Monday, December 4, 2017

Game Review: Motorsport Manager Mobile 2

I know that a lot of you are F1 fans or racing fans in general and specifically fans of racing games, so let me tell you about Motorsport Manager Mobile 2.

As the name suggests, this is not a racing sim.  This about setting up your team.  I admit that this did not sound like the most interesting thing to me but it was pretty well recommended and racing so I gave it a try and have now played it for 40+ hours since downloading it less than a month ago.  It has become my go to iPad game.

And there are races, but you spend a good bit of time between races tinkering with your cars, managing drivers, hiring engineers, and lining up sponsors.  In line with current F1 rules, your team is composed of two cars and two drivers.

You also have 3 engineers.  Each engineer has a race performance rating that helps you on race day in some obscure way.  They also have a handful of ratings that help you build new parts and design next year's car -- we'll talk about cars later.

Interestingly I've seen engineers get old and their skills will deteriorate -- forcing you to replace them.

Each driver has 6 different stats with both a current rating and max potential in each.  Every so often you get an extra point to spend increasing a driver's stat closer to their max.  Drivers can also accumulate buffs and debuffs throughout the season.

Drivers can be hired and fired.  You negotiate with drivers so you aren't sure what a driver will cost when start negotiations and you might not be able to afford them after all.  After your first season you can also start a driver development program where talent develops and you can pick one at the end of the year to sign to your roster.

Car development is a big part of the game.  Each car has 6 different components, two or three of which will have an outsized impact on your performance at different tracks.  Each part also has both a performance and a reliability rating.  There is a lot you can do here.  You can swap parts between cars (each car will start similar but slightly different).  You can buy parts in a marketplace -- some of which can be very expensive but can also be a lot better than what you have.  You can build new parts -- usually cheaper than buying new but takes time and the gains can be smaller.

Then, half-way through the season, you start developing next year's car.  That development is improved both by your engineers on staff as well as by dollars invested.

Right, then there are races.

You start with a qualifying period.  Then to the race.  For both you have tire choices, weather, and car set-up.  Above you can see tire selection for a qualifying heat... the track is starting to get wet so I'll probably have to switch to inters and hope I got a good time in earlier or the track dries off for a late attempt.  You can see what weather is coming up to a point so I can plan ahead a little.

Below you can see me setting up the car's aero and gear ratios for qualifying.  On this screen you can also see the track profile which can give you hints as to how to set up your car.  Interestingly, the tracks are clearly modeled after real F1 tracks... usually with slight changes: a different start location and often a slightly different city in the same country to obscure what it is copying.

During the race, you will have to manage when to pit for new tires and which tires.  You can also instruct each driver which of 3 engine setting to use right now and whether to push or hold back which has an affect on tire wear as well as performance.  Depending on your car's reliability you may have to spend some time in the pits repairing the car or performance will fall off a cliff.  Sometimes you may have to deal with safety cars or re-fueling.

Depending on which sponsor you brought to the track you can get bonus payments for your qualifying and race performance.  Sponsors can also provide one time and per race cash infusions.  Because all that stuff you did between races cost money.

And I forgot to mention your headquarters where you can spend large money to unlock new abilities or buffs.  Phew.


I highly recommend.

One reason I like it is that it scratches similar itches as fantasy sports and legacy games.  I used to spend a lot of time on fantasy football but gave that up a couple years ago.  And my league had a lot of legacy elements with player development and cash and draft picks carrying over from year to year to year.  MMM2 is a fantasy/legacy game I can play much more frequently than Pandemic Legacy.

I'm currently wrapping up my 7th season in MMM2.  When you start the game you get a basic car and a couple crap drivers and can't even build most of the car parts -- in fact several are spec anyways.  Year 3 I won that league and got promoted to the next tier.  Some rules had changed (re-fueling, fewer spec parts, more races) but my drivers and sponsors and engineers carried over.  Year 6 my team won that league and I got bumped up to the top league.  No more re-fueling, no spec parts, even more races.  But again, continuity -- both drivers were ones I brought up through driver development programs.

Also, props for diversity.  Plenty of women drivers and engineers.  Plenty of colored skin.  Such an easy thing to do and yet worthy of praise for actually doing it.

Three Things I Wish I Learned Earlier

Now that I've convinced you, here are three tips.
  1. Be careful with your budget.  Especially the year after being promoted.  Everything costs more in that next series.  Earlier in my current season, I ran through my cash early in the season when my star driver had a motivation problem I could have solved if I had had a couple million in cash lying around.  I did not and now she's retiring at the end of the year.
  2. Driver development programs are the best way to grab good drivers.  Ones that are already good are so expensive.  But In three tries I got 2 drivers who had great potential.  A couple years later they are a solid team.
  3. When you build a new part.  Your base-line performance is the performance of your best current part of that type.  Your base-line reliability seems pretty static.  So, if you want to bootstrap a part and are willing to take a couple steps to do it, buy something with high performance rating and low reliability.  Then immediately build that same part and put all your engineers on reliability.  That part will have the same performance as your purchased part and probably a better reliability.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Forced Passing Explanation

Mail Bag:

Hi Doug, 
I really enjoy CFR but I was wondering if you would be kind enough to explain forced passes to me? ...  
Thanks Levi!  I will try...

I thought of this later, but in the scenario at the end of that video where the car paid 2 wear and a chance for the corner but was then forced to slow to 140 because the forced pass failed... the Tyrrell can stay at 140 for the rest of the corner but can not accelerate again inside the corner.  Even though it paid for that speed earlier, the fact that the car was forced to late brake inside the corner resets that.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Infinity Battle Report -- Chimera Part II, the Deal

Michael and I got another game of Infinity in recently on my new table.

The story from last mission continued.  This is a custom story I made up.  Part 1 involved investigating the crash site of an illegal shipment of unknown origin.  Part 2 involved breaking up the sale of those goods.  Points were available for investigating any immobile or unconscious or dead member of the deal (more points for the seller than the buyer).  Points were also available for being next to a immobile or unconscious member of the deal at the end of the game or for dragging one back to your deployment zone.  Any of those points not claimed by the end of the game went to player with more points in units still on the table... that person also got some points.

Michael kept his PanO list the same as last time, because he crushed me last time so why not.  One change I gave him was to switch out his Fusilier Paramedic for a Fusilier Forward Observer because Flash Pulse could stun the buyer and seller for investigation.

After the beating I took last time out, my list underwent some changes.  Again, we aren't using hacking and some of the other more involved rules.  But that said, I wanted to have as much out there that might be able to dent the Jotum -- Gecko w/ Blitzen, Sin-Eater with MULTI Sniper, Kriza Borac with MULTI Rifle.  Besides being able to play with my new Kriza I added my new Hellcat to the group as part of a plan -- stun the buyer then drop down near him for the search and possible extraction.  Also... I promoted the Alguacil that did something last game to Lieutenant with the intention of keeping her in the back maybe guarding someone's back.

Below, Michael and I take breaks between moves to talk about how it went.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Solo Race #10: Season Finale at Mogyrod

Below is my new-fangled stitching together of video commentary and stills from every turn.

If you want to step through each turn in the race at your pace including the video commentary, see the Google Album.

Links to the rest of the series can be found on the series page.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

DIY Infinity Terrain -- City Edition

I decided to build a city terrain table with found items and some Do It Yourself.

Before / After pics.

Video tour of the end result.

Previously in DIY Infinity Terrain:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Infinity Battle Report -- Chimera

Michael and I got a good battle in recently.  We decided to pair down our lists to 200 points and try to use as vanilla a set of guys as we could field.  So our lists include very few odd or complicated skills.  We are obviously also not using any advanced rules and are still very much learning how to do this.

Michael's PanO army is largely based around the Jotum.  Jotum is the lieutenant for an extra order and can also push some buttons with the crabbot.  The Dronbot is there to provide some AROs.  Trauma-Doc and Palbot are mostly there for button pushing.  Two Akal Commandos give this list some element of surprise.  Michael really likes AD: Combat Jump.  The Fusilier is there to round out the team with an extra order that can push a button if she has to.

My Nomad army is based around using the Sin-Eater and Grenzer to lock down some lanes with great ARO capability.  Let the Gecko and Mobile Brigada make room for the Alguacil paramedics to go push buttons.  If I have to the Gecko Pilot can jump out and push buttons as well.

The mission is one I came up with myself, I describe it a little at the beginning of the video but here is a PDF mission description as well.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Solo Race #9: Nurburg

I tried something a little new for this race.  I took photos but also recorded short videos periodically through the race... here is the result all stitched together into 18 minutes of video!

If you want to step through each turn in the race at your pace including the video commentary, see the Google Album.

Links to the rest of the series can be found on the series page.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Congress of Gamers Fall 2017 Post Race Report

Turn 1 sees 5 cars lining up for Eau Rouge.
Michael and Tim in front.
Eight cars pulled up to the start grid in Rockville Saturday at Congress of Gamers Fall.  I typically build a track revision for this race and this year we ran an old version (1983 vintage) of Francorchamps.  See my previous post for details on that track.

On the right you can see the results of turn 1 in the race.  Michael Schulz is in the lead after starting outside row 1 and out-gunning Don Tatum from there.  Tim Mossman moved up from row 2 after pushing his start speed to pull even with Michael.  Don, Will Kennard, and Kevin Keller filled out that large 1st group.  I'm in the white car in the middle distance while Dave Nace and Joe Powell bring up the rear.  The 3 of us started in the last 3 rows.

The 5 cars in front pushed through Eau Rouge and down into Les Combes as a pack.  But I had gained contact with the pack by then and Dave and Joe were not far behind. 

Below you can see the result of the field thinning out as we enter the mid-field section.  Michael spent some wear to take the lead again.  Don pulled up even with Tim while the rest of us held position.

Michael, Tim, Don Will, Kevin, me... into the mid-field.

Almost the end of lap 1 and Kevin joins Don
and Michael at the pointy end after Tim's spin.
Nothing too exciting happens the rest of lap 1 until the leaders make their way through the old Bus Stop Chicane.  Tim took the corner for 2 wear and a chance roll for what he is convinced would have given him the eventual win.  He spun despite spending 2 skill.

Kevin and Don ended up catching up to Michael as they exit the Bus Stop -- 3-wide heading into La Source.  Pretty much everyone ends up passing Tim as a result of his spin.  You can see Tim in 7th here.

As we began the 2nd and last lap of the race a couple turns later, I jumped out of my car and rookie Anna Pisto jumped in to finish the race -- waving off many of my suggestions as she went.

Through Eau Rouge again and down to Les Combes for the last time, Anna has pulled the white Tyrell into the lead pack just behind Kevin.  Don and Michael are still right behind Kevin as well but Kevin has more wear than anyone right behind him and already seems to have the race in hand.

I forgot to take pictures after this... Michael made a chance roll here.

By the time the cars have rounded Pouhon.  Kevin and Don are back out in front of the field.  Michael has damaged his car and makes a chance in Pouhon but pulls off instead of crashing in Fagnes.  Anna has some wear left but will come up short of 2nd after a couple missed die rolls.

Will pulls back into 4th and Tim falls back to 8th.  Kevin wins and Don gets 2nd.

Final Track Thoughts
Because this was a new track effectively, I wanted to talk about it.  I love it.  I've always liked Francorchamps -- maybe more than some -- but I like this version the best.

Starting at the beginning of the long back straight was a lot of fun.  Getting 5 cars through Eau Rouge is super interesting with all of the lines and slips and choices.  And we had a bunch going into that corner on lap 2 as well because the old La Source profile is wider and has a higher line that makes it a lot less of a bottle-neck than the modern version of that corner.

6 cars getting through La Source at the end of lap 1!
I will say that I like the modern Bus Stop better than the old one.  I love the modern bus stop.  But the old bus stop is not bad, it just is not as interesting.

All in all, the track became a lot less of a race from the front leaner.  It became very hard to pull away and I definitely think I will see people run this successfully from the back.  I can't wait to get this out into the wild more.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Do Players Do It Wrong? Barriers to Nash Equilibrium in Game Design

I have finished reading chapter 5 of Games of Strategy by Dixit, Skeath, and Reiley.  You know the drill -- here are Messrs. Aaron, Austin, and Paul with their conversation.  If you listen to the end and notice that they mention me... here's my post they were talking about: "Is a Solo Game a Game and Other Thoughts on a Colloquium on Games of Strategy" and here is the podcast I appeared on to talk about it.

Nash Equilibrium
A lot of this chapter is the authors' defense of Nash Equilibrium.  They address a number of criticisms of the theory and provide their counter arguments.

Quick refresher... a Nash Equilibrium is when all players figure out that there is a single action each should take to maximize their return.  Effectively it is the combination of actions that is everyone's ideal play in a particular game.

Why is this important?

As a game designer, I think it is crucial to know if your game has ideal plays and how easy it is for players to recognize those ideal plays.  In some cases I want it to be hard for players to find a single ideal play.  I want multiple options to at least seem equally viable.  Otherwise people do not feel like they are making important choices.

In other cases I want players to realize what their best options are given another player's move.  If it is not obvious how to counter one player's move, that can lead to a bad experience for all.  This is especially important in asymmetric games.

If we assume that players can logically or intuitively find Nash Equilibrium, obstacles are important to know about.  In no particular order, here are some of the obstacles they discussed.  All of which can lead people to playing non-ideal strategies whether you want them to or not.

Loss Aversion
Loss aversion is the well studied psychological effect where people are much more concerned about what they might lose than what they might gain in any particular situation.  The loss of $100 is felt more than a gain of $100.

Consequently, while the math may definitively point to an ideal play, loss aversion might steer people away from it.

Belief of Others' Choices
One of the cornerstones of Nash Equilibrium (and most of game theory it appears) is that each player has perfect knowledge of the other players' choices and the associated values of those choices to those players.

But if one player is wrong about their assumptions or misinformed or simply makes a mistake, they can think they have an ideal strategy when they do not. [ 1 ]

Complicated Systems
This is not a specific concern that the authors' raise but there is a part of this chapter that is very math heavy: "...each player's payoff is a quadratic function of his own strategy..."  I guarantee you that very few players are doing quadratic functions in their heads at the table.  Some might get close.  Some might intuit an approximate answer.  Some might do the equations in their spare time at home.  But most will not.

Which means that a few people may know or be very close to knowing ideal plays while others will not.

As hinted at above, people often do not figure out a Nash Equilibrium immediately.  Sometimes it takes trial and error before players figure out the ideal plays. [ 2 ]

But unless the same group of people have the same amount of experience, you can end up with people who have different understandings of the ideal play.  In some cases this might be ok.  Some games are designed to be very competitive.  But this is also why cooperative games can turn into solo games.

Example Time
Pole Bidding in Championship Formula Racing is a great example of all of these barriers to finding ideal plays.

Starting a race of CFR in the front row is better than starting in the back.  The game tries to balance this by making people bid for position on the starting grid.

But several players have noted to me that people generally do not bid enough to balance out the various grid positions.  Statistical analysis suggests that they are correct.


I assume that there is a Nash Equilibrium that exists for every position on the grid and what the ideal bid is for all players that would result in an even valuation of those spots.  However, I can see that there are a lot of reasons we don't end up there.

I think the biggest issue is complication.  There are a ton of variables involved in this calculation including the number of players (from 2 to 12) and different tracks.  I honestly have no idea what the value of these bids should be.  Since I'm not sure anyone can accurately value these bids, no player will have perfect information about everyone's choices.  Loss aversion could also be a factor.  You lose what you bid... so that could certainly tamp down the amount people are willing to bid.  Given the wide number of tracks available and the fact that many players I know play against a wide range of competition, experience is hard to apply from one race to another.


One adjustment I made to encourage larger bids was to break the bidding into two parts.  The idea was to create more of an auction feel.  People are generally known to over-bid in auctions because the desire to win an auction can skew one's valuation of the thing to be won... turns out my players are smarter than that.

I'm trying to solve the complication barrier by doing more and more statistical analysis.  It might help eventually, but I'm not there yet.

Experience has always been my hope for the fix.  That would require a bit of a closed ecosystem of players and tracks that I tend to avoid but others could certainly enforce within their own groups.

I hope I illustrated above how these criticisms of Nash Equilibrium can be very helpful in trying to solve game design challenges.  I definitely think that the logic can be useful even if it has not solved my bidding problem yet.

In Case You Missed It
Last chapter I discussed how I thought that the tools they discuss can be tools for finding broken bits of a game design -- Nash Equilibrium included.  This chapter they offered up another variant in that vein: plays that are "never the best response."

Footnotes and Sidebars
[ 1 ] Interestingly, this idea that the correct application of game theory hinges on perfect information about your opponents' choices and how they value them reminds me that there are games that can be broken by random play.  I had a good friend who would play poker without looking at his cards.  Which made people's attempts to determine his strategy hopeless.

[ 2 ] Playtesting note: the authors note that people learn somewhat faster by observing others play than by playing themselves.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

More Infinity Painting, PanO Edition

Last week I showed off some recent Nomad paint jobs.  Here are the PanO minis that are completed.  Two weeks ago I talked about how I made the barrels.

Clipper and Sierra Dronbots

Knight of Montesa



Jotum and Crabbot

Friday, September 22, 2017

A New/Old Francorchamps Track for CFR at Congress of Gamers

10 cars going through La Source on turn 2
on the modern version of Francorchamps
I've gotten into the habit of creating variations of existing tracks for the races I've run at Congress of Gamers and Winter Game Fest -- held in my hometown of Rockville, MD.

This year I decided to do an older version of the famous race track situated in Francorchamps, Belgium.  This is an OLD track that dates back to the 1920s.  It started life as a 14 mile long monster connecting the towns of Spa and Francorchamps.  That track was last used by F1 in 1970.

It would be 13 years before F1 returned to a much shortened track akin to what is used today.  In the years between then and now, there was some tinkering to the track that resulted in the modern version first used in 2007.

I modeled the 2007 layout for Championship Formula Racing earlier.  It is an interesting track in that it is very long and looks like it would cater to race from the back strategies.  But in real races it tends not to as discussed in my recent categorizing of tracks post.

My hypothesis is that the quick run into La Source thins the field and gives front of the pack cars a boost they never quite lose in most races.  Thus my interest in the 1983 version of Francorchamps.

1983 was the first F1 race on the new, shortened Francorchamps and is the only F1 race on that track that used the old start / finish line which was located just AFTER La Source.  This is where the start / finish line had been for the entire previous history of the track.

I left most of the track the same as very few changes seem to have been made from 1983 to now.  The two places big changes had been made were at La Source and the Bus Stop.  In the end I was able to get two new tracks out of this because in 1985 F1 returned to Francorchamps and the only change from 1983 was that the start / finish line was moved to its current location.  This layout stayed in affect roughly through 2005 and the advent of the modern layout.
Lets look at a couple of the non-start/finish line changes.  La Source looked a fair bit wider back then.  So I made it 3-wide and re-profiled it in general.

1983 / 1985 version of La Source.
You can see the back of the starting grid just after the corner.

2007 / modern version of La Source

The bus stop has gone through a lot of changes over the years.  This version is roughly right for the time period (they made so many changes, I am not likely to make versions of them all).  This older bus stop is a little faster and splits up the back straight differently than the current version.

1983 / 1985 version.  Note how much closer to the kink in the back straight it sits.
The couple extra spaces are effectively on the other end of the corner.

2007 / modern version of the Bus Stop.

I am excited to run this track October 7th at Congress of Gamers to see if behaves more like a race from behind track than its modern cousin.  I hope to see some of you out there.

CFR Race at Congress of Gamers, Fall
October 7th, 2017
9:30 am teaching demo and set-up
10:00 am race start

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More Infinity Painting, Nomads Edition

I've been making more progress on painting the Infinity armies but Michael took some time away from basing and then decided he was retiring.  He liked it but it got repetitive.

So, I just based the hordes I had painted.  Below are the Nomads.  Last week I talked about how I made the barrels that appear in these pictures.

This was my first experience mixing a paint color for the light blue shirt he's got on (outside some flesh tones for skin) .  I've mostly been avoiding this so that as I slowly paint minis over time, I don't have to worry about re-mixing some color I did once and never getting it right.  I'm treating this as a one-off so it was OK.

Moran and Krazy Koalas

Carlota and Moriarty
Corregidor Bandit
I was trying for a bit of a camo affect for his hoody and it turned out better than I'd hoped.  I really like how this one turned out.

Reverend Healer 

Gecko Squadron Pilot
When I got this mini, my first reaction was that he had to be bigger in scale than the little arms you see poking out from underneath the full Gecko armor.  In fact, I immediately suspected that they shrunk the scale of the arms inside the armor a little... but after I painted them and put the two next to each other it actually looks right.