uploaded these to the notebook. After a bit of experimentation with the settings (I needed much *less* training than the defaults to avoid it just parroting back exactly what I'd supplied), I came up with something that worked rather well. Or at least I think so. I'll let you be the judge...

Some I genuinely had to check weren't just in the training data:

Use gems, shields, and attack the hero in this popular strategy tower-building game.

As you progress through your trade missions, you must acquire tech to connect destinations.

Compete against others to gain space stations & control asteroid belts.

Defend an ancient temple against a formidable enemy, the Tamauk!

Out-think your opponent and race to climb the tallest building in this classic!

Move each tile as fast as you possibly can to win this unique board-less party stealth game!

Be the first to divest your assets in a deal that will collapse during the market crash!

Others are close but there's something a bit off:

Place your men on high alert to pillage cattle, pillage cattle, and gain glory.

It's strange being out alone. Someone stands in the path of you or your opponent. Will you find peace or... perish?

After Eridani wins Egypt, King Tut (Tutor!) and his friends must conquer the Earth in this sequel to the 2014 Egyptian sci-fi epic.

Use a criss-crossing fantasy tomorailer network. Expand as you see fit, until you get to a spot you can't find!

Become a banking acrobat and earn all the profit you can with small amounts of cash.

Become the complete Hoodrat and repeat your quest to attract dragonflies.

Send out the best team of wizards you can find to battle aliens and Mongols!

Research roads, build roads, get roads and get paid.

Place flowers, dice, bake, chase after your idols and win big.

Roll dice to foil the plans of your adversary! Your deck can hold 4,000—but hopefully not more!

Assert your martial prowess as you race to stave off cancer!

Race to identify the lone wolf and escape the city in this appallingly difficult game.

Send your assistants through the shops of Istanbul as you race to sell curries, while simultaneously trying to sell hot dogs to everyone!

Some are a little weirder:

Do not work as a team to rob a brothel. Release the rich ones and run out the clock. Then come back empty-handed!

Pass the sushi round or stack the deck to keep everyone from peeling off their bottoms.

Pass the sushi round with unique curries and a side of chips for good luck.

Play fantastical roles by transporting your arbitratorous>Botanicula to deliver delicious iced tea.

Use innkeepers to bring safe drinking water to your wealthy friends and family at one o'clock in the afternoon.

Assert your martial prowess as you propagate your race's DNA, utilizing unique mating strategies.

*gulp*. This one made me laugh out loud:

In this app-guided foot jog, complete the steps with your partner but don't end up with a stinky finger.

While this one made me think the model might be approaching sentience:

Science wonders why the human race can't unite to avert a pandemic.

Science really does.

And that's just a few highlights! How long before it can write the rulebooks too...
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