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Game Theory in Board Games

In this article, the author Tom Jolly is trying to design a board game, taking game theory and working backwards to make the game. First, he takes a simple a chart with two players and two choices and gets the Nash equilibrium for it. Then, he begins to build on it, adding an idea of a chart with three choices for each person. He defines the goals, getting food, gold, and meeples, the people in the game of Carcassonne, and defines which cards get each resource. Finally, he calculates the matrix, showing which choices maximize the amount of points each player gets and makes sure that the game is balanced. When he finally designs the game, he shows how the decision varies for which cards to buy with your resources based on what your opponent would be thinking.

In general, though some board games do use game theory, often the mechanics are too complicated to actually break down into a matrix of choices. With worker placement board games, you could potentially find a matrix, but it would incredibly complex to build one based off a matrix you created first.

Overall, though, many board games use luck as a mechanic or use too complicated mechanics to break down into a simple game-theory matrix. Though it’s certainly fascinating to imagine how a game might be built by a matrix or how preexisting games could be broken down into a matrix, it is improbable that game theory will ever take the gameboard community by storm.


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September 2018