Monday, April 30, 2012

WBC: A Few Acres of Snow

The World Boardgaming Championships have posted their event previews for this year. The very first thing I looked for was the write up for A Few Acres of Snow. I haven't rigorously proven to myself yet that the game is unbalanced but my gut feeling at the moment is the British should win every game between two top tier players. I really like the game and have been considering making it my WBC team game this year but it would really all come down to how sides are determined. Bidding with victory points (like for seat in Puerto Rico) doesn't feel like it would work. I've commented half-jokingly that I'd gladly give the French infinite points because the British will just win with military. Bidding with starting gold could work. Certainly with infinite bucks the French should win easily. (They can buy governor to remove all money making aspects from their deck and win with a raiding/military strategy pretty easily I would think.) Money could work as a bidding mechanism but I would need a lot of testing (outside of Yucata since I doubt it would implement such bidding) to find the right amount to bid.

It turns out neither of those methods will be used. Bidding for sides will be done in terms of a completely new concept. They're adding a new free action to the game where you can draw a card and then discard a card as a free action. Bidding is the number of times you can use this free action in the game. You cannot force a reshuffle in this manner.

First of all, what does this actually do? Well, in small numbers this helps smooth out the French draws a little. One of the worst feelings is when your trader card is the last card in your deck after a reshuffle. You end up holding on to a lot of fur cards with nothing useful to do with them. You could discard them but that means you're making less money this time through your deck. Getting to cycle down to the trader a couple of times in a game could be really powerful. I don't know that it's good enough to let the French win but it would stop some of the blowouts that can happen.

With a medium number of actions this keeps the French from getting blitzed out. One of the ways the French can lose Quebec is to have the British win the fight in Louisbourg and then attack Quebec before the French have had a chance to draw their military cards again. This new action keeps that from happening by allowing the French to cycle into all their military cards when they need them. (They may need to pay attention and preemptively cycle a turn earlier to force a reshuffle to get them back into their deck, but it should still work.) It's actually impossible for the British to take a fortified Quebec if the French have Siege/Regular/Leader in hand. The British can still win by attacking, forcing the French to play those cards, withdrawing, and attacking again before the French draw them all again. With enough of these bonus actions that won't work either and Quebec becomes impenetrable.

With a large number of uses this lets the French accelerate to game end very quickly. The fastest end for the French is probably to put all their disks into play. That means you have to either buy a settler card (risky if the British is attacking) or play your single Quebec card 8 times while surviving. Cycling through your deck 8 times is very hard in the real game. With all these bonus cycling actions? You can draw Quebec every single turn. Consider the following game plan:

turn 1 - cycle into Quebec + Port Royal, disk Port Royal, cycle enough to reshuffle. (3 or 4 cycles)
turn 2 - cycle into Quebec + Louisbourg, disk Louisbourg, buy home support, cycle to reshuffle (3 or 4 cycles)
turn 3 - cycle into Quebec + Gaspe + trader + 2 or 3 furs (depending on where home support comes up), disk Gaspe, trader for 4 or 6 bucks, cycle to reshuffle (at most 4 cycles, only 2 if home support comes up early)

Repeat until turn 8 when the game is over. You have an extra action every turn which could be to buy or play a military card. (You start with the one regular, remember.) Eventually you do need to settle 2 more locations (you only have 6 disk targets to start and 8 disks to play) but that adds at most 3 cycles total. All told the upper bound for number of cycles needed with this plan is 4+4+4+2+4+2+5+4=29 cycles. I'm not even sure the home support helps. It lets you make 6 or 8 bucks instead of 4 each turn that you make money but costs you 5 bucks and an action. You may be better off just using those extra actions on military cards to stop the British. Or actually, getting your coureurs de bois and ambushing every single turn could be wise. Yes! Actually, you need to raid out Halifax every turn to make sure he can never launch an attack on Louisbourg!

What is the best the British could do in 8 turns? They get 15 actions total and start with 12 bucks. They absolutely must take Louisbourg. The French can easily throw Port Royal, Regular Infantry, and Montreal on that fight for a total strength of 6. So the British need 8 to throw on the pile themselves. They absolutely must buy a raid blocker, settle Halifax, and launch an attack from Halifax. They need to buy two regular infantry. They need to make the money to afford those infantry. That's 8 actions. Throwing 4 more boats on the pile is another 4 actions for a total of 12. If the French so much as buy one more regular infantry it'll take 3 more actions to overcome that extra strength. That's 15 actions right there at which point the French have ended the game and the British can't launch an attack on Quebec. And has glossed over the fact the British have two dead cards (Pemaquid and St Mary's) and probably can't put those 15 actions together smoothly.

I'm pretty convinced a bid of 0 is a guaranteed British win and a bid of 29 is a guaranteed French win. There has to either be a bid which makes for a fair game or a breakpoint where the British win on one side and the French win on the other. The trick then will be to find the right number to bid for the tournament!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend III: Chaos

I've made it through a few dungeons now in Final Fantasy Legend III and came up against a boss named Chaos. His first action was to use an area damage spell which hit my party for anywhere from 40-75% of their max health. Then he did it again, which killed my cyborg outright. I tried the fight a few more times and while he didn't always start with double quake he would use it from time to time which was a real problem. When he didn't use quake he'd attack for more damage than my heal could take care of. I have two people with heal spells so I could theoretically win if he only used his normal attack and didn't chain them into my cyborg. But I'd have to go about 20 rounds with nothing going wrong in order to win and that just feels really unlikely.

My cyborg has an infinite use healing spell which is pretty great for fighting in a dungeon. (I can spam it out of combat to heal everyone to full.) But he can't do any damage, his heal is for half a normal heal, and he has half the health of my other characters. I think in order to beat this boss I'm going to need to level up, change him to something useful, and maybe even go searching for a town and buy some better gear.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Rogers (the telecommunications company) recently decided they were getting out of the movie and game rental business. They've put their entire stock at all of their stores up for sale on the cheap. Andrew and I only found out about this about a week after they'd started so there were slim pickings at the stores we went to. I almost bought a copy of Final Fantasy XIII-2 but it was still $40 used and there was a warning saying some of the online content might not work (likely it comes with a code that would have already been used by somebody). I figure by the time I want to play it I'll be able to get a new copy around that price if not cheaper so I passed.

One thing I did get was Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. I get a lot of these music games mostly because I like to have a wide variety of songs to play. They frequently added new features to these games (I guess to explain why they're putting out so many of them) but I really don't care about most of them. I just want more songs. I don't have a drum kit. Or a microphone. (Or any ability to use a microphone... I have no musical talent at all but I can fudge things with a guitar since it's really just hitting a button when it says to. Actually making the right sounds come out of my mouth? Not going to happen.) All the new games have 'band' features but all I play is the guitar tracks. Even when there are bass options I'll generally only play the guitar unless I _really_ like a song.

Warriors of Rock added a new twist that I'm actually enjoying. Instead of levels being vague locations that exist only to combine a bunch of songs together they're centered around a hero. Each hero has a special ability which modifies how the game is played! The three I've seen so far have been to gain 5% star power for every 10 consecutive notes hit, to gain double star power from completing a star power section, and to start at a full rock meter and earn bonus points if you overload it. None of these things fundamentally change what I'm doing (holding the buttons down that it tells me to) but they change up how points are scored in small but interesting ways. I'm liking it so far.

There's a second change I _really_ like to the interface. There's a meter showing how far into the song I am. So I can tell at a glance if it's almost over and I should blow my star power or not!

One thing I was afraid I wouldn't like was the song choices. In the first level I did I found myself hating every song that came up. I even thought to myself 'Is this what rock music actually is? Do I hate rock music?' The only song from the first set I liked at all was Alive by Flyleaf and I wouldn't have really classified it as rock. Then I went to the second song set and my fears went away. Red Rider, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, Edgar Winter, Aerosmith, Dire Straits, Neil Young, and Black Sabbath. Rock out! The third song set kicked off with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. So I guess it was just that first set with newer songs that bothered me. Most of the good stuff is older than I am, after all!

Friday, April 27, 2012

League of Legends Referrals!

Riot just rolled out a new refer-a-friend system yesterday. I'm not really sure what the differences are between it and the old system to be honest. For the most part it looks like you just get small amounts of in game currency if a friend signs up through your link or enter your name (Ziggyny) and plays enough to hit level 10. There are some pretty substantial rewards further down for getting a lot of referrals but that seems like a bit of a pipe dream I would think.

Sthenno commented on yesterday's post that the ability to play with bots could prompt him to give the game a spin in order to understand the game better for watching. (MLG announced LoL will be played at the next big event, knocking Halo out of their rotation!) There are two ways to play with bots. The first is to click the play button and go to the Co-op vs AI selector. This will pair you up with 4 other humans to play against 5 bots. You can select if you want to go up against beginner level bots or intermediate level bots. (They're constantly patching in AI for new champions so you can be up against a pretty wide selection of enemy champions.) These games give xp and ip the same as a normal game against humans, at low levels. There are penalties that get applied as you gain xp (max level is 30 and penalties start kicking in at level 10) but it's still something.

The second way is to create a custom game. One of the options when you're forming the teams in a custom game is to add a bot to either team. This is how I ran my test yesterday. I added 4 bots to my team and 5 bots to the other team. These games have the same xp/ip as the Co-op vs AI penalties assuming the teams are balanced. The plus side here is you don't have to play with strangers if you don't want to. There's no pressure to win and you get some xp/ip at the end of the game.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

League of Legends: Yorick Testing

Last night I stumbled across a build guide from Elementz (one of the top support players in the pro community) for support Yorick. In it he says that he uses armor penetration marks in his build solely because it impacts the damage done by ghouls. In fact, he says you do more damage with armor penetration marks instead of attack damage marks despite the initial damage from the summons doing magic damage (and therefore certainly being unaffected by armor penetration while one of them does scale with AD). I was under the impression neither of those things were true which, of course, means I need to do some testing and crunch some numbers.

Monoboob commented yesterday about how the trinity force proc stacks favourably with the passive damage boost from ghouls. That also completely slipped my mind. I can certainly imagine them stacking multiplicatively but figure I should see about testing it as well since I'll be in a game testing stuff anyway.

How should I run the test? My idea is to play a bot game and make a lot of money while trying to keep the game from ending one way or another. Then I'll empty my inventory and find a neutral monster with some armor (probably dragon but maybe Baron) and summon some ghouls at it. I'll watch to make note of the damage done by the ghouls and how frequently they attacked. (I can also replay the game later with LoLreplay if I have to.) Without killing dragon I'll go back to base and fill my inventory with attack speed items. I'll go back and look at the new damage numbers. Then I'll fill up with crit chance and repeat. Then I'll buy a pickaxe (25 damage) and repeat. Finally I'll buy a brutalizer (25 damage and 15 armor penetration) and repeat. I need the last two steps as there are no items with just armor penetration alone on them. After the main testing is done I'll get a sheen or a trinity force and see what numbers come up. I'm also thinking I should try a black cleaver to see if lowering the monster's armor from other sources will impact the ghouls.

I ended up keeping my fully stacked manamune, warmog's, and a set of speed 5 boots. None of the stats provided by those items would impact the tests in any way. (Manamune does add AD but it adds the same amount of AD the whole time.) I was also level 18 for all tests.

Nothing (well, doran's shield because I was too lazy to go back and sell it first).

damage per ghoul swing - 57 (90)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

3 recurve bows

damage per ghoul swing - 57 (90)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

3 cloak of agility

damage per ghoul swing - 57 (90)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

1 pickaxe

damage per ghoul swing - 64 (97)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

1 brutalizer

damage per ghoul swing - 73 (111)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

black cleaver (0 stacks) (on blue as dragon is immune)

damage per ghoul swing - 73 (106)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

black cleaver (3 stacks) (on blue as dragon is immune)

damage per ghoul swing - 105 (153)
number of swings per ghoul - 3
number of crits? - 0

Interesting stuff here. Attack speed and crit are clearly worth nothing for the ghouls. (The Q ghoul does some bonus damage, his number is the bigger one in brackets.) Armor penetration, on the other hand, does transfer over. Brutalizer resulted in more damage done than just the pickaxe did. Which actually means brutalizer has three stats that Yorick really wants... I wonder if I should consider building it!

I built an atma's (by this point the other team was powerful enough to kill me 3 on 1 so I bought more items) and a trinity force and went to test if the proc gets better with ghouls out. Here's the data:

melee - 238
melee + 2 - 261
trinity - 380
trinity +2 - 404

The trinity proc added 142 damage when I had no ghouls out. It added 143 damage when I had 2 ghouls out. That's not 10% more at all. It feels more like that's a rounding error. Yorick really does spam spells though so the trinity proc will be on a lot of his autoattacks so it's still going to be good. Just not 20% better than for everyone else good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

League of Legends: More on Yorick

As I mentioned yesterday I played Yorick a few times while he was free. I ended up discovering that he really fits my play style and pretty much has to build my favourite item. So I saved up some IP and bought him. Now the question really is how to maximize his power...

First of all, he really shoves people around in lane. His two ranged summon spells do reasonable damage and are on relatively short cooldowns. (~10 seconds at low level) They do cost a fair amount of mana which can turn into a real problem if you don't build some mana items. On top of doing reasonable damage when you summon them they do 35% of Yorick's attack damage when they attack. They don't seem to scale damagewise on any other stat. Armor penetration, attack speed, crit chance... None of it matters. All you want is straight damage. And since you can have 3 ghouls up each swinging for 35% of your AD... Yorick wants just AD.

Now if only we could find an item that gave a lot of mana and AD in one neat little package... MANAMUNE! Pretty much every guide I've seen has said to rush manamune. I love it! I can fill up my tears early (I get to buy it on my first return to base) and then power out a lot of extra ghouly damage when it upconverts. It always maxes out, too, so it's a totally solid AD item on top of giving me enough mana to function in the early to mid game.

Guides also suggest getting trinity force which seems a little sketchier to me. It does very little to any of my laning plans. It's ok in team fights I guess since it buffs my Q and gives me some more chasing potential. I almost feel like I should just build super tanky instead.

One reason I want to try out new top champions is so I can learn who counters who. Thus far I have yet to find anyone who doesn't get pushed around by Yorick. (I've taken to first picking him in ranked games hoping I'll get countered and no one has been able to do it yet.) I've always fared well with Nasus against him (Nasus has a lot of life steal and actually wants to kill his ghouls) but I want to see if from the other side. I feel like Yorick should be able to push him around if he times things properly and lands ghouls right after he uses his Q.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

League of Legends: Yorick!

Alas, poor Yorick... I knew him not at all. So two weeks ago when Yorick was rotated in as a free champion I took the opportunity to play him a few times to try to figure out what he was capable of. All I knew going into the experiment was he summoned ghouls in some way, he had a pretty substantial amount of self healing, and that Nasus can totally farm his Q on the ghouls. (I'm pretty sure my best Nasus games have come against Yoricks that felt like tossing ghouls at me from a distance. Ghouls aren't worth any money but do count for farming up Q.) But he's played top with some regularity so I should really know what he can do so I can properly play against him.

It turns out all 3 of his normal abilities deal damage and summon a ghoul but all 3 work in different ways and have different secondary effects. One is a unit targeted ranged attack which heals Yorick. One is an area targeted ranged attach which slows everything in the area. One is an auto-attack enhancer which hastes Yorick. The ghouls stick around for 5 seconds, preferentially target enemy champions, and do 35% of Yorick's damage when they attack. They also continue to provide a toned down version of the benefit (so the healing ghoul keeps healing Yorick as it attacks and the slowing ghoul keeps slowing things around it.) On top of that Yorick's passive gives him 5% more melee damage and 5% damage reduction for every living ghoul. His ult also summons a super ghoul so he can realistically take 20% less damage and deal 20% more auto-attack damage in a big fight.

It's that damage reduction coupled with the healing ghoul which gives Yorick such great sustain and makes him a bit of a beast in 1v1 situations. The fact that two of his abilities are ranged and do reasonable damage is pretty powerful too. An enemy champion with no way of sustaining themselves can quickly get harassed out of lane. (I don't think I've done Tryndamere against Yorick but it can't be pretty. Either Trynd can burst Yorick out in one go or he can never farm at all. I'm leaning towards never farm at all.)

So how did it work out for me? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Diablo Free?

Well, I decided to take a week off work next month for the release of Diablo III. I'm not sure I'll spend the whole time playing D3 in particular but it's high time I've had a vacation anyway and it's not like I'm particularly prone to doing anything else with my vacation days from work.

Blizzard announced a while ago that you could get a copy of D3 free if you took a 1 year contract for World of Warcraft. It turns out that offer expires very shortly (next Monday). The question is... Would it be worth signing back up for a year? Just how much of a savings would I get, and could I possibly play enough World of Warcraft to have such an option make sense? I decided to take a look to see what information I could gather to help make that decision...

  • Diablo III is going to cost $59.99 if I buy the digital version. Same price at EB.
  • Collector's edition is $99.99. It combos with the 1 year thing by giving you an extra 4 months of WoW free.
  • The collector's edition looks like it has nothing at all that I want. So I'm going to ignore that option.
  • One year of WoW at the cheapest price is $155.88.
  • I am unlikely to sign up for 6 months at a time if I start playing again on my own outside of this contract. Probably more like $13.99 per month.
  • No one really knows when the next WoW expansion will hit shelves. Maybe around September. The beta is already up so it seems pretty inconceivable that it won't hit during the year contract.
  • Run all that math together and I'd need to want to play for a little less than 7 months to 'make money'.

So the question is, would I play for 7 months? I wouldn't mind going back to the ironman challenge even before the expansion hits. Likely if I was playing after the expansion hits I would play for 7 months to make it worthwhile... If it launched by the end of September, anyway! And even that is barely break-even... Worse considering I have to pay upfront and don't get to choose not to play WoW in 7 months if it turns out I don't want to. The upside is I would get the possibility of playing over the next 5 months before the expansion hits when I feel like it. Without feeling the obligation to play a lot because of paying a monthly fee... 

I'm conflicted. At least I have a week to decide!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All Kings Must Die!

First of all, I was a little disappointed with the 2v2 tournament last night. MKP and Huk were the most popular team but apparently MKP was really unhappy with that team. It turns out in a field of 7 Koreans and 1 Canadian you don't actually want to team up with the person with whom you can't really communicate. During the games themselves it became pretty clear that they didn't have any 2v2 experience at all. I used to play a lot of 2v2s back in the day (T&P with Jer, T&P with Tom, R&R with Robb) and the very first thing we learned was that you have to completely wall in your ramp if the other team has a Zerg. DRG went with a 10-pool, MC proxied two barracks and spammed marauders and swarmed them. If they were walled off (or if Huk had built any zealots) they could have handled it pretty easily I think. As it was they had to sac most of their workers to survive a little bit and then lost shortly thereafter. The commentators weren't taking it very seriously but it was actually pretty funny. The tournament itself was pretty cool; I just wanted MKP and Huk to win.

For the main event MKP went 6-1 in the round robin and handily won his semifinal match. He ended up in the final against DRG for the 3rd straight MLG event. It went to a 7th game and DRG pulled off a quick baneling bust and managed to win. The king is dead! 8(

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Diablo III Open Beta Weekend

This weekend Blizzard is running a fully open beta for Diablo III. Multiple of my Facebook friends were really excited for the announcement and one of my LoL teammates had bad lag last night as his roommates were busy downloading the client. The game itself launches in 24 days and I'd have to think the beta will be pretty polished by this point. This is likely either just a server stress test, a PR move, or an attempt to get a lot of people to download the client now to lessen the strain on the servers come launch.

I for one am really uninterested in playing in the beta. Characters are capped at level 13. I believe you're still capped at the first act. Nothing you do this weekend will carry over to your live account. The way I look at it, I have lots of games I want to play. I have no need to play an unfinished game with no save state. Games also tend to have a number of hours before they get boring and I don't want to waste any of my D3 hours now. Maybe if I had nothing else to do, if I felt I'd gain really useful information, or if I wasn't able to afford the game when it launched I might feel differently but as it currently stands not so much.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes beta tests are really good. I was involved in the Magic Online alpha/beta and it was great. No features were turned off and I actually couldn't afford to play Magic in real life as much as I did in the test. No cards carried over but I did learn a lot about the cards. (Probably my best standard season ever was after that test. Go Tog!) Perhaps most importantly I was actually able to impact changes to the game. I also spent a lot of time in the StarCraft II beta. No really chance of making changes there but at least the game was fully functional. They were doing the test as a balance test so they needed to get people playing against each other with all the units as they tweaked numbers. Each game is self contained as well so you wouldn't lose any progress (except towards achievements I guess).

At any rate, if you're interested in playing a little D3 this weekend you can go play in the beta. I won't see you there!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Building 2v2 Teams

I've been thinking a fair bit about how to properly turn internet votes for potential pairs into an actual split of 8 people into 2 teams. (Getting to sleep when I have something like this to think about is really hard...) Properly may not even be the right term because there are different ways to work it out that are different and yet still optimal depending on what your criteria are going into the decision. I thought it would be useful to look at the numbers as of early Friday morning along with different ways I could see to split the StarCraft 2 spring arena teams up.

For starters we have the restriction that there will be no same-race teams. This was handed down by MLG in the announcement post so I'm going to assume it's non-negotiable. I also happen to like the restriction if only to stop a double 6-pool from happening. At any rate, with the racial split of the players (3 terran, 3 protoss, 2 zerg) this actually significantly reduces the options. The only way to work it out with the given restriction is to have one ZT team, one ZP team, and 2 TP teams. (You can't have two ZT teams since that would leave three P for the remaining two teams. The same logic applies to two ZP teams. The only remaining option is the given one.)

After that you need to decide what the most important factor is. Each team is getting a number of YES votes and a number of NO votes. The way I see it you can use one of those as your main criteria, or the other one, or you can build a function between the two of them. The simplest would be a straight subtraction. I might go with something where the YES votes were weighted as worth twice as much as a NO vote, for example. You can also try to maximize the total sum of your main criteria across the four teams or you could try to maximize the main criteria on a team by team basis to fill in our 4 legal team options.

Answer the following questions to see where you'd fall on that spectrum:

- Should the team with the most YES votes get included no matter what?
- Should the team with the most NO votes get excluded no matter what?
- Should the team with the biggest YES-NO spread get included no matter what?
- Should you try to make the most people very happy or should you try to make everyone as happy as possible even if no one gets what they really want?

Picking the biggest number, eliminating all now illegal teams (ones containing a chosen player or ones in a race combination which is no longer legal), and iterating is pretty easy. Maximizing the total sum is less so. I feel like I should know how to do this sort of thing from my C&O days. Simplex method or something. I couldn't think of how to do it right away and let my mind wander a bit. I started thinking about how I'd write a program for it and what sort of pruning function I could use to pare down the search tree. Then I thought about how big the tree would even be... Turns out there's only 36 possible combinations. Oh. Well then, I'll just build a spreadsheet!

Before looking at how things shake out (to avoid allowing a potential MKP&Huk team cloud my judgment) I believe the way to go would be to use a straight YES-NO function to assign a value to each team and then use the spreadsheet to maximize the total sum of that value across the 4 chosen teams. I like this because if a particular team is popular relative to other options for a player it should get chosen and doesn't rest everything in the hands of the single most popular team. Theoretically just picking the biggest number and eliminating illegal options could result in the least popular team sneaking in. But would it even matter? How do things shake out?

Pick Biggest - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet  - 1640 votes
Maximize Sum - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet  - 1640 votes

CRITERIA: Fewest NO Votes
Pick Biggest - MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet, MKP&Huk - 777 votes
Maximize Sum - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet - 777 votes

Pick Biggest - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet - 863 votes
Maximize Sum - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet - 863 votes

CRITERIA: Most YES-(NO/2) Votes
Pick Biggest - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet - 1251.5 votes
Maximize Sum - MKP&Huk, MC&DRG, Ganzi&Parting, Heart&Violet - 1251.5 votes

Ok, so it turns out as the numbers stood it doesn't actually matter what criteria you chose among any that I've considered. They all come out with precisely the same teams. On the plus side those teams all include my desired team!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

League of Legends: Positional Statistics

I stumbled across an interesting website earlier this week: lolstatistics. This is a website that pulls all of your profile stats and stores it in their own database and provides some breakdowns. I believe it works by having an account logged into the game which is scripted to look characters up when a new request comes in via the webpage. I poked around a little with the stats they provide and came across a breakdown showing winning percentage, games played, and average kills/deaths/assists for each champion. It further assigns each champion to one or more styles of play and then aggregates those same stats by style. Here's what my stats look like as of yesterday:

Win %K/D/ATotal Games
Melee Carry56%6/5/7177
AP Carry50%4/5/9107
Range AD Carry39%5/5/667

Now there are actually some fairly relevant flaws in the data here. The stats in your profile indicate results by champion but don't break down what you actually did in those games. Alistar is listed as a jungler, an AP carry, a support, and a tank because he could fill any of those roles. I've played 52 games as Alistar so almost half of my AP carry stats are coming from Alistar when I have never once played him in anything vaguely resembling an AP carry role. I know for sure that 51 of those games were support and 1 was jungle on the 3v3 map. Which in itself is a flaw in the data. The listed roles all make sense for the 5v5 map but I've played a fair number of 3v3 games recently. (120 games according to the site but some of those were unranked.) Lee Sin, for example, is listed as a melee carry and as a tank. Most of the games I've played with him have been in the jungle on the 3v3 map! Perhaps the biggest flaw of them all is Graves and Fiora don't have any roles at all so my games with those champions don't show up anywhere! (I've only played 6 games as Fiora with a 67% win percentage. She should probably be in the melee carry and maybe jungler slots making those numbers a little better. Graves I've played 32 times with a 34% win percentage. He should certainly be a ranged AD carry and drop that number even lower.) Akali is a jungler and a melee carry according to this site! (I'd have her as AP carry exclusively I think. Maybe AP carry and melee carry. Jungler boggles my mind... Maybe I should try it out!)

Even with all those potential problems I think the numbers are still fairly illuminating. I play a lot of games as champions that fill the tank/jungler/melee carry roles and fewer games with other roles. Playing more games means more practice which should mean I do better in those games than I do as AP carry or range AD carry. The range AD carry number in particular is _really_ bad. With Graves included it's at ~37% which is a lot lower than the ~56% I get with jungler/melee carry/support/tank. 56% is actually pretty good and is close to the win ratios of top pros. (Voyboy: 56%. Saintvicious: 55%. Of course they're in _significantly_ higher ELO brackets so they're getting their wins against much stronger opponents!) 37% is absolutely horrific.

Clearly there's something wrong with the way I play a ranged AD carry. Am I not farming enough? Is my positioning in team fights bad? Do I not work well with supports? Am I too aggressive early game? Not aggressive enough? Too susceptible to ganks? Buying the wrong items? Something else entirely? I think it may be time to do some research and see what the internet has to say so I can compare with what I've been doing... I have one idea from a recent game I played that I need to develop a bit more in my head that could shed some light on the subject. I'll probably post about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

StarCraft II: 2v2s!

The first MLG spring arena event for StarCraft II is this weekend and they just announced a bonus event that weekend which might actually be more exciting than the main event if only for the novelty of it. The spring arena will only have 8 players and the main event should be filled with awesome games as the players get to put in a lot of preparation given that they know they'll be playing all 7 of the other players. What else can you do with precisely 8 players? You can break them into teams of 2 and play a little single elimination 2v2 tournament!

I think this is going to be really cool because it's unlikely these guys have done much prep work for it at all. They're currently holding a poll at the MLG site to determine the teams so even if they wanted to practice right now they couldn't! I would imagine some of these guys might play 2v2s for fun now and then but I can't imagine it's worth their time in general to put a lot of effort into it compared to their standard 1v1 games. As such I would think we could see some wacky strategies coming out of the games. Or maybe a lot of 6 pools... At least they've set it up so two players of the same race can't be on the same team so there can't be a double 6 pool. With 3 protoss, 3 terran, and 2 zerg players there's still a lot of team combinations possible. Personally I voted up for MarineKingPrime teaming with Huk and voted down every other combination containing either player in the hopes my top 2 might team up. It is the leading pair out of the gates but they have to change their states rules for choosing teams as right now the teams would be MKP&Huk, MKP&DRG, DRG&MC, and DRG&Huk. Pretty sure DRG can't play on 3 of the 4 teams at the same time so they've actually got a more complex optimization problem on hand. I wonder if they've got someone to work it out or if I should volunteer...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Aidan recently left a copy of Hacienda at my place and I re-read the rules as a refresher. Earlier today I was browsing the open games list on Yucata and noticed there was an implementation of it on there. Sweet! I figured I could play a game and decide if it was worth playing the physical version the next time people were over. And so I could know how to score points so I could win! Mwahaha!

It turns out the implementation on Yucata is very flawed. It doesn't tell you what actions your opponent took on their turns so you have a very difficult time figuring out what they're trying to do. The game has an area control theme going on so knowing what kinds of cards your opponents are picking up is really important. Originally I thought this would only really be a problem if a game dragged out since I could try to remember the game state at the end of my last turn and see if I could figure out the differences.

Problem: You get 3 actions per turn and there are two different draw decks working ala Ticket To Ride. Draw a face up card and flip a new one to replace it. Which you can then take with your next action. So it's entirely possible for there to be public information you simply can't obtain. It's very frustrating. I'm not sure I'd like the game very much with proper rules but as implemented on Yucata it's pretty terrible.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dance Duels

Dancing With The Stars decided to implement something new this week and going forward for the next couple weeks. Instead of eliminating the lowest combined scoring couple they're going to make the two lowest scorers do a second dance at the same time with the judges picking the worst one from those extra dances to go home.

I don't know that you can trust the judges to be perfectly logical beings but it got me thinking about how to game the system assuming you could count on the judges to properly score the dance duel. Ideally you'd want to do well enough in your main dance to land yourself above the bottom two. But what if you felt like that wasn't super likely? Why not write off your primary dance entirely. Do terribly and place in the bottom two for sure... But all that time the other teams spent during the week preparing their main dance you'd spend preparing an awesome bonus dance. Presumably if you spend 5 days working on the dance duel and they spend 1 day on it you should have a pretty big advantage.

Doing that in actuality would probably be looked upon as making a mockery of the system and I'd think the judges would be a little biased in the marking of the dance duel. Personally I don't see it as making a mockery of the system so much as I think the system itself is fatally flawed. As set up two couples end up putting a lot of effort into a main dance which is worthless when it comes to determining who gets eliminated. My plan just removes some of the uncertainty surrounding who those two couples would be.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend III: Jump!

It's been a while since I'd been to town in FFLIII and I'd forgotten that my controller had a jump button. I was in a dungeon filled with pits and couldn't find a way to get by them. I kept falling down to the floor below and couldn't find any way around it. So I went to gamefaqs for help and it ignored the existence of pits. I was confused and started mashing my controller in frustration. And then I jumped. Over the pit. Woohoo!

I bought a new weapon in town and it turned out to be a 1-shot weapon. That did less damage than my normal weapon. Stupid worthless consumables.

I also finally got a monster to drop a spare part and turned one of my humans into a cyborg. He doesn't seem like a particularly good cyborg class so far but that should change as he levels up.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Minish

Ultimately I caved in and looked up on the internet what I had to do to progress in Zelda: Minish Cap. When I found out what I'd missed I was really sad at myself. It turns out there are 4 ways out of the main town: 1 that you can come in through and 3 that are guarded by guards. Apparently if you talk to one of the guards in particular he'll let you out. I'm not sure if I talked to him earlier and he wouldn't let me out (you need to learn spin slash) or if I'd talked to the first two and assumed the third guy was the same.

Very shortly thereafter I got stuck again. I was exploring a mountain and couldn't find another way to go. It turns out you need to use your vacuum cleaner thing on globs of white goo to reveal a cave. I'd swear I'd used every item in my inventory on the white goo. It wasn't that I didn't think to use the vacuum cleaner... It's that I thought I already had! This is likely an issue with playing the game in 10 minute chunks on the bus/subway. Sigh.

I just had to look something up for the third time. In this case I was pretty sure I'd explored all of a dungeon. There were big sand dunes all over the dungeon and I could see treasure behind some of them. I couldn't find a way to get through. This time I double checked all my items to no avail. It turns out you need a special item to dig through the sand dunes. That item was found in the dungeon. Behind a wall you could explode with a bomb. An unmarked wall...

This reminds me a little bit of Final Fantasy Adventure. That game was filled with unmarked walls you had to knock down in order to progress. I ended up playing that game with a map open on my computer as I got so fed up with trying to knock down unmarked walls. I hate the concept. Now, if it was a sidequest or something I'd be ok with it. Want to hide a quarter-heart of a gold skulltula behind an unmarked wall? Fine. Annoying maybe, but fine. Forcing me to explode every wall on the off-chance it's the way I need to go in order to make progress? Terrible.

Friday, April 13, 2012

TSN Predictor

I've been playing a Facebook 'game' for the last couple years now called TSN Predictor. It isn't really a game by most people's definitions but then it really isn't a Facebook game (in the sense that you can't spend money and get no benefit from spamming your friends) either. It's more of a combination between a contest and an advertisement. The basic idea is you try to predict the winner of an NHL hockey game each day and whoever put together the longest streak of correct predictions at the end of the month wins $1000. Then at the end of the year one of those winners also wins a car. I believe they can afford to do this due to the ads on the page for the car sponsor and because it advertises when the TSN network is televising NHL games.

There's also a 'double down' question each day which you can answer or ignore. If you ignore it (or if the question is a draw) then nothing special happens. You get 1 added to your streak if you pick a game correctly and get your streak reset to 0 if you picked a game incorrectly. Forget to play and nothing happens at all. Get the double down right and pick a game right and add 2 to your streak.

April was a short month as the regular season ended after 7 days. As it happened after 5 days I was sitting in 3rd place with an ongoing 8 streak. The 6th was Lounge Day and I forgot to play before we left. I ended up sneaking into the MathSoc office to play, but didn't want to spend too much time so I picked quickly and left. The situation had 2 people ahead of me with 9 points and only 1 game being played that day. Both people ahead of me picked one team to win (it's interesting that it shows me their picks) so I quickly picked the other one. I also picked the double down question (total goals scored in the game, over/under 4.5). My reasoning was that there were other people tied with me at 8 points and a bunch at 7 as well. So even though I was going to catch up to the 9s if I got the game right I could well be passed by people tied with me. Also, there was still another day to go and I figured I might well need 2 points on the 6th and 2 points on the 7th.

People at Lounge Day asked about the tiebreakers. I didn't want to catch up to the 9s, I wanted to pass them. Did I need to do that? Well, I didn't have time to read the fine print when I was sneaking my pick in but I figured I should look at it now in case the situation came up again. (I seem to recall coming 2nd in April last year...) It turns out the tiebreakers are, in order: total success %, total correct picks, random roll.

Total success percentage as the first tie breaker means I had the edge against everyone. I only had 8 points of the possible 9 after 5 days but it's because I forgot to play on April 1st. No one else was in that situation so everyone else at 8 points had a worse tiebreaker. The guys at 9 were currently at 100% but if they got the game wrong on the 6th (the only way I was tying them was by picking opposite them and being right) then they'd have a loss and I'd be beating them. The second tiebreaker wouldn't matter in such a short month but could be key in a full month. The third tiebreaker is completely random and I should pick an extra double down question rather than leave it to randomness since presumably I can pick a yes/no question with better than 50% accuracy.

So... Should I have picked the double down question on the 6th? Knowing now that I completely dominate the first tiebreaker I'm not so sure. Certainly I should have gone through everyone near me's picks. If I could end up at a 9 streak with control of the tiebreaker I could then figure out how to approach the last day. My thinking was that I needed to beat the current 9s and to guarantee I stayed ahead of all the current 7s. In reality I was fine against both of those and only really had to worry about the current 8s.

I'll try to reconstruct the day in question...

9 points - 9/9 - pick StL, under
9 points - 9/9 - pick StL, over
8 points - 8/9 - pick Pho, over
8 points - 8/8 - pick StL, under
8 points - 8/8 - pick Pho, under
7 points - 7/8 - pick Pho, over
7 points - 7/7 - pick Pho, over
7 points - 7/7 - pick StL, over
7 points - 7/7 - pick StL, over
7 points - 7/8 - pick StL, under

6 points - 6/7 - pick Pho, over
6 points - 6/6 - didn't play
6 points - 6/7 - didn't play

Assume Phoenix wins and I get the double down right... What are the outcomes of each possible choice?

10/10 - ME

10/10 - ME


9/9 - ME

9/9 - ME

I'm behind the 8-ball if I don't pick. Because I have people at 8 points going each way there's always going to be a 10. Then I again need to hope they get something wrong on the last day. Not picking and having the under happen is particularly bad as that guy also had a 100% pick percentage. I'm not convinced I need to pick something. And since both ways have a single other person at 10 points I don't see a huge difference between them. The over is a little better as I have the tiebreaker on that 10 pointer but either way I'm pretty sure I'd need to pick a game and the double down on the last day as well. I should pick whichever one I think is most likely to happen.

I picked the under. Unfortunately the game ended up having 5 goals scored in a Phoenix win. The final scores ended up being 11 - 10 - 9 - 9 - 9 - 9. The guy who ended up at 10 points actually didn't pick the double down on the last day! There was a guy at 9/9 at that point who could have won with a 100% tiebreaker if he'd gotten the final day right on both counts. I don't know that I would have been able to take that risk if I was him...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring StarCraft II Arena I

MLG announced the format for the first Spring Arena today and it sounds pretty great. It's an 8 player event with the top 8 from the last MLG getting the invites. (One of them dropped out so #9 is going as well.) They're going to play a round robin to start so there's going to be a ton of great matches. Especially since each competitor knows exactly who they're up against and has quite a lot of time to come up with specific game plans for beating each other.

Interestingly enough they're bringing in more analysts than players! They're going to have 6 commentators, an observer (who controls the camera on the main stream) and 3 race specific experts. I'm not sure how the race specific experts are going to work out (part of me things if they were that expert they'd be playing in the event but part of me accepts that someone can know a lot of the strategy without having the in-game control to pull it off at the very top of the world) but it's an interesting idea and I'm curious to see it in action.

They're going to be running 7 streams at once! At most 2 games at a time (with only 8 players it would be tricky to pull off more than that for any stretch of time) but they're going to stream both player's viewpoints from every game. Watching MarineKingPrime's screen to see what he's looking at when he does his crazy micro could be pretty great.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NHL Playoffs

Today marks the first day of the 2012 NHL Playoffs. The next two months will be filled with televised hockey games. Some of these games I will be obligated to watch as a Red Wings fan. I will likely watch other games based on having been a hockey fan in the past and finding habits hard to break.

What does this mean for my game playing? Well, for one I expect to be playing significantly less League of Legends. Right now the 8pm-1am time slot has pretty much been dedicated to playing LoL and that's going away. I've tried to watch Dancing With The Stars in the background while playing LoL and it just doesn't work. LoL is such an engrossing game that even when I'm dead and waiting to respawn I have things to consider and look at in game that there's no time to glance up at the tv. Raiding in WoW was at least semi-plausible to do at the same time since I was practiced/good enough to auto-pilot a lot of the game away. In LoL, not so much.

On the other hand it will free up a lot of time to play other games in smaller chunks. Intermissions between periods, for example, feel like prime time to get some Final Fantasy Legend III in. It'd be trickier if I get up to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest since I'd be playing that on the same tv as the hockey. I wonder if I can set up cross-input PiP...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

League of Legends: Farm Ownership

League of Legends is a game with a primary goal of killing the opposing base but with secondary goals along the way that allow you to achieve the primary goal. Some of those secondary goals are to gain levels, to buy equipment, and to try to keep the opposing team from gaining levels and buying gear. It's the buying equipment part that has had me thinking recently... A large chunk of the incoming money comes from killing the AI controlled minions which spawn in each lane every 30 seconds. There are 3 such lanes and 5 players on a team. How do you split those minion kills? How should you split those minion kills?

The first thing to note is there's actually a 4th reasonable source of cash: the neutral monsters in the jungle. At one point the number of champions that could kill efficiently in the jungle was fairly limited but they redid the structure of the jungle to allow most champions to work reasonably there. Practically every team has a jungler now. That's 4 income sources for 5 people... There's a lot of distance between lanes so it seems logically like you either have two people split one source or have one person get nothing at all.

Back in the day you'd have two people trying to split a single lane. This had plenty of issues. (As a point of information you only get money for getting the killing blow on a minion.) First of all with two people trying to get the last hit in on minions you tend to end up with more damage done overall. This pushes your lane compared to the other team which can be good but is generally bad. (If you're pushed forward it's more likely you can kill a turret but you're also more vulnerable to getting ganked.) Having two people attacking the minions also messes with the timing of last hits. You can predict how the AI units will attack each other and time out your hits. Throw another human in there and it becomes a lot harder. If you're really out of sync you can even end up with less money combined than an individual would have earned alone!

Currently the game plan for most teams is to take one of their five players and have them commit to earning nothing at all from minion kills. They still hang out in a lane to get experience and try to keep their ally alive and bother the enemy duo in the same lane. Generally the other person in that lane will be a weaker early game character (who needs a buddy keeping them alive) but who scales very well with gear (and hence they want to focus on all the creep kills in their lane). This is a pretty good plan but there are some corner cases where reality seems to conflict with the same logic...

One of the items you can buy (and the supporting dude often does) is an invisible ward that provides vision in an area. It can protect you from getting ganked by the enemy team. It can let you spy on particular neutral monsters so you can interrupt the other team. It can let you harass the opposing duo lane. It's pretty good! You can pay 75G for one of these wards. Or you can pay 125G for a nearly identical item. The only difference is it reveals invisible units as well. Like other wards. Kill an opposing ward revealed in this way and you make 25G.

Who should kill these wards? Current conventional wisdom is the person who paid to reveal the ward gets the 25G. Typically this will be the supporting dude. The one who isn't allowed to kill enemy minions which are worth around 25G themselves. My contention is this is flawed logic! The whole concept of having a support revolves around the idea that they don't need to get 25G chunks and it's better to give that money to the carry. Most people accept the whole idea that the support lets the carry have all the money from minions. Why should the money from a ward be any different? Would a support really be unable to afford the revealy ward if they couldn't get that 25G?

Often the carry is nowhere near the ward and clearly the support should kill it to get rid of it ASAP. But if the carry is nearby why not let them have it instead?

What about opening jungle monsters? Normally the carry has minions in lane to kill off themselves so it wouldn't make any sense for them to try to last hit the jungle monsters. But lately the jungler has been starting by killing 3 wolves before the lane minions are around. The jungler gets people to help kill them but tends to be very adamant that they get the last hits for the gold. Why? If the carry is helping kill them why shouldn't they get the money? Does the jungler need more money than the carry? If so, why doesn't the jungler kill a bunch of minions in lane after a gank?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Liar's Dice

I played a game of Liar's Dice at Lounge Day which lasted a mere 2 turns for me. I lost 6 dice on my second action! I thought the bid was very reasonable to make at the time so the question I need to answer is if I merely got very unlucky or if I played badly in combination with getting unlucky.

I bid 11 2's with 4 2's in my own cup. There were 22 outstanding dice that I couldn't see and a 1 in 3 chance that each of those dice could be a 2 or a wild. The expected value from my point of view was a little more than 7 more 2's which when added to my own 4 made my bid of 11 2's conservative! It turned out Pounder on my left had none at all and challenged my bid. From his point of view there were also 22 outstanding dice so I'd likely overbid by 4. Even if you assign 4 of my dice to be 2's there are only 17 outstanding dice after those. This means there aren't even going to be 10 of them and challenging my bid is still pretty safe for him. Even if I have all 5 there's a good chance I'm going down. The chance that I'm bidding on air needs to be considered as well! So my first flaw is looking at it from my point of view and not from Pounder's likely point of view.

Of course, if he has a couple 2s he can't possibly challenge me. Even a single 2 means his challenge has to be based on putting me on a stone cold bluff instead of on a reasonable EV bid. Maybe he'd do that. Maybe he wouldn't. Heck, if he would do that I really like my bid since we were playing with an odd exacta rule which makes me really want to have a reasonable bid get challenged.

The actual result was that there was a single 2 between the 22 outstanding dice. So I lost 6 dice and was out of the game. That result felt astronomically unlikely and I wanted to take a look at the odds of that happening and the odds of getting reasonably called by Pounder at each of his possible number of 2s.

My first thought was to just build a spreadsheet like I did for Can't Stop but then I stopped and considered just how big a number 6^22 is. Yeah, not going to happen. But since each die roll is independent I should be able to make use of Markov Chains!

With 22 rolls the odds of getting 1 or fewer of a specific number is .16%. Pretty unlikely for sure, but not nearly as astronomical as I was thinking. The odds of there being 6 or fewer (and therefore my bid being a loser) is 36.2%. Those odds aren't too bad, especially with almost 15.6% being a 1 die loss and another almost 11% being a mere 2 die loss. Of course, this is still treating Pounder as a vacuum who doesn't take his own dice into account when he challenges...

First thing's first... What are the odds of each of Pounder's possible die rolls?

0 - 13%
1 - 33%
2 - 33%
3 - 16%
4 - 4%
5 - .4%

And with each of his possible results, what are the odds I have a loser if he challenges?

0 - 67%
1 - 48%
2 - 28%
3 - 13%
4 - 4%
5 - 1%

I'm a little surprised at the 1 number. Even if I have 4 matching dice under my cup if Pounder only has a singleton of my bid he'll be correct to challenge almost half the time. Depending on the psychology of the player in Pounder's spot this may or may not be ok. If they're willing to show the one die and re-roll the rest the bid is a big winner. If they're going to challenge then it isn't. And if I ever make big bluffs they'll be even more correct to challenge borderline bids like this one! Assuming Pounder will make the challenge at 0 and 1 and let the rest slide what is my total expected outcome?

53.4% - game keeps going as Pounder makes a bid
24.6% - I lose some dice
 6.3% - I win an exacta
15.7% - Pounder loses some dice

Considering this is a 6 player game and I have 18% of the dice it seems less than optimal to lose dice 24.6% of the time. Especially since I could very well lose dice in the 'game on' category as well. Playing it a little safer is probably a wiser thing to do. I like putting the screws to the person on my left (the idea being it likely won't get back around to me) but if the cost of putting the screws is to lose more than my fair share of the time it seems suboptimal. Consider what would happen if I'd bet only 10 2's... At this point Pounder has to bid on with anything except 0 2's...

86.4% - game keeps going as Pounder makes a bid
 6.2% - I lose some dice
 2.5% - I win an exacta
 4.9% - Pounder loses some dice

This is now a very safe bet. The odds of losing anything at all aren't very high. Even with 0 2's Pounder might even bid on anyway since there are lots of reasonably safe options for him if he has any set of numbers to bid himself. The only problem is I may well be put to a real test on my next turn around the table. Hopefully by then some dice will be revealed and the variance will be reduced!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Ricochet Robots

Ricochet Robots is a puzzle board game I've played a few times now. The basic idea is you have a board with 4 robots and a lot of walls on it. Then a tile gets flipped up telling you to move a specific robot to a specific square on the board. Robots move in a straight line until they run into a wall or a robot. The goal is to find the fewest number of moves to get the indicated robot where it needs to go.

The first person to see a solution yells out the number and starts a one minute timer. Everyone can keep looking for a shorter solution and then whoever was the first to name the lowest number demonstrates it. If it works, they win a point and the board stays in the new configuration for the next puzzle. There's a different scoring method where instead of the first person to name the lowest number getting the point instead it's the first person with the fewest points who named the lowest number who wins.

People seem to be pretty mixed on which one to play. The first has the flaw that if someone is just slightly faster they'll end up with all the points and there's no way to differentiate between fourth and fifth, for example. The second has the flaw that most games simply don't matter at all. Assuming most people can find something to get right they'll be able to tie things up pretty easily and then you'll only have the last couple puzzles mattering at all.

I was thinking if there could be a better way to solve the problem... They don't work on a board since you can't make everyone prove they saw the solution but on a computer implementation you could have everyone submit a solution and anyone who found it splits the point. You could also have the timer reset each time someone names a lower number. (I was thinking the optimal strategy in the real rules when you're ahead is to just name a high number to start the timer and then sit on your real solution until the clock has almost run out. This prevents people from trying to see your solution.) This way people get rewarded for getting puzzles solved correctly in a reasonable time frame. It also rewards someone who gets a particularly hard puzzle right by weighting it as being worth more. The game may end up coming down to a couple specific puzzles but at least this way it comes down to the hard ones and not to the last ones.

I donno. I like it with the first one wins rules but then I do get things first some of the time. I won the game during Lounge Day with 7 of the 17!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Lounge Day Games

Games I played yesterday in the lounge:

Ricochet Robots
Liar's Dice
Blood Bowl: Team Manager Card Game thing
Innovation + expansion

Friday, April 06, 2012

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Few Acres of Snow: Reserve

A Few Acres of Snow has a very interesting mechanic that is part increased hand size, part permanent trash pile. That mechanic is the reserve and making proper use of it seems to be very important when it comes to being successful at playing the game. It's such a unique feature and so important that I want to spend an entire post talking about it.

The mechanics of the reserve are fairly straightforward. As an action you can set one of the cards in your hand off to the side in the reserve zone. It doesn't take up space in your hand, deck, or discard pile as a result. It just sits set off to the side. Then during your turn you can retrieve all the cards in your reserve for no action by paying one buck per card retrieved. You have to get them all back if you get any of them. The cards are still vulnerable to attack so if your opponent ambushes you he can get any military cards in your reserve. A priest/indian leader can steal a neutral Native Americans card put there as well. (Note: There is a maximum of 5 cards allowed in the reserve.)

What can you do with the reserve? The first thing that jumped to mind when I started playing was trying to set up a perfect combo hand. With the French I would reserve away cards that had furs on them. Then when I drew my trader I'd trade for a ton of bucks. Of course this wasn't actually terribly efficient (you earn 2 bucks per fur but had to pay 1 per card you retrieved and you lost an action for every card reserved along the way) but with a clunky deck it did ok. I've since stopped building clunky decks and the rules have changed preventing it from working anyway...

The next thing you could do is use the reserve as a sort of trash bin. Why bother buying a governor and spending actions killing cards when you could just stick your worst cards in the reserve and never bring them back again? It turned out this was the basis for the truly degenerate British deck that was unstoppable. Two actions to stick Pemaquid and St Mary's in the reserve and then you have a sweet money engine with your remaining 5 cards. They ended up publishing new rules for the game in order to shut this strategy down. As an extra rule with the reserve you can no longer put location cards in the reserve. Only empire cards can do there now.

This restriction shuts down the truly broken part of the reserve but what remains is still very powerful. If you want to get rid of locations you now need a governor but what are you supposed to do with the governor after you've eaten the bad cards? Stick it in the reserve! You can even use the reserve for other purposes as well and just pull back the governor with the other cards. Maybe you can find a use for it again. Maybe you need to spend another action to reserve it again. It all works out!

What else can you do with the reserve? A prime use is to store all your military cards between invasions. In order to assault a fortified capital you need to set up a very precise hand. Louisbourg, a boat, and at least 5 strength of military power. Trying to cycle into this hand one or two discards at a time isn't going to work out very well for you. Reserving the military power (and maybe the boat!) makes it so you just need to draw Louisbourg to win which is an easier combo.

I've also used it to store my priest card as the French. After you've taken all their Native American cards you can use the priest to extend your raid range. But if you just want to keep ambushing you have no use for a priest. You don't want to governor it away in case they buy more Natives later... So stick it in the reserve! With reasonable hand tracking you'll even have a good shot at nailing the Native should they buy one. And if you do shift into a raid game you'll have a priest waiting for you!

A final thing I've done is stored a settler card until I'm going to win a fight. Then I can pull it out of my reserve the turn before I win in order to settle Pemaquid. Alternatively if you're trying to cube out with a biggish deck it can help to reserve the settler and dig until you get the right city card. Not very money efficient but sometimes you have enough money and just need to end the game before Quebec gets conquered.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

League of Legends: Olaf

A few months ago I played a couple games against Olaf in the top lane and got completely dominated. I didn't really understand what was going on and we ended up taking the standard approach to dealing with a champion that blows you up... We banned him aggressively. Then we started playing 3v3s and he beat us there too, so we started banning him there as well. We keep running into other champions we really want to ban in 3v3 though and ended up dropping Olaf from our list. At which point we promptly played against him and got destroyed again. Clearly I need a new solution to the problem...

One way to deal with it could be to read a bunch of guides on how to play him and try to work out weaknesses from there. I wish I had the time to read guides for all the champions but that just isn't realistic. But maybe I could do just one or two? I could have time for that but it doesn't seem all that fun. Instead I just went out and bought him! Play a game against bots and then read some guides with a base of information to learn from. It turns out Olaf has a couple mechanics which actually make him substantially different from other champions...

The biggest difference is the way his primary damage ability scales. For almost every ability in the game the ability gets stronger the more ranks you put into it. It gets stronger the more gear you have. (Typically a caster will have abilities that scale off of ability power and a fighter will have abilities that scale off of attack damage. Ryze scales off of maximum mana!) It will get weaker the more gear your opponent has. (Armor will reduce physical damage, magic resistance will reduce magical damage.)

Olaf's E ability ignores armor. It ignores magic resistance. And it doesn't get stronger from any stats you build. It does a flat, guaranteed amount of damage based on rank of the skill and that is all. This means you can't build mitigation to try to survive against him. (You could build a lot of maximum health or health regen I guess.) It also means he doesn't really have anything to gain by gearing up himself so he's likely to just build a lot of mitigation himself. This makes it so you can't really survive against him in lane and also so you can't burn him out first. His ability maxes out in power at character level 9 though, so as the game goes longer he gets relatively weaker. He's at his most powerful around that range so if you survive through it without handing him a bunch of kills you should be doing ok...

His Q ability is also uniquely interesting. You throw your axe to a spot and it does damage and slows anything it hits on the way. It has an 8 second cooldown. If you walk up to your axe you pick it up and knock 4.5 seconds off of the cooldown. If you have other cooldown reduction it interacts very well... With blue buff the cooldown was more like 6 seconds. And if you pick your axe up you still knock the full 4.5 off which means you can spam the ability every 1.5 seconds if you can pick up your axe in time... It turns out you can throw it right at your feet! It will still hit anything around you and you'll instantly pick it back up without having to move or stop attacking. This seems like a really strong way to jungle if you can keep up with the mana cost. (Yay blue buff!) For laning it means he can chase pretty much anyone who runs in a straight line. It seems like you want to veer off if he hits you and make him choose between chasing you or picking up his axe. Letting him keep chasing right into his axe is asking to get slowed forever and die.

His W gives extra attack damage, life steal, and spell vamp. This lets him basically stay in lane forever. It lets him jungle forever. The extra damage even helps in a team fight!

His ultimate is insane. It breaks all forms of crowd control and makes him immune to it for the next 6 seconds. It also massively raises his magic resistance. Oh, and it gives some armor penetration as a passive! It doesn't really do any damage which makes it fairly weak in a team fight (though he can't really be kited) but in a 1v1 situation it's so good.

His passive is very similar to where it's good. For each 1% health he's lost he gains 1% attack speed. This makes him a really fantastic duelist. Is there anyone who can kill him in a 1v1 fight? I'm not actually sure.

That said, what can I do to deal with Olaf in lane? Having a ranged attack seems really important. His brutally powerful attack is basically melee ranged so someone who can farm at ranged can survive. (Melee have to walk up to make money and then they get hurt badly.) Alternatively a massive amount of self healing could work. Warwick for example may be able to stay alive... But his ult is worthless against Olaf's ult. Warwick may be able to get a kill if he hits level 6 first though. I think Caitlyn might actually be the best choice since she has very long range and an escape if he walks up to slow her.

What about bursting him out? It can't be anyone who counts on using CC as the key to their combo (Veigar for example) but possibly Leblanc could take him down from full to dead? (Though when Olaf runs magic resist quints/marks/glyphs I doubt that would work.) How about Akali? She can go invisible to help mitigate the incoming damage from his passive and she has a lot of burst.

It's pretty clear most of my top champions can't compete. Nasus and Tryndamere should get completely dominated by Olaf. I can't imagine Lee Sin doing any better. (Maybe if he maxes his shield first and only goes in to last hit with it up?) Kennen might have enough range to stay alive and farm up? But anyone who has to walk anywhere near Olaf is going to lose the harass war hardcore.

The trick may well be having your jungler or mid lanes constantly gank him. Olaf is ridiculous 1v1 but doesn't have anything that scales to help him 1v2.

The best guide I've seen so far mentions Ryze as pretty much the only champion he loses to. Huh.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend III: Persistent Items

I've played a little bit of FFLIII in the last couple days and realized something quite remarkable while playing... My weapons aren't decaying! My spells aren't running out of charges! My beast/monster character has unlimited uses of her abilities! In short, I won't need to keep buying the same base level items over and over again to deal with the consumable nature of found gear. I'm thrilled!

Other things are pretty great too. My beast/monster character changes species when she levels up. So even if there is a particular monster that is particularly overpowered I can't possibly stay at that species forever. This could be seen as a negative but after the way I played FFL I'm pretty glad it works this way. In fact, I don't even feel the need to try to find a broken monster! I can just eat whatever drops and transform into anything and not have to worry about making a crippling mistake. That's a lot of pressure gone.

I think I'm going to go for balance in my party. One human, one mutant, one monster, one robot. I have yet to find an enemy that drops parts so I haven't headed towards Mr. Roboto yet but that's the plan anyway.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Dungeon Lords

I'd say in general I tend to be pretty good about figuring out the way to win at board games after a few plays. Maybe not the optimal line of play, and maybe not something that works every time... But I can find at least a path to victory. Dungeon Lords is a definite exception. I have no idea how to win. We played a game on the weekend and a couple turns from the end of the game I looked at my board and couldn't find a path from where I was to scoring a lot of points...

I was very well set up for killing off the incoming adventurers. Over the course of both invasions I lost a total of 2 tiles. So I did end up scoring 24 of the 28 invasion points. (Excluding paladins, anyway.) But I floundered around in terms of getting any of the other end game points.

I've played the game probably a dozen times now and it feels like it's always the same. I focus on the puzzle aspect of killing off the incoming adventurers to the exclusion of everything else. This is a pretty good way to get a reasonable score but it doesn't seem to be the way to get a winning score. If there was a website to bet on the outcome of board games in my apartment I think betting on me to get 2nd in Dungeon Lords is probably the safest bet right now! And I don't know what I could do to change that. Play more, I guess, and keep reading the end game scoring card each turn?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Distant Worlds Recap

By popular demand (my sister asked about it) I'm going to talk a bit about the Final Fantasy concert I attended on Saturday. Maybe other people will take interest in it from this post and will come along the next time one of these it put on so I don't have to sit by myself. As a bit of a spoiler I did think at one point that it was so awesome it would have been worth flying in from NB to attend if I'd been living out there instead of here in Toronto. Which makes me think it may make a worthwhile vacation to travel somewhere else at some point to catch a concert...

At any rate, I picked my ticket up at the Will Call booth thing and headed in. The theatre (Sony Centre for the Performing arts) was very nice. I was surprised to find cup holders on the seats like in a movie theatre. (Well, they were much smaller - big enough for a coffee or a bottle of pop.) I went to see if they'd sell something to put in the cup holder and got a $4 bottle of Coke. I wasn't sure how long it would take to find the place so I had about 20 minutes to sit around and wait for things to get started. Going in I was a little worried I was going to be underdressed for the theatre and I feel like I was. But I wasn't underdressed for the crowd that showed up. Some people were in fancy outfits but a lot of people were in jeans.

Eventually the lights went down and they started with Prelude. I'm not sure which Prelude it was, but it started off properly with just one woman playing a humungous harp. Eventually the rest of the orchestra came in and played out the rest of whichever Prelude it was. Then they jumped into Liberi Fatali from FFVIII. On top of the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony they also had a choir (TELUS Choir is what it sounded like they were called?) which was used to good effect in Liberi Fatali. There was also a projection running video on a big screen overhead which kicked in during this song.

Break for introductions from the conductor Arnie Roth. Huge applause for Nobuo Uematsu. No applause at all for the Sony Centre which was a little awkward.

Shift into Victory Fanfare from FFVIII. It was all of 10 seconds, just the little blurb that happens when you win a fight. Shift into Don't Be Afraid from FFVIII accompanied with a video replaying scenes from one of the first parts of FFVIII (where you have Seifer in your party and then get chased through town by a gigantic spider robot thing). Song ended as Squall made it to the boat and Quistis blew up the spider robot. Very nicely done. Now I want to play FFVIII again.

Break for more talking to say what they're playing next. You're Not Alone from FFIX and Blinded by Light from FFXIII. The video for You're Not Alone made me want to play FFIX again. I had to look away from the video screen during Blinded by Light because I haven't played all the way through that game and was afraid the video would have spoilers.

Break to talk about the next 3 songs. Theme of Love from FFIV, Ronfaure from FFXI, Zanarkand from FFX. Theme of Love used video from the DS remake which surprised me a little. I overheard a girl behind me say she wanted to have Theme of Love as the song for her first dance at her wedding. Ronfaure used a video sequence from FFXI that I don't think I'd seen. Maybe it's from cutscenes further along one of the city rank chains? I don't know. This song didn't really do it for me in orchestral form. I searched for it on youtube and the original is awesome, though. Zanarkand was great and the video, again, made me want to play the game. It featured the scene where Yuna comes out of a crypt and faints on the stairs and Kimahri catches her before anyone else can. Go Kimahri! (He needs experience, you know.)

Break to tell us intermission is coming shortly. But first, Clash on the Big Bridge from FFV and a Chocobo medley starting with the new FFXIV version. The video for Clash on the Big Bridge was various fights from the game against Gilgamesh. Awesome song. Chocobo had a cute little video on characters from different games riding Chocobos. Three of the scenes were from 'travel all around the world on a chocobo for a bonus'. It had a few scenes from FFXIII with Satz and his baby hair chocobo which was pretty great.

20 minute intermission. I pulled out my 3DS to play some Zelda and felt bad. I really should have brought FFIV or something so I could play a FF game at the concert instead of stupid Zelda.

Return to Bombing Mission from FFVII. Video appropriately is of the bombing mission at the start of the game. Then Fisherman's Horizon from FFVIII. Not one of the songs I think of when I think of FFVIII but it was pretty fantastic in orchestral form.

Break for some talking. Story about how Arnie keep trying to get Nobuo to play on stage but he doesn't feel worthy of playing with classically trained orchestras. Says he finally found a song where Nobuo's keyboarding would fit in enough, but Nobuo would only agree if Arnie also played the song. So he goes off stage and comes back with a violin and Nobuo comes on stage to man the double keyboard. The song? Dark World from Final Fantasy VI. Definitely a lot of ominous keyboarding going on there. I was too far back to really watch Nobuo do much of anything and the song is really plodding and depressing by nature so it wasn't the best. But having Nobuo there and actually doing anything at all was incredible. It also seemed weird to have the conductor be rocking a crazy violin solo one second and then conducting the orchestra the next. I don't understand anything about conducting but I can't imagine that was easy or optimal.

Long break as they put away Arnie's violin and the keyboards. Little discussion about how Cloud has a special message for us while we wait. Video screen starts up with Cloud lying on the ground and Aeris standing over him. (I think he falls through a floor and lands in a garden or something? I need to play FFVII again.) Then fakes speech bubble asking some lady to marry some dude. There's a big spotlight on the crowd a couple sections over and then a thumbs up appears. Lots of cheering. Lucky guy. His wife to be likes FF music!

Next up: Aeris' Theme from FFVII and The Man With A Machine Gun from FFVIII. The video for Aeris' Theme didn't show Aeris dying (I guess to protect people from spoilers? Maybe I could have watched the FFXIII one after all.) But did show right before Sephiroth jumps down and ended with the bouncing materia she drops. The Man With A Machine Gun had lots of clips of Laguna and friends in random encounters. It is such an incredible song, both in game and by an orchestra.

Break for some more talking about how this next song is a favourite. They introduce three classically trained soloists to sing the parts for Maria and Draco. The opera song from FFVI. This song in particular was obviously redone for an orchestra. What with the opera in game getting interrupted by Ultros and all... It was also much longer than any of the other songs. One of the opera singers wasn't loud enough to hear over the orchestra which was a little sad (and likely an issue with not boosting his mic enough?) but the other two were great.

More talking about how we're almost done. One last song to go. I'm thinking this has to be One Winged Angel or J-E-N-O-V-A since we haven't really had enough FFVII songs yet. Nope. It's Terra's Theme from FFVI. It's a great song to finish the evening since they're able to finish it off with the scene at the start of FFVI with the 3 magitek devices marching on Narshe while they post the credits from the show. PS: I really want to play FFVI now.

Crazy applause at the end. They bring out the opera singers and Nobuo for their bows. Nobuo gets a standing ovation. Then they mention that they probably have time for one more song. He says something about how if they didn't have a choir they'd need to get our help for this song. We do have a choir, but he thinks we should still help sing a three note word in the song. I'd done a little reading beforehand and knew what this had to be. (I'd read about people having to sing the latin words in One Winged Angel at other events.) He does a little spiel about what we have to do and gets the piano guy to play the tune for us. DE-DE-DOO. The video guy puts the letters SE-PHI-ROTH on the screen in case people hadn't clued in yet. Then he gets Nobuo to sing it just in case we can't read either. It was quite the production teaching us to sing SE-PHI-ROTH but was absolutely worth it.

Then they play One Winged Angel with the video showing lots of clips of Sephiroth and the latin words super-imposed. We let the choir (and Nobuo) handle the latin stuff and just chimed in with SE-PHI-ROTH. It was awesome.

Then another standing ovation. Arnie and Nobuo go off stage and comes back on for repeated bows a few times since we just won't stop clapping. Eventually they give up and just bring the lights up and we leave.

All told I believe the represented games were:

FFI - 1
FFIV - 1
FFV - 1
FFVI - 3
FFIX - 1
FFX - 1
FFXI - 1

All but the song from XIII were composed by Nobuo. I'm happy and unsurprised that FFVIII had the most songs since the music in that game is really incredible. VI and VII also having more than one song makes sense, too. The opera and One Winged Angel are such iconic parts of the Final Fantasy music library that they pretty much have to do them and there's some other great stuff there too.

I was a little disappointed they didn't do Dancing Mad, Maybe I'm A Lion, or the three awesome songs with actual lyrics (Eyes on Me, Real Emotion, 1000 Words) but the ones they chose were so good I can't complain.

Who wants to hit London in November?