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Subject: Simple Solitaire Variant: Version 2 (Now with a Bot) rss

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Dale Buonocore
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After playing around with the previously posted “impeding auto-player” variant, a way of building upon that foundation so as to develop an actual robot opponent variant gradually crystallized. Play-tested it to work out the kinks and tweak it a bit, and got it to the point where I just barely managed to beat the bot tonight 97-92, suggesting that it’s now reasonably well balanced -- of course, more plays will ultimately tell the tale, but other tweaks can fairly easily be made to adjust the strength of the bot if needed. This bot plays more like a typical 2nd player (albeit a simplified one), and should give you a pretty good run for your money.

So let me offer it here for your consideration. I’ll write it up essentially from the ground up, so to speak, so that it’s self-contained and complete here, thus eliminating any need to bounce back and forth between this posting and the other.

You’ll be playing within the usual 2-player parameters, and will play normally on your turn. All normal rules and procedures apply, aside from how the Bot plays. You’ll need 2D6s for the Bot to use. [NOTE: What follows is considered the "Easy" difficulty level, with adjustments shifting it to the "Hard" level noted subsequently]...

The Bot is always considered to have whatever resources (money, goods, wood, corn) needed to perform his actions, and never has to actually spend any of his acquired resources (which he gains in the usual ways) -- and these resources will earn him VPs in the usual 3-for-1 manner at the end of each turn (excluding furs, which he'll hold onto for possible shipping in a later turn, and will score in the usual 1-for-1 way if unshipped at the end of the game). The Bot does not start with any wood, corn, goods, coins, or furs -- but you still do, as usual.

You will start as the 1st player. The Bot will randomly (D6) place 2 Businesses during set-up.

BIDDING: During the Bidding phase, when you bid first, the Bot will then try to outbid you -- if he fails, he will randomly (use the D6) choose one of the 2-tile columns and take those Action tiles. The Bot uses those 2 D6s to bid, with one of them being pre-set according to the current round (i.e., “1” for the 1st round, “2” for the 2nd, and so on), and the other rolled -- note that he will thus bid more aggressively as the game goes on. When the Bot bids first, randomly choose (D6) which of the 3-tile columns he will bid on, and then determine his bid as described above. Note that the Bot will get any bonus coins associated with the Action tile column he acquires.

The Bot’s actions (using his selected Action tiles as usual) proceed as follows:

CITY: Roll the D6 -- on a roll of 1-3, the Bot will build that number of Businesses and place them randomly (D6), one at a time, in the city’s districts.

On a roll of 4-6, he will hold elections and gain those VPs.

LAND: If the Bot doesn’t currently have any uncleared Land cards, he will randomly (D6) pick one, moving a Longhouse downriver as usual.

If he does have an uncleared Land card, he will clear it, take the wood, and gain VPs as usual -- plus he’ll get that Land’s corn production as usual at the end of each turn (which will earn him VPs at the end of the game).

TRADE: If the Bot doesn't have enough furs to ship, he will randomly (D6) pick one of the fully stocked Lenape traders to deal with -- if he selects the first one, he takes all 4 furs there.

If he does have enough furs to ship, he chooses the Ship and furs in the way which will result in the highest possible number of VPs -- ties are broken by choosing the Ship with the greatest number of coins + goods, and if there’s still a tie, use the D6 to decide. Note that he gets the coins (and the goods at the end of each turn) as usual, which will count toward VPs at the end of the game.

As alluded to above in various places, VPs are scored at the end of the game in the normal manner. The Bot, who should be behind you at this stage, will make quite a comeback surge here which could very well catapult him to victory.

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For the "Hard" difficulty level, include the following adjustments:

1) The Bot starts with the resources (corn, wood, & goods), coins, and furs which any second player would, just as you do.

2) During set-up, the Bot randomly (D6) takes one of the initial Lands and "clears" it, moves the first Longhouse, and takes the wood (plus the corn at the end of each turn) as usual.

3) Similarly, during set-up, the Bot randomly (D6) takes one of the initial Ships, and gets the coins (plus the goods at the end of each turn) as usual.

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I hope I explained it clearly enough so that it makes sense -- it really does play smoothly and quite intuitively overall once you get the hang of it. I use an extra Building to track which action step I’m in (right there on that “Summary of City, Land, and Trade Actions” part of the board), and tip it over to note that I’ve used my Special Action for that step.

So, if you try it, let me know how you did against the Bot and what you think. Any feedback or suggestions for improvement would be most welcome. Thanks for your attention.

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[EDITED to clarify one issue.]
[EDITED again to incorporate one small practical adjustment, along with the tweaks needed to shift it to the "Hard" difficulty level, which is recommended for more experienced players.]
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Jeffrey Allers
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Nice idea!

One idea would be for the Bot to trade in resources for VP every round so that the Bot's score is current.
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Dale Buonocore
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Indeed -- that (excluding the Bot's furs) would work very nicely. I'll give that a try next time I play it.

And, by the way, thanks so much for this great game, as well as for your kind and thoughtful response...!

[EDITED to add in the extra "thanks" which I should have included the first time around...!]
 
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Dale Buonocore
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After further play of this great game, which clearly facilitated my learning how to play better and thus my beating the original Bot fairly consistently, it's clear that the time has come to add in some optional tweaks to increase the difficulty level by strengthening the Bot. So, from this point forward, that original Bot version will be referred to as the "Easy" level, with the inclusion of the tweaks specified below "kicking it up a notch" to the "Hard" level.

In addition, the excellent suggestion by Jeffrey Allers (above) is now officially included -- thanks!

I will edit the original posting to incorporate these changes and optional additions, just to keep things as simple and clear as possible. But here are the specific adjustments which shift the Bot to the "Hard" level:

First: The Bot starts with the usual resources (corn, wood, & goods), coins, and furs just as a second player would.

Second: The Bot randomly (D6) takes one of the initial Lands and clears it. He moves the first Longhouse, and gets that VP and wood (along with the corn each turn) as usual.

Third: The Bot also randomly (D6) takes one of the initial Ships, and gets those coins (plus the goods each turn) as usual.

That's it. This Bot is definitely more of a challenge (and quite satisfying!) to beat than the "Easy" one, and I would encourage more experienced players to just go ahead and start at this "Hard" level.
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Etien
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I like the mechanics of this solitaire variant, but in my two attempts, I blew the Bot away scoring 103-41 (Game 1) and 122-54 (Game 2). Basically, I know the Bot's highest possible bid, so in almost every round, I can "out-bid" the Bot, get the Action Tokens I want, and retain control of the 1st Player marker.

I like "Bart Gamer"'s tweak in his solitaire variant that strengthens the Bot's bid:
Quote:
The AP bids a die roll, plus the round number, plus the number of Ship cards it owns.
This may help. However, I do not care for a "beat your high score" type of solitaire variant. I want a competitive AI that is difficult to beat -- its winning percentage in a range of 55%-65%

I transferred the Bot's resources for VPs at the end of every turn (with the exception of furs of course) instead of waiting for the endgame. This gave me 1) up-to-date intel on where the Bot was on the Scoring Track; and 2) a less cluttered Bot playing area.

Thanks for the solitaire variant.


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