Thursday, July 26, 2012


A few days ago I was introduced to a new game called Pigs.  It is a pretty simple party game full of big swings and opportunities for cursing but still a lot of fun.  It is vaguely similar to Can't Stop in that each turn you are building up points and you have to decide whether to bank those points and end your turn or keep rolling hoping to get even more points.  Instead of dice though you are rolling two plastic pigs onto a table and you get points based on how the pigs come to rest - on their sides, back, front, or snout.  It is fantastic because the equipment required is extremely minimal and you can fit the entire game into a pocket but it does suffer from extremely high levels of randomness.  You may or may not consider that last point a good thing!

I found it pretty amusing to see the different responses to the game from various players.  Most people decided to bank their points once they accumulated somewhere between 13 and 20 points but occasionally they got into a gambling mood and went for more; this was almost always disastrous.  Of course when somebody else is way ahead it makes sense to gamble more since you are almost certain to lose with cautious play but generally it seemed that the cautious players were more successful.  People generally thought the game was fun but nobody thought much beyond that.

My response was "I need to build a gigantic spreadsheet."

First I need to roll the pigs ten thousand times or so to get a read on how they roll on average.  Then I can do some really simple math to figure out the spreads on the various point totals and determine how many points you should stop at to maximize your point acquisition.  The more interesting part of the analysis is to figure out how that optimal number of points to bank changes based on the point totals of your opponents.  If we imagine that banking 19 points is right then it is reasonable to just bank 19 or more when everybody is at 0 but if one person is 5 points from victory then you should keep going until you either win the game or lose it all.  There are a very large number of scenarios to run of course so I would probably limit my analysis to a few simple ranges to try to figure out the best possible strategies.

After I sat there musing about analyzing the game and building a bunch of code to figure out my strategies everyone looked at me like I was a wee bit insane.  Their looks said "It is a silly game where you roll plastic pigs until somebody wins... you are building a spreadsheet WHY?"  Well, I am building a spreadsheet so I can just put my sheet down on the table and tell you all to roll pigs for me and make decisions based on the sheet.  This way I can go play other games and the Pigs players can just tell me if I won the game once they finish up.

I understand that there are people that don't feel the intense desire to build a spreadsheet whenever they play a silly party game.  They are crazy of course, but since they insist on spending time playing games instead of doing game analysis I should be accepting.  People are entitled to their idiosyncrasies.  

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