New, from visionary director James Cameron, comes a thrilling tale of sentient machines as they seek to take over the world... by betting on wooden camels racing around a cardboard track...
...okay, so it's not quite as gritty in reality. TL;DR = I made an AI that plays Camel Up, and pitted it against actual real people. This is the game report.
Nigel is the name for just over 130 lines of code I wrote in R. The idea is that you plug in all the information about what's happening in a game of Camel Up, and he tells you how to bet, or whether to roll the dice. His name is Nigel because I always play as the character who looks like my adulthood hero: Nigel Thornberry.
How it Works
Technical stuff hidden in spoiler box so feel free to skip if not interested
Spoiler (click to reveal)
As we know, Camel Up is a game of probability, what makes it so good is that there are so many possible outcomes of a leg that humans cannot hope to comprehend them all. Basically, Nigel does comprehend them all. He is built to calculate every possible outcome for a leg, work out the probabilities, and then apply basic Game Theory to calculate the value of available bets. There's no machine learning involved (or indeed necessary), because the probabilities are always fixed. If you want more details/want to see my code, by all means drop me a message/reply on this thread, but I don't want this spoiler box to get much bigger!
MAN VS MACHINE
Okay, so the fate of mankind's right to race camels fell into the hands of 2 complete newbies (one of whom was more concerned with whether I had hard-coded Nigel a gender (he is male)), an agent of chaos, 2 reasonably experienced players, and a seasoned gamer... we're screwed!
I spent the couple of days before game day softly whispering to Nigel as I debugged him, while downloading pictures of Deep Blue to get him in the mood. I was more hyped than he was.
Game was set up, and Nigel drew the short straw: he was gonna be last in the turn order.
Leg 1: Place Deserts and Roll
The only thing Nigel can't do is decide where to place his desert tile, so I did that for him in the only place that was left after 6 other players had placed theirs. This turn then went by in the blink of an eye as the humans pretty much refused to bet on anything (in fairness, the camels weren't exactly playing ball). So 5 dice rolls and no bets later, and Leg 1 completely passed Nigel by.
Leg 2: Finish it before Nigel moves!
It was here that the humans unveiled their dastardly strategy: if the machine never got to take a turn, the machine couldn't possibly win! Another turn flies by without Nigel getting a sniff, as Yellow slides into an early lead.
Leg 3: IMITATE THE MACHINE!
Here, the humans realised that if they don't place bets, even they won't win the game, so they actually did start to do things other than roll dice this leg. Nigel firmly planted his banner in Yellow's camp, causing the humans to do the same. But of course, as with any game of Camel Up, one Camel has to spoil the party, which in this case was Blue.
Leg 4: Foregone Conclusions
In this leg Blue and Yellow built on their lead, meaning betting was pretty straightforward and Nigel was unable to make use of his computational advantages. At this point it was pretty obvious that Green was gonna come last, and so duly, Nigel got that bet down at the earliest opportunity.
Leg 5: You can do it, Green!
With Blue and Yellow dominating on the track, the story shifted away from Nigel and onto the Green camel, which was lagging behind but still trying its hardest. All the players were cheering it on, despite all having bet on it to come last - fickle creatures! To the amusement of all, Nigel (who lacks an awareness of bets he has already placed) kept trying to bet on Green to come last even though he had already done so, settling on the obvious Blue/Yellow leg bets with minimal grumbling, although the humans continued to yaffle all of the juiciest leg bets before Nigel could get his (decidedly less greasy) mitts on them.
Leg 6: Out of his Misery
Just as the turn order started to come round to favour Nigel's position, so Yellow duly crossed the line, hereby ending Nigel's torturous experience.
The final scores were as follows:
1st: Niall (experienced player) - 26
2nd: Ben (seasoned gamer) - 25
=2nd: Hannah (gender-curious newbie) - 25
4th: Nigel (hapless machine) - 20
5th: Emma (newbie) - 19
6th: Ella (experienced) - 15
7th: Joe (agent of chaos) - 13
Okay, so it wasn't quite the Deep Blue moment we were hoping for, but all players agreed that Nigel was screwed over by his turn position (a thing that has been well documented before) and that he played well. It is also worth noting that out of 7 players, Nigel was the only one never to place a single losing bet.
All in all, 4th place isn't that bad...
...and I'm still proud of him!
Very cool and original thread! That's why this game is so appealing for casual players. It will never leave my collection for sure. High player counts and anybody can win. Even Grandpa.