Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gaming review, 11/23

Four games this week, which wasn't bad for the day after the holiday.

We started off with 7 Wonders, no expansions.  I don't usually go the military route, but I was dealt Rhodes, so I played to my strength.  It was a five-player game, but two of the players had a total of one game of prior experience.  The five-player games seems to have a lot of resources compared to the one for four and three players.  I came in first.

Next up was Cloud 9, light filler while the other group was finishing up their game.  Again with five players, I guessed poorly, and came in fourth.

Third was the only new (to me) game of the evening,
Beowolf:  The Legend
.  You start off with a hand that has some of five types of resources, and use those resources in two different types of bidding.  There is blind bidding, where everyone bids once by laying cards face-down, and round-robin bidding, where you have to beat the previous bidder to stay in the round.  Every player gets to choose a prize after each type of bidding (sometimes the last couple of choices are actually penalties). There are also opportunities to improve your hand or score in between bidding rounds.  The group travels the board with Beowolf together, the only random aspect is the drawing of cards.  I had a nice time with it.

I ended the evening with Alien Frontiers.  We had to play a shortened game because the venue was closing, with three players.  The winner had seven points, the other two had six.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Gaming review, 10/26

Only two games this time.

I started with a 4-player game of Seasons. The person teaching it had only played 2-player games before, and said 4-player was much more chaotic. Some of the cards had the opposite impact of what I expected (making things easier instead of harder for the opponents, for example). We ran out of power cards, and had to decide on-the-spot to reshuffle the deck (a gap in the rules). There is, apparently, a more difficult level with trickier power cards. I came in second. I would try it again, but I don't think I'll be calling for it.

The second game was Dominion, a game that uses a different set of ten types of cards from a huge selection (I think there are well over 100+ card types) to go with standard sets of money and victory point cards. It plays differently every time. This time, I completely misread the card Fool's Gold. In a three-player game, I came in second (and third was right behind me), but with less than half the points of the victor. I think this was my fifth game. I just might be getting the hang of it.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gaming Reveiw, 9/29

I'm part of a monthly gaming group, and I've decided to use this blog to keep track of what I have played there.  I'll also be returning to other topics soon.  The games we played last night are below the fold.

We strted with an 8-player game of Tsuro of the Seas, which I had not played before.  I had only played the original Tsuro once, but I prefer it.  The addition of daikaiju (sea monsters) and the larger board seemed to prolong the game while reducing the strategy.  I came in fifth.

Next was Cartegena, which uses a pirate theme behind a modular board and a game based on jumping symbols.  The strategy was deeper than I thought it would be from the description, even though we were playing with hidden cards.  There are some very difficult decisions because if you jump to a lead, your opponents can use your piece to jump even further.  I took an early lead against four other players and managed to keep it.

Third was Cloud 9, a nice, light filler.  I guessed badly  on a couple of turns, and took fifth place out of five.

We finished with Zooleretto, which had an interesting combination of luck in drawing tiles and skill in trying to get the tiles you want and avoid the ones you do not want.  I mis-guessed what a couple of my opponents would do, and came in second out of four, but not a close second.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review of DieCon 12

Last weekend was DieCon.  It's a game convention in Collinsville, IL.  I haven't been to a convention in 25 years, so I was nervous, but really excited as well.  I had a great time, and saw many of the regulars I see from the St. Louis Board Games group at (I'm in the meet-up on the last Friday of the month, Metro East).  I had a great time, and plan to go back next year.  The facilities were spacious and comfortable, and everyone was pleasant.  Below the fold I will discuss all the game I played and my reaction to them.

My first session was Friday, 7pm, for Morris Cubed.  This was a three-dimensional version of Nine Men's Morris.  It was the work a a nice gentleman named Alan, who has apparently sold one set to far.  The third dimension made the game interesting, but I think it created a sort of leader effect, although perhaps no more than in the regular game.  In each game, the winner was able to create a very stable structure in two of the three dimensions, one that was difficult to attack.  We split two games.

Friday at 9 was Dominion, the only game at the convention that I had played before last weekend. This was my third time playing, and I started to understand some of the ideas behind reducing your deck. I played two five-player games, coming in second and fifth.

Saturday at 9am was Quicksilver, a game about racing airships across a terrain.  It was a basically-finished, unprinted game (the link is to the Kickstarter).  There were some important choices, but not really difficult choices, and there was a small amount of player interaction, but it was basically a racing game.  The person running the game arrived late, and I left shortly before the game ended to get to the next game on time, but was on track to finis 3rd or 4th, I think.

The following game, Puerto Rico, is one of the classic in the modern game era. I started with a corn farm under the standard rules (and so a slight advantage, it seems), and I was pleased with my game, except I made a big mistake on the final turn, and wound up not scoring points that turn. I was 5th in a 5-player game, I think, but could have been third.

After a break, at 2 pm I was scheduled to play Ninja, but the person who was scheduled to run the game never showed up.  For a short while, I played Abalone with someone who had just showed his niece how to play. It was a lot of fun, and winning certainly enhanced the experience. Then, someone else came by who happened to know Ninja, so we started that game. It's a game with one side having hidden movement while the other side is trying to catch them, and I did not really enjoy it much.

Next up at 4pm was a play test of the very raw Minimum Wage Gorilla, by Split Second Games, who also are doing Quicksilver. Minimum Wage Gorilla is a blind bidding game with a cute theme. I think the game was slightly too long, long enough that I made it a point to increase my bidding force by "hiring" more gorillas in three of the first six rounds (since only one person can hire at a time, this was a commitment of resources). It gave me a large advantage for later rounds, and I won fairly easily.

I ended the evening with the only four-hour game I selected, Le Havre. I was in a five-player game. There were an increasing number of choices as the game went on. I think I made some short-term decisions that were inferior to some 4-5 turn plans. Since with 5 players it is a 28-turn game per player, planning ahead 4-5 turns can pay off well. I came in third, though, and I had a good time doing it.

Sunday morning, 9am, I went off to Hawaii, at least in the imagination. There were only three of us. I think I was lucky on the initial turn, in that there was an option available that mean I would have as many movement points as I needed for the rest of the game. I fell behind early, but made up for it in the final scoring and eked out a one-point win.

Next on the itinerary was London, and again there were only three of us. I think I got lucky in the early going, and was able to choose a couple of high-cash options the first time I collected for my layout. Even so, I found myself doing some intense calculations trying to get my cards to come out with the proper count. I managed to pull out a win here, as well.

My final game was another gem by Alan, called Brigade.  We each started with 18 brigades, which we cold group into divisions and corps (but not armies). Grouping carried power advantages, but disadvantages in mobility. I played with a pleasant young man, Alan watching on, and again split two games. I really enjoyed this game.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My take on the shooting of Trayvon Martin

 There's an aspect of the Trayvon Martin shooting I have not seen discussed much. It's probably due to the limited circle that I read. Most people seem eager to justify Zimmerman's actions, such as The Wagist. He has a theory that Martin actually initiated a first confrontation with Zimmerman, and then attacked Zimmerman when Zimmerman initiated the second. Even if you grant all this, and everything else he proposes, giving Zimmerman every reasonable consideration that is available, it does not change that Zimmerman is a murderer, at least ethically and morally (legally, I'll leave up to the justice system). I'll discuss more below the fold.

First, though, let's be clear: to the degree that race exists at all, Zimmerman is white. Any of his features will be found in people of European ancestry. Hispanic is a cultural background, not a race. He looks white, and gets treated as if he is white by strangers. He’s white in every effective way.

So, Martin was a young black man in an unfamiliar neighborhood in the South being followed by a white man. Martin was alone and unarmed; for all he knew there may have been many people in the car. The first thing that would have come to my mind was being killed (maybe lynched, maybe dragged behind the car, maybe just being beaten). It's not a huge likelihood, but it's a notion you can't get out of your head, either. Martin visibly reacts to the potential threat by pulling up his hood and walking faster. This reaction is visible to Zimmerman.

At this point, Zimmerman knows that Martin is aware of being followed. Zimmerman has deterred the potential (in Zimmerman's eyes) crime, just by making the potential (in Zimmerman's eyes) criminal aware there is a someone watching. Further, a burglar had just been arrested, lowering the chance of Martin being a burglar. Zimmerman has done his duty in the neighborhood watch; there is no reason for him to keep following Martin. Yet, he does keep following Martin.

According to the theory at The Wagist, at some point Martin knocks on the window of Zimmerman’s car and asks Zimmerman why Zimmerman is following Martin. At this point, Zimmerman could say he’s keeping watch, and has called the police. Instead, Zimmerman lies about following Martin. As Martin walks off, Zimmerman then has the choice to stop following Martin at this point. Instead, he follows Martin again. So, if this theory is true, Martin is now being followed by a strange man who has lied to Martin about following Martin. That raises the danger level even more in Martin’s eyes.

Whether the theory is accurate or not, Martin starts running. So, now Zimmerman has actually chased off the (to Zimmerman) potential burglar. Even though he has not seen a crime, he has scared the kid/young man away. In terms of protecting the neighborhood, there is nothing to be gained from further pursuit, because Zimmerman hasn’t seen anything illegal. He’s only seen a kid/young man walking along, and maybe had a short conversation where Zimmerman lied about what he was doing. When you run someone off, you don’t pursue them if you are just trying to protect your turf. You pursue them if you are looking to confront them (at least, where I grew up). Zimmerman pursues. Even if Zimmerman is not intending to confront Martin, Zimmerman is creating a situation where it looks like Zimmerman’s intention is to confront Martin.

Martin has now done everything that can be expected of him to avoid a confrontation. He walked faster, possibly confronted Zimmerman for an explanation, and then ran off. Zimmerman has pursued Martin throughout, never identifying himself as part of the neighborhood watch or anything other than a white man following a black man in the South. So, when Martin sees Zimmerman again, after running off, he has two choices: lead this stranger to his father’s house (assuming he hasn’t got confused in the dark, unfamiliar neighborhood and even knows where it is in his excited state), or confront him directly. We know from the girlfriend’s testimony that Martin yells at Zimmerman a request for why Zimmerman is following him (possibly for the second time). Zimmerman refuses to answer the question (possibly for the second time), and instead demands that Martin has to explain his presence. Maybe Zimmerman didn’t intend that to be a threat, but I would have heard a threat behind it (black men considered to be in places they don’t belong are regularly reminded of such with beatings, and worse). Martin quite possibly responds to the perceived threat by attacking Zimmerman. A fight ensues; the gun Zimmerman brought to the confrontation Zimmerman initiated goes off; Martin is dead.

Of course, if someone feels I’ve overlooked something that would cast things more favorably on Zimmerman, feel free to let me know, and I will amend this post if it is reasonable. However, this description is as much in Zimmerman’s favor as I can reasonably skew this. The end result is that Zimmerman brought the gun and initiated the confrontation; he’s ethically responsible for Martin’s death. Zimmerman hid what he was doing at least once; he’s morally responsible for Martin’s death. As I said, I’ll leave legally for the upcoming trial.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

On the limits of formal systems

You can do some very interesting things with formal systems, such as chess, philosophy, or mathematics. You can create true beauty that has the advantage of being eminently useful or making a personal profit. You can make predictions from baseline assumptions and expose inconsistencies. However, there are many things you can’t do, and one of the easiest ones to forget is one of the most important: you can’t prove something using formal logic that exceeds your assumptions. I discuss this further below the fold.

I will start with one of the illustrations that we use for implications, a Venn diagram.

The basic idea of any implication is a subset. The conditions that create the hypothesis (what you assume to be true) are a subset of the conditions that create the conclusion (what you are demonstrating to be true). Since the entire calculus of classical log can be expressed using implications and the word “not”, that means that all of classical logic is basically a verbose form of set theory.

One aspect of this notion is that all implications are downhill, or at best level, in the restrictions imposed upon the model by the statements involved. You reason from the more restrictive, harder to match, less flexible model to the less restrictive, easier to match, more flexible model. This is the only way implications can work, therefore the only way classical logic can work.

Of course, sometimes the implication is just not there. You find yourself with a hypothesis that covers too much ground, and has too much flexibility to support the conclusion.

You can make a couple of choices at this point. One of the most common ones is to increase the number of hypotheses. When you require that all the various hypotheses are true, you are restricting your model even more. You wind up with a much smaller model, as you can see by the blue region.

Now, if we combine the previous two diagrams, we can see that adding additional hypotheses has allowed us to restrict our starting model to the point where we can prove the conclusion.

Of course, most philosophy, and for that matter most mathematics, is done with commonly spoken language as opposed to a formal language. This makes it easy for people to sneak in hypotheses, often without even being aware that is what they are doing. This is even truer when the proof is particularly important to them, such as when it is being used to support a religious position. For example, if someone tells you about a proof that the existence of change (an unrestrictive, easily matched, flexible starting point) can be used to prove the existence of God (a moderately restrictive, not as easily matched, less flexible conclusion), you know that something will be incorrect even before you dig into the proof. Using logic and metaphysics, you can’t prove the existence of God unless you assume such strong hypotheses that, by comparison, God’s existence is less restrictive option. Logic just does not work that way.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Geometry proofs are backwards

While I have not been technically on hiatus, I have been playing a lot of Civilization IV lately, rather than blogging. Yes, I realize the latest release is Civilization V. However, by staying one step behind the curve, I get several benefits. I can buy a complete set at a single time, instead of buying all the expansions separately, and the price is much reduced that way.

Meanwhile, I'm still teaching Elementary Geometry on Saturday mornings. One of the most important aspects of the course is teaching proofs. While there is a subset that will use the geometry itself, there is a larger group that will require training in the type of thinking that these proofs use. Anyone working in the legal field, for example, will need to know how to put together a proof. Yet, the traditional way of writing proofs seems backwards to me.

This is how I typically present on proof on a test:

Notice that the statements are on the left, while the reasons for those statements is on the right. That is backwards to me. Americans read left-to-right, and that puts the statements as something that comes before the reasons when you read a proof. However, the reasons are the connections between that line of the proof and the lines that precede it. Formally, you take the prior information and the reason, put them together using a law of logic or two, and produce the statement.

Of course, the design is traditional. One of my retirement plans is to write a good textbook for teaching Geometry at community colleges (they have good texts for Pre-algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra, but Geometry seems to be confined to high-school texts. In today's world, that would mean creating video segments and an on-line interactive homework system (our college uses MathXL, but they have no Geometry test listed) as well as writing the book with a little less flash and a fewer pictures of kids. When I do, I think I will write the proofs with reasons on the left, and maybe moved up a half-line.

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