lotus dweller
Australia Melbourne Victoria

Just bumped into this after following a thread on RSP.
It does look academic and does include some calculus but if you have the time and the thunking it might deepen the games you design. Appears free but with no qualification or credit.
http://oyc.yale.edu/economics/gametheory Game Theory with Professor Ben Polak "About the Course This course is an introduction to game theory and strategic thinking. Ideas such as dominance, backward induction, Nash equilibrium, evolutionary stability, commitment, credibility, asymmetric information, adverse selection, and signaling are discussed and applied to games played in class and to examples drawn from economics, politics, the movies, and elsewhere."

Wim van Gruisen
Netherlands Den Bosch Unspecified

Just as long as people understand what game theory is, and how little it has to do with boardgames, this could be interesting.

lotus dweller
Australia Melbourne Victoria

Whymme wrote: Just as long as people understand what game theory is, and how little it has to do with boardgames, this could be interesting. Sounds like you are just the person to do this. What is game theory? How much does it have to do with boardgames?



Thanks for posting this, looks interesting.

Wim van Gruisen
Netherlands Den Bosch Unspecified

Pinook wrote: Sounds like you are just the person to do this. What is game theory? Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that is used in the social sciences (most notably economics), biology, engineering, political science, international relations, computer science (mainly for artificial intelligence), and philosophy. Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual's success in making choices depends on the choices of others. While initially developed to analyze competitions in which one individual does better at another's expense (zero sum games), it has been expanded to treat a wide class of interactions, which are classified according to several criteria. Today, "game theory is a sort of umbrella or 'unified field' theory for the rational side of social science, where 'social' is interpreted broadly, to include human as well as nonhuman players (computers, animals, plants)" (Aumann 1987).
I got that from Wikipedia. There's much more about it there. Basically, game theory looks at how an actor can make the right choice if the outcome of the situation is not only determined by that decision, but also by the decision of other actors who decide at the same time. And it looks at what the outcome is of situations where several actors make choices independent from each other. Provided that everyone acts rationally, has complete information and goes for the outcome that benefits him most.
The Prisoners Dilemma is perhaps the most famous thing that got out of game theory; this is the part where in certain circumstances, if everyone rationally chooses the best outcome for himself, whatever the others choose, everyone is worse off than if they all made the suboptimal choice.
Pinook wrote: How much does it have to do with boardgames? Close to nothing. That is, in games where players move at the same time instead of in turn, the right cause of action may be computed with concepts from game theory, but I don't think that that would really give you a significant advantage.

lotus dweller
Australia Melbourne Victoria

Whymme wrote: Pinook wrote: How much does it have to do with boardgames? Close to nothing. That is, in games where players move at the same time instead of in turn, the right cause of action may be computed with concepts from game theory, but I don't think that that would really give you a significant advantage. I am assuming your comments apply to game theory contributing to game design.
Is "games knowledge" like histology or botany  if I know the names of the tissues or the names of the trees and bushes then when I observe I see organs or ecologies rather than tiny squares on a microscope slide or lots of green leafy stuff in a forest. If I have "academic games knowledge" do I see clearer how to set up a mechanism? Or will "practical games knowledge" serve me well enough (or better)?

Wim van Gruisen
Netherlands Den Bosch Unspecified

Pinook wrote: If I have "academic games knowledge" do I see clearer how to set up a mechanism? Or will "practical games knowledge" serve me well enough (or better)? No. Game theory is a mathematical concept, and it has nothing to do with games. Please check Wikipedia, for instance, so that you get an idea what game theory is about.
Game theory does not give you academic knowledge about board games, it doesn't give you building fundamentals for board games, it has roughly as much to do with games as with cooking.
One small caveat; you can structure a game around certain mathematical concepts, and you can do the same with the concepts of game theory. But that doesn't mean that game theory has anything basic to do with games  just like arithmetic has nothing to do with game design, even though in some games you have to add up points.

Dimitris Chatzidimitriou
Greece Athens

Sorry, i am not familiar with the mathematical terms in English so i will try not to use many...
I study Mathematics in the University of Athens and i took this class last year. To tell you the truth i loved it! Some parts of it have nothing to do with boardgame design for reasons that were mentioned, while some other parts help you in building strategies in CERTAIN games and some other parts actually DO help (i think) in game design. For example, the "Shapley value" helps you make fair rewards for teamachievements. I am sure there are more applications but i'm just a student and not familiar with the more complex ideas...

J White
United States Cedar Rapids Iowa

Quote: Game theory is a mathematical concept, and it has nothing to do with games. I hate to be so flatly contradictory, but that's a strangely misinformed claim. The sort of game theory that appears to be the topic of the course mentioned by the OP has everything to do with many aspects of boardgames. In particular, bluffing behaviors have been very fruitfully analyzed by those methods. Much of that work has focused on games like poker, but similar elements appear in many boardgames.
It certainly is worth noting that most of the techniques of game theory explicitly address situations where choices are made simultaneously, but many boardgames include such elements (e.g. in El Grande when pieces from the tower are assigned to areas, or in Ticket to Ride when players select routes at the beginning of the game).
On the other hand, the related field of combinatorial game theory (the topic of the course I myself am teaching this semester) does deal with sequential choices more common in boardgames; everything from Tictactoe to Chess and Go are within the scope of combinatorial game theory. Combinatorial game theory's main techniques leave no room for elements of chance, however (so dice, random draws of cards or tiles, etc. are not addressed), and thus give only limited analysis of most boardgames. In short: Game theory doesn't (at this stage) tell you nearly everything you'd want to know about boardgames, and in most cases a basic course in probability will provide you more useful tools, but saying game theory has nothing to do with games strikes me as much like saying physics has nothing to do with engineering. JJWT.C.H.

Wim van Gruisen
Netherlands Den Bosch Unspecified

That is why I included the caveats. In games where people make choices at the same time, game theory applies. However, I had the idea that the OP thought that game theory was the study of boardgames and the designing thereof. And that he was quite persistent in that thought even after my previous posts. And that prompted me to be more absolute in my assertations than I would normally be; I thought that by stating things so strictly that they were factually wrong, that I could actually avoid a misunderstanding to take place.
I only got some of the basics about game theory during my studies (economics); I am sure that you guys know much more about it. I'm quite convinced, though, that the basis of what I said is still correct; game theory is not the theoretical framework that directly applies to boardgames, even though in some games gametheoretical concepts apply.
(My first idea of gametheoretical situations in boardgames was Diplomacy, BTW. And a game that I am currently designing is based on the players choosing simultaneously, and might thus benefit from gametheoretical analysis. I hadn't thought about that before this thread)

Dan Neher
United States Harrisonburg Virginia

In my experience, boardgames that are based on the classic dilemmas of Game Theory are not much fun. See, eg, Friends & Fortunes.

Dimitris Chatzidimitriou
Greece Athens

Whymme wrote: game theory is not the theoretical framework that directly applies to boardgames, even though in some games gametheoretical concepts apply.
Exactly what i was trying to say! And by the way, Diplomacy was the first game i thought as a counterexample to your previous posts.

David Jackman
United States Indianapolis Indiana

djnesq wrote: In my experience, boardgames that are based on the classic dilemmas of Game Theory are not much fun. See, eg, Friends & Fortunes.
By the same logic, wouldn't understanding these dilemmas allow you avoid including them in your design?

lotus dweller
Australia Melbourne Victoria

OK I've done 2 of the lectures so far.
What follows is poorly considered, incomplete, unfair, highly subjective, and just how I happen to be feeling right now.
I have played a few games but probably far less than many here, so my general gaming knowledge is not great. I have found the lectures do a good job of giving me jargon/langauge to think and talk about some aspects of gaming. I now see the difference between outcome and payoff. And understand more of how scoring can improve a game that might also be played just "win or lose". eg Bridge or James Rizzi
This course approaches maths the way psych cources approach stats  very very slowly. A maths subject might have covered the first 2 lectures in say? 10 minutes. (shudder)
If you know all the stuff like "common knowledge", outcome, payoff, "prisoners dilema" and "strategy" and have the langauge to communicate about it then so far you wouldn't have got much out of this beyond a view of an oak covered lecture hall at Yale.
But so far I am finding it educational and relevant to games design and even game play. I'm guessing that the poster here saying its largely irelevant has forget that ignorance of these matters can exist. Or that the course may soon take a trajectory into irrelevance.


