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1830: Railways & Robber Barons» Forums » General

Subject: Artificially Intelligent software for lonely players rss

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Wim Vanherle
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I recently purchased 1830, which I strongly believe belongs in my collection, knowing full well that I would have a very hard time finding people interesting in playing this with me.

So far my wife has played (and surprisingly enough enjoyed) the beginner's version of the latest Mayfair release (the one that only plays the operating rounds, and none of the stock rounds), but the full game with stock dealing doesn't tickle her fancy. In my gaming group, I doubt if I would find more than three people (me included) to spend an entire afternoon playing a game that doesn't involve space ships or dice.

Today I discovered the old PC game of 1830, and while it certainly scratches an itch, I much prefer to look over my enormous, beautiful game board and handle all the little chits and -- believe it or not -- paper money (yeah well, sue me ).

And then I got to thinking, what if I could combine them? Have the PC game AI act as my opponents, while playing everything out on the board? I could have the game do "their" thinking, have it show me the decisions and moves, I would replay it all on the meatspace version, do my thing on the board, send my thing back to the PC, and repeat until forever! Compare with a chess AI (or PBeM) game that you play out on an actual board. Unfortunately, the PC game doesn't pause between every decision made, and sometimes moves a little too fast for me to keep up with what my opponents are doing. Not quite ideal.

So I was hoping that somebody somewhere would have had the same idea and designed a stand-alone AI without all the fancy graphics and stellar midi tracks. Just a bare-bones text output reading "Player A sells 2 shares of B&O for 76$ each, then buys a PRR share for 100$", or "PRR builds straight track on 18-D, connecting 16-D and 20-D" would do the job just fine. I have scoured the BGG forums and the remainder of the Intarwebs (especially SourceForge and GitHub), but nothing has turned up so far.

So, my shot in the dark: does anybody know of such a project? Is anybody working on something like this? Is anybody willing to? I am a programmer by trade with strong interests (though limited practical experience) in AI, but I have no knowledge whatsoever about the intricacies of the 1830 game to design a decent enough AI. Yet. Also I have not much free time left. Otherwise I would have begun already.
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Brian Sturk
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I've done just this with a bunch of games that I cannot find people to play with (sumeria, feudal, hold the line, neuland [in progress], a few acres of snow [on hold]). They are mostly text and allow me to play with the physical game. I am eyeballing this game and I imagine if I do pick it up I'd need some AI to play against.

If you are a programmer, it wouldn't be too hard. The hardest part to me is implementing the rules and enforcing them. I did this for a game called Dreamblade and it was quite complicated, but most other games have been straightforward.
 
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Dave Mitton
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The AH 1830 game is the only 18XX program with a computer opponent.
People have found issues with how it plays.

There are only a few 18XX programs that actually implement the complete game rules. See the Rails project for the latest and best. Things like the Lemmi Moderator depend on the operator to stay in the rules.

It is not a simple problem. I'm still laughing at the thought.
Even human players have trouble defining strategies in this game.

Dave.
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Richard Young
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When I first discovered the AH PC game my immediate thought was similar. I expected that we could use the computer game to speed everything up and that we would still use the board to do our planning and always reflect the current situation. We didn't know about "moderators" back then - but that's what we were planning to use the program as.

Except, we soon found that there was no point to messing with the board's bits since the computer did such a great job of representing everything you needed to know right on the screen. We got through about half a game trying to keep up with the computer and ended up abandoning the board altogether afterward.

As for solo play, the same applies...I see no point in bothering with the board. You can set the speed at which the program runs through DOSBox (which I assume you're using) but the program is not going to tell you how the AI figures out its moves (if you had the original code I guess you could examine the algorithms).

The solo version of the game is great as a tutorial for basic game functions and to get a feel for the flow of the game - you will see some great defensive play by the AI as the bots will conspire against you unmercifully and you could learn some tactics that occur in live play. To win a solo game on the computer is not easy but you have to play differently than you would against human opponents.

The best use of the program is to play in the hot-seat mode with live opponents and maybe a bot or two to round out the field you want. The board is prettier and more tactile but games will last much longer where you are doing all of the "minis-trivia." You might also miss the click and clink of poker chips by going with the computer game but you'll get a great game in a fraction of the time. You'll also get to play with all the various options (particularly the random board generator) for enhanced replayability.
 
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Jim Knight
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You could try Rails in FtF mode. It has no map so you could use your set that way.

I suppose you could just load it up as normal but take the time to replicate the moves on the board etc, although that's meant for PBeM.Of course it isn't a proper AI in that respect.

Rails is an open source project which can be downloaded from SourceForge and includes other 18xx titles not just 1830 and often play 18EU "solo" although I often use a random number generator for bids on the minor companies. Then I try not to be myself when playing them and merging into the corporations

Let us know how you got on. I might just do this myself one wet Saturday afternoon.

Jim
 
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Chris Shaffer
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jimnite wrote:
You could try Rails in FtF mode. It has no map so you could use your set that way.


Minor correction. Rails has a "no map" option. The default mode includes a map.
 
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