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Subject: Alarm clock plays and achieving a perfect score rss

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William Campbell
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Playing 3-player with my son and daughter last night, we got our first perfect score (30, rainbow as normal suit), and here's how we did it:

General Principles

• Oldest unknown card is discardable
• Cards involved in clues are usually important, so do not discard
• If a clue involves your newest card, it is playable
• If multiple cards in clue, newest of them is assumed playable
• Clue numbers rather than colors
• With 3 or more clues available, giving clues is higher priority than discarding
• 4s are the best early discards; any other discard can prevent a perfect score
• If there are no clues available, discarding when you have a higher-priority default action tells the next player not to take the default action
• If you hold a known number N, and your predecessor clues your successor an N+1, your N is playable
• If a player makes what looks like a risky play, it was likely because the newest card in your hand made the play safe
• An “alarm clock” clue turns off the default action

Default Actions in Priority Order

1. Give vital clue (i.e. prevent discard of a unique card)
2. Play best playable card (defaults to newest)
3. If there are fewer than 3 clues, discard known discardable card (defaults to oldest)
4. Give important clue (e.g. indicate playable card)
5. Discard known discardable card (defaults to oldest)
6. Discard oldest card with no positive information
7. Give efficient clue

Potential Information Channels

• If clueing a number and a color are equivalent, clueing the color is an alarm clock for the next player who can see that the clues are equivalent (e.g. not to the person receiving the clue)
• With more than one known discardable card, discarding the second oldest is an alarm clock to the next player; third oldest the player after that, etc.
• With more than one equally valuable playable cards, playing the oldest is an alarm clock to the next player

In last night’s game, we had a situation where I held two 5s (yellow and blue), but I didn’t know which was which. Only the yellow one was playable, and it had to be played this turn in order to achieve a perfect score. My son playing immediately before me had two playable 5s, which he could play in either order. He chose the default order, which led me to play my 5s in the default order, resulting in the win. Had he chosen to send an alarm clock signal by playing his 5s in the other order, I would have known to play my 5s in the other order.
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Allen OConnor
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We did this once, but we cheated like hell.
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Al Washburn
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I get the feeling this got posted before it was fully baked...

…but just in case, what is an "alarm clock" clue?
 
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Dave Eisen
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ayedub wrote:
I get the feeling this got posted before it was fully baked...
…but just in case, what is an "alarm clock" clue?


One that makes no sense and thus could only have as its meaning to wake up the recipient. A blatant example is giving someone information they already have. I'm sure those with more experience here can give subtler examples.
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Lloyd
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While I'm sure your score felt like an achievement, this is precisely why I play without any conventions or rules amongst players. Having a system that explicitly says 'if I do x, it is because of y' means that you're absolutely communicating more than the rules allow and removes the lightbulb moments when a player works out why they're given a particular clue.

Each to their own, of course, but just not my preference at all.
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William Campbell
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The lightbulb moments came in earlier games -- we simply codified them. In the example game above, I didn't know that my son would necessarily have tried to send an alarm clock signal, but since he didn't, that gave a little extra edge to what would have been a pure guess. Plus, it's still not an algorithm, e.g. you have to work out what to do when someone makes an alarm clock play. To me, this is like playing Bridge and using conventions.
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Max Maloney
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When you say rainbow as a normal suit, are you using one of each numeral or ten rainbow cards?

I've done 30 once, also with three players, using a 55 card deck (ie, one of each rainbow numeral). Many of the things you codify are logical but we never codified them. I'm not sure how I feel about that for my preference. It crosses a certain line in my mind.

There are times when your rules could steer you into traps. And I still don't understand what you mean by alarm clock.
 
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William Campbell
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(All ten rainbow cards, just like any other suit.)

"Alarm clock" is a term from Bridge, referring to an unusual play or discard to wake partner up, so that he doesn't do the "normal" thing. Here we use the rules (well, they're really more guidelines) to predict what other players will do, and we use clues or alarm clock plays to alter other players from their default courses of action.
 
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R. O. Schaefer
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metobillc wrote:

General Principles

...
• If you hold a known number N, and your predecessor clues your successor an N+1, your N is playable
...


I'd like to add: If your predecessor clues your successor an N+2 to any playable color which is not in danger for discard, play your newest card as it should be the N+1 card or another playable card.

metobillc wrote:

Default Actions in Priority Order

1. Give vital clue (i.e. prevent discard of a unique card)
2. Play best playable card (defaults to newest)
3. If there are fewer than 3 clues, discard known discardable card (defaults to oldest)
4. Give important clue (e.g. indicate playable card)
5. Discard known discardable card (defaults to oldest)
6. Discard oldest card with no positive information
7. Give efficient clue



I tend to agree but would switch 3 and 4 depending on the situation, especially if the playable card can lead to a chain or to a complete color of course and depending on the importance of the oldest unknown cards of other players.

metobillc wrote:

Potential Information Channels
...
• With more than one known discardable card, discarding the second oldest is an alarm clock to the next player; third oldest the player after that, etc.
• With more than one equally valuable playable cards, playing the oldest is an alarm clock to the next player



Very good and useful information so far, but I don't like this section. There is too much coding for my taste. Conventions are good imho if logical and natural like discarding oldest unknown card etc. The natural way for alarm signals is a violation of the default order, but coding it in this way is quite artificial and could backfire heavily if not prearranged (whereas discard unknown oldest card evolves naturally).
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Sean McCarthy
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Califax wrote:
Very good and useful information so far, but I don't like this section. There is too much coding for my taste. Conventions are good imho if logical and natural like discarding oldest unknown card etc. The natural way for alarm signals is a violation of the default order, but coding it in this way is quite artificial and could backfire heavily if not prearranged (whereas discard unknown oldest card evolves naturally).


What part of this do you feel is unnatural? I would be completely unsurprised to see this attempted with no prior arrangement.
 
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R. O. Schaefer
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SevenSpirits wrote:
Califax wrote:
Very good and useful information so far, but I don't like this section. There is too much coding for my taste. Conventions are good imho if logical and natural like discarding oldest unknown card etc. The natural way for alarm signals is a violation of the default order, but coding it in this way is quite artificial and could backfire heavily if not prearranged (whereas discard unknown oldest card evolves naturally).


What part of this do you feel is unnatural? I would be completely unsurprised to see this attempted with no prior arrangement.


I think the unnatural part is giving a warning to the second next and third next person. You can naturally warn the next person by not using the default play, but doing this across the table could be quite irritating I guess.
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David Zou
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Wow, this concept of "alarm clock" cues is such a good idea. It really takes advantage of the fact you and everyone else knows exactly what's in the hand of the person you're cluing.

And it turns situations into from "well, it doesn't really matter" into a way to communicate essentially for free.

We've implemented some similar things like if someone has two ones of the same color in the opening hand, you wait a round before indicating the ones (the person should understand that if he had two playable 1's in the opening hand, someone would have told him in the first round, so by waiting, he knows not to play both 1's). Or if multiple cards are indicated, the player will play in the default order, but a hint about another playable card in his hand is given even though there are others hints to give, it is an indication that the next card in the default order is not playable. This is essentially one of our alarm clocks.

I imagine that alarm clocking is much stronger (or easier) in 3 player than it is in 5p, since in 3p there's basically never an ambiguity on who you're sending the alarm clock or rather, you're always in the position to give the alarm clock message to the right person. I still feel like this could be used effectively in 5p even if it only helps once every few games.

In my experience the difference between a perfect game and 1 point short is usually by a lack of a single extra action, and it seems like alarm clocking can save an action in a lot of games because it essentially saves a turn by not having to give a hint to not play in the default order.

I feel that games are lost (not a perfect game), not from any one person misplaying but typically because there was a missed opportunity to give more subtle information.

I will definitely be introducing these idea to my play group. Thanks
 
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