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Subject: Cthulhu Wars Solitaire Bot System rss

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Morten Dall
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UPDATE 5/9-17: My original system has been improved and refined by BGG user Richard Little. I highly encourage people looking to take on the bots to use Richard's charts found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/146960/cthulhu-wars-solo-...

Original post:

Alright, after several years of lurking, it is time for my first post on BGG!

Like so many others in here, I immediately fell in love with Cthulhu Wars when I heard about it, which was way after the first kickstarter. I persuaded my wife that this was a MUST HAVE! and got it. And wow, it did not disappoint. I love the design, the flavor, the minis (if they can truly be called that...). When onslaught 2 came around I pledged as much as I could to sign up for the 4 original expansions (being a mediocre scientist does not pay as well as you might think, so I had to prioritize).

Unfortunately Cthulhu wars has not seen as much playtime as I had hoped. The box is huge and I don't have a car to get it around to mygeek friends. As a consequence, I have pnly played it twice. But I love this game so much, that I had to do something, which lead me to wonder if it was possible to play solitaire. There are at least two really fun solitaire versions, but I wanted to play the actual base game. Here is what I came up with
https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/128748/cthulhu-wars-solo-...

I have tried to generate a flow-chart based system, to control one or more of the four basic factions. You can run one or all of the factions as bots. The design is based on the fantastic work done by Örjan Ariander for Fire in the Lake, an amazing game that I have spent countless hours playing solo. My idea was that since each faction need to execute the 6 spellbook unlocks, it should be possible to make a set of guidelines for that faction's behaviour. I have never designed anything in my life, and based the various strategies on different strategy guides, Sandy's Design Corners and more to identify good strategies and opening moves.

The idea is simple: For each faction, begin at the starting point and ask the questions in sequence until a valid action is reached and execute it. The chart also has red boxes defining how specific actions are executed, how the faction prioritizes pain and kill results, and more. For spellbooks, I've made a seperate flowchart, which takes into account which monsters are in play, if the GOO is in play, etc. The file also includes a random area table (based on the regular 4-player map) and some additional rules regarding rituals of annihalation, and when elder signs are revealed. The first few rounds will be pretty similar, as each bot executes a set of opening moves, but as movement often is random, I am quite amused with how different my games have been with the bot.

So far I have run 3 all AI games using the system, with remarkedly different results. First game was dominated by Crawling Chaos, which after a slow buildup will start to spread and look to fight others with Nyarlathothep. Second game was dominated by Yellow Sign, Which made a huge Zin-Gaya army and desecrated the whole map. Final game was a narrow victory for Cthulhu in front of Black Goat.

Generally Cthulhu builds up forces and looks for trouble, and to fight the other players. Black goat will build up forces, move and spread, and annoy you with Ghroth and Avatar. King in yellow runs his own show with desecration. And Crawling Chaos will build up, spread, use his mobility to capture gates, cultists and fight.

Is the system as satisfying as a "proper" match? Can my system use all the facets in Sandy's Jewel of a game? Of course not! But I have had fun with it so far, and I hope others will too. My main concern is that it will be no match for a human player, that can outwit it too easily. But I hope that by uploading it, others will try it, and together we can make it better and improve it, identify loops or sub-optimal behaviour and moves.

I will continue on improving it, and when my expansions arrive this fall, I aim to produce bots for Sleeper, Windwalker and Opener as well as an Azathoth expansion too. In the mean time I know I have a lot to do with the charts - they currently look ugly as sin :-).
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This might a great way to play a 2 player game: Two humans and a bot playing an otherwise normal 3 player game. Perhaps the humans alternate controlling bot faction if there are any ambiguities.
 
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David Boeren
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I haven't gotten to take a look at this yet, but it sounds like a good idea if it works well enough. Hoping to see more feedback and continued enhancements!
 
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Aaron K
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Any thoughts on this? I am looking for something that works well for a two-player game.
 
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This looks really interesting!

I'm about to give it a test real soon (TM). I got as far as setting up the board for the first game yesterday...

I'm planning to play the 12 possible faction permutations for 3-player games first (one player vs. 2 bots), then four 4-player games (one player vs. 3 bots). I'll try to report any problems / findings as I encounter them.
 
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I played my first game against the bots yesterday. I played Great Cthulhu vs. the Black Goat bot and the Crawling Chaos bot.

I won with a final score of 34 vs. Black Goat's 25, and CC's 14.

The Black Goat bot seemed to be doing rather well until I got the 'Dreams' spellbook late in the game and used it to take control of several unprotected BG gates. Since the bot's first concern is to Recruit any available acolytes, it didn't recover well from that setback.

The Crawling Chaos bot didn't stand a chance. It didn't get to do much on its turns, since it first concentrates on getting spellbooks that require the expenditure of power. Summoning monsters took it too long to achieve anything but stall a bit.

While it's still too early to conclude much, I think, the second item in the action list of the 'YES' path for the '< 2 Gates' decision point should be modified:
Currently it says
Quote:
THEN MOVE cultist to adjacent enemy-free land area THEN ocean
.
Imho, it should take advantage of its 'Flying' ability to say
Quote:
THEN MOVE cultist to enemy-free land area up to two areas away THEN ocean
.

This change would have allowed CC to control an early uncontested gate, resulting in both more power and doom.
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Morten Dall
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Thank you so much for your feedback. I am really glad that you gave it a chance. I will soon have holidays where I will have more time to work on the charts, and I will definetely try to address the issues you pointed out. I am very glad you tried it against a player - so far I have only tried to run full AI games.
 
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Well, thanks for coming up with the bot system, in the first place! I think it's a really great way to gain some insights into playing the various factions.

I've already set up the board for the next test game:
I'll be playing Black Goat this time vs. the Great Cthulhu and Yellow Sign bots.

As before, I'll report any findings here.
 
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I finished the game, winning again, but it was much closer than the previous game: I had a final score of 35 vs. 32 (Yellow Sign bot) and 29 (Great Cthulhu bot).

The Great Cthulhu bot seems to have an error:
I think, the 'YES' and 'NO' paths for the '<2 Gates controlled?' decision point need to be reversed (or the question changed to read '>2 Gates controlled?').

I was a bit surprised about the 2nd item of the 'YES' path for the decision point 'MOVE could bring Cthulhu with More monsters than currently while leaving 1 monster (if any)?':
It mentions a human player?

I felt that a condition for using DEVOLVE might be added to cover the case of an acolyte + a monster sharing an area with an enemy GOO.
(In one turn I was able to capture four acolytes from Cthulhu from his starting area after using Avatar without the bot reacting in any way... Luckily, it recovered rather well the next turn by using 'Dream' several times, though.)

All in all, the Great Cthuhlhu bot was working fine, though. I've just been wondering if the acquistion of the 'Submerge' spellbook shouldn't have a higher priority (than e.g. Y'ha Nthlei').
It was very costly for it to hunt after and kill enemy monsters without it.

The Yellow Sign bot seemed to work very well, until I ended up in a curious situation that may have been caused by a mistake from me:

After successfully desecrating several areas in a row, the King in Yellow with his undead company got stranded in Antarctica. Since Antarctica and all adjacent areas had descecration markers, it stopped trying to fullfill its spellbook requirement (it didn't have a marker in Africa/Australia, yet).
Instead, it started a cycle of summoning Hastur, teleporting it to an enemy GOO, resulting in a mutual kill, only to get resummoned, etc.

So, Yellow Sign despite having a great final score, only managed to complete four of its spellbooks. (I never seemed to enter the path where it would grant 3 DOOM POINTs to a player, either.)

I also wondered about the 'correct' way to move the King in Yellow to the closest controlled gate in order to summon Hastur:
I used 'Screaming Dead' followed by a normal move, but that left his Undead followers on their own in the previous area. Moving them all would have cost too much power, so it wouldn't have been possible to awaken Hastur until the next turn.
But it lead to a different problem later:
The King in Yellow should definitely try to rejoin with a bunch of monsters before trying to desecrate more areas (at least when, like in my game, there aren't any monsters left to summon). Otherwise, it's bound to fail for the rest of the game.

Still, if it hadn't been for this 'bug', Hastur would probably have won easily. It managed to collect nine Elder Signs, which turned ending the game into a bit of a gamble.

So, the game was quite exciting!
 
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Richard Little
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Thanks for taking the time to create this! I rarely get to play competitive games with other people (my spouse prefers coop games) so I was really on the fence about picking up CW. Given that there is limited hidden information in the game (which, if one is willing to use estimates is not all that hidden) I figured it ought to be possible to control each faction separately without spoiling the essential game (as opposed to a game such as Battlestar Galactica where the traitor mechanic is a key aspect of the game). Once I found your post I decided to take the plunge and get CW, figuring that even if I didn't have fun playing multiple factions (when other humans weren't available) I could always use this (and improve it as needed).

Having now played several 3P games as well as some 4P games, both solo and with people, I tried the bots out last night. It was a 4P game with me controlling YS and the bots controlling all other factions. I had no trouble winning; the final score was YS: 30 (achieved during action phase), BG: 21, GC: 16, and CC: 11.

Thoughts on the bots:
- CC was the weakest. The focus on spending 4 and 6 power early on for the spellbooks seriously slowed CC down. (Of course, GC deciding to attack South Asia didn't help). Overall I would put more priority on building up to 3 gates first. Spending the power can happen later when there is more overall power to work with.
- CC should also have more than one way to trigger Thousand Forms. Maybe a general trigger: <3 power -> use Thousand forms if possible.
- CC should also take advantage of fact the a GOO can capture a cultist even if it's guarded by a monster.
- When BG goes to achieve "Present in 8 areas" perhaps a clause that states Shub doesn't move by herself? She should be a meat shield if moving into an area with a monster (and, if someone has all six spellbooks, then she needs one no matter where she moves).
- When submerged, GC should give priority to re-emerging in ocean area's if at all possible. That allows for more chaining.
- As jhaelen notes, Bots should think to protect against Dreams.
- Agree also with jhaelan's comment regarding the Yes/No path for "< 2 gates controlled" for GC. I played it the other way for this game.
- When BG summons monsters ("as many as possible"), it may help to specify that they should be spread out in order to better facilitate moving into multiple areas when next possible. This is what I did and it really was amazing to watch all of the summonings and then next round (when power was available) see 4 spell books get unlocked in one turn as the bot moved units into 8 areas and shared with all players.

All in all the game was fun and thanks again for creating the bots. I certainly look forward to any changes you may make.
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Morten Dall
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Thank you so much both of you for the feedback you have provided. I'm really glad that you have had fun with the system, and this has motivated me to revise it. So I've finally uploaded a new edition, based on the feedback you gave, and then subject the revised charts to a 4-player AI game. I though I had noted the final score, but unfortunately I lost the note, so this is just based on my memory. But first, the changes for the individual factions:

Cthulhu

 Corrected error in Cthulhu descision tree (<2 Gates to >2 gates)

 Added “FIRST ocean THEN land” in Cthulhu Submerge Action to allow chaining of submerge

 Corrected “human player” to “Non-bot controlled faction” (The idea is that the cthulhu bot will try to harass you as a human player rather than fighting the other bots)

 Increased priority for Submerge when Enemy/Neutral Gate in Ocean and Cthulhu is in play

 Changed Devolve triggers to:
 -If Enemy monster shares area with Acolyte and no monster
 -If enemy GOO present in area with acolytes
 -If all Acolytes are in play and monster/goo in area with uncontrolled gate or no gate ,from area w. >1 acolyte



Yellow Sign

 Changed action in Desecrate Marker with King + Hastur in play to “SCREAMING DEAD towards desecrate free area where desecrate would unlock spellbook (random if more than one option) (this should hopefully prevent the King from being stuck in area)

 Changed SCREAMING DEAD text to:
-MOVE King and undead towards desecration free area (First to closest area w. symbol for spellbook unlock then
-FIRST lone enemy acolyte THEN Friendly controlled gate, THEN enemy free THEN lowest combat score
-LEAVE 1 unit in area if desecrated

 Changed summon Hastur procedure to
-SUMMON HASTUR
-If power <10 SCREAMING DEAD towards friendly-controlled gate. Second action cannot bring power below 10, unless it summons Hastur.[I can now see that the new chart says >10 instead of <10 - this is a mistake and wil be correcte]


Black Goat

 Added -“SUMMON Dark Young, THEN Mi-Go, THEN ghoul in area with most monsters THEN most acolytes , as many as possible evenly at all available gates” to summoning priorities

 Changed text to “Acolytes available for summon or acolyte sharing area with enemy acolytes without monsters?” in descision tree

 Added “SUMMON monster after priorities if Acolyte is in area without monster” to protect against dreams

 Move priorities changed to

 -“FIRST to area with enemy to share area with all enemies (or closest to)
 -THEN areas with fewest enemies
 -FIRST move Shub-Niggurath with other monster(FIRST DARK young, THEN MI-Go- THEN Ghoul) THEN MOVE Monsters according to same priority
 -WITHIN THAT Leave Cultist with ghoul, Mi-GO THEN dark young

Crawling Chaos

 Major changes in structure and organization

 Changed Acolyte movement if >2 gates to “THEN MOVE acolyte to enemy-free land area THEN ocean with Flight”

 Removed Power-pay early in descision tree

 Added “Pay Power to Unlock Spellbooks (First 4, THEN 6)“ in decision box if 4 gates are controlled

I have made several smaller changes as well, but these were the major ones I wrote down. In general I have tried to make the bots protect better against dream, by making the protection of acolytes a priority.

In my game, Crawling Chaos won, with Cthulhu a close second. Yellow Sign was doing ok, but fell behind in the late game, and Black Goat never stood a chance.

Giving the Cthulhu bot a preference for submerging/reemerging in the sea really made it brutal. It dominated the oceans and was incredibly aggressive. The largest issue was actually that Cthulhu didn't die enough, which meant that the Cthulhu bot did not have a lot of Elder signs in the end.

With the revisions suggested by you (Ie. wait with donating power, take advantage of flight) Crawling Chaos was brutal. It was actively spreading all over the map, it was seeking out the other GOO's and ended up with a ton of elder signs and doom points. I am very pleased with how it performed.

Yellow Sign still seems a little off. To my annoyance I really had to downplay the use of He who must not be named, as the bot otherwise wants to use it all the time. Further, the bot has a really hard time actually summoning Hastur, as the king tends to wander pretty far from controlled gates. It still managed to get all of the spellbooks, but I just have the feeling it could do better. I guess more playtesting will reveal how it could be improved.

Black Goat did not stand a chance, and was utterly crushed by the others. This was mainly due to the settling of south-east asia by crawling chaos, which made the ability to spread quite limited. Black Goat tried to go to the ocean, which Cthulhu was quick to take advantage of. My problem is perhaps that I'm not sure what the most effective strategy for Black goat is, as it to a large degree just wants to be there, sharing territory with the others and not fight (initially at least). Instead of assembling a large force, it wants to spread out, and this makes it easy pickings for Cthulhu. Maybe it was just unlucky. But it may be next target for a major revision.

Again, I cannot stress how happy I am about the feedback you gave me, as it in my opinion really has improved the bots. I hope you agree on the revisions - I will appreciate additional feedback if you are up for it. For now, I think I will try a 3-player game against Yellow Sign and Black Goat as Great Cthulhu.

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Thanks for taking the time to update the system and especially glad to hear that my feedback was useful. Have already downloaded the updated rules and once I get to try them out I will be sure to post back here with any feedback.

Looks like I will be up for more a challenge this time around - perhaps I'll play as Black Goat for the first game and see how I do. In particular, I can compare my play style to the updated bot.
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Olli T
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This looks great, and I'm going to try it out some night this week.

I have one question, though (sorry if I have missed the answer somewhere):
There are those green boxes with multiple options as a result of conditions. How these are played out?

Should I go through the flowchart only ONCE per full round and stick in the selected green box result with all of the faction's Power points OR do I need to follow the chart for every single power point the bot is going to use?

If you could write up some Cthulhu Wars Solo Bots for Dummies guide, that would be great.
 
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Richard Little
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I'm not the creator of the flow chart, but for what it's worth I'll explain how I have used it when I've tried it out.

Each time a bot can take an action I start at the “Acolyte available for capture” position and continue through until I end up at a green box. Once in a green box, I take the first action possible in that box given the available points for the bot, unlocked spell books and condition of the board.

To give a concrete example, here’s what this means for the Cthulhu Bot at the start of the game when all 6 cultists are in the South Pacific. (Note: this is using the 1.1 version of the chart)

First Action Phase (8 power available)
Q: Acolyte Available for Capture? No
Q: Cthulhu in Play? No
Q: Acolytes in Areas without Monsters? Yes
Within the green box:
- BUILD GATE: Not possible since gate already in South Pacific
- If > 1 Acolyte in Area, DEVOLVE (or devolve if no gate): Not possible, since spellbook not yet unlocked
- Summon Deep One, THEN Shoggoth, THEN Star Spawn FIRST in south pacific, THEN in others (random if more than one): Can do - spend 1 power to summon Deep One (since it's first one listed) in South Pacific.

Next Action Phase (7 power available)
Q: Acolyte Available for Capture? No
Q: Cthulhu in Play? No
Q: Acolytes in Areas without Monsters? No (answer has changed due to previous action)
Q: > 2 Gates Controlled? No
Within the green box:
- BUILD GATE: Not possible since gate already in South Pacific
- If not possible, MOVE Acolyte to enemy-free Area w/o Gate (FIRST Ocean, THEN Land, THEN Random: Can do - so pick random adjacent Ocean and spend one power to move cultist there.

Next Action Phase (6 power available)
Q: Acolyte Available for Capture? No
Q: Cthulhu in Play? No
Q: Acolytes in Areas without Monsters? Yes
Within the green box:
- BUILD GATE: Can do - spend three power to build gate (and take control even though it's not stated) in area where cultist was moved last action phase.

And so on and so forth. There will be times when you spill over from one green box to another via a "Then" link. There will be edge cases where things don't make sense and you'll need to interpret on you're own.

Let me close with restating my caveat: this is how I'm interpreting the flow chart. If I'm doing it wrong hopefully Morten will chime in and correct me.
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Olli T
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Thanks Richard! You helped me a lot.

Now I have played solo once with this (v1.1), but had to end the game before The End, sadly... I'll try again soon with better time. But as far as I went, this worked reasonably well.

I played with randomly selected Opener of the Way (Me), Crawling Chaos (bot1) and Black Goat (bot2).

There was some moments when this system just felt like "broken". Sometimes it just stopped working, like when the CC's Nyarlathotep was in the same territory with the Shub-Niggurath (both with lesser monsters) and was only thinking about some nonsense (like summoning the cheapest monster at the other edge of the map or something) at that moment... I had to take control over AI and choose to fight with GOOs as there wasn't really any other reasonable options left.

Nothing game-killer-bugs, though, but I felt it a bit frustrating to as every move/decision takes some time to check out.



Now, after my brief experience, I think there should be some "Overriding rules", that prioritizes the most important situations before the whole flow chart go-through.

Something like:
Q: Acolyte Available for Capture? No
Q: Is your GOO in the same territory with the enemy GOO? Yes
Q: Do you have more units in the territory? No
Q: Are you powerful enough to fight the enemy faction immediately anyway? No
Q: Is there safe/neutral territories around where to escape if Pained? Yes
Q: Can you boost your forces with faction/unit specialities or Spell Books immediately without using Power? Yes
--> Boost > THEN > ATTACK

And other stuff:
Q: Can you spawn >1 monsters of the same type? Yes (Black Goat)
Q: Can you spawn them at the enemies' gates? Yes (Opener of the Way, this needs the expansion, though)

And counter-actions, like:
Always WHEN an enemy captures your cultist THEN change the cultist to Deep One (Great Cthulhu with Spell Book, if my memory serves)


This is just a rough idea, but let's play ball with it. What do you think? There might be some errors with rules, as I haven't had a chance to play CW for a while.



Another thing that should be considered, that this could be a bit more polished visually. It might be just me (as an UI and graphic designer), but sometimes this flow chart was just too hard to follow or understand (especially without any rulebook/guide with examples) to be efficient. Sorry.
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Richard Little
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Agree that the layout isn't pretty - and we're not alone as the creator acknowledges it could be cleaned up.

Have some constant rules that are always in play makes sense as well. These can even change by context - the start of game can be very different from the end of game. I could even envision there being separate flow charts based on whether the GOO is in play (as opposed to having a single flow that tries to cover all). Board state should matter too, especially when to dog pile on another player even if it may hurt your current state (e.g. when to take one for the team).

At this point of course things get pretty complicated for pen and paper - what we need is an app!
 
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Dr Gosburo Coffin
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HoboWithAShotgun wrote:
Always WHEN an enemy captures your cultist THEN change the cultist to Deep One (Great Cthulhu with Spell Book, if my memory serves)

It wouldn't work that way, as it's too late to trigger Devolve if the other player has already declared the Capture action. Devolve cannot be performed during another player's action.

Besides, if I'm not mistaken, the current bot v1.1 already contains a pretty comprehensive section about the defensive use of Devolve (it's the red box in the bottom right corner of the Great Cthulhu sheet): Devolve should be used as soon as a Great Cthulhu Cultist is alone in an area with an enemy monster (or together with a GC monster, but in the same area as an enemy GOO).

But it's probably easy to miss that red box, since it's not included in the regular flow ...
 
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Morten Dall
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Sorry for the silence from here but I'm currently on holiday so I don't have access to my computer. Thanks for the help Richard in clarifying how the decision making works. Sorry that you felt the system didn't work optimally for you Olli T. It does tend to make irrational decisions late game. I considered at one point to do like Mark Herman in Empire of the sun and make an opening-, mid- and late game scheme for each faction, but decided that I would rather go for the COIN scheme with one to cover it all. I think a general set of rules would be a good idea - I will continue working on that when I'm back in Europe (and after I'm done playing falling sky). I think your approach is good however - if you can see that the bot is about to do a suboptimal action, then change it. If you use it as a 3rd player, take turns deciding how to carry out the bots turns. I however don't think the bot will ever be optimised to take the best course of action at all times - it is too complex for that. As Mark Herman says in churchill, you as the player should probably win, but the hope is that the bot will provide a satisfying challenge. In ly last game, I actually lost to Yellow Sign, 35 vs 33. So it can work though it also can break. I agree that the decision segment takes time - however, I have found that you will tend to know where in rhe decision segment the bot is, and go from there. But I still hope that you will consider giving it a shot and post your feedback here - info like that you found it suboptimal that CC and BG didn't fight while sharing an area with lesser monsters is gold to me, as it provides me with a concrete thing I can change.

Gosburo is right about the red boxes,they are clarifications and special rules for that faction to tell them how to behave and use special abilities. I will have to think about a way to make it more evident. I too tend to forget them,like doing blood sacrifice for black goat,devolve,etc. So clearly they are not working optimally.

As for the layout,I don't see it improve in the near future as I am hopeless at layout work. If you guys can recommend a program or a way to do it,I am very open. If you at a later point want to design them,feel free to :-)
An app would be optimal but is also something I can't do by myself. But someday perhaps.

Thank you for your feedback. Like I originally said,this was just something I made for myself and decided to share,so I am really glad that you are giving it a try. Please let the feedback keep on coming.
 
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Colin Taylor
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I know some time has passed, but I wondered if there had been any further progress on these bots? I'm an admirer of the COIN bots, so anything that shares that concept is of interest.

So, is the variant complete? If so, what is the general consensus?

Thanks,

Colin
 
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Evan Carroll
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Brilliant idea. I'm subscribing to the file.
 
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Aaron K
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If I can't find a group this weekend, I will use this to beta test the Shaggai map.
 
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Chase Norton
United States
Logan
Utah
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The Kickstarters... they don't STOP!
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Aaron, have you tried just playing all factions yourself, doing the best you can for each?

It can be a bit odd in some cases, but overall it went much better than I expected! It is interesting to see what a game looks like when all factions are equal experience and can coordinate better to stop players form taking leads.

With 5+ factions, it is hard to keep long term tactics in mind so the moves and counter moves feel genuine (at least for me).
 
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Aaron K
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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I haven't but could see doing that as well.
 
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Richard Little
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Heads up: I’m one of the people who gave feedback on his flowcharts leading him to release the version 1.1. I downloaded those files and while I thought they were much improved, I thought they could be even better.

After many iterations I'm at the point where I'm willing to share my creations. Morten has seen them and thinks there also worthy of being shared as well. Since I can't upload to his original file submission, I decided to go the route of just doing my own upload.

I've just uploaded the first of five files and hopefully BGG admins will approve them soon. They will appear under the umbrella title “Cthulhu Wars Solo System - Advanced Flowchart Bots” - not a very original title sad to say.
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Morten Dall
Denmark
Copenhagen
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You have done a really good job Richard. I will edit the first post so it leads to your new creation, so others will be directed there if the title here catches your interest. Great work!
 
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