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Subject: abstract = combinatorial? [poll] rss

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David Buckley
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Poll
Which of the following best fits how you use and understand the term "abstract strategy game"?
All abstracts are combinatorial. All combinatorial games are abstracts.
All abstracts are combinatorial. Not all combinatorial games are abstracts.
Not all abstracts are combinatorial. All combinatorial games are abstracts
Not all abstracts are combinatiorial. Not all combinatiorial games are abstracts.
      64 answers
Poll created by Buckersuk
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Bill Cook
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I want to say, "you have to define combinatorial" before I can answer. But since we can't agree on what's an abstract strategy, how can we agree on what's combinatorial?
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David Buckley
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EMBison wrote:
I want to say, "you have to define combinatorial" before I can answer. But since we can't agree on what's an abstract strategy, how can we agree on what's combinatorial?


I thought we had a common understanding of what combinatorial means: perfect information and zero randomness after initial set up. Does anyone here use a different definition in the context of games?
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Evan
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Combinatorial but not abstract: Caylus, Agricola: ACBS
Abstract but not combinatorial: Dominoes, Stratego

(Fight me)
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Russ Williams
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I'm missing the option "The label 'abstract' is too ambiguous for me to answer this question out of context".

(I'll also note that you're using "abstract" and "abstract strategy" interchangeably, which not everyone does.)
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Stephen Tavener
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The overtext below is true.
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... and don't forget PIGs (Perfect Information Games).
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Stephen Tavener
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kobold47 wrote:
(Fight me)

Chessboxing?
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Robert Bracey
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Its not particularly useful as a poll. All of the elements are phrased as 'look at term A and distinct term B' then the overall poll implies 'do you think A and B are the same term'. In addition to the obvious confusion with 'games which are abstract' rather than abstract strategy games.
 
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Herb
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Buckersuk wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I want to say, "you have to define combinatorial" before I can answer. But since we can't agree on what's an abstract strategy, how can we agree on what's combinatorial?


I thought we had a common understanding of what combinatorial means: perfect information and zero randomness after initial set up. Does anyone here use a different definition in the context of games?


More formally CGT concerns games for which:

1. There are two players moving alternately.
2. There are no chance devices and both players have perfect information.
3. The rules are such that the game must eventually end.
4. There are no draws, and the winner is determined by who moves last.
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Herb
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russ wrote:
I'm missing the option "The label 'abstract' is too ambiguous for me to answer this question out of context".

(I'll also note that you're using "abstract" and "abstract strategy" interchangeably, which not everyone does.)


I'd agree that "abstract" and "abstract strategy" need to be defined explicitly to make any discussion meaningful. The terms are bastardized so much that there is no universal agreement as to their definition.
 
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Robert Bracey
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herace wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:

I thought we had a common understanding of what combinatorial means: perfect information and zero randomness after initial set up.


More formally CGT concerns games for which:

1. There are two players moving alternately.
2. There are no chance devices and both players have perfect information.
3. The rules are such that the game must eventually end.
4. There are no draws, and the winner is determined by who moves last.


Okay 1 is clearly important. No-one I have heard so far has suggested that abstract strategy games involve only 2 players.

I am not convinced 3 or 4 are true of most uses of combinatorial - Chess does not fulfill the second, a lot of very simple positional games do not fulfill 3.
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Nathan James
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I expect the usefulness of that definition is seen in the realm of game theory analysis rather than the art of game design or conversing about game genres.
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Martin Grider
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kobold47 wrote:
Combinatorial but not abstract: Caylus, Agricola: ACBS
Abstract but not combinatorial: Dominoes, Stratego

(Fight me)


Agricola has random card draws. Not combinatorial.

Sorry, totally missed the "ACBS" tacked on there. (We can be friends. whistle)
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David Buckley
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russ wrote:
I'm missing the option "The label 'abstract' is too ambiguous for me to answer this question out of context".


OK. I'm guessing this is related to the point you made in that other thread that there are two (or more) definitions of "abstract strategy game" that are hononyms of each other. Do you have a prefence for one definition over the other or do you use both defintions in different contexts?

Quote:

(I'll also note that you're using "abstract" and "abstract strategy" interchangeably, which not everyone does.)


Perhaps that was a bit sloppy but from the context it should be obvious that "abstracts" is intended as a shorthand for "abstract strategy game" I think.
 
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David Buckley
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herace wrote:
russ wrote:
I'm missing the option "The label 'abstract' is too ambiguous for me to answer this question out of context".

(I'll also note that you're using "abstract" and "abstract strategy" interchangeably, which not everyone does.)


I'd agree that "abstract" and "abstract strategy" need to be defined explicitly to make any discussion meaningful. The terms are bastardized so much that there is no universal agreement as to their definition.


The whole point of the poll was to see how people used and understood the term. Defining it explicitly would therefore have made no sense.
 
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David Buckley
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RobertBr wrote:
herace wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:

I thought we had a common understanding of what combinatorial means: perfect information and zero randomness after initial set up.


More formally CGT concerns games for which:

1. There are two players moving alternately.
2. There are no chance devices and both players have perfect information.
3. The rules are such that the game must eventually end.
4. There are no draws, and the winner is determined by who moves last.


Okay 1 is clearly important. No-one I have heard so far has suggested that abstract strategy games involve only 2 players.

I am not convinced 3 or 4 are true of most uses of combinatorial - Chess does not fulfill the second, a lot of very simple positional games do not fulfill 3.


Based on a small amount of googling it seems that there is no clear consensus about whether games that can end in draws should be regarded as combinatorial.
 
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Corey Clark
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This reminds me of some semantic discord I had with mr. Bolaños over the proper usage of the term "impartial". He wished to adhere to a strict textbook definition, whereas I argued at the very least I felt games like Carteso and Dots and Boxes ought to be considered impartial because the true impartial game was something of a sterile abstraction not having much use in a conversation on the design of new games or the mechanics of existing ones. The real issue I think though, as in all semantic disputes is, does it matter? I'm fine if people want to refer to abstracts alternatively as combinatorial. As long as effective communication is preserved, its all good. Not once has this caused confusion in a conversation. I tend to prefer to reserve "combinatorial" for the specific genre which has many very solid entries. But it should probably be extended to games like Ayu and Bug where being stalemated is the objective.
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David Buckley
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CoreyClark wrote:
The real issue I think though, as in all semantic disputes is, does it matter? I'm fine if people want to refer to abstracts alternatively as combinatorial. As long as effective communication is preserved, its all good.


My recent exchange with Robert Bracey might not give that impression but actually I agree with you!
 
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Russ Williams
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Buckersuk wrote:
Do you have a prefence for one definition over the other or do you use both defintions in different contexts?

FWIW I don't have a strong preference, but I tend to use "abstract" in the combinatorial sense. A reason I do this (besides simple tradition or habit) is this:

A lot of people don't know the word "combinatorial", or think it sounds too hifalutin/technical/pretentious/etc, so "combinatorial" often doesn't work as a one-word label "in the real world". But there is the understandable single word "themeless" for the other sense of "abstract" which does seem understandable and functional "in the real world".


Also, I suppose I simply find myself personally talking and caring about "abstract" games in the combinatorial sense much more often than in the themeless sense! Rarely does it matter to me personally whether a game has no theme or light "euro-style" theme or lighter Hive/Chess-style theme. That distinction is fairly irrelevant to me. And games which are very strongly themed (in a sense that I care about) already have specific labels: usually "wargame" or perhaps more generally "simulation".
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Herb
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CoreyClark wrote:
This reminds me of some semantic discord I had with mr. Bolaños over the proper usage of the term "impartial". He wished to adhere to a strict textbook definition, whereas I argued at the very least I felt games like Carteso and Dots and Boxes ought to be considered impartial because the true impartial game was something of a sterile abstraction not having much use in a conversation on the design of new games or the mechanics of existing ones. ...


You entirely miss the point here. All truly impartial games are equivalent to some NIM game. No form of "Dots and Boxes" is equivalent to a NIM game because "Dots and Boxes" is not impartial. So impartial games and partisan games require different forms of mathematical analysis.

CoreyClark wrote:
... The real issue I think though, as in all semantic disputes is, does it matter? I'm fine if people want to refer to abstracts alternatively as combinatorial. ...


If you think that impartial games include "Dots and Boxes" then yes we'll have a semantic dispute.

Humans are often sloppy when communicating and we often depend on context to resolve the ambiguity. But that isn't any reason to forsake trying to communicate more precisely. To arbitrarily conflate "abstract games" with "combinatorial games" is just going to cause problems communicating.

CoreyClark wrote:
...As long as effective communication is preserved, its all good. Not once has this caused confusion in a conversation. ...


Huh? The forums are filled with "he went that (⇌) way."

CoreyClark wrote:
I tend to prefer to reserve "combinatorial" for the specific genre which has many very solid entries. But it should probably be extended to games like Ayu and Bug where being stalemated is the objective.


I dare you to try to define what a "combinatorial game" is in a thread, and then to get agreement on the definition. You'll invariably spin down into the semantic rabbit hole.

 
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David Buckley
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herace wrote:

If you think that impartial games include "Dots and Boxes" then yes we'll have a semantic dispute.


From the article:
Quote:
In combinatorial game theory, an impartial game is a game in which the allowable moves depend only on the position and not on which of the two players is currently moving, and where the payoffs are symmetric. In other words, the only difference between player 1 and player 2 is that player 1 goes first. The game is played until a terminal position is reached. A terminal position is one from which no moves are possible. Then one of the players is declared the winner and the other the loser. Furthermore, impartial games are played with perfect information and no chance moves. Meaning all information about the game and operations for both players are visible to both players.


Unless there's something I'm misunderstanding, Dots and Boxes conforms to all the above criteria. Admittedly the article then continues
Quote:
"Impartial games can be analyzed using the Sprague–Grundy theorem, stating that every impartial game under the normal play convention is equivalent to a nimber."


So am I right in thinking that the only reason you don't consider Dots and Boxes impartial is that it can't be analysed using the Sprague-Grundy theorem?
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Herb
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Buckersuk wrote:
...

So am I right in thinking that the only reason you don't consider Dots and Boxes impartial is that it can't be analysed using the Sprague-Grundy theorem?


Yes. It has been a while and maybe my perception is wrong. But in normal play for combinatorial games the last player to move wins. For Dots and Boxes the winner is based on the score of boxes. To me the whole point is defining a game to be impartial is that it can be totally analyzed by using nimbers.
 
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Michael Amundsen
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Buckersuk wrote:

Unless there's something I'm misunderstanding, Dots and Boxes conforms to all the above criteria."


The same moves are not available to both players. Only I get to write my initial in a box.
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michamund wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:

Unless there's something I'm misunderstanding, Dots and Boxes conforms to all the above criteria."


The same moves are not available for both players. Only I get to write my initial in a box.


That is the gist of it because the winner is based on score which depends on boxes claimed.

As I said, it has been a while since I tried to dissect this in detail. I wonder if the "terminal position" notion is fuzzy such that games with either normal play and misère play could be considered to be combinatorial games.

I'm pretty sure that the strict definition of a combinatorial game would exclude games with scores and games with ties.
 
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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herace wrote:
in normal play for combinatorial games the last player to move wins. For Dots and Boxes the winner is based on the score of boxes.

Of course, this also means payoffs are not symmetric.
 
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