Straight Talk on Strategy Gaming

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An Idea for an "Action Space" / "Action Impact" Metric

Nate Straight

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So my last post was apparently the pinnacle of subjectivity and I got called out on it quite... err... adamantly?

I'd like to try an experiment in objectivity [unfortunately not for the purpose of determining whether a game sucks].

One thing that has come up in almost all of the recommendation threads I've posted is that I have asked for games with "broad" decision spaces, where there are many many options available. I find that I generally prefer more options presented to me than fewer.

As a simple example, something like Puerto Rico presents the player with [at most] 7 options on their turn [plus any sub-options that follow: which plantation to choose, which building to build], while something like Tigris & Euphrates presents literally hundreds.

At the absolute extreme end of the spectrum, you get games like these where you have [in the ideal case] 2 options on your turn.

Any fewer than that, and you simply don't have a game. In some sense, those games are a distillation of what a game "is".

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I tend to prefer games with choice spectra more like what T-Rex is describing: "infinite things you could have done instead".

I like opportunity cost decisions in games, and such decisions are richer when there are more possible actions for you to forego.

So, here's an idea I came up with to work to objectively measure this dimension of gaming without having to draw up decision trees.

I'd like to measure the average number of options on a turn, average turns taken in a game, and average scores [in unit values].

For instance:

Puerto Rico has an average of around 3 or 4 options available on a turn [for this purpose, we'll just leave out sub-options], because some rounds you'll have 7 roles to pick from, some 6, some 5... some 2 or 3. The average game last around 12-16 turns, so you'll get about that many choices. An average score is somewhere in the 40s.

Agricola has an average of around 10 or 12 [more?] options available on a turn [across the entire game; options grow each turn]. The average game gives you approximately 40 or so choices. And your score, like Puerto Rico, averages somewhere around the 40s. This is clearly a different sort of action space, or at least it seems so.

Only, I want to do this more rigorously. To do that, I'd need help counting actual expected # of options per turn [Agricola's case is quite tricky, if you think about it], and pointers to decent information [from tournaments / online play?] from which I can derive measures of average game length and average winning [or just any?] scores.

I'm not attempting to rate games by using this data, only to possibly develop some interesting means of describing them. In addition, I'm deliberately ignoring some choices in games [sub-choices, and non-turn choices in things like Puerto Rico] for the sake of simplicity of counting. In all attempts at abstract description, some information is ignored.


My long term plan would be aggregate this data over a number of popular games, then prepare something akin to a simple cluster analysis on the data.

I would like to see at least 2d [choices * turns vs. score] analysis [maybe just a position mapping], and maybe 3d [choices vs turns vs score] as well.
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Subscribe sub options Tue May 10, 2011 4:49 pm
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