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Subject: Why Games Are Not Puzzles rss

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Mario Lanza
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Several on the Geek have wondered whether games are actually puzzles.

p55carroll wrote:
That leads me to wonder if all games are essentially puzzles. If any game can be boiled down to mathematics, might a solution not someday be found to every game known?


lewpuls wrote:
Now if a game is a puzzle to be solved, which seems to be a common view in the Eurostyle, then complexity helps make the puzzle harder to solve.


Games are, to a degree, puzzles. However, modern games add several layers of complexity that diminish the possibility that someone could "solve" the game. It's one thing for a computer to solve a game and it's yet another thing for a person to solve (and even be able to solve) a game. Tic-tac-toe is human solvable. However, any game with sufficient complexity is not. And that's partly because we're temporal. We only have so much time to devote to some task, be it making the optimal move or making peanutbutter cookies.

Let's start from a simple position. Take a two-player game that has all known information and nothing random--e.g. chess. The game from start to finish offers a tree of choices whose branches exceed the number of stars in our own galaxy. Picture, as impossible as it is, that an actual chart depicts every possible board position interconnected by paths that correlate to the available choices. Well, from any given position, we have all of the possible next steps we could follow which still offer a win somewhere downstream. It would, therefore, be useful to determine which next steps offered the greatest number of wins somewhere downstream. Having that, from any position, the next choice which offers the highest number of possible wins downstream is the optimal move.

We already know that if this chart was real it would encompass more paper than we have on the planet. As such it is far beyond anyone's ability to "work out" or "solve". Even computers shortcut this calculation by dropping moves which are deemed bad because they violate the principles that constitute good play. (We wouldn't lose our queen without good reason.)

Even the greatest human chess players having studied and played countless games and devoted themselves to the game sometimes suffer losses. Why? The game isn't human solvable. There's more to be digested than a brain can possibly handle. As such, grandmasters hone their intuitions and develop their style and sense of good and bad play. They're much more on track with what's optimal than the rest of us. And that's what makes a modern game exciting. While it might be solvable to God, the rest of us can't begin to manage the variables.

Now take a game with random factors like Poker. Our chart of all possible choices falls into chaos. The best thing that any position in the chart can offer is probabilities. People can make poor choices and still have things (sometimes) go their way. People can even play the player in such a way as to win from an inferior position. You can never know with any certainty what your opponent is doing or will do. Is he bluffing? The result is that we have a very limited ability to "solve" the game. Normally the best we can do is to try to judge what's a good move. If we're really on the ball we might even be thinking about whether that move offers good future moves.

Many boardgames have unknown information or randomness. They also involve other people. With two, most games are much less dynamic, but with three things are much more chaotic, thus much less predictable. We have very little ability to know who will do what and for what reasons. In fact, a person's moves are somewhat whimsical. In one situation where A, B, and C are true, you do X. In the same situation with A, B, and C still being true, but at some other place and time, you do Y. People are unpredictable and their motivations are always in flux. To some extent, we're always changing. The person (or gamer) I am today will be different from the person I am tomorrow or a year from now.

While I think it is possible to categorize games as a form of puzzles, I think that the exploration space and the variables involved are far beyond our abilities to properly digest and process. A game may periodically offer some situations where it is possible to humanly decide what the optimal move is, but that's not the norm. We would all consider boring (even stupid) any game that consistently presented you with choices from which it was humanly possible to identify the optimal move. I'm thankful for that. It means that games will continue to be fun and to offer interesting predicaments. It means I won't be able to solve them. I may develop some good thinking about what makes good moves, but winning will remain an uncertainty. "Solved" means you'll never lose a game. If we known with certainty that we'll win, there is no game. That's why I like to bring games with a greater element of luck to the table when I'm introducing others to modern games. I like to increase my odds of losing so that there is a game.

I love several games that I'm not good at. I like exploring the gamespace. Furthermore, I believe that only games that offer an uncertain outcome are worth playing. (It would be a waste of Kasparov's time to play me.) A computer may have "solved" a game. That doesn't mean you personally ever will. If even it were possible, would it be worth your time? Doubtful.

I used to be interested in strategy articles. Not anymore. It shortens the lifetime of the game. If it helps me leap forward on the road to mastery, that's less time that I have for exploring the gamespace. I enjoy making my own connections and figuring things out and I'm content to lose a few times while I do. We enjoy Eurogames for different reasons than a grandmaster enjoys chess. We enjoy achieving some mastery, but we also like that someone new to the game might be able to compete with us after only a few plays. You can't say that of chess. The variables, for good reason, are slanted more towards creating uncertainty.

Recently, I've played an old favorite: Tikal. We always play the auction variant. As far as I can tell, the game is not solvable. It continues to be a favorite because for as many times as I've played it I'm not a consistent winner. Even as it may be possible to mathematically calculate certain moves, the various aspects of the game add up to more than I can humanly manage. I've learned lots of good strategy but there's still a large gamespace I've been wanting to explore. For example, when I used to attend the World Boardgaming Championships I noticed on several occasions that the players had built the two biggest temples (a 9 and a 10) right at the jungle entrance. I dunno, maybe my group has some funny sort of group think, but I've never seen that sort of thing at home (a 5 and 6, late in the game, maybe). I wonder if there's a viable strategy in that. After more than 40 plays I have not exhausted the gamespace and I anticipate I never will. With 4 players, there are simply more possibilities offered by both the game and my opposition than I could hope to comprehend.

I think the pursuit of the optimal move is a pie-in-the-sky idea. Sure, we wish our every decision was the best one, but in reality it won't be. Instead wonder in the gamespace and learn from it and enjoy the discoveries you make along the way. If a game has other people, unknown information, and a couple random elements, trust me, it has far more than you'll ever be able to solve.

Puzzles are different. Some puzzles only offer one solution. Some have more. In most cases when I take on some puzzle, I'm content to "beat" it. I am not usually concerned with the degree to which I beat it.

For example, Sokoban is a puzzle. You shuffle boxes around to their designated spots in a warehouse. You beat a level by getting every box to one of the marked positions. I don't normally care that I could have achieved the objective in fewer moves. I am happy to simply beat a level and move on to the next. I guess in way, you might liken that to saying I don't care whether I win Tikal by 1 point or by 20. A win is a win. I suppose if I really loved a puzzle I might try to get the best possible score and thus "solve" the level, but I doubt it. I don't have the time or the interest to devote to that kind of mastery.

When I used to see professional bowlers on TV decades ago I joked about how much time they had to spend to become good at rolling a ball down a lane. It seemed to me like a complete waste of time. I now realize that there's reward enough in doing something if you enjoy it.

I feel the same way about chess as I did about bowling. I see it as a wonderful, brilliant game, but I don't have the desire to devote the amount of life to it that I would need to achieve any sort of mastery. That's what's great about Eurogames. There are enough unknowns that we're not usually expecting to achieve mastery or reach some pinnacle of play. The fun is in the moment, in the individual playing, of trying to figure out enough of the system to do well enough that we might beat the opposition. And that's enough of a challenge.

Do you know someone who loves to play a certain game? A lot of people in my old game group loved to play Railroad Tycoon. From my observation, they played it often because they enjoyed it and, I assume, because although they had enough wits and experience to have a hope of winning, they had no certainty in the matter. I can't imagine that anyone attacks a Sudoku puzzle with that same sense of fun and hope. You will solve most puzzles if you're willing to commit the time. Games are not like this at all. Those who spend too much time trying to optimize are labeled as having "analysis paralysis". Thus, to respect others, you make a reasonable move in a reasonable period. Puzzles are made for us to solve. There's no time limit, no one's time to respect but our own.

Puzzles are altogether different animals because they don't involve other people. That's one reason I never took to cooperative games. To me cooperative games are nothing more than social puzzles. I need real, human opposition if I'm to experience what I love about games. A puzzle is something I might do if I can't be playing games, but never instead of.

The tricky things about games and puzzles is the overlap. If you could distill a game down to a series of moments you might be able to find the puzzle in the scenario that any moment presents; however, as a game is a fluid thing and each moment is followed the unknowable human choices of our opposition, their similarities can only go so far. You'd have to cut out several factors to bring them more in line. Maybe in a way, playing games by email becomes more like a puzzle because of the elements it deemphasizes. You now have additional time to contemplate your moves while being respectful. You don't have the metagame elements present only at tables surrounded by live human beings. You're able to play each turn in relative isolation. That's about as close as you can make a game to a puzzle, I imagine.

Personally, I prefer all the faces around the table and the interactions that can only happen when you get a bunch of people who love games around a table. Because of the people, games will always be something more than puzzles.
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Brian Schroth
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mlanza wrote:
Let's start from a simple position. Take a two-player game that has all known information and nothing random--e.g. chess. The game from start to finish offers a tree of choices whose branches exceed the number of stars in our own galaxy. Picture, as impossible as it is, that an actual chart depicts every possible board position interconnected by paths that correlate to the available choices. Well, from any given position, we have all of the possible next steps we could follow which still offer a win somewhere downstream. It would, therefore, be useful to determine which next steps offered the greatest number of wins somewhere downstream. Having that, from any position, the next choice which offers the highest number of possible wins downstream is the optimal move.

We already know that if this chart was real it would encompass more paper than we have on the planet. As such it is far beyond anyone's ability to "work out" or "solve". Even computers shortcut this calculation by dropping moves which are deemed bad because they violate the principles that constitute good play. (We wouldn't lose our queen without good reason.)


This isn't a very sound argument, though I don't disagree with the conclusion. There are 2.83 * 10^74 possible positions for a 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube- that doesn't make it unsolvable.
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I have the veritable *Exquisite* @Solution@ for "Rubic's Cube": *smash* with 'sledgehammer'; and you only need played this ONCE! coal whistle
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BagelManB wrote:
mlanza wrote:
Let's start from a simple position. Take a two-player game that has all known information and nothing random--e.g. chess. The game from start to finish offers a tree of choices whose branches exceed the number of stars in our own galaxy. Picture, as impossible as it is, that an actual chart depicts every possible board position interconnected by paths that correlate to the available choices. Well, from any given position, we have all of the possible next steps we could follow which still offer a win somewhere downstream. It would, therefore, be useful to determine which next steps offered the greatest number of wins somewhere downstream. Having that, from any position, the next choice which offers the highest number of possible wins downstream is the optimal move.

We already know that if this chart was real it would encompass more paper than we have on the planet. As such it is far beyond anyone's ability to "work out" or "solve". Even computers shortcut this calculation by dropping moves which are deemed bad because they violate the principles that constitute good play. (We wouldn't lose our queen without good reason.)


This isn't a very sound argument, though I don't disagree with the conclusion. There are 2.83 * 10^74 possible positions for a 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube- that doesn't make it unsolvable.

True, but with a Rubik's cube, after you line up one side, I don't get to scramble the others.
 
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BagelManB wrote:
This isn't a very sound argument, though I don't disagree with the conclusion. There are 2.83 * 10^74 possible positions for a 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube- that doesn't make it unsolvable.


The thrust is whether or not complex multiplayer games are humanly-solvable. A rubic's cube is a puzzle. If it were designed to be some sort of game I would then argue that, if it were sufficiently complex, no human could solve it.

Games present primarily two factors 1) variables that emerge from the design of the game and 2) variables that emerge because of the human partakers. If not the former, then the latter will assure that a game cannot be solved.
 
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Great article. Thanks. I learned something.

The part that's got me thinking right now is:
mlanza wrote:
I used to be interested in strategy articles. Not anymore. It shortens the lifetime of the game. If it helps me leap forward on the road to mastery, that's less time that I have for exploring the gamespace. I enjoy making my own connections and figuring things out and I'm content to lose a few times while I do. We enjoy Eurogames for different reasons than a grandmaster enjoys chess. We enjoy achieving some mastery, but we also like that someone new to the game might be able to compete with us after only a few plays. You can't say that of chess. The variables, for good reason, are slanted more towards creating uncertainty.

I'm not sure what I'd be doing with a strategy game if not working toward mastery. Especially at my age, I don't really expect to achieve full mastery of a complex game, but there's always some degree of mastery that I can reasonably reach for. And if I'm not reaching for that, I wonder what else I'd be doing with a game.

You mention "exploring the gamespace." But for what purpose? Just for kicks? Or to learn something? If to learn something, then you're increasing your proficiency--working toward some degree of mastery.

You mention enjoying "that someone new to the game might be able to compete with us after only a few plays." But why compete, if not to hone your skills? Is it a tautological case of just liking Puerto Rico because you like Puerto Rico? Or liking player interaction just because you like player interaction? If so, then aren't you just saying you play games because they're fun?

The trouble with that is that fun is subjective. Kasparov might play chess because it's fun, but apparently that's very different than your playing Agricola because it's fun.

Most of the time, since I'm such a hopeless dabbler, I play games just to learn the rules and mechanics. I've got Magic Realm on the table right now, and I'm learning that. If I ever learn it, maybe my next step will be to start getting good at it. But for now, I'm still just learning the rules.

With a game like chess, where I already know the rules and mechanics, my aim is to improve. I'll never play at a level of 2000, but maybe I can get to where I'm playing at a 1500 level if I work at it. With that in mind, I'm happy to study books and do practice exercises in addition to playing games. And I'm happy to play solo against a computer AI, since that's good practice too.

If I wanted interaction wtih other people, there are countless ways I could get that. I could go downstairs and talk with my wife, or I could call a friend on the phone. Inviting another couple over for a game is another possibility, and I've done that sometimes. But the competitive nature of games is a drawback, as far as I can tell; I don't really want to be competing with friends. The structure of games is good, though; it's nice, once we're into the game, to know just what we're supposed to be doing. Sometimes that's better than having to make stuff up on the fly.

It seems to me that games are essentially learning devices. And learning is something measurable, especially when it comes to something as structured as a game. So, why not set a goal and pursue it? Winning the game at hand is one such goal that most all players pursue. Achieving a good win-loss record is a longer-term goal. Attaining a certain rating can be a goal for games that are rated.

By analogy, some people find it pleasant to go for a drive. I do, but it's better for me if I have a particular destination in mind. If I decide to take a road trip to San Francisco, it's going to be important to me to eventually arrive there and see the city. I'll probably enjoy the scenery along the way, and I may even take a few sightseeing detours, but I still want to arrive in SF. I would probably not just get in the car and go driving, without any destination in mind, and "just happen" to end up in SF several days later. That is, the random sightseeing along the way would not be my main objective. If the map tells me that following the Interstate will get me to SF most efficiently, I'm going to stick to the Interstate unless I set some side goal. "Exploring the gamespace" sounds to me like just driving westward without a map, along any country roads that catch the eye, and not caring whether or not you ever arrive in SF.

I like exploring the gamespace too, but I prefer to do it with a purpose in mind.

And that purpose is never just to interact with other gamers. In fact, I'd just as soon play solitaire or against a computer AI. Whatever purpose I have is going to be about the game itself, not about the people playing it.
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You had me at "peanutbutter cookies".
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I play games to have fun and socialize with my friends. Without games, my friends and I would quickly run out of small talk. If we aren't playing board games we would play a video game or probably have to take up fishing or some other sport. We just like to hang out and take a break from our daily routine and have some laughs while we do it. Games provide that opportunity for us.

The fact I have to learn them is just an annoying but necessary part of the experience. I would never want to "master" a game as it would put me above the level of my friends, reducing their chances at winning and removing the suspense from the game. Our fun comes from the laughs, the plotting and interactions at the table and even the chance to brag and make fun of one another at the end of the game.

Our joy is not in the knowledge of knowing we are more skilled. Or at least, it's such a small part it barely registers. If game are puzzles I would only play them alone, when really, really, bored...
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
You mention "exploring the gamespace." But for what purpose? Just for kicks? Or to learn something? If to learn something, then you're increasing your proficiency--working toward some degree of mastery.

I also really enjoy exploring the gamespace, and tend to avoid strategy articles for the same reason as the OP.

As a kid, I read the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, and the related Two Minute Mysteries (I think they were by the same author, but if not, they were in a similar style). Trying to solve the mysteries was fun. It would not have been fun to simply read the mystery and then immediately read the answer. Sure I would now be proficient at knowing the solution to that mystery, but I would have skipped the fun part to get there.

I know that 2p San Juan has a dominant over-arching strategy. But I'm still enjoying playing it using various strategies and tactics, trying to figure out how that known strategy really works. Honestly, I wish I didn't know about that best strategy.

I am enjoying playing Caylus Magna Carta. It has become clear to me that contributing to the castle early is necessary to win. (At least, that seems clear to me). What isn't clear at all is how you get the resources to be able to do that. I'm still fumbling around trying to figure out some strategies. It's fun to experiment, see the results, and learn. It will also be fun when I "solve" the game to the degree that I can actually do well regardless of the game configuration and what other players do. Forget about winning every time...I'll settle for playing competitively and not feeling like I'm playing at the level of a 5-year-old.

So I don't think the OP was saying that mastery wasn't a goal. I heard that the learning process itself (not the resulting knowledge) was the goal.

And separately from that, we enjoy euros because mastery by itself is not enough to win. Unlike, for example, Chess.
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Great article.

Essentially chess is based on domain specific memory structures at a professional level.

Quote:
One of the most influential experiments supporting this theory was William Chase and Herb Simon's (1973) study of novice and expert chess players, which followed on earlier work by A.D. De Groot (1965). Chase and Simon showed positions from actual chess games to subjects for 5 to 10 seconds and asked the subjects to reproduce the positions from memory. Each position contained 25 chess pieces. Expert players could accurately place 90 percent of the pieces, novices only 20 percent. Chase and Simon then had the subjects repeat the experiment, but this time the "positions" consisted of 25 pieces placed randomly on the board. These were generally not positions that would occur in an actual game. The experts were no better than the novices at reproducing the random positions: both experts and novices could place only five or six pieces correctly.

Other researchers replicated the Chase-Simon experiment in a variety of domains, using children, college students, and adults. The results were always the same: Experts had better memories for items in their area of expertise, but not for items in general. This shows, first, that mastering a mentally demanding game does not improve mental strength in general. The improved memory performance is domain specific. Chess isn't analogous to a barbell for the mind. Second, it shows that if memory strategies account for the expert's improved memory capacity, the strategies aren't general strategies applicable across all problem-solving domains. Chess experts have better memories for genuine chess positions, but not for random patterns of chess pieces or for strings of words or digits. Thus, experts aren't using some general memory strategy that transfers from chess positions to random patterns of pieces or to digit strings.

From long experience at the game, chess experts have developed an extensive knowledge base of perceptual patterns, or chunks. Cognitive scientists estimate that chess experts learn about 50,000 chunks, and that it takes about 10 years to learn them. Chunking explains the difference between novice and expert performance. When doing this task, novices see the chessboard in terms of individual pieces. They can store only the positions of five or six pieces in their short-term, or working, memory-numbers close to what research has shown our working memory spans to be. Experts see "chunks," or patterns, of several pieces. If each chunk contains four or five pieces and if the expert can hold five such chunks in working memory, then the expert can reproduce accurately the positions of 20 to 25 individual pieces. Chase and Simon even found that when experts reproduced the positions on the board, they did it in chunks. They rapidly placed four or five pieces, then paused before reproducing the next chunk.

Expertise, these studies suggest, depends on highly organized, domain-specific knowledge that can arise only after extensive experience and practice in the domain. Strategies can help us process knowledge, but first we have to have the knowledge to process. This suggested that our chess expert might be doomed to failure, and that schools should teach the knowledge, skills, and representations needed to solve problems within specific domains.


Source:
http://www.jsmf.org/about/j/minds_journey.htm

If you want to read a cognitive psychology search on the subject then I suggest to read this article:
http://matt.colorado.edu/teaching/highcog/fall8/cs73.pdf
 
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Hungadunga wrote:
Life is a puzzle.
With pieces missing. whistle
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
I'm not sure what I'd be doing with a strategy game if not working toward mastery. [...]

You mention "exploring the gamespace." But for what purpose? Just for kicks? Or to learn something? If to learn something, then you're increasing your proficiency--working toward some degree of mastery.


Kevin's summation is dead on, including the part about Encyclopedia Brown and Two Minute Mysteries (I also read these as a kid). Mastery matters. But to me, how I gain mastery is key. I gain mastery with each and every playing. I don't have to expend any time studying books or reading articles. It may slow my progression, but it maximizes my joy in the hobby.

I add that some of my joy comes from the uncertain outcomes games offer. I've played Dominion a hundred times but its design is such that I could very well lose to someone less experienced. I could invite some random friends over to play and we'd have a contest. Give me Thurn und Taxis and we wouldn't.

And here's the great part. All of the fun, the challenges and the uncertainty is built into Eurogames, no long-term investment required. I'll introduce my friends to a new game and in no time we're on a somewhat level playing field. Chess can't offer that.

I always play my best, but beyond that I relish the experience of thinking intently, making decisions, and seeing where they lead. I'm primarily playing against myself. I strive to make what I would characterize as a series of good decisions. Does that mean I'm always trying to make optimal moves? To a degree. But to do that you have to have first identified what *the* optimal move is and I don't think, most of the time, that's possible. We, at best, seek to identify strong moves. By the end of the game, regardless of the outcome, I'm largely satisfied with the experience if only I played well. For me that simply means no boneheaded mistakes (like foolishly losing one's queen). I will both have enjoyed the experience and learned something. The learning part usually comes clearer in the game postmortems, which I also enthusiastically enjoy.

I too would qualify myself as a "hopeless dabbler". You say you play to learn rules and mechanics. I play partly to explore those very things. I love to get a look under the hood and see up close how all the moving parts fit together. In the same way that an art lover might study a painting all afternoon, I like study and explore how the designer constructed his microcosm. For me all of this is what it means to "explore the gamespace". By no means does exploring the gamespace mean I'm not trying to win. I'd see no point in that.

The other point I was trying to make is to not get caught up in making optimal moves, because, like I said, who can accurately ascertain that? In trying to make only optimal moves there is always the fear that the move we're making is suboptimal. It's a matter of degree really, but I think it's more appropriate to seek out "strong" moves lest we rob ourselves by fretting over identifying and making that one optimal move.

Steven Wright once said "Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." In a theoretical way, making the optimal move is possible if you have unlimited time. But who does? We've only got just so much life and not a day more and so everything should cost no more than it reasonably should. It's an exaggeration, but do we really want to spend 6 hours to make the best possible move? Or would we rather learn to measure a situation and act in a prompt manner making strong moves? In life it's better to learn to make good decisions with economy than great decisions without.
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mlanza wrote:
And here's the great part. All of the fun, the challenges and the uncertainty is built into Eurogames, no long-term investment required. I'll introduce my friends to a new game and in no time we're on a somewhat level playing field.

Some euros, perhaps. But certainly not all. Age of Steam? Brass: Lancashire? Caylus?
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There is one huge aspect about optimal moves. Somes games provide a possibiltity to calculate optional moves for 100 % sure constantly, and only thing you left with is the choices and actions of other players affecting your play. In the other group of games you can calculate the probabilities of your moves rougly or estimate them and make your decisions based on the chances. You'll be still facing the consequences of fellow players' actions. I prefer the latter since it models more accurately the problems and the uncertainty factors we face in our lives.
 
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garygarison wrote:
mlanza wrote:
And here's the great part. All of the fun, the challenges and the uncertainty is built into Eurogames, no long-term investment required. I'll introduce my friends to a new game and in no time we're on a somewhat level playing field.

Some euros, perhaps. But certainly not all. Age of Steam? Brass: Lancashire? Caylus?

Not to mention auction games where newbies have no idea what something is worth, and games with interacting special abilities that must be learned (e.g. Race for the Galaxy).

But as a sweeping generalization, and focusing on family-oriented and lighter euros, sure. The playing field is more level, relative to many other types of games.
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Mario Lanza
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garygarison wrote:
Some euros, perhaps. But certainly not all. Age of Steam? Brass: Lancashire? Caylus?


Maybe my friends are smarter than average or maybe I'm dumber than average, but I had played Age of Steam twice before introducing it to my friends and I'm sure that by the second game, someone other than myself had won. Usually, I've bought a game after I've played it once or twice so I'm not far ahead of friends by the time I present it to them.

Even so, I would wager that even if I had as many as 5 plays in on any of those games, it wouldn't take but 3 or 4 games until the playing field was somewhat level. That'd be 8-9 plays for me and 3-4 for them. I'm just saying that the learning curve in Eurogames is such that things quickly level out. Even if I had played Caylus 30 times, I'm sure my friends could win with 3-4 plays under their belts. The odds might still be slanted in my favor, but I wouldn't go into the game with a certain victory. I might feel I had 2:1 odds, but I can play a game with those odds and still enjoy it.
 
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CJ
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Great article. Thanks. I learned something.

The part that's got me thinking right now is:
mlanza wrote:
I used to be interested in strategy articles. Not anymore. It shortens the lifetime of the game. If it helps me leap forward on the road to mastery, that's less time that I have for exploring the gamespace. I enjoy making my own connections and figuring things out and I'm content to lose a few times while I do. We enjoy Eurogames for different reasons than a grandmaster enjoys chess. We enjoy achieving some mastery, but we also like that someone new to the game might be able to compete with us after only a few plays. You can't say that of chess. The variables, for good reason, are slanted more towards creating uncertainty.


But the competitive nature of games is a drawback, as far as I can tell; I don't really want to be competing with friends.


The competitive nature of games is the primary attraction for me. Why 'play' a game if there isn't a competitive challenge which, of course, makes strategy articles all the more interesting. Less time wasted learning the game; more time invested winning the game ninja
 
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Matt Loscutoff
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I'd rather lose to a good move, Than win to a bad one...
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sullafelix wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
Life is a puzzle.
With pieces missing. whistle



not missing - just face down & not drawn yet or face up & not drafted.
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Robert Chang
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Gamasutra Article

This article actually gives another perspective on what specifically defines a game within the space of "interactive systems." According to this author, he believes that what's special about a game is that it has meaningful decisions in that, in puzzles, a decision is either right or wrong, in games, a decision has more meaning towards the outcome.

I'm not sure if I agree with him, but it is an interesting point.
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Kevin B. Smith
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The gamasutra article is especially interesting when compared to the views of Lewis Pulsipher (in his blog here on BGG). The terms "puzzle", "contest", and "game" appear in both places, but with different meanings (I think).

The article focuses on single-player video games, and may or may not be "correct", but it definitely has some good food for thought for boardgame folks as well.
 
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David Boeren
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Why games are not puzzles?

As Bruce Lee once said in Enter the Dragon - Boards don't hit back.

Puzzles are things that lie there and wait for you to solve them. They do not hit back, they do not change their tactics or properties. They are completely inert and will let you do whatever moves you have planned out.

Games are not. There are other players besides you. They see what you are doing and anticipate where you're headed. And then they try to beat you there, or screw with you so you don't achieve your goals. It is this resistance that makes a game fundamentally different from a puzzle, because you have to continually adapt your plans.
 
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Robert Chang
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Actually, puzzles do "hit back" and change tactics and properties. It's one of the emergent properties of some interactive systems.

Take the Rubix Cube. It's obviously a puzzle, but every decision the player makes creates an emergent puzzle wherein the original puzzle has been manipulated and the puzzle changes its tactics and properties that the player has to solve.
 
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Anthony Simons
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Roburt wrote:
Actually, puzzles do "hit back" and change tactics and properties. It's one of the emergent properties of some interactive systems.

Take the Rubix Cube. It's obviously a puzzle, but every decision the player makes creates an emergent puzzle wherein the original puzzle has been manipulated and the puzzle changes its tactics and properties that the player has to solve.

You can always look at each step in a puzzle as a separate puzzle, but I completely disagree that puzzles change tactics; and the only properties of a puzzle which are changed are those changed by the person trying to solve it.

The Rubik's Cube can be likened to a maze; a person trying to get out of the maze might reach a dead end, but can double-back and/or find a different route out. The maze doesn't change, only the solver's position in that maze changes. Likewise, the Rubik's Cube remains a cube, with a positional state one move away from its previous position.
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Robert Chang
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Hmm, I don't know about the analogy of Rubik's cube to a maze.

Every choice in a Rubik's Cube puzzle leads to new choices, which is not like a maze, where certain paths ultimately leads to dead ends. Rubik's Cube don't have dead ends.
 
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