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Subject: Questions prompted by the "Kingmaking" thread rss

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Philip Eve
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One of the points of view represented in the "Kingmaking" thread was this (paraphrased): "Whenever playing a game, you should always try to win". But is it valid, or not, to play to improve my rank if I have given up on winning? What happens if the optimal strategies for winning if at all possible and for merely maximising utility (with respect to a utility function that gives higher utility to higher ranks, in a graduated fashion) diverge? What is there that one should always do, and what is there that comes down to personal preference? We will assume that the game rules and context are silent on the subject of whether it's fine to settle for 2nd place, 3rd place etc. (So the context of the game isn't, say, that you're all fighting to be the only one who gets a parachute on a stricken aeroplane or something.)

Further, what happens if by improving your rank, you change who the overall winner of the game is? What if you're not improving your rank, merely your score?

Poll
12. Players A, B, C and D are playing a game. The game's winner is decided on victory points in some form. The player with the most victory points wins, the player with the second most victory points comes second, etc. The rules of the game and the story behind the game together give no indication that coming 2nd is to be thought of as better than coming 4th; neither do they give any indication that it is to be thought of as equivalent. It is the last round. It is Player A's turn, and either he is the last player or the actions of subsequent players will have only minor effects on the scores of the other players, such as will not change the game outcome. The game is perfect-information and non-random (or no sources of randomness remain in the game), and the results of all moves at this point are easily calculable, as are the players' standings at the end of the game given a particular move.

At no point in the game has Player A been stomped on by any of the other players, so Player A does not have any particular desire to seek revenge on another player.

Player A has 25 points. Player B has 30 points. Player C has 125 points. Player D has 130 points. Player A has a choice between precisely two moves, move P and move Q. If he chooses move P, then both he and Player C will get 10 points. If he chooses move Q, then there is no change in the score of any player. What should Player A do?
He ought to choose move P
He ought to choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, and I don't have a particular preference
13. Consider a situation the same as in the LAST question, but this time Player A and Player B have swapped scores. So now Player A has 30 points and Player B has 25 points. Move P still gets Players A and C 10 points each, and move Q still does nothing. What should Player A do?
He ought to choose move P
He ought to choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, and I don't have a particular preference
14. Consider a situation the same as in the FIRST question, but with differences as follows: A has 100 points, B has 105, C has 110 and D has 115. A is the very last player to move. He has a choice of two moves, P and Q. If he chooses move P, then a die is rolled. If the result is a 6 then player A gains 20 points and wins. Otherwise nothing happens. If he chooses Q, then no die is rolled and A gains 8 points. What should Player A do?
He ought to choose move P
He ought to choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, and I don't have a particular preference
15. Consider a situation the same as in the LAST question, except that this time, if Player A chooses move P then Player C gains 15 points regardless of the die roll. (Player A still gets 20 points on a 6, none otherwise.) What should Player A do?
He ought to choose move P
He ought to choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, and I don't have a particular preference
16. Consider a situation the same as in the THIRD question, except that this time, choosing move Q gets Player A only 4 points instead of 8 (and therefore does not change his rank). What should Player A do?
He ought to choose move P
He ought to choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P
He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move Q
He has no obligation to choose either, and I don't have a particular preference
      174 answers
Poll created by Hammerite
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Andreas Krüger
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Woo, I figured out all the questions. Did I just pass some sort of intelligence test?
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Rick Vinyard
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I think your choice of possible responses represents part of the underlying problem with any discussion of "Kingmaking", but doesn't directly address the issue... obligation.

In my opinion, at no point is a player obligated to make any decision whatsoever. If the rules constrain a player's choices such that they must make a particular move, so be it.

Thus, by including choices such as "they ought to choose to move P" followed by "He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P" implies that the first response is really "They are obligated to choose move P" without making that choice explicit to the pollee.

By not making it explicit you will have invalidated the purpose for having two alternatives for move P and two alternatives for move Q.
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Philip Eve
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rvinyard wrote:
I think your choice of possible responses represents part of the underlying problem with any discussion of "Kingmaking", but doesn't directly address the issue... obligation.

In my opinion, at no point is a player obligated to make any decision whatsoever. If the rules constrain a player's choices such that they must make a particular move, so be it.

Thus, by including choices such as "they ought to choose to move P" followed by "He has no obligation to choose either, but if it were me I'd choose move P" implies that the first response is really "They are obligated to choose move P" without making that choice explicit to the pollee.

By not making it explicit you will have invalidated the purpose for having two alternatives for move P and two alternatives for move Q.


The intended meaning is as follows: In each question, P and Q are both legal moves and there are no other legal moves. That is to say, the set of legal moves is precisely {P, Q}. And in "legal moves" I include anything like passing, dropping out of a contest, or any other decision that might be made. So Player A must choose either P or Q in order for the game to proceed.

"He ought to choose move P" means just that: although choosing Q would be a legal move for A, you feel that it would be improper for him to do so and you would think twice about playing with him again in the future, since he doesn't play in the correct spirit.

"He has no obligation but I'd choose P" means that you don't think either move would be improper, and if you were in that situation your inclination would be to choose P.
 
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Philip Eve
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Thamos von Nostria wrote:
Woo, I figured out all the questions. Did I just pass some sort of intelligence test?

you have just been admitted to the Secret Club of Highly Intelligent BGG Users. geekmail sent
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J.L. Robert
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In all situation, I'd prefer to "go big" (try for the win), or else it doesn't particularly matter.
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Jeff Noel
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Thanks for posting this. Someone got upset with me at a convention for making just such a play during a game of Puerto Rico (improving my position relative to his, but causing the third player to win in what was otherwise a close race). I'm glad the court of public opinion sides with me
 
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Jage
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Whenever I'm in this situation, and I have the chance to choose moves that may affect the "winner," I have a simple choice.

Who screwed me over/messed me up/did something to make me not in the contention for the win?

I play to screw over that person. It's not really "kingmaking," because the other person only got there because he screwed over me. It's part of the game, your choices have consequences.

And in my opinion, it doesn't even have to be a "screwing" in the normal sense. The player could have no idea what he did, but he could have taken something I wanted to use in a grand scheme. So I mess up his plans back.

Perfectly legit and normal way to play, in my opinion.

If, in the highly, highly unlikely chance that nobody ever messed up any of my plans (which has never happened in my experiences, because if nobody messed up my plans I'd be in contention for the win) then I wouldn't do anything to hurt either.
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Tim Schwarz
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I don't understand questions 3 and 5. If you have a chance for the win, why not go for it? Question 4 is really hard, I probably would go for it for the larger score for my ego, but I don't like effecting the result.

I guess I'd summerize my position as: I'll try to move from last to second place, even if I can't get into first, but otherwise, I will try not to effect the status quo.
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Ray
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jageroxorz wrote:
If, in the highly, highly unlikely chance that nobody ever messed up any of my plans (which has never happened in my experiences, because if nobody messed up my plans I'd be in contention for the win) then I wouldn't do anything to hurt either.


I agree with this too. I mean look at your example. you say no one has messed with me which sort of hints at there not being ways to do that in the game and then you say there is an endgame scenario where I am given options to mess with the other players. It's a bit contradictory. If the game was such a game where players could affect each others score and I was loosing I would be in the thick of it pushing peoples buttons and seeing who was most supportive long before it got to end game. Your scenario (no one hurts a certain player in a 'take that' game where hurting other players score is how the game plays) just doesn't happen for me.
 
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    Your initial description of the game you're playing is so completely tortured it was painful to even read. Is your scenario an attempt to clearly delineate a situation that rules out any possibility to weasel out of answering the questions, or are you making reference to an actual game?

    If it's an actual game please forward me its name so that I don't inadvertently sit down to a session of it.

             Sag.

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Philip Eve
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Sagrilarus wrote:

Your initial description of the game you're playing is so completely tortured it was painful to even read.

I'm tempted to take that as a compliment. But at any rate, I wasn't trying to write a poem; the intent was, as you guessed, to clearly and unambiguously express the situation I had in mind.

I want to work with a theoretical situation which abstracts the essentials of a particular type of game end situation which might arise occasionally in many different games. While it is impossible to be sure that no-one will think of something to query, or to latch onto and say "It depends on whether xyz, and therefore I've insufficient information to answer", I nevertheless want to specify as much as I can in order to make clear the problem I intend to put across.

I had no particular game in mind in any of the questions.
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Philip Eve
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Talltim wrote:
I don't understand questions 3 and 5. If you have a chance for the win, why not go for it? Question 4 is really hard, I probably would go for it for the larger score for my ego, but I don't like effecting the result.

In question 3 you can go for a 1 in 6 chance of winning (but with the catch that you have a 5 in 6 chance of remaining in last place), or you can go for the play that will with certainty move you from last place to third. For what it is worth, I answered "He isn't obliged to pick either, but I'd pick Q". That is because I do not regard a 1/6 chance of winning and a 5/6 chance of coming 4th as having a higher utility than definitely coming 3rd.

You might feel that you'd go for the possibility of winning, but you can surely see that a person might not. If not, suppose that the situation was this instead: You have to roll not 1, but n dice and if you roll all sixes then you win, otherwise you lose. For what value of n do you regard it as being preferable just to accept 3rd place? There must be one, unless you make no distinction whatsoever between 3rd and 4th place (in which case you would choose the die roll whatever the value of n).
 
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J C Lawrence
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Hammerite wrote:
...a utility function ...

Further, what happens if by improving your rank, you change who the overall winner of the game is? What if you're not improving your rank, merely your score?


In broad I don't care. I simply don't care. What I do care is that you have such a utility function that produces a recognisable form of win-approximation. Which exact approximation you use is up to you and I really don't mind too much which it happens to be. I just want you to have and use such a win-approximating utility function. Pick one, any one. Please.

A previous thread on the area: When you can't win, what do you play for? Another thread: Conceding games -- good, bad, expected, why? There are many such threads.
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Philip Eve
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wtrollkin2000 wrote:
I agree with this too. I mean look at your example. you say no one has messed with me which sort of hints at there not being ways to do that in the game and then you say there is an endgame scenario where I am given options to mess with the other players. It's a bit contradictory. If the game was such a game where players could affect each others score and I was loosing I would be in the thick of it pushing peoples buttons and seeing who was most supportive long before it got to end game. Your scenario (no one hurts a certain player in a 'take that' game where hurting other players score is how the game plays) just doesn't happen for me.


I think I understand your and jageroxorz's problems with this situation. My description of the problem states that no player has screwed over Player A enough to make him consider taking revenge on that player. This makes sense in the view of "screwing over" that I apply, which is that there must be some absolute magnitude of screwage in an act for it to register as such. You however are applying a relative rather than absolute concept of screwing-over, whereby the player who has inconvenienced you the most might be considered to have screwed you over, and thus might be a target for taking-down. There is nothing wrong with this but I had not taken it into consideration. The questions might be inapplicable to you, unless you feel that you can interpret them in a way that makes sense having ignored the statement that "nobody has screwed A over".

I think, though, that a game can have opportunities to affect other players' scores without being a "take that" game. Also, in none of the questions do I posit a way for players to reduce others' scores, only increase them.
 
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Sean Todd
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Unless I read it wrong, in question three you're choosing between a 1 in 6 chance of moving from fourth to first and a guaranteed move from fourth to third. In question five you're choosing between a 1 in 6 chance of moving from fourth to first and guaranteeing staying in fourth.

I'm surprised more people selected "He ought to choose move Q" in question five when it guaranteed staying in fourth rather than moving from fourth to third. And fewer people selected "He ought to choose move P" too.

Am I reading this incorrectly or does this make sense?
 
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Travis Worthington
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Instead of stating the questions as

"everything stays the same, but everything is different now what do you do?"

Why not just rewrite the question every time?


 
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Eric Jome
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Play to win, even when you cannot win. All moves that improve your position, either by actually improving it or holding back a player ahead of you or delaying the game to give you more time, all such moves are valid.

Playing to win says absolutely nothing (!) about playing the best play. Playing to win means you are trying to win. You may freely suck at it. You may make any move you deem in your own mind will eventually come the closest to making you win... for good or for ill, wise or foolish.

Just keep trying to win the game. Even when you can't.

Do not make a move to hurt another player just because they made a move to hurt you earlier - that is revenge, not trying to win. Do not abandon the game and do random things just because you cannot win - that is poor sportsmanship, not trying to win.

Feel free to make a move against a player that is behind you if it moves you up. Feel free to sabotage a player ahead of you, even if that player is not in first, especially if your move will help you catch up... heck, if it will help your allies catch up or even just give you a chance to make an alliance with someone who might let you catch up.
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Eric Jome
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Quote:
The rules of the game and the story behind the game together give no indication that coming 2nd is to be thought of as better than coming 4th; neither do they give any indication that it is to be thought of as equivalent.


It is always preferable to finish higher in some fashion, either ranking or total points, than it is to finish lower. 2nd is always better than 4th. Try for 2nd if you cannot get 1st. Try for the closest to 3rd if you are going to be 4th.

Always more points. Always better position. That is the only ethically right thing to do.
 
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Harald Korneliussen
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Ugh, I didn't bother reading through all that algebra in order to answer. But in practice, I do

1. Always play to advance my own position, even if I can't realistically win (I recently traded two cards for one in Settlers, with the leader, even when he's got a 2:1 harbour, just to get under the robber vulnerability limit. It was in a tournament. It probably didn't change the winner, though.)

2. When having a choice of who to harm (while advancing myself) I pick the leader, the one who has harmed me in this game, or the one who's most likely to harm me later (slight metagaming here!). In that order.
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Eric Jome
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I am sad to see that the answers are so frequently wrong in the poll. This means that in general people have a very poor conception of good sportsmanship, which is a sad state of things if it is true.

The only acceptable answer in the first case is P. This moves this player up, both in rank and total score - it is clearly the best move for this player. It is irrelevant that it helps someone else. Consider this variant; if it were still early in the game, would it change your decision? If it would, you answered wrong.

The only acceptable answer in the second case is P. Again, this moves this player up, maybe not in rank, but in total score, which is the main competitive framework of the game. It is always, clearly, the best play to score as many points as you can for yourself provided you do not lose the game or provide more benefit to another player by doing so. This is definitely NOT kingmaking - it is a legit move that scores more points.

The clearly best answer is P again. You are trying to win. The risk is largely irrelevant to the attempt. Go for the win, roll the die. I suppose it is acceptable if rather flat and unpalatable and pointless to take the lower score... but that really is the wrong thing to do and speaks of a pretty weak player.

Generally, the best play reverses to Q in the last case, only because the payout for the other player is guaranteed. P is still perfectly acceptable and perhaps preferable, but it is more acceptable to take Q because it minimizes the risk of another player getting further ahead of you.

And we're definitely back to P again in the last case. The miniscule gain is offset by the chance to significantly increase your points and rank.

The relative positions of other players to each other regardless of their position to you is totally irrelevant to you choice at all times. None of these questions does anything to discuss any aspect of kingmaking.
 
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J C Lawrence
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cosine wrote:
It is always preferable to finish higher in some fashion, either ranking or total points, than it is to finish lower. 2nd is always better than 4th. Try for 2nd if you cannot get 1st. Try for the closest to 3rd if you are going to be 4th.


There's a value choice there. Winning is always preferable of course, but if the win is not possible it is a preference item as to whether more score, better rank, would have won if the game went longer, larger percentage score of the winner's score, or any of a variety of other win-approximations is preferable. Often it is contextual to the game, or the session, or the player, or some other element. It clearly isn't universal. Some of this is addressed in the thread: When you can't win, what do you play for?
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Eric Jome
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Kingmaking is, by definition, a move made by one player to no benefit for them that benefits another player. If the move benefits you, it is never kingmaking. If the move benefits you and benefits some or all other players, it is only kingmaking if it helps some or all of them more than it helps you... and even then, it is probably still okay because it helped you. All moves that help you by definition are acceptable moves.
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Darren Hron
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I dont see any of these situations particularly "Kingmaking" (I've not followed the other thread).

Kingmakeing to me is generally one of two things.

1) Actively helping the other player win with little, no, or negative benefit to you. Bad trades, attacking an opponent to whittle down defenses, Underbidding over bidding etc

2) Broken game such that the above situations are ALWAYS true that the person in last has a final move that always puts the second place person into first. (Or other such device)
 
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Philip Eve
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cosine wrote:
I am sad to see that the answers are so frequently wrong in the poll. This means that in general people have a very poor conception of good sportsmanship, which is a sad state of things if it is true.


It says something about you that you see the poll questions as having "right" and "wrong" answers!
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