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Subject: Do you hurt yourself to hurt someone else worse? rss

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CARL SKUTSCH
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I'm in an online four player game. Turn 4, I got the only fireplace and there are 4 sheep waiting to be turned into lamb stew. Then this weasel pops in and grabs them. He's got no fireplace, no stables, no nothing, so he keeps 1 sheep in the house and throws the other 3 away.

I'm wondering: Is this a good move on that player's part? They hurt me, a lot (I have to beg). I probably have no chance of winning. However, they hurt themselves a bit too. Taking a sheep that you can't use as one of your critical early moves seems not worth it to me. You have two other players who are maximizing their efficient moves. You've torpedoes one player (me) at the cost of falling being 2 other players.

What do folks think? Have you done this yourselves?

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
 
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I think it is a rather wise move, for him, just imagine it as he sees "a sheep" and takes it, since we dont know about the wood and reeds availability on the game and the pigs weren't out yet, grabbing a sheep it self is only slightly below par, while he terminated you (cuz ur Intention's obvious), I don't see any non-aense here.
Let's just say, since scoring is a game that compares relative numbers, so u minus x points, in general means he earns x/3 points. So indeed it will benefit him to prevent you from getting away too early. Another thing is this game is like tax system, which means performing four successful action is more rewarding then performing one success four times, and getting four mehhhs will boost you too far.
Also it feels F good to destroy other ppl critical resources, isn't it?
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Ben Bateson
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Generally speaking, yes. You don't want to see an opponent take lots of resource that you could steal from them.

However, and this is a point that is overlooked by intermediate players, if you take a sub-optimum move to deprive an opponent, then you change the whole balance of the game. Your opponent - maybe not thus round, but a round or two later - will have the first opportunity to deprive you of something you want, and sooner than they would have if you hadn't taken all the sheep. Effectively, you are putting yourself on the back foot by taking an action that isn't optimal.

It's certainly not saying that it's never the right move, because frequently is. You've actually applied more pressure on your opponent NOT to play sub-optimal moves for the foreseeable future. But it's a good illustration that the knock-on effects run very deep in this game.
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David Fair
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I understand the desire to do this, but it really is an amateur move. Denial strategies in Agricola rarely, if ever, pay off. He is now fairly certain he won't come in last, but he just as certainly won't come in first either. Dying with your hands around another players throat is no way to excel.
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Andy Kerrison
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If this 4 sheep grab would've given you a strong lead and missing it effectively eliminates you from the game, then yes it's a sensible play to make.

However unless he is giving you 2+ begging cards *and* knows for sure you don't have the Mendicant, then he can't be sure it'll cripple you so it's a poor or at least very risky move.
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David Fair
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vincentking700 wrote:
Let's just say, since scoring is a game that compares relative numbers, so u minus x points, in general means he earns x/3 points. So indeed it will benefit him to prevent you from getting away too early.

No, it means that he and the other two all gain on one player, but the other two take actions where they gain on everyone, so he falls behind them. He has helped them, which hurt himself, relatively speaking.
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Geoff Burkman
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In a 4-player game, I would look on it as a fairly weak move, unless he's got a card that requires possession of a woolly to activate. Much stronger in a 2-player game, for what I'd opine are obvious reasons. That said, you likely erred by not taking the sheep as a trio.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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MisterG wrote:
In a 4-player game, I would look on it as a fairly weak move, unless he's got a card that requires possession of a woolly to activate. Much stronger in a 2-player game, for what I'd opine are obvious reasons. That said, you likely erred by not taking the sheep as a trio.

Perhaps I erred. However, you have to assume some rationality in your opponents. If he guarantees himself a loss with his move, I just assumed he wouldn't do it. Why choose to lose?

But we shall see. I'll update this thread when the game ends (next week I expect).
 
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BeyondMonopoly wrote:
vincentking700 wrote:
Let's just say, since scoring is a game that compares relative numbers, so u minus x points, in general means he earns x/3 points. So indeed it will benefit him to prevent you from getting away too early.

No, it means that he and the other two all gain on one player, but the other two take actions where they gain on everyone, so he falls behind them. He has helped them, which hurt himself, relatively speaking.

I'm new to BGG btw, a noob lmao. However, in my point of view, someone must stop him from getting four sheep, and it has to be someone, or he will gain alot of benefit. A metaphor would be you and your two friends are crossing the street while you are the only one who sees the car coming. If you don't push your friends away (you die then), then you all crash and die. What do you think?
 
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skutsch wrote:
However, you have to assume some rationality in your opponents. If he guarantees himself a loss with his move, I just assumed he wouldn't do it. Why choose to lose?

Sometimes people aren't very good at making those choices. Maybe they're used to playing two-player and haven't appropriately adjusted their denial tactics. Maybe they aren't trying very hard.

Also, online games can sometimes end up with an odd combination... the hardcore experts playing ten games a day but also the casual noobs that are wandering in to try out a new game.
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Ben Bateson
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BeyondMonopoly wrote:
Denial strategies in Agricola rarely, if ever, pay off.


I don't buy this. I've seen plenty of denial moves work fine. Not just food denial, but reed denial, fencing denial and even fireplace denial. It's definitely not an automatic move, but it definitely has its place.

At the very least, in this case, the denyer has earned himself 2VPs or two future food. That's not too shabby.
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Nathan Ehlers
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tumorous wrote:

Sometimes people aren't very good at making those choices. Maybe they're used to playing two-player and haven't appropriately adjusted their denial tactics....


This a really important observation and often misunderstood across all kinds of games. In a 2p game, if I stop you from getting 10pts, then it is effectively the same as me gaining 10pts with that play because the end score is a comparison of the delta between our performance. However, in a multiplayer game, where the delta is with respect to an unknown variable (that is, which player will win and what their final score will be), it's impossible to state that same play is worth 10pts. There's an entire set of possibilities that can treat that value differently, however, with respect to game theory, you can only operate on that play being divisible across sets of actions and plays. That is, if I take 3 moves, denying all 3 other players 10pts, then I will have successfully gained 3.33 points (10/3 actions). If I don't successfully take away 10 points from each player with a single action, then I have to treat the incomplete set as a functional zero exchange (note this is exclusive of any other added benefit or gain the action gets me...in the above example, I might value a sheep at +2 points...that isn't considered in this math and might be a fine reason to take the sheep). Another way to look at this same math problem is to say that if, in one action, I can give myself 3 points, then that's +3 action. If, instead, I can deny every other player at the table 4 points, then that's a +4 action and inherently better (all other things being equal). If, instead, I can take an action that would be -100,000 points for Bob (absolutely putting Bob out of the game) but there is no chance this option will appear again in the game, then it is a -4 action (and inherently worse than my previous examples). This is because the ultimate delta is going be with respect to the player with the most points at the end. If you necessarily entail that Bob is last, then your score with respect to his score is irrelevant in the final calculus of the game and you get no gain out of negatively impacting Bob's score. No only that, but you're giving up on our +4 action above effectively taking a negative action this round. This example shows the previous poster's point that you'll certainly make Bob lose and likely make yourself 3rd place.

All that said, it's impossible to know what happened in the original game. There are plenty of positive reasons that person took the sheep and we just don't know what the details were. If there were absolutely no good reasons, then the OP is right and that person is a bad player who blew up them self to hurt someone else. It's a crumby situation, but king making comes up all the time, especially when you're playing with strangers.
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Royce Calverley
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As most of said, this is actually an optimal move with 2 players.

With more players, a denial move can sometimes be the optimal move when you can reasonably judge the player positions. Often in my play group, two players are out ahead of the rest of the pack. In this instance, we will see one of those two players take a suboptimal move to block the other player that is in contention to win. Losing a bit to the players at the back of the pack is not always a particularly bad thing.

Having said that, it's always amusing when the players in front have completely misjudged the points and end up denying themselves into last place.
 
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Todd Parker
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skutsch wrote:
Perhaps I erred. However, you have to assume some rationality in your opponents. If he guarantees himself a loss with his move, I just assumed he wouldn't do it. Why choose to lose?


There is plenty of rationality here. Sure, it might ("MIGHT") not be the optimal move for him. But at some point he has to grab a sheep. So its not a horrible move. Its a huge stretch to say that he has guaranteed himself a loss for taking one marginal (yet still beneficial) move in round 4.
Aside from the 2 points for getting a sheep. You perhaps lose 6 points. Thats rational if he wants to beat you. He also makes you wonder for the rest of the game, and perhaps makes you take important actions earlier in the round because he has proven to be unpredictable.
The game is alot easier if you know exactly what your opponents will do and when they will do them.
Getting a fireplace and 4 sheep in round 4 is often a boon which propels someone to victory. Maybe by not doing that, he would have guaranteed you the victory and therefore a loss for himself.
There are plenty of good reasons to take the sheep.
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David Fair
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ousgg wrote:
BeyondMonopoly wrote:
Denial strategies in Agricola rarely, if ever, pay off.


I don't buy this. I've seen plenty of denial moves work fine. Not just food denial, but reed denial, fencing denial and even fireplace denial. It's definitely not an automatic move, but it definitely has its place.

At the very least, in this case, the denyer has earned himself 2VPs or two future food. That's not too shabby.

I should have written: Denial strategies in 4 player/5 player Agricola rarely, if ever, pay off.

They work just fine in 2p, and can sometimes work in 3p, but if you are wasting precious actions denying one out of 3 other players an action, you will lose to those who play to advance their own score.
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toddpark75 wrote:
Thats rational if he wants to beat you...


In the context of this discussion, rationality is not simply the ability to recognize game states and employ logic and deduction, but also a general agreement to the specific rules of the game and general rules of how games are broadly played. We wouldn't call it rational (or socially acceptable) if we were on the last turn and I punched you in the face before you made your play, knocking you out cold, and declared myself the winner by forfeit...even though it's easy to see the logic one could employ to claim that's how you win games. To get into a deep discussion about the nature of rationality is to lose the point of the OP. Several people have already said there could be positive reasons why taking the sheep make sense. But the OP didn't list enough details to work through those, forcing us to deal with the straightforward question about, in the absence of all those possibilities, does this make sense?

As a side note, sometimes people are just plain bad at games or a particular game. It's very possible that the sheep-stealer is playing poorly and no lofty discussion of logic, virtues, and values would have any impact whatsoever.
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
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toddpark75 wrote:
skutsch wrote:
Perhaps I erred. However, you have to assume some rationality in your opponents. If he guarantees himself a loss with his move, I just assumed he wouldn't do it. Why choose to lose?


There is plenty of rationality here. Sure, it might ("MIGHT") not be the optimal move for him. But at some point he has to grab a sheep. So its not a horrible move. Its a huge stretch to say that he has guaranteed himself a loss for taking one marginal (yet still beneficial) move in round 4.
Aside from the 2 points for getting a sheep. You perhaps lose 6 points. Thats rational if he wants to beat you. He also makes you wonder for the rest of the game, and perhaps makes you take important actions earlier in the round because he has proven to be unpredictable.
The game is alot easier if you know exactly what your opponents will do and when they will do them.
Getting a fireplace and 4 sheep in round 4 is often a boon which propels someone to victory. Maybe by not doing that, he would have guaranteed you the victory and therefore a loss for himself.
There are plenty of good reasons to take the sheep.

I don't see how grabbing 1 sheep at that early stage is the game is a good move, with a few exceptions. (Maybe he has the trade a cow for a sheep and then he's going to play the Yoke?) Grabbing an easy 2 pts is something you do late in the game, when you have the extra actions to spare.

Of course, as others have said, in a 2 player game it's totally different.

I'm an experienced but not master Agricola player so I realize others may see deeper than I do. And I do see that if he thought my 4 sheep grab would equal a 90% chance that I would win, then eliminating my chances but reducing his chance of winning to 10% (just grabbing numbers here) would make sense. In the first case he'd have a 3.33% chance of winning, he'd have triple that in the 2nd case.

Man, I was so looking forward to lamb stew.
 
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sirgalin wrote:
toddpark75 wrote:
Thats rational if he wants to beat you...
if we were on the last turn and I punched you in the face before you made your play, knocking you out cold, and declared myself the winner by forfeit...

Thats just a bad analogy.
Im guessing the OP is a true euro gamer and wants a completely solitaire experience. There is a good amount of interaction in agricola relative to other similar games.
Any time a game has interaction and more than 2p, there is a potential for kingmaking.
If it were round 14, and I have 3 wood. I could plow and sow to net 3 points, or I could build fences for 2 points. You have 15 wood, already renovated and have no fences. If you are the frontrunner, and Im in last, I could take fences for 1 fewer point for myself, but deny you 11 points, do I do it and ensure you lose and propel 2nd place to 1st? It might move me from 4th to 3rd.
If everyone always takes the perfect rational move, what is the point of playing? Maybe you should have built fences in round 13. This game does have a single player variant you should consider, or try Caverna.
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BeyondMonopoly wrote:

I should have written: Denial strategies in 4 player/5 player Agricola rarely, if ever, pay off.


I think it depends on the makeup of the table. Typically I end up playing Agricola with one or two strong opponents, and one or two who are less experienced. As has been mentioned, it's definitely worth depriving the stronger ones. Your assumption is that everyone will play optimally well, and that no-one is using some sort of peculiar alt-scoring combo.
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While I would see the move as likely weaker, like many posters I would have to see what other factors may be driving it.

From a decision-making perspective, allowing you to grab 10 sheep would be conceding the game.. 9 sheep likewise.. etc. At some point, it is more critical to block you specifically versus give you the win. While I personally would be unlikely to block at 4, there is no question that different quality players asses differently (for better or worse) and if you are playing with unknown opponents, you have to assume that some subset will poorly assess the potential losses and gains. Next game someone might block at 3..
 
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toddpark75 wrote:
sirgalin wrote:
toddpark75 wrote:
Thats rational if he wants to beat you...
if we were on the last turn and I punched you in the face before you made your play, knocking you out cold, and declared myself the winner by forfeit...

Thats just a bad analogy.
Im guessing the OP is a true euro gamer and wants a completely solitaire experience.

Why guess? Just take a sec to look at my top 10 games and you can see I'm not a pure Eurogamer. I like games involving direct conflict. You made a mighty leap on data, even though the data was there.
toddpark75 wrote:
There is a good amount of interaction in agricola relative to other similar games.

As I well know. I've played Agricola 2 player, just a finished a few games online, and it's a vicious fight where blocking comes up all the time. Even multiplayer Agricola can involve various fun kinds of nastiness.
toddpark75 wrote:
Any time a game has interaction and more than 2p, there is a potential for kingmaking.
If it were round 14, and I have 3 wood. I could plow and sow to net 3 points, or I could build fences for 2 points. You have 15 wood, already renovated and have no fences. If you are the frontrunner, and Im in last, I could take fences for 1 fewer point for myself, but deny you 11 points, do I do it and ensure you lose and propel 2nd place to 1st? It might move me from 4th to 3rd.

If I think it's not going to help me, I don't do it. I don't see the point in kingmaking in Agricola. I can certainly see the point in taking 1 less point if it totally screws you over and gives me a better shot at first.
toddpark75 wrote:
If everyone always takes the perfect rational move, what is the point of playing? Maybe you should have built fences in round 13. This game does have a single player variant you should consider, or try Caverna.

Again, with the condescension? Dude, I don't want to play solitaire. I dislike Caverna because it lacks interaction. I'm not saying "ohmygosh, how could he block me, that's so mean, and it messed up my plans", I'm saying "wow, he blocked me, and it doesn't help himself, that doesn't seem like a smart move to make at this early stage of the game."

As far as everyone taking the perfect rational move, that's not possible in a game with hidden information. We don't know what cards the other players have. Assuming rational play is not the same as assuming predictable play.
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David Larkin
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An unexpected weak move occasionally, keeps your opponents honest. If you occasionally grab four sheep and let three run away to deny an opponent your opponents will be less likely to let four build up in future
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toddpark75 wrote:
sirgalin wrote:
toddpark75 wrote:
Thats rational if he wants to beat you...
if we were on the last turn and I punched you in the face before you made your play, knocking you out cold, and declared myself the winner by forfeit...

Thats just a bad analogy.



It's not an analogy. It's an explicit example to illustrate the bounds of a discussion about the nature of rationality and a discussion about optimization in the context of Agricola. I think you missed my point.
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sirgalin wrote:
toddpark75 wrote:
sirgalin wrote:
toddpark75 wrote:
Thats rational if he wants to beat you...
if we were on the last turn and I punched you in the face before you made your play, knocking you out cold, and declared myself the winner by forfeit...

Thats just a bad analogy.



It's not an analogy. It's an explicit example to illustrate the bounds of a discussion about the nature of rationality and a discussion about optimization in the context of Agricola. I think you missed my point.


It sounded to me that you are saying there is a broadly accepted way that rational people play Agricola, and taking those sheep isnt it. If that wasnt your point, then I missed it.
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FWIW, Game theory looks at functions across sets and, like statistics, doesn't generally care about individual counter-examples. These are outliers. If the claim is "In a decision point where there are two options and one is demonstrably better than the other, then I should take the better option." The contrapositive is I should not take the weaker option. It's impossible to show that you should take the weaker option through individual example because maxims don't care about context in that way. Rather, you'd have to look at trends and problem sets to demonstrate some more compelling way to upend the apple cart whose statement is at least as strong as "in most cases, you should take 4 sheep when you can't house or process them because...". Anyone concocting examples of why taking the sheep makes sense, should ask themselves if they're willing to state it as strongly as that. If you are, then we can have a really interesting discussion. If you're not, then you can't overcome the previously established maxim.
 
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