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Subject: Cooperative abstract games rss

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Francois Tremblay
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Hello everyone! I was recommended many, many years ago to post on rec.games.abstract about one of my concepts. I just did so a couple days ago, but it seems that the group is no longer very active. This board seems a lot more vibrant, so I thought there may be some interest here.

I have an interest in cooperative abstract games. A few years ago, I started a web site about them:
http://www.coopabstractgames.info/
As you can see, my list is not very long. There simply does not seem to be many such games (although, after searching on this board today, I was able to add Hanabi to my list). If you have any more to suggest, feel free!

The game that made someone recommend I post is this one:
http://www.chessvariants.com/other.dir/fools.html
Which I also made a cooperative version of:
http://www.chessvariants.com/invention/catalonia

I do not know if this concept will be of any interest, but I am also interested in developing the competitive version, as well as making a cooperative/competitive hybrid in the same vein. Right now my main problem is lack of people to playtest with (the person who was helping me had somewhat of a falling out). I also have some ideas towards developing a hybrid in the mancala family. If this is of interest to anyone, perhaps we can exchange ideas here.

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Christian K
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What an interesting topic

Off the top of my head, I don't really know any.
There are plenty of puzzles, that you could enjoy with others but once you solve them, they are solved.

Typical coop games include lots of randomness to prevent players from finding a winning strategy which they can always follow.


So with my limited imagination, a coop game in my mind is somehow procedurally generated puzzles that are guaranteed to have a solution. It might be hard to get the 'taking turns' aspect that we usually have in games. The 'game' would need to follow a simple predictable program to take its turn (here is where many use randomness), so you could always simulate the game taking its turn and see if your plan works out.


Hanabi is one of my favorites. It is very abstract (no real theme) but not abstract in the 'combinatorial game' sense.
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Francois Tremblay
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To a certain extent I agree, although I think that thinking about cooperative abstracts as puzzles is starting on the wrong foot. Many cooperative games have clearly defined "solutions." But I prefer cooperative games that are less puzzle-like, where the objective is more open-ended and where the random element has enough of an impact on the game to make pat solutions impossible (this is what I was trying to do with Catalonia).

I like Hanabi and Zendo very much based on the fact that they're more reasoning-based games. I find that a very interesting concept. There is no clearly defined solution because it is limited by your skill and cleverness.
 
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Dave Dyer
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Modern cooperative games are extremely competitive, but the opponent
is inanimate. Pandemic and Hanabi (which I see on your list)
are excellent examples.

Cooperative games are really better called team games. There
always has to be an opponent.



 
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christian freeling
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ddyer wrote:
Modern cooperative games are extremely competitive, but the opponent
is inanimate. Pandemic and Hanabi (which I see on your list)
are excellent examples.

Cooperative games are really better called team games. There
always has to be an opponent.




What about a team on a quest in a prefab interactive environment without any opponent as such, the only obstacles being those embedded in the environment (which would require cooperation to overcome)?
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Dave Dyer
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christianF wrote:

What about a team on a quest in a prefab interactive environment without any opponent as such, the only obstacles being those embedded in the environment (which would require cooperation to overcome)?


That would certainly qualify as an inanimate opponent. Likewise
a game against the clock. I'd say this kind of game is very common,
usually promoted as "first x" or "record setting x". The Guiness
book of records is full of them. How else would you characterize
hoards of people working together to create the worlds largest
cannoli? I picked the word cannoli out of the air, googled it,
and came up with this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06msL3MDo84

 
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christian freeling
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Inanimate opponents included, this certainly is a formibable one.
 
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Francois Tremblay
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I think you're muddling words here. Competition always denotes individuals or groups seeking to outperform each other to achieve an objective or win something. The fact that you may have to think hard to overcome an obstacle does not make it a competition. I always have trouble getting up in the morning, but that doesn't mean I'm in a getting-up competition with tiredness.
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Dave Dyer
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I would rather say than you're mincing words. When I say competitive, I mean the players are trying hard to do well. The competition is against your internal standard of excellence, not necessarily another player.
 
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Russ Williams
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"Competition" is probably a fuzzy spectrum that's impossible to clearly define, but to me there's an intuitively clear difference between (at one extreme) games like Hanabi (where the cooperating players are trying to beat the system) and Patience/Solitaire (where the single player is trying to beat the system) and (at the other extreme) games like Fire in the Lake, Enemy Action Ardennes (where a player is competing against other players who might be humans making conscious decisions or who might be AI algorithms which are (loosely speaking) making decisions analogous to those a human player makes. Playing a multi-player/agent game vs an AI player/agent feels like competition (in the game sense) to me, while trying to beat the system doesn't feel like competition between players to me (although it's still a "game" - but a purely cooperative team or solitaire "beat the system" game, rather than a 2-or-more-player competitive game between competeting human or AI players).

Or to take an example from a different current thread: Chess is a game with competition, whether it's played human vs human, human vs AI, or AI vs AI. There are 2 competing players, each "trying" to win.

But in Hanabi or Patience/Solitaire, I don't really feel like "the system" is "trying" to win or making any decisions at all. It's hard to see e.g. how a human player could "take over" and play the system instead of the built-in "minimalist AI" (such as it is) which runs the system.

Sure, we can describe the latter as "competition" as well, but that seems to broaden and dilute the term so much. A musician trying to learn a new piece of music is similarly "competition", or someone trying to repair a broken shelf, or whatever...
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Christian K
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I alwyas feel like the system is placing the cards in hanabi in the worst possible order
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Francois Tremblay
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"I would rather say than you're mincing words. When I say competitive, I mean the players are trying hard to do well."

Now you're getting into psychology, which is a whole other thing. And actually, if you read the studies, external rewards are the least motivating kind of reward. So if anything, you got the correlation backwards.

But no, I am using the term "competition" in the common sense of: any contest between individuals for some exclusive reward or resource. There is no need to fly off the handle and invoke exotic definitions of the word. Chess is competitive. Hanabi is not. Soccer is competitive. A picnic is not (unless you have rather eccentric ideas about picnics).
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Spencer C
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I think this is extremely difficult using the commonly accepted definition of abstract games as combinatorial 2 player games. Even restricting the 2 player requirement (reasonable for co-operative because player order is no longer such a determining factor, and can be viewed as a series of co-operative phases), there is still a significant problem: The lack of a random element.

All co-operative games I'm familiar with use random elements to create the adversary ('the system'). I think it would be very difficult to construct a "true" co-operative abstract without using random elements.

Multi-player adversarial or team games are a possibility -- Bug-House Chess comes to mind as a game that has partnerships but which is still a very abstract game in spirit.

Of course, if you mean "abstract" as in themeless -- then any of the existing co-operative games can be stripped of theme.
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christian freeling
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UanarchyK wrote:
All co-operative games I'm familiar with use random elements to create the adversary ('the system'). I think it would be very difficult to construct a "true" co-operative abstract without using random elements.

A useful distinction may be "randomness in the preparation of an initial set-up" versus "randomness in the playing process". Where a team on a quest will inherently be faced with the first, actual play may be free from random elements.
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Francois Tremblay
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I agree that it's easier to create an interesting cooperative game by using a random element. Otherwise it does take on a more puzzle-like aspect. I don't think it's necessary (there's plenty of cooperative abstracts without a random element), but it does seem to be very helpful. That's the route I've taken so far, but I am open to new ideas.

I am not including team v team games as being cooperative, although I suppose it is possible for cooperative games to feature teams as well (although I don't know of any). Perhaps people cooperating on different boards, on different objectives, or something like that.


 
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Russ Williams
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Hierophant2 wrote:
I agree that it's easier to create an interesting cooperative game by using a random element. Otherwise it does take on a more puzzle-like aspect. I don't think it's necessary (there's plenty of cooperative abstracts without a random element),

Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!


Tangentially, I'll sort of philosophically note that one could create effective pseudo-randomness without real randomness by including some manually infeasible computational process, e.g. "use software to compute the MD5 hash of the current game state, then take that mod 6 to generate a pseudorandom die roll result", but that's not the sort of rule which one would use in a real board game intended to be played.
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TPoG
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ISBN: 1-85723-146-5
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russ wrote:

Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!


La Boca may fit the bill. May not be along the lines people here are thinking when discussing cooperative abstract strategy games. However, it is listed as an abstract strategy game, have a two player cooperative element, and a competitive element at a meta level when playing multiple rounds with more than two persons involved. However, the puzzle element is marked in the game play.
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Russ Williams
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The Player of Games wrote:
russ wrote:

Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!


La Boca may fit the bill. May not be along the lines people here are thinking when discussing cooperative abstract strategy games. However, it is listed as an abstract strategy game, have a two player cooperative element, and a competitive element at a meta level when playing multiple rounds with more than two persons involved. However, the puzzle element is marked in the game play.

Hmm, it seems to be a realtime Ubongo-style competitive game which just has randomly assigned partnerships each round? But ok, I guess I can sort of see calling an individual team's activity in a given round a "coop (sub)game". And I can see calling the Ubongo-style activity "abstract" in the more general sense of "themeless".

But ... a real-time Ubongo style competitive game with randomly assigned partnerships doesn't really leap out as what I'd think of a good example of a "cooperative abstract without a random element".
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TPoG
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russ wrote:
The Player of Games wrote:
russ wrote:

Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!


La Boca may fit the bill. May not be along the lines people here are thinking when discussing cooperative abstract strategy games. However, it is listed as an abstract strategy game, have a two player cooperative element, and a competitive element at a meta level when playing multiple rounds with more than two persons involved. However, the puzzle element is marked in the game play.

Hmm, it seems to be a realtime Ubongo-style competitive game which just has randomly assigned partnerships each round? But ok, I guess I can sort of see calling an individual team's activity in a given round a "coop (sub)game". And I can see calling the Ubongo-style activity "abstract" in the more general sense of "themeless".

But ... a real-time Ubongo style competitive game with randomly assigned partnerships doesn't really leap out as what I'd think of a good example of a "cooperative abstract without a random element".

Agree.
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Christian K
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You could also play ricochet robots or SET cooperatively, though the 'challenge' presented in somehow random.
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Russ Williams
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Ultimately that kind of real-time puzzle solving / pattern recognition simply seems a different genre (and a clearly different gameplay experience) to me from "abstract games" (in the combinatorial Chess/Go sense).

So to be clear: I'm wondering if there are any prominent examples of cooperative combinatorial type games.
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Francois Tremblay
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"Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!"

AFAIK, there are no well-known cooperative abstracts, period, so I'm not sure what the point of your question is.

"I'm wondering if there are any prominent examples of cooperative combinatorial type games."

Again... there are no prominent cooperative abstracts. So...

What does "combinatorial" mean in this context?
 
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Francois Tremblay
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TPoG, is your name and avatar from the Iain Banks book? I read it a few weeks ago, great, amazing book.
 
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Russ Williams
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Hierophant2 wrote:
"Are there any well-known examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element? Offhand I can't think of any!"

AFAIK, there are no well-known cooperative abstracts, period, so I'm not sure what the point of your question is.


Hm? The point was of course to find out whether there are any!

You had written "(there's plenty of cooperative abstracts without a random element)," so I wondered if any of them are well-known. I couldn't think of any coop abstracts without a random element at all (whether well known or obscure).

So now a followup question: what are some examples of cooperative abstracts without a random element (evidently not well known), if any exist, in the "combinatorial" sense, i.e. not in the broader "themeless" sense like Hanabi with its randomness and hidden info or sort-of-cooperative realtime Ubongo puzzle solving / pattern-matching type games?

Quote:
What does "combinatorial" mean in this context?

"with no randomness or hidden information (e.g. pure strategy games like Chess, Go, Hex, Trax, Shogi, Blokus, etc)"
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Christian K
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Come to think of it, the classic peg solitaire might quality. It is more of a game in the sense that you do make moves and not just simulate it all in your head

Still, it is a puzzle though.
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