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Subject: Analyzing the Bejeebers out of Founding Fathers rss

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Danger Don
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The harmonic convergence between my love of board games, coding, data analysis, and the holiday break has resulted in a nerd-worthy dissertation on the Founding Fathers board game.

This analysis is based on games played on Yucata.de, my favorite online board game site. I used all games played by the top 10 rated Founding Fathers players (including #10, DangerDon ), and all games played by the ten players with the highest number of Founding Fathers games played.

Founding Fathers has been live on Yucata.de for less than six months, so games played in the two top 10 lists adds up to 230 unique games, 219 unique players, and 26861 player moves.

Tables are difficult to format on BGG forums, so I put the analysis here:

http://www.dangerdon.com/founding-fathers

Respectfully Submitted,

DangerDon


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Brian Cox
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Wow. I like the analysis. It's good to know that people out there have played this game a ton and still love it. It makes me worry less about replayability issues.

The biggest hump I see in Founding Fathers is explaining how to play. Once you've played, you understand it, but I haven't figured out the best way to explain it to people. The multiple ways to score and multiple ways to play your cards seems to confuse people until about the 3rd or 4th round. By the end, it took you over two hours to play due to paralysis from analyisis, and it's too late to start another game.

Maybe I should check out online play.
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Danger Don
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Quote:
Maybe I should check out online play.


Yucata.de online play is asynchronous, so you can spend as much time as you want noodling a move; it is a good way to get familiar with a game.
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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Outstanding work! Thank you for sharing.
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Jim Dietz
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This is outstanding.
Absolutely outstanding.

It will shortly be put on my Facebook page.
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Greg Schmittgens
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Great article. One tiny comment.

About halfway through the article, when you're talking about the frequency of wins for each planner, you say "Going first is clearly an advantage, especially in five-player games, where James Madison wins 32% of the games instead of the expected 25%."

I'm not a statistician, but I believe each planner is expected to win 20% of the games played with five players, not 25%.

Makes Madison's edge even greater.
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Danger Don
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You are correct! 25% changed to 20%. Thanks.
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Brian E
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DangerDon,

Your analysis is outstanding and I've been reviewing it again, because I just now connected the dots as we are opponents in an ongoing game.

Would you like to update it, with the many more games having been played on Yucata.de since you published it?

I read your analysis early in my time playing FF on Yucata.de. It led me to develop new analyses of my own, which were based not on the results of many games like your analysis, but which were based solely on the game's components. One I've mentioned on the Geek classifies possible Constitutions as being worth 14, 15 (historic), 16, or 20 points (I mean, total Debate points) in the end, with only certain transitional pathways possible. I have others, yielding some other key insights, I have not yet published.

In two other notable games: 1) I played the player currently ranked in the Top 10, winning by one point a game in which he focused almost exclusively on Debate (scoring I believe 16 Debate points and seven hard points from hand over the game's course); my (very skilled) opponent thus proved that that's a viable way to win. 2) I also won a different game in which my Planner (Paterson) was stolen by some other player's use of DE Basset SS before I even made my first move (so my first play was with two cards and no Planner), proving that just about any insult ("Hey, that's ME! You can't steal ME!") is at least potentially recoverable.

You and I are currently opponents in a game and you're of course aware of the move I recently made (which we should not reveal on this board at this time as the game is in progress). But the situation reminded me of something I'd long been reflecting on.

...In my opinion, players are not necessarily generally valuing Events correctly. An Event's potential value must be... ...risk-adjusted, in the sense that there are many cards that others can use to interfere with a given strategy, particularly if they are able to figure out what you're doing.

For example, take PA Franklin LS. It is true that, from time to time, this card blows games open - someone spams the Assembly Room in a way designed to prolong the round, succeeds, and then cashes a big jackpot and gets to re-use all the IM. When executed to potential, this can be a game-winning stroke. But the following risks or pitfalls are also true of Franklin:

1. Conditions for his play usually take time (several impulses) to establish, exposing the setup to risk of interference for that same length of time.
1.1 The "Franklin punch" can thus be telegraphed. People might see it coming. This can be true whether or not it can be conclusively established where Franklin is through examination of the accumulated face-up cards (which is often easy enough, as there are only three total cards that could be Franklin - contrast to VA Washington F, whose location is usually impossible to determine). Even just a certain pattern of seemingly directionless or spam-random Assembly voting by a player persistently holding a PA LS card in Caucus can raise suspicions.
1.2 The longer you wait to cash Franklin (the greedier you get), the bigger the risk of it not working as hoped or planned.
1.3 The more opponents you have, the greater the risk someone disrupts your effort, perhaps even unknowingly, but also perhaps as a priority, as truly successful play of Franklin often badly burns everyone else.

2. Many disruptors exist, including
2.1 Theft of Franklin by DE Basset SS
2.2 Loss of Assembly IM, on which play of Franklin depends, through opposing Event play or Override
2.3 Unexpected end of the Round ("Wait, I didn't get to play Franklin yet")
2.4 PA Ingersoll AF
2.5 Outlandishly enough, I've seen Franklin repeated out of the discard pile by the player immediately following, using GA Pierce SS ("Pierce's Impressions") - this is a game full of off-the-wall possibilities

3. Suboptimal play is also possible, which I think is underappreciated by players. (...Is Franklin really that awesome?)
3.1 Assembly IM are usually worth some points, if you just wait. Franklin might not boost their value if they are already doubled, or are played in state groups, increasing the score under an IM anyway.
3.2 Using Franklin to remove your IM from the losing side of Assembly, if you were leading, might both reduce his net effectiveness (what would you have scored anyway?) and cause someone else to score points that otherwise would not have scored, had you not taken your IM out of the way for him. It might also deprive you of control over the Committee Article which could have implications for Debate scoring.
3.3 IM being used to set up a monomaniacal maximization of Franklin are IM not being used in Debate.

Clearly, I'm not... ...saying Franklin is useless - it is quite a strong card. With most other cards, you wouldn't even bother to go into this kind of detail. I'm just questioning whether he is quite as amazing a card as players seem to think.

A final point: In a recent game in which I tied for the win, involving another Top 10 player (who lost, and was not part of the tie), that player drew Franklin early in Round 1, after his second impulse of the game. (I moved third, he moved fourth). At the time he drew Franklin, I knew that he had it (since I'd played Mifflin to Assembly and had Wilson in my hand, having lost the coin-toss that he was Franklin one impulse before).

He then proceeded to try to use Franklin. I repeatedly interfered with him, in a targeted way, by all possible means. Literally, anything I could do to upend or crash the setup of Franklin (at least for any meaningful gain), I did. As a result, he *never* (!) used it. Franklin was eventually stolen from him (DE Basset SS) by the player who moved second (behind me - the same player who stole my Planner as noted above in an earlier contest) in the impulse in Round 4 immediately before I played Washington to end the game in a tie (and had I not done so, I would have lost outright). What futility! Arguably, having Franklin brought that player down, but interfering with Franklin did not cost me at least a share of the win.

A great game! Always looking forward to it! Thanks for your contribution.
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Chris Berger
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Brian - I went back and looked at that game because it didn't really stick with me, but something about your description rang a bell...

The biggest thing that game proved to me is that I don't really like 5p games of FF. They're pretty chaotic, and so I was pretty happy just to come in 3rd in that one, only 2 points off of your tie for the win.

I was intending to use Franklin in the first round, and had it set up pretty well for 6 points except that some jerk stole my IM's just before I could cash him in. Then through the rest of the game, the opportunity to use him never really presented itself - rounds just go too fast in a 5p.

Franklin is definitely one of the strongest events in the game, along with Brearly, Ingersoll, Washington and a few others (I also like the two double voters, Jenifer (+1 point for voting yay), what's-his-name who gives you an IM/points for AF articles in Assembly/resolved, and the Deleware IM removers... except when some jerk plays them against me! Though I think Brearly and Franklin are my votes for the two best events in the game). But using him isn't without some risk. Using him does rely on prolonging the round, trying to cash him in as late as possible but early enough to not get hosed, and watching out for Washington and Ingersoll. (I tend to not pay attention to Basset - yes, getting a card stolen is bad for me, but losing the tempo required to steal a card just seems weak for the person doing it, depending on the circumstance... in fact there are a lot of moves in the game that players seem to think are really strong but seem to me like they're not worth losing tempo.)

And speaking of Ingersoll - he's one I tend to see misused all the time. I don't play him unless something like Brearly is in play, or if I can spot and need to prevent Washington or Franklin. I suppose I would use him in specific situations where other specific events will hose me are marked, but I rarely notice situations like that. A lot of times, I see people use Ingersoll when there are no permanent events in play, when it's too early to worry about Franklin even if he is marked, and where they have no particular reason to want to defend against Washington. Then, when Brearly and The Bore come around, no one can do anything about it.
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Danger Don
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Thanks for replying, SumatraTiger; I think that your points are excellent.

It would be great to update the Founding Fathers data, and do similar analyses on other games, but something changed a few months ago on Yucata.de on how historical game data is returned. I just have to figure out the new alphabet soup required to get the data I need.

I think that your and my analyses of PA Franklin LS points to a common theme in Founding Fathers: while initial impressions of certain delegates might lead to the conclusion that they're "broken" or "over-powered," in reality the game turns out to be well-balanced. While there are certain delegates (Franklin and VA Washington F come to mind) that you really have to pay attention to, among good players the actual impact of these plays are often minimized by good counter-play. The semi-hidden nature of the delegates in hand means you have to pay attention to what your opponents have or might have.

As for deciding when to play Franklin, I must admit that I've never checked my opponents' hands for the possible presence of that thieving DE Basset SS. Never again!






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Mark Drejza
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DangerDon wrote:
The harmonic convergence between my love of board games, coding, data analysis, and the holiday break has resulted in a nerd-worthy dissertation on the Founding Fathers board game.

This analysis is based on games played on Yucata.de, my favorite online board game site. I used all games played by the top 10 rated Founding Fathers players (including #10, DangerDon ), and all games played by the ten players with the highest number of Founding Fathers games played.

Founding Fathers has been live on Yucata.de for less than six months, so games played in the two top 10 lists adds up to 230 unique games, 219 unique players, and 26861 player moves.

Tables are difficult to format on BGG forums, so I put the analysis here:

http://www.dangerdon.com/founding-fathers

Respectfully Submitted,

DangerDon




Well done! Most interesting. I know I definitely have misplayed Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer and will pay more attention to that delegate's event. By chance is there any analysis of how the delegates get played...in each round? For example, it is surmised that George Washington might get played by winners at the very end more often rather than at the beginning. Is that true for any other delegates? Are there certain delegates in particular that seem have their events played earlier in the game? Just curious, since you have all this data. Thanks for the analysis!
 
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Seth
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Very good analysis. Could you also make one for the distribution on how the points are gained per nr of players and winner vs runner up? I'd like to see if there is a clear relation between how points are won (debate, assemblee, committee and event-cards) in each aforementioned nr of players and winner vs runner up.

Would be interesting. Good job!

Logan
 
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