Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Numbers for 2013

Goodness me, I'm up bright and early in this New Year! That would be because although we saw the year in trying to avoid black riders and escape from the Shire, we discovered at about 12:15am that we really had no idea which way it was to Bucklebury and my teammate decided he'd strike out across Brisbane to his own warm hobbit hole instead.

Although I don't post here much any more, I do have this tradition of analysing the state of play of my game collection at the start of each year. Here are the previous years' articles:

2007 article
2008 article
2009 article
2010 article
2011 article
2012 article

Since I'm somewhat alert this year I'll also do a bit of a retrospective. The year started (as it often does) with On the Beach and Cancon. OtB is great because it exposes me to a lot of new games, and Cancon is great because I pick up a lot of new games there - mostly from the maths trade, but I do buy some - and that game debt decides what I'll be playing for the next few months. At Cancon 2013 I was playing Agents of SMERSH that I'd got from Kickstarter. That one didn't last long - there was no situation in which I would not rather play Tales of the Arabian Nights, so I passed it on to someone who wanted it more than I did.

Filler hits early in the year included Martin Wallace's The Hobbit Card Game (which I really like) and Timeline. Timeline pretty much continued throughout the year, and I now have 4 sets.

In March I put in an order at, a French on-line games shop. That was the only way to get some things I wanted like Hanabi, the Yggdrasil Asgard expansion, and the Peloponnes Goat expansion. That order arrived just in time for Easter holidays, which was very convenient. We went away with one of my sisters, and played the RPG Fiasco a couple of times. Now that's a great game for people who aren't big on rules.

The middle of the year was spent playing off the game debt until the mid-year maths trade came along and helped me get rid of some stuff. However about that time I was doing some research into RPG-themed story-telling board games. That's the sort of game (e.g. Runebound) that I like to solo and would like to invent myself. That led to a lot of acquisitions, some P&P stuff from Artscow, the Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game, the Lone Wolf and Cub Game, and various others (most recently, Arkham Investigator).
However during that research I noticed that there was a Pathfinder card game coming out, and that was clearly relevant, so I decided I'd get a copy if I ever saw it in the shops.

Well... that kinda changed the year. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game took solitaire gamers around the world by storm. It's not the best story-telling game, but within the limitations of the genre it does a very good job. Paizo has done a great job on it - great components, great support, and new adventures every month. I played it 46 times, so it's my game of the year.

In September by friend The Famous Game Designer Peter Hawes released his best game yet, Francis Drake. This is a game I have considerable emotional investment in, as Peter mentions me as one of the people wanting him to design something other than an area majority game. He's done a superb job. The game plays well, the components are wonderful, and it makes me excited to see that Peter can design games other than ones where people eat me / steal from me / chop off my head / generally annoy the crap out of me. That's not to say that Francis Drake is a hold hands and sing kinda game, it's just that the aggression is passive, and that's how I like it.

The end of the year was defined by a trip to Montréal with my wife. We flew into Boston just as the Red Sox were playing in the World Series, and as I'd taken advantage of the trip to get a copy of Strat-o-Matic Baseball from Amazon, I got a bit caught up in the moment. The downside is that I really don't know much about baseball. I also got Strat-o-matic Baseball Express, which I have played. I'm building up to the real thing.

I can't let the year go by without mentioning the Solitaire Games on Your Table geeklists. The 1 Player Guild on BGG, initially based around fractaloon's podcast (which I don't listen to, I don't listen to any podcasts) has really taken off, and every month there are geeklist items for loads of games that people are playing solitaire. The COIN games like Andean Abyss are very popular, but I don't think I have the concentration for those and the other very complex games. I did get sucked into Navajo Wars though. I've been to Arizona and have seen some of that country. However as I was visiting as an employee of the mining industry I was really more in Silverton country than Diné territory. Learning more about Navajo Wars is something I'm looking forward to this year.

OK, back to the numbers.

There are 396 games in this collection. (last year 364)

The BGG average rating for this collection is 6.58. (last year 6.54)

Your average rating for this collection is 7.37. (last year 7.34)

On average you have played each of these games 8.37 times. (last year 8.5)

Your Friendless Metric is 1 (92 games played 10+ times, 59 games never played.) (last year 86, 45)

Your Continuous Friendless Metric is 3.34 which corresponds to an average utilisation of 53.75%. (last year 3.43, 55.24%)

I'm a little bit disappointed that the numbers have deteriorated like that! Although I managed to play a lot of what I acquired, many didn't get played very much and distressingly quite a few didn't get played at all. I am including there 4 mini expansions, which may never get played. There are also 10 Lord of the Rings LCG expansions which are unplayed, and 4 which have been played only once. I've just started playing that game again, so I hope to see that situation improve. Hmm, I should list some of my games on the maths trade... or just dump them.

The graph is prettier this year! The different colours at the start of each row indicate expansions - you can see where a lot of my problem is coming from! I have a hard core of unplayed games which I've collected, mostly from India. Some of them are pretty much unplayably bad, but some I should take a look at. However at games night, they just don't compare to Francis Drake.

Oh well, I'm off to give myself a spanking until I cry and promise to do better this year.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Board Games Are Forever

A few weeks ago I played the published version of a board game that I'd played a prototype of a few years ago. I sent email to the designer saying I like how it had turned out and I looked forward to getting to play it. The designer, having released several games since then, replied with something along the lines of "oh, that old thing!" That made me think about how we as producers and consumers have very different perspectives. For the designer, that game's a project that's finished as he can't work on it any more; for the retailer it's an end-of-life product that should be dumped to make room for new ones; but for me, it's a new discovery.

I have several other games by the same designer, which are on list of "classic games to keep forever". Long after the games are forgotten by the cogs in the machinery which produced them, they'll remain treasures in my collection.

I tend to think of my collection as containing a variety of subcollections. The core is the treasures, that I want to play forever. These are mostly Euros, and they're mostly desperately underplayed. Then, there are the games I keep for particular purposes - children's games, party games - so although I have no emotional attachment to them they have to stick around. There are also the particular collections - the GIPF Project, the Gigamic series, Indian games, that I collect for collection reasons. (For playing purposes, I'd keep the GIPF project except YINSH and TAMSK, maybe, but for collection reasons I keep them all.) And then, there are the games that are just passing through - mostly new stuff I've acquired and not yet played enough to allocate them to any of the other categories. Often I'll play a game I paid good money for and realise "this is a maximum 5 plays game, I'd better think about how I'm going to get rid of it". Now that I realise that that happens and that not everything's a keeper, it makes it a bit easier to let go of things in a maths trade.

Anyway, with all of this thinking going on, I decided to do some research into the lifespan of games. I know from this picture (x-axis quarters of years, y-axis publication years of games played in that quarter):

that I tend to start playing games published in a year about halfway through that year, and continue doing so for 3 or 4 years. Then those games get pushed out by new stuff.

And is that new stuff really new? What's the lag between a game being published and me playing it? I only know game release dates to year resolution, so I made a histogram of the number of calendar years between a game's release and my first play of it. As you can see here (x-axis number of years, y-axis number of games):

I typically play a game the year after it's released. and 50% of the games I play were released 3 or fewer years ago. I've looked at the same graphs for my fellow gamers in the U.S. and Europe, and they seem to get new games about 6 months sooner. This agrees with my perceptions of how long it takes games to get to Australia. Other Australian fanatics seem to have about the same lag as I do.

And then, how long does a game get played for? This is a hard question to answer, because I've really only been in the hobby about 8 years, and I defined "forever" as being 10 years or more. I made a graph of how long there was between my first and last plays of a game (x-axis number of days, y-axis number of games). Note that this graph necessarily excludes games which I've played fewer than 2 times, which is a lot. Each horizontal line is a game, and the colouring corresponds to my rating for that game - green good red bad.

About 40% of games hang around longer than 2 years. I think I'm doing fairly well to stand against the incoming tide of new games, holding onto the good stuff (as shown by the bottom of the graph being greenish) and dumping the stuff I don't like (as show by the top of the graph being pinkish).

The factor that stops games being played for longer is, as always, the fact that I have way too many games and not enough time to play them all. This is not necessarily a sign of shopping addiction on my part though, it's more a case of drinking from a fire hose with only a port glass to hold water in. I think if I can identify great games and continue refining my collection, I'm doing the best I can. Also, if great designers would stop designing great games, that would help.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Baudrillard and Board Games

I've been reading on and off this book about the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Before you rush off to read it as well, I have to warn you that it generally has not impressed me, and I generally agree with Alan Sokal's assessment of postmodern philosophy as being obscurantist bullshit. Nevertheless, there was one section that made me think a little.

Baudrillard did some thinking about consumerism and the value of objects. I'll give a quick summary of the philosophy which will be totally wrong because the first rule of philosophy is that you're not allowed to say anything simply enough for anyone to understand it because then they might refute it. Nevertheless...

  • Objects have 4 types of value - functional, i.e. how useful it is; exchange, i.e. how much you can get for it; symbolic, i.e. how much it means to you; sign, i.e. what it says about you.
This bit I agree with - that's why I have a bed (functional), money (exchange), my grandfather's brush (symbolic), a Bencon t-shirt (sign).
  • Originally, items were produced for their functional value.
  • In a consumer society, items are produced for their sign value.
A striking example of this last point occurred many years ago with somebody that I used to know. That person had friends visiting who looked at our CD collection and said "you haven't got any good music!" Which is of course a matter of opinion, as I had quite a lot of Nick Cave at the time. Anyway, somebody that I used to know was having a birthday so asked me to get her some good music. Upon interrogation, it turned out that it didn't matter what music it was, so long as her friends would recognise it as good music. (It turned out the answer was Nickelback.) This was a classic blatant example of something being valuable for its sign value above its functional value, which horrified me at the time, being quite naive in the analysis of consumerism.

Baudrillard, as is his wont, continues to take things to extremes.
  • In a consumer society, items are acquired for their sign value and their functional value is an alibi for their acquisition.
That is to say, you don't buy a can of Coke because you're thirsty, you buy a can of Coke because you want to be seen buying a can of Coke and you drink it because that's what it's supposed to be used for. It would be equivalent to buy a can of Coke, throw it away and drink a free glass of water. Exactly which scenarios are silly here?

Anyway, I'm not here to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, as I'm as vulnerable to this sort of self-delusion as anyone. I'm not writing this blog post because I need to write this blog post, I'm writing it because I want to be seen to be the sort of person who writes this sort of blog post! It's all so you'll like me! However it does make me sympathetic to all the people who say "money doesn't buy happiness", "reduce reuse recycle", etc, etc, etc, even if I don't take practical action on those things. Money doesn't buy me happiness, but it does buy me things that show other people what sort of person I think I am, and that gets me some friends and THAT makes me happy.

OK, onto board games. The most obvious sign of consumerism in board gaming is the Cult of the New - the obsession with getting the newest games being published. I don't know if I've ever really been part of that, as I think I've always been part of the Cult of the Old as well and surely the two can't be mutually compatible? Certainly I do pay attention to what's coming out at Essen, and I have every intention of getting Bora Bora if AdamP doesn't beat me to it, but that sort of activity is just maintenance of my professional library...

... because the way I want to present myself with respect to board games is as an expert player. This means I need to continue playing the latest stuff and I need to express opinions on it, but I also need to understand the old stuff and have experience with that as well. I try to understand and appreciate games from their cultural and historical perspectives as well, rather than just being known for owning a lot of new games. If I can get myself organised after I've finished writing this I'd like to write a review of Taj Mahal, a 13 year old game, because it's a great game that I value.

Another manifestation of the sign value of board games is the photos of games in progress that are posted on Facebook. About once a week I'll take a photo of what I'm playing, particularly if it's pretty, and post it. Within a few minutes I'll have Likes from friends in Sydney and Seattle suggesting that they too are the sort of people who like board games. Well known Idahoan iconoclast DWTripp pooh-poohs people posting photos of some meal they're eating, and posts photos of his old motorbikes and wives - but whether it's food, games or bikes or cats, it's always just a shout-out to your buddies saying "Hey, we both like these sorts of things! We should like each other more because we both like the same things!"

Is this crass attention-seeking? A former colleague of mine resisted joining Facebook for years because he said "it's all just 'look at me, look at me!'". At the time he was dying of cancer and I explained to him, "yes, it is, and we want you to join because we really are interested in you". It seems sometimes people really do want to give you attention. I know if I can ever make it over to BGG.con I'll have a damned fine time meeting about a hundred of my Facebook friends whom I know are of my tribe, because we've already given each other the right signs.

Now, as I alluded to above, trying to escape from the system of signs is just another sign. Once players get over The Cult of the New, they become a Jaded Gamer. Then they become a Gamer Who's Trying To Cut Down Their Collection. Off the top of my head, I can name batcut, CyberKev, da pyrate, shawn_low, thepackrat and Vexatious as Australian geeks who are seriously in that phase, and the Aluminium Gamers all have it in mind. Is cutting down your collection, i.e. rejecting consumerism, really a need, or is it still just a sign? What's the purpose of trading away a game rather than just throwing it away? Do you trade just to be part of that tribe?

I've discussed this matter with CyberKev several times, as we're always open to philosophical discussions on the nature of the hobby. The sad conclusion is that life is a time when you do some stuff and then you die and what you did really doesn't matter very much anyway. At that time your stuff will become someone else's problem. Until then though, it remains as a halo of wood and plastic bits occupying space and bytes, carving out your particular place in the world.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Numbers for 2012

Let me get this article written before I see a shiny butterfly and rush off and do something else. This is my annual article about the embarrassing state of my game collection and what a waste of space and money it is. Here are the previous articles in this series:
2007 article
2008 article
2009 article
2010 article
2011 article

There are 364 games in this collection (last year 448).

The BGG average rating for this collection is 6.54 (last year 6.43).

Your average rating for this collection is 7.34 (last year 7.04).

On average you have played each of these games 8.5 times (last year 7.75).

Your Friendless Metric is 1 (86 games played 10+ times, 45 games never played.) (last year 1, 102, 46)

Your Continuous Friendless Metric is 3.43 which corresponds to an average utilisation of 54.64%. (last year 3.49, 55.24%)

This is sort of a good result. I've dropped a load of games, through very conscious and continuous effort. It really is quite an effort to sell games, I spend a lot of time wrapping and posting things. However the amount of trading that I did resulted in a lot of played games going out, a lot of unplayed games coming in, and many of those new games not being played at all. That's not really very productive! There are games like Cuba which I could probably like that I owned for a while and then dumped without playing because it was just crowded out by all the other stuff I have.

One exercise I tried during the year was to make a list of games I own that I really do want to play. There were about a hundred, which suggests that I have an awful lot of stuff to get rid of still. I do like the constant influx of new games - I read the rules of practically everything - but I don't like that many games just don't turn me on so much and go onto the trade pile very quickly. I'm learning to resist - Kingdom Builder is an example of a game which has many good things about it which I acknowledge I wouldn't use if I owned it. Then there are games like Trajan and Milestones and Village and Macao which I do quite like but don't need to own because other people have them.

The project continues this year. The Lord of the Rings living card game has a lot to answer for with respect to underutilised games. I'll see if I can maintain the merciless momentum.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Stefan Feld and Me

A long time ago I thought Stefan Feld was a completely disastrous game designer. Now I'm his groupie. Here's the story of what happened.

The first Feld game I played was In the Year of the Dragon in October 2008. I played this game with a cut-throat group, and it went long, i.e. about 3 hours. I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but managed to build up my holdings. Then came a series of random events which I couldn't quite deal with, resulting in my losing a lot of palaces. I fucking hate that. I hate games where you work your butt off to make progress and then it gets taken away from you. I like building games, not wrecking games. So Feld and I were not off to a good start. My BGG comment on ItYotD is: "I'd rather be sick than play this game. If this was the first board game I played, I'd be a stamp collector instead. Frustrating, boring, annoying waste of time."

A couple of months later I played The Name of the Rose. I liked the movie, I didn't like the book, but the game left no impression on me whatsoever and I had to look up whether I'd played it or not. As medieval murder mystery is one of my favourite themes, that's a pretty impressive amount of indifference. No love for Feld yet.

The next Fled game I played was finally at least OK - Notre Dame. It's another game where it's frustratingly hard to get stuff (like Dragon), but it least it doesn't all get stolen from you at once. I thought it was OK but would need to play it more to get how it went properly - I thought I'd been doing OK and was beaten very badly. I was in no rush to try it again.

The next game I encountered was It Happens... which is a dice game about anteaters. I played it because there was a very young lady willing to teach it to me, but I realised very soon that it wasn't working for me. At least it has the excuse of being a kids' game.

Months went by... The Speicherstadt appeared on I had an initially positive reaction, and started a bunch of games before I'd even finished my first play. That was when I discovered that I'd completely overestimated how interesting the game was. It feels to me that you build a points engine, and then the game finishes. So you should have been doing other stuff instead. I admit, the auction mechanism is kinda cool, but kinda cool in a technical way, not in an appeals-to-me kinda way. I stopped playing it. Feld seemed destined to forever produce games that were at best mediocre.

Then something terrible happened. I won the Big Cochabamba photo competition (blogged about previously). Oh yeah, sure, I got 9 of the hottest new games for free, but a lot of the SdJ kennerspiel nominees were by Stefan Feld. That mediocre guy, who designs games that take my stuff. WELL AT LEAST THEY'RE FREE. So I acquired Luna, Die Burgen von Burgund, and Strasbourg, with a sense of dread.

The first we played was Strasbourg. This is a very tight auction game with some other stuff tacked on as a consequence of the auction. I quite liked it, though it took me till round 3 of 5 to realise that I'd lose the game in round 1. It did feel like I could achieve stuff and get some points. But still, not a huge hit.

I was very intrigued by the theme of Luna, so while waiting for opponents I played a solitaire game. That was instructive, as I got the feeling for how the little dudes moved around. We then played a 4-player game, which was also interesting as the players' strategies evolved and conflicted with each other. After a couple more solitaire plays when the rules receded and I was able to focus on what I was trying to achieve, I decided I liked it. You can build shrines, you can get places in the temple, you can score majority points, and generally nobody takes things away from you. I liked that it was complex, I liked the theme, and I liked the bits. Hooray!

Then we played Die Burgen von Burgund, later called Castles of Burgundy (but it will always be Burgen Burgen Burgen Burgen to me). This is a cool game. I'm not a huge fan of its strategic depth as your plans will often be screwed by uncooperative dice, but it does have that Farmville thing going for it where there's always something to be doing, you're always making progress. I played this game with quite a few people, and eventually realised that it had become popular enough that there'd always be someone around with a copy, and I'd no longer need to suggest it, so I sold my copy. It's a very good game, but not something I need to keep exploring.

On the other hand, Stefan Feld was pretty much forgiven by now. The last three games had demonstrated to me that he was a designer of great diversity, capable of producing some systems worth investigating (particularly Luna), rather than being a cold-hearted miser who designed nasty games.

Consequently when Macao was suggested to me, I agreed to play. For the longest time I confused this game with Manila, in which have almost no interest. However Macao was interesting, mostly because, like Luna, there's a lot going on. I did notice for the first time, what I call the Stefan Feld Standard Design Pattern. This is a pattern for structuring the whole game - there's a mini-game for generating resources, then you use the resources to play a variety of min-games on the board involving set collection, map traversal, gathering bonuses, and so on. The games that fit this pattern are Notre Dame, Strasbourg, Macao and Trajan (and Bora Bora, it would seem). This pattern is not necessarily a bad thing, as it's a way of producing complex games that are not too hard to teach, but it is interesting to speculate on whether this is a conscious process or not.

Anyway, the most recent Feld game I've had the pleasure to play is Trajan. This is probably the most complex of the lot, with the mancala resource-generation game being quite a brain-burner even before considering the 6 or so effects of what happens on the board.

Okay Mr Feld, you're forgiven. I'm looking forward to whatever you produce next. But there is no way I'm ever again playing In the Year of the Dragon.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Essen Impressions

Well, my experience with Essen titles is pretty sad, as I don't have enough leave in a year to get to all the places I'd like to go, but I did get some Essen games from Julian at Unhalfbricking who collects money from eager Aussies and invests it in new games for them. In order of play...

Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill: very definitely a kids' game, aimed at maybe 8 year olds, but with the chance for some slightly cunning play to amuse adults. You place your shepherds on the hill, the players form combined flocks of sheep, and then the flocks move around. If a sheep (as part of a flock) moves onto the same space as a shepherd from the same player, they both score and are removed from the board. So the goal is to make your opponents' sheep meet their shepherd early while your own sheep trundle up Pendleton Hill for more points.

Sheepland: not a kids' game, and not a gamer's game, just an old-fashioned Euro. the board starts with 24 or so sheep on 25 or so spaces. There are 6 different terrain types amongst the spaces. On your turn you may move your shepherd, move a sheep, or invest in a terrain type. At the end, for each terrain tile you have you score points equal to how many sheep are on that type of terrain. When we played CyberKev went for lots of investment in terrain, I went for moving sheep into the terrain I already had, and the result was so close I would say both are viable strategies. This is a Euro of the complexity of Heimlich & Co / Top Secret Spies, or Clans. It's nothing special but it's not bad.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: I bought this for solitaire play, and probably won't bother sharing it with my friends as there are better games to play with them (see below). The game it reminds me most of is Mousquetaires du Roi - there are lots of bits of mediocre quality, and a massive rulebook, but it all works OK in the end. You spend the game sending out Crusoe and Friday and your dog to hunt / gather resources / build stuff / achieve the scenario goals, while the game throws random stuff at you to interfere with your plans. I've only played one scenario so far, but that was interesting enough. The odd selection of bits reminds me of the old version of Prophecy.

Tzolk'in: the Mayan Calendar: Now this is a proper game. You may remember the pictures from BGG, there are big plastic cogs. I'm happy to say that the cogs work well, they're meaningful, they're thematic, and they're fun except if some doofus isn't careful and knocks over all the bits. The big wheel represents time, and as you turn it it moves your workers who are placed on the little wheel so that they can be removed from the wheel to have achieved better stuff. It's something like Macao or The Circle where you plan now what you'll have available to you in a few turns, and the more you wait the more you get. The more you can get your plans working together, the more efficiently you'll generate VPs. We had basically no problems with the rules, everything was where it needed to be, the bits were lovely, and overall the game is a great experience.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Premature Enthusiasm

On Friday mornings I wake up excited that it's the end of the week and I'm going to have a wonderful relaxing weekend (and I never seem to learn that's not going to be the case). If I have time before work I pack the game box with great big long heavy games. Then I go to work and am in a complete rush all day trying to write code and sort out a million problems, and on Friday afternoon I go swimming. Then when I get home on Friday evening I look at the game box and realise I can't remember the rules to any of those games, I'd have to teach them, and I really don't give a fuck, so I unpack the game box and put in a whole bunch of easy stuff like Tales of the Arabian Nights where I can just play without too much fuss. This happens every week, I swear.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Yesterday we had a holiday here so we could all go to the local agricultural show. I hope they didn't miss me... instead I stayed home and watched all three of the Lord of the Rings movies. They are so good, there's barely a mis-step in the whole 9 hours. I know he deviated from the books, but it was almost always for a good reason to fit the movie genre. If I had Liv Tyler in a movie I'd make up lots of extra reasons to show her as well. The reason I had to watch the movies is that I'm currently reading the books, and I wanted to remind myself of what the movies did to the story. And the reason I'm reading the books is because I've been playing Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and I wanted to see what role the minor characters in the book played in the game. And of course I've also recently played Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and Lord of the Rings: Friends and Foes. And of course I've been doing that because I'm an unashamed and irredeemable fanboi.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Do Not Know What This Post Is About

I was just rereading some of my old posts on this blog and thinking what a damned fine writer I am and how you guys must be missing me. I think since the invention of Facebook I haven't so much felt the need to write here to tell you what's happening in my life, gaming or otherwise, so you get abandoned.

Quick summary of life: Dr Scrabblette now has a good job at the University of Technology, Sydney, and commutes to Sydney for half the week at a time. I am still in Brisbane looking after the dog and the kid. The kid is very tall and still at school, but is now way too cool for board games. I'm thinking about selling him and getting a better one. The god, I mean dog, rules the household, though she's always frustrated at how hard it is to get us to play ball.

Now to games. Currently Critical Mass is meeting once a week at Chermiside, just down the road, and twice a month at Indooroopilly. I always go to Chermside, it just seems sensible. I've been playing a lot of Euros, though I do like getting to bed early on a Friday... as that's a day when Dr Scrabblette is actually home. Last week we played Die Burgen von Burgund then Lord of the Rings: Friends and Foes and my early night was about 1am. Oh well.

I've also been playing Lord of the Rings: the Living Card Game, "and loving it". As you'd know I do like a good solitaire game and I'm enjoying exploring what they can do in such a system. Luckily I am not so much a fan of winning, as it's a challenging game. I'm getting better with the guidance of AdamP. We often meet up when Dr Scrabblette's away to play multi-player and maybe have a glass of red wine. We even beat the very nasty Escape From Dol Guldur scenario.

I am gradually, very gradually, decreasing the size of my games collection. After all these years in the hobby I know what I like and what I can merely tolerate, and I'm planning to just keep what I like and get rid of the rest. Of course getting rid of games is a difficult game in itself, but since the Australian maths trades now include selling and buying games, I'm making some progress. I really don't like selling things! Any price which would make me happy because I'm getting money would also make me sad because someone else is paying too much! An excess of empathy, methinks.

A couple more things, before I go watch a movie. You may have heard I was learning French; well, I still am. It is going very well. I read "Notre Dame de Paris" earlier this year - that's Victor Hugo's book that had the Hunchback of Notre Dame in it. Victor Hugo is not at all shy about using archaic words and hard tenses, but I got through it. The classical references and Greek and Latin quotations were incomprehensible and tiresome, but also inessential. Also, although I am still a Big Fat Friendless Bastard, I'm no longer a Big Obese Friendless Bastard, I've lost quite a bit of weight through sheer bloody-minded hard work at the gym and swimming pool, and to the detriment of Lena's Bakehouse. This is a good thing!

In general, life is going well but between walking Her Majesty, going to the airport, and working out, it's also super-busy. Let's hope that in my odd moments of solitude I can get back here a little bit more often.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Beyond Maths Trades

The maths traders in Australia were discussing whether it was possible in a maths trade to offer multiple items in exchange for one in a maths trade. No it's not, it doesn't even nearly work for reasons which are obvious to mathematicians. However I thought about it for a bit, and realised that with the introduction of a pricing mechanism, there can be such a trade. So I borrowed some symbols from the Z Notation (in which I was trained as an undergrad) and wrote this spec:

Let I be the set of items in the trade.
Let U be the set of users in the trade.
Let P be the set of prices, objects that can be summed and are totally ordered.

# every item has an owner, "\fun" means total function
owns : I \fun U

 # if you don't own anything you're not in trade
ran(owns) = U

# some people assign values to some things, "\pfun" means partial function
values : U \cross I \pfun P

# For each user u, there is a function vu, which is the values that user places on items
vu = { (i,p) | (u,i) \mapsto p \in values }

# and that user at least values the things they own
\forallu:U @ owns~\limg{u}\rimg \subseteq dom(vu)

# Then a valid solution to the trade is an assignment of items to users
s : I \pfun U

# the items received by u are
ru = s~\limg{u}\rimg

# the items sent by u are
su = owns~\limg{u}\rimg \cat ran(s)

# such that nothing is assigned to the person it came from
s \cap owns = \emptyset

# and everyone gets a bargain, by their own personal pricing rules
\forallu:ran(s) @ Σ (i \in ru) vu(i) \geq Σ (i \in su) vu(i)

# For a solution to be useful, it must be non-trivial:
\neq \emptyset

# and furthermore, we would like to restrict ourselves to minimal solutions so as to not make offered trades incomprehensibly complex, so if t is a solution, then t is not a subset of s (can't find the right symbols to write that!)

It occurs to me that blogspot is maybe not the ideal medium for writing specifications.