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Subject: A Venn diagram to illustrate Abstract Games article on the BGG wiki rss

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J. Alan Henning
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I want to create an illustration to supplement the BGG wiki article Abstract Games. Here's my first take on it (click to enlarge).



Do you have examples of famous games that are unthematic (e.g., lightly themed or absent any theme) and luckless but have hidden information? How about a thematic, hidden information game that is luckless?

I worry perfect information and luckless are almost different sides of the same coin -- while a Carcassonne layout offers perfect information, no one knows what tile will come out next.

I'd appreciate comments and constructive criticism before I complete the picture and add it to the article.

- Jeffrey
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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Jeffrey Henning wrote:
no one knows what tile will come out next.

and you still call it a perfect information game?
To me thats like saying in Catan you have perfect information because you know which hex has which number, but noone knows the result of the next roll.


Regarding luckless, themeless but hidden information, Xe Queo! and Clans come to my mind.


PS: Instead of King of Siam I´d use a classic game too, Shogi, Xiangqi or even Chess.
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Aaron Morgan
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Jeffrey Henning wrote:
Do you have examples of famous games that are unthematic (e.g., lightly themed or absent any theme) and luckless but have hidden information? How about a thematic, hidden information game that is luckless?

Depending on how you feel about the extent of its theme, Stratego could fit into one or the other.
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J. Alan Henning
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Markus Hagenauer wrote:
Jeffrey Henning wrote:
no one knows what tile will come out next.

and you still call it a perfect information game?
At which point I decided I needed input from people like you, Markus!

We also don't know what the next die roll in Backgammon is, yet that is considered to be a two-player non-deterministic zero-sum game with perfect information.

I agree I'd rather use classic games in this diagram. I didn't use Chess because of the debates about whether it is thematic or not. (Thematic is also a continuum.)

I briefly considered making this a matrix: No Theme, Lightly Themed, Highly Thematic along the top, and the rows might be: Hidden information, Nondeterministic, Deterministic Perfect Information. But I wasn't happy with the rows and I decided a Venn diagram was more in keeping with the article.
 
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Russ Williams
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"Perfect information" is (as already seen) a potentially confusing term which means different things to different people. The intent of what you're getting at seems to be that there's no secret information which is known to some players but not to other players (e.g. a player's secret hand of cards). So maybe "No secret information" might be a clearer label?
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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russ wrote:
"Perfect information" is (as already seen) a potentially confusing term ...
So maybe "No secret information" might be a clearer label?

I agree, or maybe "same information" (available for all players).
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Christian K
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The on just in luckless could be Stratego (it had hidden information and a theme). I am guessing luckless means no randomisation from the game.
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Nick Reymann
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Stratego for Luckless
Rock Paper Scissors for Luckless/Unthematic

And I would use "No Hidden Information" instead of "Perfect Information"
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Russ Williams
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Mingy Jongo wrote:
And I would use "No Hidden Information" instead of "Perfect Information"
Unfortunately I think "hidden" raises similar ambiguity (e.g. it's hidden from all players what the next tile drawn in Carcassonne will be until it's drawn), whereas "secret" has at least a nuance or connotation that someone knows the secret but others do not know the secret.
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J. Alan Henning
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Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions. I hate to abandon the term "perfect information", since it is used a lot in game theory and analyses of abstract games -- and it's in the original article I'm illustrating.

I did write a quick wiki article for it:
Perfect information

I found multiple sources that said perfect information is orthogonal to randomness, alleviating that concern of mine.

- Jeffrey
 
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Jeffrey Henning wrote:
How about a thematic, hidden information game that is luckless?
I'd say Napoleon's Triumph is a perfect example, but discussion about that inevitably devolves into debates over the definition of luck. All that slicing and dicing of word nuances holds no appeal for me.
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Christian K
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I think luck means randomisation in the board (the random stuff that people do, you have to live with )
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Maurizio De Leo
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My take on it


By the way....looking at it I realized that saying Clans has more theme than Stratego is a stretch. The problem is that the "depth" of theme is often very subjective in games :-D
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J. Alan Henning
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megamau wrote:
My take on it... By the way....looking at it I realized that saying Clans has more theme than Stratego is a stretch. The problem is that the "depth" of theme is often very subjective in games :-D

Much better use of color than mine! You should upload this to the wiki article.

I will say that your definition of perfect information is narrower than that used in scholarly articles.

Thinking further about theme last night, my own conclusion is that the rules are either abstractions or simulations as it relates to theme: thus I would say that Chess is not thematic, as its rules are abstractions of ancient warfare, while George Blank's Ancients is thematic, as its rules are meant to be simulations.
 
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Simon DeS***
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is perfect information really a defining feature of abstracts? I appreciate that there are many abstracts with perfect information, chess etc, but most card games and any deduction games break the rule. If there are as many games with imperfect information as perfect is it really a useful description.

You could make similar arguements about lucklessness. This venn diagram is consierably bias against card games, and could suggest that they arn't abstracts. Its main features really seem to be driven at chess and go. And whilst these are two of the defining games in the genre, do they infact define the genre?
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J. Alan Henning
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Simon, there isn't a lot of consensus on how to describe abstract games -- see the BGG wiki article for a useful summary of the points of disagreement: http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Abstract_Games. Academic literature takes a fairly narrow definition.

One reason I created the first draft of the Venn was to test my hypothesis that maybe a game that meets two of the criteria is an abstract game. Using Maurizio's diagram, that would mean that Chess, Go, Backgammon and Stratego are abstract games, but not Clans, Poker, Carcassonne or War of the Ring.

So we will always have disagreement.
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Russ Williams
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DukeofChutney wrote:
is perfect information really a defining feature of abstracts? I appreciate that there are many abstracts with perfect information, chess etc, but most card games and any deduction games break the rule.
And indeed if someone says they're into "abstract games", in my experience they're not talking about card games like bridge and poker.
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Alfred Wallace
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russ wrote:
DukeofChutney wrote:
is perfect information really a defining feature of abstracts? I appreciate that there are many abstracts with perfect information, chess etc, but most card games and any deduction games break the rule.
And indeed if someone says they're into "abstract games", in my experience they're not talking about card games like bridge and poker.

As an aside, right now the vote is, for Bridge, 22/22 between "Abstract" and "Strategy," and Poker has 16 abstract, 22 strategy, six party (!!), and a few strays.

These are certainly not large sample sizes with a BGG population of many thousands, so these should be seen as suggestive rather than dispositive.

I certainly wouldn't use "abstract" to describe card games, but some decent portion of the game-playing population does.

EDIT: I would say, with Russ, that someone who considers themselves an abstract games aficionado likely wouldn't call Bridge an abstract. But that might not go for non-abstract fans looking from an outside vantage point.
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Russ Williams
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alfredhw wrote:
As an aside, right now the vote is, for Bridge, 22/22 between "Abstract" and "Strategy," and Poker has 16 abstract, 22 strategy, six party (!!), and a few strays.
And if there were a "card game" subdomain, I think we know how Bridge and Poker would get classified.

Ask someone (outside the context of pigeonholing the game into the inadequately defined BGG subdomains) what kind of game Bridge and Poker. Do you bet they will say "abstract game" or "card game"?

Ask someone (outside the context of BGG subdomains) to name some abstract games. Are you more likely to hear "chess, checkers" or "bridge, poker"?
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Steven Backues
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alfredhw wrote:
russ wrote:
DukeofChutney wrote:
is perfect information really a defining feature of abstracts? I appreciate that there are many abstracts with perfect information, chess etc, but most card games and any deduction games break the rule.
And indeed if someone says they're into "abstract games", in my experience they're not talking about card games like bridge and poker.

As an aside, right now the vote is, for Bridge, 22/22 between "Abstract" and "Strategy," and Poker has 16 abstract, 22 strategy, six party (!!), and a few strays.

These are certainly not large sample sizes with a BGG population of many thousands, so these should be seen as suggestive rather than dispositive.

I certainly wouldn't use "abstract" to describe card games, but some decent portion of the game-playing population does.

EDIT: I would say, with Russ, that someone who considers themselves an abstract games aficionado likely wouldn't call Bridge an abstract. But that might not go for non-abstract fans looking from an outside vantage point.

Perhaps only if they are denied the possibility of calling it what they normally would. Everyone I know would call poker a "card game" and nothing else. It's a pretty unique category. But the BGG subdomains don't include that as an option, so people are forced to try to shoehorn it in somewhere else, and they can't decide where it fits best.
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Steven Backues
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Jeffrey Henning wrote:
megamau wrote:
My take on it... By the way....looking at it I realized that saying Clans has more theme than Stratego is a stretch. The problem is that the "depth" of theme is often very subjective in games :-D

Much better use of color than mine! You should upload this to the wiki article.

I will say that your definition of perfect information is narrower than that used in scholarly articles.

Thinking further about theme last night, my own conclusion is that the rules are either abstractions or simulations as it relates to theme: thus I would say that Chess is not thematic, as its rules are abstractions of ancient warfare, while George Blank's Ancients is thematic, as its rules are meant to be simulations.

"Abstraction" vs "Simulation" seems to make sense, but what about Carcassone? I don't see much "simulation" there, but you seem to count it as thematic. In terms of rules and mechanics, I would say that Carcasonne is just as abstracted as chess. Granted, carcasonne's components are perhaps a little less abstract (the tiles, at least, although the figures are more abstract).

Edit - I do like the Venn Diagram idea, and think it is helpful, and that you are right that those are three of the main ideas behind what makes something abstract. The only problem is that each of these three categories is itself almost as contentious as the term "abstract" is.
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Simon DeS***
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you guys make a decent point, and its the view i usually take in the ever debated definition of war gaming, that the popular view of those who are 'in' to it is probably the most useful view.


However i'd still question having carcasonne as an abstract. Whilst its not a highly thematic game, most people who play it and really enjoy it that i've met would say they enjoy building the town. Building a town is a theme.

Deduction games like Confusion or code 777 are still in my view well in the abstract domain, and are principly hidden information games.

I'd suggest that unthematic and luckless are probably two good categories or descriptors, but i still feel that open information is a little limiting.

It would seem to me that most folks who play a lot of abstracts want simplicity and lots of tactical and strategic depth. removing theme and luck from a game arguably clears two potential barriers to this, but hidden information on the other hand i'd say less so.
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J. Alan Henning
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Elendil wrote:
I do like the Venn Diagram idea, and think it is helpful, and that you are right that those are three of the main ideas behind what makes something abstract. The only problem is that each of these three categories is itself almost as contentious as the term "abstract" is.
That's definitely a problem in the current conception. To correctly classify a game, you need to remove the subjectivity of these. Something like...

1. Does any random element determine game play (e.g., dice, cards, tiles)?
( ) Yes ( ) No

2. Does any player have access to information about the game state not available to other players (e.g., their own hand of cards or tiles)?
( ) Yes ( ) No

3. Does the game include rules that make the game a more accurate simulation of the theme?
( ) Yes ( ) No

Question 3 needs the most work.

- Jeffrey


 
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russ wrote:
And indeed if someone says they're into "abstract games", in my experience they're not talking about card games like bridge and poker.
Therein lies the key to why the discussions go round and round. When we use Abstract Games as a label, we try to narrow and refine what abstract means, but when we use the word in normal speech we freely exercise its nuances. The same person might acknowledge that poker and bridge are abstract, yet not think of them as Abstract Games.
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Russ Williams
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Sphere wrote:
russ wrote:
And indeed if someone says they're into "abstract games", in my experience they're not talking about card games like bridge and poker.
Therein lies the key to why the discussions go round and round. When we use Abstract Games as a label, we try to narrow and refine what abstract means, but when we use the word in normal speech we freely exercise its nuances. The same person might acknowledge that poker and bridge are abstract, yet not think of them as Abstract Games.
Exactly; expressions take on specific meanings and are more than just the sum of their parts. E.g. the satirical random ameritrash card game Nuclear War is a game about war, but I think most wargamers would not call it a "wargame".
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