Derry Salewski
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I want to hear what people think about some issues that have arisen for my brother and I as we've just started playing this game.

I(25) got this for him(19) for his birthday a couple weeks ago because he really likes it, and I like it quite a bit too. We played at least half a dozen games without a single issue, and then we hit a series of roadblocks all at once. They're all slightly different issues, but all a bit entangled. I will do the best I can to explain the problems, and the viewpoints.

The first thing that's a little bit of an issue, perhaps more so in a two player game, (keep in mind that all of these are issues as they relate to a two player game, and that our concerns are about balance/fairness in that regard.) is the timer: For many scenarios it's possible to find a shorter solution after an initial one has been declared. So, it's usually to the advantage of both players to keep studying the board as the minute ticks down. So, we miss the end time a lot. I think that it's pretty clear in the rules that there is one minute to find a better solution after the initial bid is declared. I don't take this to the extreme of not letting him give me a final bid once I notice the time has run out, but I expect one immediately, as he has already had the extra time of us not noticing the clock AND the focus of not having to pay any attention to it himself.

This isn't so much a flaw in the rules of the game as it is with us/the-components. I think that we will either develop the habit of always being aware of the timer, or simply find an electronic timer that can be set to give a warning at ten seconds or something. (I am hoping those exist!) The problem of being pressured for a last second bid started causing additional problems, though.

First, I get a little bit annoyed at the concept of 'hedging'(would that be the right word?) a bid--bidding fifteen when you see a solution of thirteen, 'just in case.' My problem with this is that the rules clearly state that a bid is to be made once the problem is solved, and that that bid should be the number of moves in the solution, and then the timer starts. The rules don't explicitly state that subsequent bids must reflect an exact solution, but I am fairly certain that in the 'spirit of the rules' (he told me to stop using that term) it is implied that further bids should follow the model of the first bid.

This isn't a huge issue, as it's rarely in one's best interest to bid higher than the solution, as the risk of the opponent seeing your solution is probably higher than the risk of you not being able to count (you're both playing ricochet robots, after all!) Coupled with the first issue of demanding a bid as soon as the timer runs out, this brings up the situation where it IS technically in one's best interest to bid one less than the established bid 'just in case.' I think the following (slightly paraphrased, but accurate) exchange will start to show where we're differing a little bit on our views of the game:

(Before we get to the dialogue, it should be noted that on the last occasion, he forgot my bid after the time ran out (something anyone might do) and I refused to tell it to him. He got upset because he wanted to 'be safe,' and I dug in on the issue because 'why would anyone who had a solution need to say anything other than their lowest solution?' It definitely doesn't say anywhere in the rules that bids must be repeated, and while I wouldn't do it to be a jerk, and I would see the need for it with more players, I'm fairly certain that remembering an important number for a minute is a skill that's fairly essential for the game and, as you will see, is part of a bigger issue for me.)

Me: Time's up.
Him: Okay. What was your bid?
Me: I forget.
Him: No you don't. Tell me your bid.
Me: No, the time is up, give me a bid if you have one.
Him: I need to know if my solution is less than yours.
Me: Don't worry, I will tell you if it is.
Him: I want to bid one less than you just in case.
Me: Why would you want to do that?
Him: Why wouldn't I?
Me: Because you have an exact solution.

If it was just a 'just in case' thing, it might still bother me, because it is allowing the other player much more room for error than the initial bidder. But through at least an hour of heated, uh, debate in the vein of that above, it was revealed that we're viewing bids in a slightly different manner.

If I bid, it is because I believe (sometimes falsely, as it's possible to make a mistake on occasion) that moving the robots in a planned way will solve the problem in that number of moves. I have solved the problem, I have counted the moves, and now I am ready to state my bid. I might see a fairly easy twenty move solution and say 'twenty,' just to get some pressure on my opponent when I am fairly sure I can find a quicker way to solve it. All of this is in accordance with the rules.

My brother . . . I'm not really sure. He definitely sees solutions. He's thinking differently about it though, and I'm not sure how much of it is his mind working a little differently, or just him interpreting the rules differently (probably some of both.) It seems like he will often 'know' the robots can get there in twelve or thirteen . . . or maybe fourteen moves. He is then able to figure it all out and get the exact number (whereas I think I am keeping track of an exact number as I go along the different paths.) So when he starts off the bidding, it's usually with an exact solution since he's had the time to figure it out before me. The same is usually true of a bid given somewhere in the first fifty seconds of the timer when there are multiple bids from both of us. The problem is--as you probably have figured out-- the last second bids at the end.

For him, knowing HOW to solve the problem but not the exact number in the solution is enough to call the problem solved. When he suggested that I might also give a rough estimate bid sometimes without knowing an exact, counted number, I was quite taken aback. He was also very disbelieving at first when I explained that I never say a bid without thinking that is an exact solution. So, calling a bid one less than mine at the last second on the occasions where he knows how to solve the problem, but hasn't quite worked the exact details out yet is a perfectly valid move, because his mind is kind of working that way anyway (it just becomes obvious at this point.)

I, on the other hand, view a bid as representative of an exact solution worked out completely beforehand in one's mind (as the rules state about the first bid, and would seem to imply about subsequent bids.) So, any bid that's a rough approximation or a guess, even if he only needs the first five seconds of initial moves to fully realize the next ones and solve the problem, feels like it is robbing me of actually having solved the problem completely before bidding. We are disagreeing sometimes on what a bid actually represents. (Thanks to the rules not being one hundred percent clear.) I see making a bid like that on the same level of just blindly bidding less and hoping you can improvise a solution. He thinks they are completely different. I'm probably being a little bit harsh, but I think it IS in the middle somewhere, according to the rules.

So, I hope that sort of explained issues I am having. Typing this all out has actually really helped to clarify my thoughts on the issue, so I might as well post it to hear what people thing. I wouldn't mind people responding with stories/thoughts/suggestions. We're both pretty stubborn, but also pretty smart, and will likely figure out the best way to get around this, as we DO like the game (I really think that a digital stop watch will solve the issue.)

(This also shed a little more light on something my brother noticed--in our games, he generally gets several points first, and then I usually end up getting more by the end. I ventured a hypothesis that his mind was better at the game in the abstract, while mine took a while to adjust to a new board, but became increasingly efficient as it gained familiarity with it. Maybe this is reflected a little bit in my wanting exact, concrete solutions, and his being okay with approximate, but surely correct ones.)

Thanks for reading!



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Jeff Chunko
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You have to announce your bids before the timer runs out.

RR deals smoothly with large numbers of players, but not as well with two. In a large game there is always someone who is hoping the time will run out ASAP, and therefore can watch it like a hawk. Guesses are not as big a deal since the "crowd" should find the optimal solution before the timer runs out.

If you're playing with just two players, I recommend starting the timer right away, it keeps the game moving. If no one gets a valid bid in before it runs out, set the chip aside.
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Jeff Chunko
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Also, you should push people to show their solutions quickly after the timer runs out, and not to hesitate or "take back" moves. That will make them plan things out ahead of time.
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The first player to announce a solution starts the timer.

Any other players, including the player who made the bid, then have a minute to announce a lower solution.

Once the timer has finished, all bidding stops. The player who declared the lowest number of moves then performs the route, and claims the chit.

No bids are done/kept in secret.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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scifiantihero wrote:
Me: Time's up.
Him: Okay. What was your bid?
Me: I forget.
Him: No you don't. Tell me your bid.
Me: No, the time is up, give me a bid if you have one.
Him: I need to know if my solution is less than yours.
Me: Don't worry, I will tell you if it is.
Him: I want to bid one less than you just in case.
Me: Why would you want to do that?
Him: Why wouldn't I?
Me: Because you have an exact solution.


I agree with the others; bids must be made before the timer has run out. Here's the conversation you should have next time:

You: Time's up. My bid was 12, and here's my solution...
Him: Wait, I've got a lower bid!
You: Too bad - you should have made it before the timer expired.

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Todd Redden
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I agree with the problem you stated regarding using a silent timer for this game. Everyone should be able to focus on finding a shorter solution. I recommend a speed chess clock, which can be set for 1 minute with a 10 second warning. As for making declarations, if you play with the friendly rules (which we gave up on, unless teaching a newbie) where anyone with less chips can duplicate your declaration and take over as low declarer, then it behooves the chip leader to bump his declaration up a couple notches, then if nobody sees the correct solution, make a final low bid instantly before time runs out. I see nothing in the rules that states the declarer must declare a true solution, and only that the lowest bid must be able to show that run. Playing without friendly rules works best, so there is no benefit to holding back, and the winner will be the first player to declare the lowest true run. It is all players' responsibility to remember the current lowest bid when and while the timer is flipped. (edit...)And no bid can be accepted after the timer has run out!
 
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Quote:
Me: Time's up.
Him: Okay. What was your bid?

The time is up. He has no bid. Even if you wanted to be lenient, and let him make his bid as soon as the timer ran out, he failed to do so. He has made no bid. He doesn't an extra six lines of dialogue before making his bid.
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Mark Brown
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It really gets me that in this day and age game publishers are still using sand timers. You can build an electronic timer set for the exact conditions of your game for little more (maybe even less) than the cost of a sand timer.
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Simon Lundström
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Not that it has anything to do with the OP, but I like sand timers much better than electronic timers. I'd hate to have some battery-driven whatnot in my board game boxes.

For the OP, exact solusions is what is referred to, I think. You can always blurt out a bid higher than you think the solution is, but then you run the risk of the opponent saying the real solution before you.

You can be kind to other players and let them make bids after the timer runs out, but then it's no frigging "what's your bid?" crap. You say what ever solution you have, end of story. If you can solve it in that number of steps or less, you've taken the point.
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Giannis Tsekos

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When the timer problem came up to our group i had and idea and from there on we used it. The only person in charge for the timer is the one that is "winning" till now. If he let us use more time cause he was not looking the timer then its his fault and if i tell a lower bid before he said "times up" then i win.

P.S. most of the times that is not the case to our group because im so stupid to be obsessed with the rules and im always looking the time and calling "times up" even if its not to my good >.
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Derry Salewski
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Thanks for the thoughts and replies guys!

@Jeff, starting the timer at some point even when bids aren't declared might be a good idea for two players.

@Sphere, yeah that is probably how the conversation needs to go. I think since we've only been playing it (well we've played before with other people's games) for a little while, we just haven't gotten used to keeping an eye on it, so it seems overly jerky to enforce that strictly, but in hindsight, if we'd just started doing that from the beginning, none of this would have come up.

(and related to that, your idea, Darkmind, is a good one.)

@Todd, thanks for the suggestion of a chess timer. I hadn't even thought of exploring those. I like chess as well, so it would be a good investment. :) Is that sort of warning a standard function, or should I look for any brand in particular?

Thanks again!

:D

 
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Todd Redden
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Better than a chess clock, all you really need is a clock application for your cell phone (iphone?) or PDA. They all have countdown timers with audible alarms which will shut down further guessing promptly,
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Derry Salewski
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Sadly, my phone may be a little too old to have a feature like that.

Or I might just be too incompetent to find it!

 
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Our solution is just a cheap kitchen timer. As long as it resets back to the time you have entered after each use, it's good to go.

Many years ago, I competed in the RR tournament run by Rio Grande at Origins. I had my set, with the digital timer. The Rio Grande employee running the tournament saw it and said that he never played with the sand timer any more. They are too erratic (a "minute" one way doesn't always equal a "minute" the other way, and neither way is likely to equal 60 seconds) and it's way too easy to miss the end of the time.

And as far as calling after the timer... we allow it for newbies if they are still counting the route. And we will allow more experienced players to finish counting, just so they know how many it is, but they missed their opportunity to declare a count when the timer went off.

Once the chip has been awarded, we frequently reset and allow other players to work through their solutions. It reinforces what they did right/shows them what they did wrong.
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As mentioned above, I think most of your problems would be solved by enforcing the strict timing: After someone has noticed that time is up, and said "time's up", no further bids are allowed.

I just wanted to chime in on this one:

scifiantihero wrote:
'why would anyone who had a solution need to say anything other than their lowest solution?'


If you play by the normal rules, and use the catch-up mechanism, it is perfectly reasonable to bid higher than your lowest solution, provided you are in the lead (and not tied):

1) If somebody else finds the same solution as you, you won't get the chip anyways
2) It may help you, in case you counted wrong
3) You want to start the timer as soon as possible, so that the other players have less time to find a better solution
And the most important point:
4) It makes the search harder for the other players. If you bid 10, they have to search longer for a solution than if you just bid 8. (For the algorithmically inclined, think about a DFS tree.)

I see nothing against this in the rules, on the contrary, it does say that you are allowed to demonstrate your solution in less moves than you announced.
 
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Todd Redden
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borgemik wrote:
As mentioned above, I think most of your problems would be solved by enforcing the strict timing: After someone has noticed that time is up, and said "time's up", no further bids are allowed.

I just wanted to chime in on this one:

scifiantihero wrote:
'why would anyone who had a solution need to say anything other than their lowest solution?'


If you play by the normal rules, and use the catch-up mechanism, it is perfectly reasonable to bid higher than your lowest solution, provided you are in the lead (and not tied):

1) If somebody else finds the same solution as you, you won't get the chip anyways
2) It may help you, in case you counted wrong
3) You want to start the timer as soon as possible, so that the other players have less time to find a better solution
And the most important point:
4) It makes the search harder for the other players. If you bid 10, they have to search longer for a solution than if you just bid 8. (For the algorithmically inclined, think about a DFS tree.)

I see nothing against this in the rules, on the contrary, it does say that you are allowed to demonstrate your solution in less moves than you announced.


I don't fully understand this. You don't have to be in the sole lead to be affected by the catch up rule. Anyone with less chips than you can take over your bid. Which is why you would bid a little higher, then shout out your true lowest solution the instant the timer finishes, being the sole lowest bidder, and getting the chip. No one can prevent you from getting the chip just by being able to find the same solution, they also had to announce the lowest bid before the timer ran out (another thing that makes the bidder focus on the timer rather than shorter solutions.) If unable to find the solution then the attempt reverts to the previous caller. This prevents others from just blurting out the same low number solution as soon as they hear it, then finding the solution later before the time runs out, which is less likely to work for more difficult puzzles with longer solutions (when the shortest path is 12 or more, for example.)

One thing that hasn't been brought up as a problem that arises with play is when someone calls out a wrong (too low) solution. They can't make it work (ie - it's 13, not 12). Someone else found the correct 13 but didn't call it because someone already called a shorter solution. I guess the fix to this is that you should call out your shortest solution anyway, and get the chance for the chip if the shorter solution isn't possible.

edit - Oh, I reread the quoted text and was misinterpreting its intent. Yes, all those things are reasons why a bidder in the lead may want to call out a higher than accurate solution. (I admit it usually doesn't work though, because players will likely find a shorter solution before a longer one. You really aren't looking for a solution of the same length somebody else found.)
 
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Derry Salewski
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Yes, the rules are fairly vague when it comes to what you actually have to bid, after an initial bid. Though they are pretty clear that an initial bid has to represent an actual solution. (Going by the newest edition, at least.) Is the line about a player not being penalized for finishing their solution in less moves than their bid there to make it okay if you miscounted a move, or is it there to encourage some sort of economic mini-game within the game? I assume that some of the vagueness comes from having no way to enforce what's in a players mind anyway, but my rambling refers to two people playing mainly with each other, so some sort of agreement needs to be made if we're going to keep enjoying the game

We don't play with the tiebreaker rule in a two player game (and am I wrong in thinking that an initial bid doesn't count to be tied? Someone said that somewhere, and I don't have the rules on me at the moment) as it makes very little sense. (I don't think it makes sense in multiplayer games either, though I could play devil's advocate for it if I had to, in that case!)

(Actually, if the guy I saw say the thing about an initial bid not counting for the tiebreaker rule is right, I might not mind it as much. I think this only came up once, and I let my brother do it, but told him we were nixing that rule from that point forwards. It was something like a really easy 4-5 point solution, which I got, then he just kinda smirked and said it, and said he got the tiebreaker . . . which may not be right. I like rambling.)

In regards to bidding higher to make the search harder (something I wouldn't do, as I explained, but it's interesting to think about nonetheless!): If I see an eight, in this case I know my opponent is as good as I am at the game, and might have no trouble finding my eight two seconds after I say ten, in which case I am in trouble. Also, shouldn't the assumption that one's opponent is roughly as good as one is always encourage the lowest bid possible, for these reasons? (and if the opponent really is not as good, winning should be easy anyway?)
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Derry Salewski
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tmredden wrote:


One thing that hasn't been brought up as a problem that arises with play is when someone calls out a wrong (too low) solution. They can't make it work (ie - it's 13, not 12). Someone else found the correct 13 but didn't call it because someone already called a shorter solution. I guess the fix to this is that you should call out your shortest solution anyway, and get the chance for the chip if the shorter solution isn't possible.


This is in the rules. It says something about saying your solution, even if it's higher than the lowest bid, if you think the lowest one is unsound, or in case it is.

 
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What has been described is almost entirely a social problem, not a rules problem. The one exception is for failed bids. In that case having the failed bidder lose a cheap seems reasonable.
 
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tmredden wrote:
I don't fully understand this. You don't have to be in the sole lead to be affected by the catch up rule.


This strategy fails miserably if you add 2 to your solution, only to hear seconds later that the person you tie with say the number you should have said. And then nobody else finds it. This means you have given one chip away to your nearest competitor.

Yes, I understand it is a philosophical question whether you want to (or should) use this strategy at all. I am just pointing out that the best move in such cases is not to state your best solution. (Of course, if people assume you play this strategy, it is not that efficient anymore...)
 
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tmredden wrote:
edit - Oh, I reread the quoted text and was misinterpreting its intent. Yes, all those things are reasons why a bidder in the lead may want to call out a higher than accurate solution. (I admit it usually doesn't work though, because players will likely find a shorter solution before a longer one. You really aren't looking for a solution of the same length somebody else found.)


Good, then we agree

Yes, it definitively does not always work, but it doesn't hurt either.

But I disagree regarding the section I highlighted -- Players will likely find a simpler solution before a more complex one. But in many setups the simpler is the longer one.

(People are generally much better with performing Depth First Search than Breadth First Search. And when you know someone found a solution with 10 moves, you can stop your current search path when you reach that point and instead start searching for variants.)
 
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Derry Salewski
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clearclaw wrote:
What has been described is almost entirely a social problem, not a rules problem. The one exception is for failed bids. In that case having the failed bidder lose a cheap seems reasonable.


More like . . . small rules problem leads to a cascading series of social problems, and the energy from those is going to have to be re-channeled to use social means to rebuild the rules to be stronger.

Kinda like real life.

Except I don't like real life very much, and prefer beautiful, beautiful rules in games. I dunno. Maybe the control over choosing a system of rules to be governed by is part of why I love games so much (there's no maybe about it!)

That's probably a topic for another day, or at least another thread!

 
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