Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Precise planning vs Conditional planning - take 2

My last post about Precise Planning vs Conditional planning sparked some good discussion about Randomness/Chance vs Player-induced Chaos. It was my own clumsy wording that drove the conversation to that, and while I enjoyed the discussion, it didn't address what was the initial point of the thread: Precise vs Conditional planning.

I'll try again to (correctly this time?) define these terms the way I see them. Put simply:

Precise planning is planning based on known information.

Conditional planning is planning based on unknown information.

I began about this difference specifically in regard to the variant I mentioned for Railroad Tycoon in which the next 2 cubes to be "drawn out of the bag" are put on display. Also in mind was Ra and how to decide whether a lot is "good enough" to bid on.


J C Lawrence said...

Your knowledge in Ra is relatively precise:

- You know exactly what is on offer
- You know its exact current value to every player at the table
- You (can) know the exact probabilities of any given tile being drawn and adding to the mix
- On the basis of those probabilities you (can) know the exact values the lot is likely to have for each player given their current positions
- Using the above you can determine with good accuracy where the bidding break points are for each player and thence by extrapolation attempt to force them into bidding patterns which are probabilistically less efficient than your intended bidding patterns.

Yes, there are uncertainties (probabilities) and those probabilities do affect and define key values in the game. However at the time the decision is made those probabilities are very discrete. You know everything: the tile mix, what has been drawn already, what tiles are in the bag in what distribution, the player's holdings, their relative VP positions, their potential earning rates, their bid potentials, etc etc etc etc.

Seth Jaffee said...

By definition, once you get to your third bullet point (exact probabilities) you are into Conditional planning.

J C Lawrence said...

Of course, but that's not the point. The point was that the decision space of Ra is particularly and even unusually transparent and player-visible.

Shea said...

Gotta say I skipped the "Precise vs Conditional" because Jim's points were more interesting.

It sounds to me you're just trying to say "how much randomness do I want in my games?"

No randomness = precise planning.
Randomness = conditional planning.

With RRT, you didn't like the random cube draw, so you reduced it's randomness by having the next two cubes already decided.

For Ra, it just has a high level of randomness. As JC said, it's random, but it follows a known distribution. Still, it is random enough to bite you in the butt. Especially if the Ra tiles come out at an unusual speed (fast or slow).

For me, I just prefer enough randomness that AP prone players can't spend forever tracing the consequences of every move. Beyond that, I don't really care. And in the case of Through the Desert, the player induced chaos makes sure you can't plan super far ahead.

etothepi said...

Indeed, one could know precisely the probabilities of the game. But once you've figured out those probabilities and make your choice, you are still doing no more than casting the dice and suffering the probabilistically random consequences.

With precise planning (in a game with little chaos), you are much more under control of your actions and the corresponding reactions of others. You are no longer casting the dice, for better or for worse.

J C Lawrence said...

Grossly, there are two sorts of random events in games: decision-first and decision-post. In decision-first games players make decisions based on the potentials for future random events and then find out if they come true. In decision-post games a random event occurs and players then decide how to react. Both forms are common. Of course the distinction is also largely meaningless. Decision-post games are also always decision-first games in that good players know that such random events may occur, what their probabilities and distributions are etc and will tailor their decisions accordingly. While they may get to react effectively after the event occurs, the real decision opportunity remains before the event, just as it is in a more transparently decision-first game.

In both game-types the players _cast the dice_ as it were.