Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Changes for 2019 CFR Organized Play

2018 OP Champ Getting His Trophy
But before we get to the small change for the 3rd season of Organized Play, a quick note wrapping up the 2nd season.

I have the good fortune to live not far from the 2018 Organized Play Champion Michael Polsen and saw him at the Congress of Gamers Fall session.

Before the CFR race, I presented him with the trophy.  Michael is a great guy, huge supporter of CFR, and I couldn't be happier that he won last season.

I think he was pleased with the award and I thought I heard him say he could retire happy now.  Of course, he then proceeded to win the CFR race so I doubt he really is retiring.

2019 Change

The only change I am making for the 2019 Organized Play season is that I will now count a driver's top 5 races towards their ranking points.  For the first two seasons I counted only the top 4 races.

Quick reminder of how OP scoring works
Each driver gets a score for each race based on their finish and how much better or worse than average the field was.  Fields are rated based on the (now) 5 best (unadjusted) finishes for each driver in the field.  Similarly, each drivers gets points for each season, series, or tournament they enter based on their finish in the tournament and the quality and quantity of the competition and the number of races involved.  The top 5 race results and top 2 tournament results are added to together to get your score.

Over the last two years, to contend for the OP Championship you likely needed to score points in two events and race in four races.  Really, you needed to do well in two events and four race -- probably really well -- but you get the idea.

I set those numbers based on the idea that I wanted a decent number of people to be able to contend for the title, not just people who could do 10+ races a year.  But with more people participating and twice as many racing opportunities occurring I looked over the numbers a little to see if 4 races and 2 tournaments still seemed right.

Below is a table showing how many people participated in at least a certain number of races and tournaments over the last two seasons.

In 2017, 37 different drivers participated in at least 2 tournaments compared to 44 last season.  Not a huge increase, and only 9 drivers participated in 3 or more tournaments.

In 2017, 57 different drivers participated in at least 4 races compared to 73 last season.  A bigger jump.  More importantly, I think 62 drivers participated in at least 5 races last season -- still more than the 57 who participated in 4 or more races in 2017.

What This Means
This will likely emphasize race results over tournament results a bit more than the past.  Although both will likely remain important.

All in all, I do not think it will change who is ranked well.

What About The Future?
In theory, I would like to take into account as many races as possible in order to accurately calculate that year's best driver.  But I also do not want to award that trophy to someone just because they showed up at a lot of races.  So while I could see these numbers rise again I will try to be careful not to over do it.

I also expect that the number of races and overall participation will plateau at some point.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Forced Passing and Championship Formula Racing

Last week I introduced a possible Skill replacement called Balance and a new way to bid for pole.  This week, lets talk Forced Passing.

Forced Passing

I find forced passing to be a very good thing, especially with larger fields.  It gives cars behind an option for when the road is just too crowded.


It can sometimes be just too hard to make that pass.


Again a two-parter and again involving the previously discussed Balance proposal.

The specific rule change is that the attacker in a pass can now use the racing line when passing.

The other change involves some of the forced passing die roll results: you can't lose wear from a random die-roll result.  You can lose Balance instead, but losing wear late in a race is often just a spin in disguise.

Game Impact

I think allowing the attacker to use the line will allow for many more forced passing attempts.  A lot of forced passing attempts come into play in corners and usually the attacker is only going to clear the defender by a space.  Taking away their use of the line often means that they just can't pay for the corner.

The impact of Balance on Forced Passing may be a bit of a wash.  Cars with low Balance may be un-willing to take the chance on what will be a bad die roll for them.  However, cars with higher Balance may be more willing to make the move as it is a roll that probably will not result in any loss of Balance.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Pole Bidding for Championship Formula Racing

Earlier this week I unveiled plans for the new Balance attribute to replace skill.  Today, lets talk about Pole Bids.

Pole Bidding

The pole bid is a crucial moment in a game of Championship Formula Racing.  But...


Every one of the new rules I am introducing was spurred by issues I wanted to address in the current rule set.

How Much to Bid?

It can be hard to judge how much to bid for pole.  Races can be lost with a bad bid.  If you end up over-paying for the position you end up in -- regardless of if it is the front or back or the field -- and your race can be effectively over already.

This is not just a new driver problem, but it certainly is worse if you have little experience.

So, there needs to be more opportunity for signalling bidding intention.  Right now, start speed and chatter before the bid is all we have.

Strategic Balancing

Bidding is also an important element in balancing out the two main strategic extremes: racing from the front and racing from the back.  If bids for pole are low, it favors those drivers who do end up with a bargain pole. 

Given that run from the front strategies are generally more effective than run from the back, there is an argument to be made that the game should include more pressure to bid higher for pole... or otherwise have that pole bid involve more of a sacrifice for the people who get it.


This one is a bit of a two part solution.

Only Wear

The new Balance scheme I discussed last week would remove skill chips form the game, so remember that you can only bid wear for pole now.

More Bidding Rounds

After all car attributes have been revealed and car set-up is complete pole bidding begins.

Pole bidding will now be a series of simultaneous bids.  In each round you can either bid 1 wear or nothing.  If you bid 1 wear, that wear is added to the total amount of wear you have bid so far and you may bid again next round.  If you bid nothing, you drop out of bidding having bid whatever your previous bid was.

As with the current bidding, cars are arranged on the grid starting with the cars that bid the most wear and all wear bid is lost for this race.

Tie Breakers

Like before, tie are broken with a die roll.  However, this time you must use 2d6, high result wins, AND remember that Balance modifiers are added to that roll.

How Does this Impact the Game?

I believe that wear is more valuable than skill, so forcing players to bid wear for pole should make the bidding more meaningful and impact the post bid race more.

Having each round of bidding be a binary decision of 1 more wear or dropping out is intended to do a number of things:
  • Add more peer pressure to bid for a top grid spot -- hopefully increasing the amount of wear spent to pole.
  • Prevent people from WAY over-bidding for position.
  • Provide more information for each round of bidding -- mostly in the form of how many people are still in this round.


The idea of incremental bidding has been tried.  There is an optional rule in the published edition for 2-round bidding and I ran that in my PBeM for a decent test and found that it generally did NOT impact the end results -- bids were largely the same as before.

That said, I will be testing this as well to see if this form of auction does what auctions are generally supposed to do: get people to pay more than they might otherwise.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Introducing Balance, Replacing the Skill Attribute in Championship Formula Racing

I wish I could credit this properly but I heard a great quote on one of the podcasts I listen to -- probably Ludology:
"You are never finished with a game design, but eventually you have to publish it."
Championship Formula Racing has certainly been that kind of game.  In fact, I used to roll out new tweaks every year or so.  I've tried to tamp that down now that an actual printed version exists.  However, I think it is time to start talking about 3-4 changes I will be testing for inclusion in whatever the next version of CFR is.

I identified 4 areas to work on: slip streaming, forced passing, pole bidding, and skill.  Over a couple of blog-posts I'm going to outline my objectives and proposed solutions.  I expect and hope that the community will pitch in with their thoughts as well.

Lets jump right in then with what is the most expansive of the proposed changes.  Buckle in, this is not a short conversation.


Balance is a new attribute that would replace the skill attribute.  Instead of providing a pool of skill chips that can be used to modify die rolls.  Balance provides a modifier to all rolls that degrades over time in different ways.  I basically took this opportunity to re-work a lot about how die-rolls work in CFR.


Every one of the new rules I am introducing was spurred by issues I wanted to address in the current rule set.  I hope that Balance can address a number of issues.  Lets spend a little time looking at the problems I hope to address.

Skill is the Least Valuable Attribute

The only time I ever consider taking more than the minimum amount of skill is if I already have 8 wear per lap and absolutely can not figure out why I would want more of any other attribute.  Sometimes, I will take a lot of skill just to dump into a pole bid.  But I usually only want to have 2-4 skill in hand at the start of a 3 lap race.  maybe 1 or 2 for pushing my start speed.  Maybe 1 or 2 in the bank in case I need to try a chance or forced pass.

Think about it this way.  Would you rather have an extra 20 mph in acc or dec or top speed or an extra 9% chance of making a couple tests each lap?  If I think I can use that extra 20 mph in an attribute at least twice per lap I will decrease my skill to get it every time.

I'd rather all attributes have their place.  I'd rather find a way to make skill have value... maybe not for everyone, but at least for a decent number of people in a good number of situations.  This was my main goal for Balance.

Die-rolls are Too Complicated

Until you have the chart memorized, you had to check after every roll.  I still don't have the entire chart memorized and sometimes have to check it.  That feels very much like the old wargames influence that Avalon Hill added to Speed Circuit coming through.

I don't like the fact that many turns will go by without any die rolls and yet die rolls take up a disproportionate amount of the rule book.  Simplifying the rule book is noble in and of itself but I think it is also good proxy for game complexity.  For what it is, die-rolls just seem too complex.

So if I can to simplify something here I want to but not at all costs.  These issues are listed in order.  I care more about improving the value of the attribute than simplicity.  The next two items play into making things easier as well, I hope.

Higher Rolls Should be Better

This is a minor thing and Speed Circuit has always had high rolls be bad, but I think high rolls being good is more intuitive.  Especially when you think about the die roll modifiers.  A -1 modifier being a good thing is counter intuitive.

I know that most of the current players are used to this concept, but I just think it works better for new people if we take the time to fix this while I can.

Skill Chips are Clunky

The fact that you had to declare skill chip use before a die roll was always confusing for new people and have caught more than a few veterans napping as well..  The difference between the -1 and -3 chips can also be confusing.  The fact that there were limits to their use (only -2 unless you have a -3).  It all was just a lot.

The Solution?

As I noted above, Balance replaces Skill as the 6th attribute.  Below is a quick chart of what the 4 Balance attribute cards would look like.


After car attributes are selected and revealed for all cars.  Negative or positive modifier chips are placed on that car's Balance card based on what the card indicates.  These Balance modifiers affect ALL die-rolls in the game.

In addition, create a starting Engine modifier pool equal to 1 plus 1 for every lap this race is scheduled to run.  (For a 3 lap race, each car would start with a +4 Engine Modifier.)  These modifiers are used only for engine tests -- acceleration, top speed, and start speed.

Deceleration modifiers can accumulate later in the race.

Die Rolls

All die rolls remain 2d6.  Modifiers are applied to those die-rolls based on that car's current modifiers.  These modifiers are not point pools like skill is now.  All appropriate modifiers are applied to every roll made.

After modifiers are applied, a result of 8 or more is a success, a result of 6 or less is a failure, and a 7 is a minor failure.  Box cars is always a success regardless of modifiers.  This is true for all die rolls.

Exactly what happens when each die-roll fails or succeeds varies.


There are effectively 3 sets of modifiers: Balance modifiers, Deceleration Modifiers, and Engine Modifiers.  Balance modifiers (the ones that each driver bought with their Balance attribute) apply to ALL die rolls.  Deceleration modifiers only apply to deceleration tests.  Engine modifiers only apply to acceleration, top speed, and start speed tests.

For example, if I had +1 Balance modifier and +4 Engine modifier, I would be at +5 to test my start speed.

Engine Tests

The chart below shows the results of the three engine tests.

Mis-shift means that the car ends up going 40 mph slower than attempted.  This is a big change over how we do things now and I think is more intuitive than the current result -- especially for top speed tests.

Like now, acceleration and top speed failures reduce the tested attribute by 20.  A second engine failure will also still result in a DNF.

The new Minor Failure result is a failure (and mis-shift) without damaging the engine.

Note that every time a car tests its engine it will reduce it's Engine modifiers by 1.  This represents wear and tear on the engine when it is pushed to it's limits. 

Also note that a Start Speed test is always rolled at -2 compared to Acceleration and Top Speed tests.

Below are some odds to give you a sense of what this means mathematically.

The odds above assume the start of a 3 lap race.  Of course these odds deteriorate each time such a roll is attempted.  But note that the first 2 tests at +3 Balance would automatically pass.  Odds would start out worse in a 1 or 2 lap race and would start out better for races of 4 laps or more. 

The odds above are also for a 3 lap race.  Start speed test odds never change since you can only ever test this at the first turn of the race.

Deceleration Tests 

First note that deceleration tests have a permanent +2 modifier.

Just as now, a failure results in reducing deceleration by 20 and requiring the car to use 1 wear for the deceleration (remember deceleration tests never really fail, they just result in penalties).  A second failure will still result in a DNF.

The new Minor Failure is a failure without deceleration damage.

Note that every time a deceleration test is made at least -2 will be added to that car's deceleration.  More for the failures.  Brake stress is mostly about over-heating.  But heat dissipates over time so every time a car passes a sector marker (there are 3 every lap) it removes a -1 modifier from its deceleration.

Above is the starting odds for deceleration at different balance buys.  

Because of how negative deceleration modifiers go away, if you do not test brakes too often and do not fail your rolls, you can keep testing deceleration or late braking at the same odds through out the race.  With +3 balance, that could be very powerful.

Balance Tests

Forced passing is the only die-roll without a Minor Fail result -- they simply count as failures which work exactly as before.  The only difference for forced passing from the current rule is that the attacker can be "damaged" even if the defender does not block and damage takes the form of -1 balance modifiers instead of wear.

Chance rolls are pretty similar to before but cars will take negative balance modifiers every time -- unless they crash.

Crash avoidance gets its own set of results -- which I think is cleaner -- and they are friendlier results.

Above are the starting odds for Forced Passes. Below are the odds for chances and crash avoidance.

The biggest strategic thing about these rolls is how balance modifiers affect every other die roll.  If you take a chance in the first corner, your balance is reduced by -1 even if you succeed and that will impact every other roll all race.  Forced passes, on the other hand, might never drop your Balance modifiers.

Pole Bids and Tie Breakers

Two things this also means.  First, there are no skill chips to use on pole bids now... only wear.  Second, Balance modifiers affect ALL die rolls.  So pole bid tie-breakers should always use 2d6, high winning, and apply Balance modifiers.

How Does This Impact the Game?

Lets looks at my goals and also some unintended consequences I've already noticed.

Is Balance More Valuable Than Skill Was?

I think so.  The 2 pt buy of +3 skill comes with some serious possibilities.  I could late brake into 1 or 2 corners every lap with no chance of damaging my deceleration.  I've got 3 or 4 basically free acceleration or top speed tests. Forced passes and at least my first chance come with a 83% success.

I would also seriously think about a +1 or +3 skill if I wanted to test my start speed.  In the past you could take only 2 skill per lap and still have enough to throw skill at the start speed table.  Low balance will make that roll very risky.

The fact that balance can now impact tie-breakers for pole bid -- and I suspect there will be more ties now that there is no skill to bid with -- could be interesting as well.

But in the end, we'll have to see.

Die-rolls are Too Complicated

Knowing that all rolls are the same helps (< 7 fails, etc.).  I also want to rejigger the stat cards so that die roll notes are on the cards.  Then in theory all you have to do is add up the related modifiers, roll, and hope you get 8 or more.  I am a big fan of off-loading rules from the book to the components when you can.

I suspect it will become less complicated as people get used to it.  But I'm not convinced it will in all be easier.

Higher Rolls Should be Better

Well I can check that one off as a success!

Skill Chips are Clunky

I think this method of modifying rolls is easier to deal with.  But I did add some complexity with changing modifiers, especially the fact that deceleration modifiers go away over time.  This might end up being a wash.

Pole Bids

I like the fact that now bids can only be made with wear.  I think it will lower the bids generally but it also may cause slightly more pain for people who do bid for pole.  I'm not going to go as far as to say that this will balance out run-from-behind strategies but it might help.


There is already testing planned for this, but you should feel free to implement on your own if you want.  Usage of this rule set will still allow races to count towards Organized Play.

Here is a one-page cheat sheet.

What Do You Think?

Enough from me.  Give me your reactions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Race Report: Congress of Gamers Fall 2018

Congress of Gamers provided another great Championship Formula Racing opportunity.  This time around we had 8 drivers on the 1985 version of Francorchamps (PDF track map).

I now have a trio of Francochamps tracks.  The modern version (PDF) which saw use in F1 starting in 2007.  The first short version (PDF) that was used only in 1983.  For this race we used the version raced between those two.  It combined the bus stop and la source layouts from the 1983 version with the start finish line from the modern / 2007 version.  I anticipated that the track would run more like its 2007 than its 1983 sister.

Michael Polcen and Don Tatum must have had similar thoughts, built cars with 100 start speed, and bid highest for pole.  Michael just won out that bidding with 5 to Don's 4.5.

Lap 1

On the right you can see Michael maintaining the lead through Radison and onto the track's longest straight.  Don follows closely behind.  Daniel Nace sits 3rd, Paul Bernhardt 4th, Jonathan Smith 5th, Will Kennard 6th, Me 7th, Dave Nace 8th.

Michael and Don ran an excellent race against each other over the 2 laps we ran.  If I had to nit-pick anyone's plot this was one that stood out.  Don could have used a slip this turn, and the outer line to end up right behind Michael for another slip.  It might not have mattered, but the space or 2 he gains from next turn's slip might have made a difference.

As it was, Michael held the lead through out lap 1.  Above, the pack races towards Bus Stop for the first time with Paul now in 3rd but a couple spaces.  Daniel sits 4th now.  I made up a couple spaces down the straight with my 180 top speed into 5th.  Will sits outside me after some slips.  Jonathan is behind me in 7th and Dave is right behind him in 8th.

Lap 2

The very next turn, Michael starts lap 2 in the lead with Don right beside him.  Paul is still in 3rd, but Daniel and I are right behind him.  I get past Daniel with my higher acceleration down to La Source.

For much of lap 2 there are two separate battles at the front of the field.  Don and Michael for the win.  Paul and I for the last spot on the podium.

Don gets past Michael early in lap 2.  But it feels like Don made a sub-optimal play just to try and break up Michael's rhythm.  In fact, I heard Don say something similar to Michael after the race.

Above on the left is Don leading Michael a couple corners into lap 2.  By Les Combes, Michael has pulled even with Don.  Below, Michael has powered back into the lead.

Meanwhile Paul has continued to hold me off to keep hold on 3rd.  But the field is doing its best to contest that position too.

With bigger top speed, brakes, and more wear I would finally get past Paul through the final corner.  But neither of us could challenge either Michael or Don for the win.

No retirements and a fun time had by all.

Driver Q (bid) Start Speed Finish
Michael Polcen 1 (5) 100 1
Don Tatum 4.5 (2) 100 2
Doug Schulz 7 (1) 20 3
Paul Bernhardt 5 (1) 60 4
Will Kennard 6 (1) 20 5
Daniel Nace 3 (2.5) 100 6
Jonathan Smith 4 (2) 60 7
Dave Nace 8 (0) 20 8


Was that 1/2 pt of bid the difference between Michael and Don?  Was it that missed slip from Don early in lap 1?  Was it Michael's test to get to 180 down the straight with Don just out of slip position?

Hard to say for me, but it was definitely some excellent racing by both gentleman.

For myself, I have had decent luck with a 40 accel, 80 decel car on this track.  I decided for something a little difference and got some decent value out of the 60 accel.  I like running from behind on this track, but I know that this version and the 2007 version will likely spit out a winner from the front row and the best I can hope for is 2nd or 3rd.

Which leads me to like the 1983 version of Francorchamps best.  But only by a little.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Solving the Raygun Problem with Evolutionary Games

by Cathelineau via
I like Evolution: the game, the theory, but in Chapter 13 of "Games of Strategy" I learned about something new -- Evolutionary Games.

An evolutionary game looks at a large population of players -- each using only a single strategy -- to find the balance of strategies that work best together given lots of repeat plays.

Borrowing concepts from natural selection, the mix of how many players use any particular strategy is changed until an equilibrium is found.  At that point, each player will do equally well after playing against every other player and their opponents' strategies.

For instance, 2 backstabbers in a group of 10 cooperators might be a good balance in a prisoner's dilemma game given the right payouts.  In many ways this looks a lot like mixed strategies -- having 2 backstabbers and 8 cooperators is similar to saying that I will backstab 20% of the time.  So having lots of players engaging in different strategies looks a lot like two players using mixed strategies.

An important difference is that each individual player is pursuing a single strategy.  Which is often more analogous to a single play of a board game.

Achieving Polymorphism

This equilibrium might only occur when all players are using the same, obviously dominant strategy (Monomorphism).  But you can end up with a mix of strategies (Polymorphism)... probably in the same situations where mixed strategies would be the best choice.

If Polymorphism is a goal of our game design, the idea of evolutionary games brought two paths to mind.


The seemingly obvious answer is to make different strategies work best against each other in a daisy chain such that none of them are dominant against a full field of strategies.

I think I've seen this the most in complex TCGs like Magic: the Gathering.  In these games the meta often shift to favor a particular type of deck construction.  In theory as more and more players adopt that strategy, other decks that work well against it in particular will become more effective even if they are not as strong generally in the current meta.

This is easier to conceptualize if you think of a 4 item Rock-Paper-Scissors.  Lets call this game Rock-Paper-Scissors-Raygun.  In this game Rock, Paper, and Scissors interact with each other as you are used to but Raygun beats both Rock and Paper.  Only Scissors beats Raygun.  Raygun is easily the best strategy... except that when a majority of players carry rayguns, scissors is suddenly very effective... which eventually leads to more people playing rocks...

by Lorc via

Raygun Interference

A different way to deal with the raygun problem is to make rayguns interfere with each other.  Maybe each raygun brought to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Raygun reduces the effectiveness of every other raygun.  Rayguns might start out with a relative value twice as high as everything else, but then everyone brings a raygun...

You see this in Railways of the World (Eatern US Map).  Concentrating in the northeast can be hugely efficient and effective in this game... if you are the only person doing it.  Otherwise it becomes cramped and dangerous.  Although, the second person to commit to that plan can be throwing their game away to try to stop a run-away leader.  (See Tragedies of the Game Commons).

In Championship Formula Racing, this can happen differently.  If a track looks to favor a particular over all strategy you can have a glut of cars commit to that strategy.  Since that commitment usually takes place during the simultaneous and private phase of car set-up there is no first mover advantage -- as you see in the Railways of the World example.

What About Monomorphism

Am I going out on a limb to suggest that game designers want Polymorphism?  Would a game ever strive for Monomorphism?  Maybe if something other than strategy contributes to success or failure like dexterity or trivia knowledge?

Something to think about.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Encouraging Cooperation in Board Game Design, Or Not

by Delapouite via
Not long after reading chapters 8 through 10 in "Games of Strategy" (discussion here: Ways to Create Space for Signaling in Games) I plowed on through chapters 11, 12, and 13 and then failed to write anything about them as the vacation part of my summer commenced.  School's back.  Vacation is over.  So know lets figure out what I learned.

Chapters 11 and 12 discussed variations of examples covered previously in the book and how those variations change outcomes and strategies.  Chapter 11 takes a look at what happens to the prisoner's dilemma if you play it over and over again.  Chapter 12 explores changes in strategies when you add more then the 2 or 3 players we've been normally considered.

Most of what I took away from these chapters is about encouraging or discouraging cooperation.  In this context, I am not talking about cooperative board games per se.  I am talking about how much a game encourages backstabbing or assisting others.  Below are three levers I think could be used to tweak the levels of that kind of cooperation in a game.

by Delapouite via


Remember that the core idea in the prisoner's dilemma is that I have a choice to share a reward or take all of the reward or possibly end up with nothing.  An example abstracted payout for this kind of interaction:

Some forms of basic game theory indicate that being mean is the best approach... you will never get 0 and you might get 3.  You also have to assume that the opposition will be mean as mean is the best response to either of your options.

Not shockingly, how you set penalties and rewards in a game like prisoner's dilemma tips the scales towards rewarding cooperation or backstabbing.  If A and B both got 4 when both were nice... that would change the equation a bit.

This is pretty obvious.  If I make the nicer play more valuable then the backstabby play the nicer play will get used more often.  As a designer, that is obviously a lever you can pull depending on what kind of game you want. 

Asymmetric Payoffs

If the payoffs and penalties for each result in a prisoner's dilemma game are different for each player you can create situations where some players might cooperate even if they know the other players will not because it is still worth it.

In the example above, B gets 2 more then usual when being nice.  B's best play is now to be nice regardless of what A is doing.  Interestingly A still wants to be mean in this game.

by Delapouite via

Repeat Play

However, if a prisoner's dilemma is played over and over again, the players are encouraged to be nice.  If we are both mean in the basic version of this game, we both get 1.  If we are both nice, we both get 2.  The more play repeats, the better.

Part of the secret to this that player's know that they can punish mean play in the future.  Maybe more importantly, players who might be mean know that they can be punished -- there are now future consequences to their actions that they have to consider.

Because of this concept nice play becomes less important near the end of the game -- backstabbing becomes more rewarding as the opportunity for negative consequences gets smaller.

by Cathelineau via


An externality is a factor that impacts my payouts that I have no control over.  This sounds a lot like how decisions in a prisoner's dilemma impact each other.  The difference is that while your decision impacts me, my decision does not impact you.  Logically there are both positive and negative externalities.

From a game theory perspective, the action that rewards me the most is the action I am most likely to take regardless of whether it impacts someone else positively or negatively.  From a game design perspective, I can tweak those private rewards to encourage the actions I want taken.

Or, I envision a game where players can encourage actions that benefit them by adding rewards to those actions for others.  In fact, I'm sure that kind of interaction exits in gaming somewhere...

Summing Up

  • Tweak rewards to encourage the behavior you want in your game.
  • Remember that players can get different rewards from the same action.
  • Repeating interactions can encourage nicer play.
  • Be careful if my play impacts you but your play does not impact me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Build Your Own Blood Bowl Team Boxes

Last time out I was building a custom foam storage box for Infinity.  This time, I up my game from foam to magnets with my own spin... washers instead of steel sheets.

If you want to use my backgrounds... here is a PDF.

As always, thanks to Braddock Station Garrison for the music.  You can learn more about them at

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

CFR Organized Play 2018 Wrap-up

By my count 12 drivers had enough points to contend for the title of 2018 CFR Champion.  But only four of them were able to make the trek to the final tournament at the World Board Game Championships.

Doug Galullo entered the weekend with a solid points lead after having won the largest online tournament (P1) and the smaller in-person tournament held at PrezCon in addition to winning 3 individual races.

Don Tatum was 2nd in the standings -- trailing Doug by less than 40 points -- a sum he could make up if he won WBC.  Chris Long and Michael Polcen were also contenders.  Ranked 4th and 5th respectively before WBC they were separated by less than a point in the standings and trailed Doug by roughly 43 points.

Qualifying at WBC was dominated by three drivers.  Chris Long won all three heats he was in while Tim Mossman and Doug Galullo each won 2 heats.  No other driver won a qualifying heat.

Going into that final race of the season the top four drivers on the season all had some shot at the title with Doug sitting at 190.34 pts, Chris with 170.53, Don at 147.28, and Michael Polcen at 143.23.  If any of those four drivers won the race they would also claim the Organize Play title.  Doug probably could have finished 2nd to anyone but Chris and still won the title.

Tim Mossman was also in that final race and had climbed the rankings to 9th after his WBC qualifying run but still sat nearly 80 points behind Doug.  Not even the win at the WBC finals would have vaulted him to the OP title.

Organized Play 2018 Top 20
In the end Michael Polcen did win the WBC Finals, took home the plaque for that event, and edged out Doug Galullo for the 2018 Organized Play Title by 6 points.  Chris Long ended up 2nd in the race.

WBC was representative of Michael's whole season -- characterized by excellent timing.  Michael did not win a qualifying heat but a 2nd and 3rd got him into the finals.  In fact, Michael won only 3 races all season.  Three race wins is nothing to sneeze at but Doug and Chris both had 5 wins on the season and several other drivers picked up 4 wins this year.  But Michael picked excellent races to win.  The WBC Finals rated as the most competitive single race all season.  Michael also won the 5th most competitive race this season (race 2 in the top tier of Redscape).  Michael also won two tournaments including the 2nd (WBC) and 3rd (Redscape) most competitive events of the year.

Doug Gallulo was a worthy runner-up.  Doug won 5 races and 2 events and is one of two drivers to finish top 5 in OP both years.  Chris Long came up just short of the OP title this year and also won 5 races this year.   Despite the 5 race wins, he finished 2nd in two tournaments -- WBC and P1.  Michael, Doug, and Chris ended the season with a mere 12 points between them.

Rookie of the Year
I erased some of my older rankings data so the definition of a rookie has changed a little this year to mean having not participated before in an official Organized Play event.  By which count 70 drivers of this years 144 were rookies and 8 placed in the top 25 on the season.

But Gainluca Lari was clearly the best of that bunch.  He did not race once in the inaugural OP season of 2017 but won 4 of the 10 races he participated in this year and won the San Marino season to end up 5th in the rankings!  Honorable mention to Gary Sturgeon who won 2 races and won the Detroit season this year to finish 9th overall.

Most Improved Driver of the Year
Mike Aubuchon had a difficult 2017 -- scoring points in only 1 race of the 5 he participated in.  Mike came back strong this year -- finishing 2nd in a WBC qualifying heat and 3rd in the WBC finals to improve his rank from 85th last season to 29th this year.

Honorable mention to Claudio Orlandi for improving 41 spots this year from 79th to 38th.

Steward of the Year
Every year is a tough year to pick out a steward for special recognition.  This year saw many new seasons spring up including Detroit and San Marino and Washington DC.  The time and effort of every steward is the reason this community continues to grow.

But this year, I'll tap Chris Long as Steward of the Year.  Chris runs what is easily the largest in-person tournament on the calendar -- regularly involving two or three races running simultaneously.  Chris also went through a lot of effort this year to collect feedback and input to make sure that his event was as good as it can be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

DMV Race Report: Season 2, Race 1 Cleveland

I finally made it to a DC-Maryland-Virginia CFR race back at the end of June.  Chris B ran a bunch of races in the area starting last winter for their first season but I was never able to make one.

This race used standard rules on a custom track -- Cleveland.

The median car build for this track was a 60-60-160 with 60 start speed, 7 or 8 wear and 2 skill per lap but there were some outlier from this stock build.

I ran the only 100 start speed which I'll discuss more later.  Three cars ran 20 start speeds: Don, Brian, and Chris.

Chris also went with the only 80-80 car.  Will and Tim decided that they did not need as much deceleration and tried 60-40 cars.  Tim was also one of two drivers to start out with 140 top speed.  Mike P was the other 140 car.

Chris and I were the only cars with 6 wear per lap to start out the race.  The 7 and 8 wear cars were evenly split with Kevin, Dave, Brian, and Mike G taking 7 wear per lap; Will, Tim, Mike P, and Don taking 8.  Brian and Tim took 3 skill per lap with the bonus -3 skill chip.  Everyone else went with 2 skill per lap.

Pole bid was very interesting with 6 of 10 cars sitting on 60 start speeds and only I had a 100 start speed.  If I could start on row 2 anywhere I could test start speed and end up in the lead before corner 1.  So I targeted that, bid 2.5, and got lucky.

Kevin took pole with a 4.5 bid.  Will ended outside row 1 with 4.  Tim was inside row 2 with 3.5.  My 2.5 bid represented pretty great value as I knew I could overtake the cars in front of me having spent less then them and only 1/2 more than Mike P who ended up starting row 3 after bidding 2.  Dave, Don, and Brian bid 1.5 which worked out better for Dave who ended up outside row 3.  Chris and Mike bid 0 to start in the last 2 rows but having spent nothing.

Kevin's yellow car sitting on pole.  Will outside row 1, Tim inside row 2, me outside row 2.

Lap 1

I take the lead on turn 1.  Kevin behind me on the line.
Will placed himself outside when he could have been in the middle lane.

First turn went as hoped for me as I took the lead heading into turn 1.  On that same turn 1 Will placed himself in the wrong spot -- outside when he could have taken the middle lane -- probably lost a space unable to take the line (I think he was thinking about a slip from Kevin that would never happen with the corner in front of them).  Hint, that 1 space might become important later.

My plan was to spend my wear evenly through out the race.  I wanted to be up front because it made things easier but I did not want to spend wear silly in order to stay out front no matter what.  I was content to stay in touch of the leaders.

Tim, however decided to make a break through corner 3 -- taking a chance and taking the lead for the rest of the lap.

Tim passes me through corner 3 with a chance.
Will pulls even and would also pass me here.

Dave was part of the main pack through lap 1, but miss-ploted on the straight at the end of lap 1 which really hurt his race overall.

Tim ended lap 1 about a turn ahead of Will and I with Mike P just behind that.  The rest of the field was about 2 turns behind Tim with Mike G and Chris about 3 turns back at this point.

Tim out front after 1 lap.  Note Kevin keeps falling back all race.

Lap 2
Will decides that it is his turn to make a move in the middle of lap 2.  Through corners 3, 4, 5 and 6 he spends a good bit of wear and gains a turn on everyone else.

Halfway through lap 2, Will has passed and gaped Tim and everyone else.

Brian spends some wear early this lap to move up from the main pack.  But runs himself almost out of wear before taking a chance in corner 8 that results in a spin.  He drops from 3rd to 5th before ending up having to make 2 late brakes around corner 9 that result in brake failure and the race's first DNF.

Brian's car pulled off to the side of the track at the end of lap 2.
Will and Tim are out of frame in front of me in the blue and Mike P in the orange.

Lap 2 ends with Tim and Will a turn ahead of Me.  The field remains about 2 turns behind the lead.  Chris remains 3 turns back while Mike G has fallen to about 4 turns behind with a lap to go.

Lap 3
Don entered lap 3 with a race leading 12 wear -- more wear than anyone else on track and far more than many of the leaders -- but in the end it cost him too much to pass the pack leaving him not enough to challenge for a podium.

I was now in the position I had hoped to be in -- have more wear than the leaders and be in position to strike.  I passed Tim through corner 8 by using 2 wear.

Then I catch Will through the last 2 corners -- setting up a dice-off for the win.  Tim pulls in right behind me hoping for slips across the finish line.

I had the advantage over Will because I was going faster coming out of the final corner.  So testing my acceleration and top speed got me to a speed that Will could not match and I passed him at the line for the win.  Tim then made a couple tests and got 2 slips from me to also pass Will at the line for 2nd.

Last turn for the leaders.  Me in the all blue for the win.  Tim next to me for 2nd.
Will a space from the win in 3rd.

If Will could have found effectively 1 more space he would have won the race.  Instead he ends up 3rd.  While we mentioned that 1 space he probably lost through the first corner of lap 1, it is hard to project that one space there would mean 1 space 3 laps later but Will is still probably kicking himself about that unforced error.

The last corner of the race saw a couple chances as drivers made last minute plays to improve their positions.  Mike P ended up crashing out in the last corner for the race's 2nd DNF.  Chris spun and finished last.

Mike P crashed and Chris spun in the final corner.

Final results:
Doug Schulz
Tim Mossman
Will Kennard
Don Tatum
Kevin Keller
Mike Grason
Chris Brandt

DNFs: Brian DeWitt and Mike Polcen

Friday, July 13, 2018

Organized Play 2018 Enters The Home Stretch at WBC

The World Boardgaming Championships arrive in a couple weeks which means we are getting ready to crown another CFR Organized Play Champion.

Stats are updated so that only races from WBC are left to account for.  Doug Galullo remains in the lead but his lead continues to shrink for reasons I explained back in May.

You can see total points for the top 13 here or see the complete rankings for all 131 currently ranked drivers.

By my count there are 9 drivers who definitely have a shot at passing Doug G with a win at the finals table at WBC and at least 2 more who are close enough that deflation might get them there.

I am assuming that the finals will end up with an AFR+ around 2.00, each qualifying heat will have an AFR+ around 1.00, and the tournament at large will have a value of 1.83.  This assumes similar values to last year.

I am also assuming that the independent "demo" race being held at WBC does not have a huge impact on the event... although it could have some impact.

Calculating Potential Value for the Event
Based on assumptions above, a qualifying race win will be worth really close to 23 points.  A win at the finals will be worth 46 points for the race itself and 42 points for the tournament win.

But those are just raw points.  Remember that a driver's OP points is equal to their top 4 races and top 2 events by points.  For example, Don stands to gain 50 points at WBC.

If Don wins every race he enters at WBC. he would book 3 races worth 23 points each, 1 race worth 46 points, and 1 event worth 42 points.  That is only worth 50 points to Don because only the 46 point finals is more points than Don's current top 4 races and is only 23 points better.  The 42 point tournament is worth 27 points to Don as it is that much better than his current 2nd best tournament score.

But those 50 points are more than enough to potentially beat Doug who sits only 39 points ahead of Don. 

Who Needs to Do What to Have a Chance
First off, keep in mind that because all scores get re-adjusted after every race, scores can and will change a little even if a driver does not get a great result out of WBC... especially tournament related points.  So being close to closing the current gap to Doug G might be good enough and might not.

That said, the following drivers look like they can gain enough points just from qualifying for and winning the WBC finals. 

  • Don Tatum (would gain 50 points and is 39 behind)
  • Gianluca Lari (would gain 63 points and is 42 behind)
  • Chris Long (would gain 64 points and is 43 behind)
  • Michael Polcen (would gain 61 points and is 43 behind)
  • Chris Brandt (would gain 68 points and is 59 behind)
  • Dave Ling (would gain 76 points and is 68 behind)

Of the above, three might be able to pull off an OP title finishing 2nd in the WBC finals:
  • Gianluca Lari (would gain 44 points and is 42 behind)
  • Chris Long (would gain 45 points and is 43 behind)
  • Michael Polcen (would gain 42 points and is 43 behind)

The following four drivers might have to win a qualifying heat in addition to the finals in order to surpass Doug -- depending a bit on how scores get readjusted:
  • Gary Sturgeon (is 69 behind and would gain 71 points from just a Finals win and 76 if he also won a qualifier) 
  • Danilo Volpinari (is 72 behind and would gain 69 points from just a Finals win, 73 if he also won a qualifier, 76 if he also won two qualifiers)
  • Tim Baker (is 76 behind and would gain 79 points from just a Finals win and 90 if he also won a qualifier)

Mario and Jeff probably have to win two qualifiers on their way to a Finals win:

  • Mario Ales (is 73 behind and would gain 71 points from a Finals win and two qualifier wins)
  • Jeff Harrington (is 80 behind and would gain 80 points from a Finals win and a qualifier win and 82 if he also won a second qualifier)

What about Doug Galullo?
Obviously Doug has his destiny in his hands.  Winning the WBC finals guarantees him the OP title as well.

Second in the finals might also make it impossible for anyone to catch him -- adding 28 points to his total.  Third in the finals would net Doug 16 points which would probably knock many of the above drivers out of contention -- all except Gianluca Lari, Chris Long, and Michael Polcen. 

Fourth in the finals would only net Doug about 5 points -- enough to make the math harder in many of the close calls but not enough to keep one of the top competitors from winning WBC and snatching the title from him.  Same goes for a qualifying win without a top 4 finish at the finals which would net him about 2 points.

Everyone Else?
Everyone else, including 12th ranked Dave Ingraham, 14th ranked Tim Mossman, and everyone below that is probably out of contention for the OP title.   Even a newbie who shows up, wins 3 qualifying heats and the finals would "only" pick up 157 points.  Possibly good enough for second place in OP this year.

Remember that scores are fluid in this system.  The value of older races change every time a new race is booked and compared to every other race already run. 

The numbers above include some rounding because I'm lazy.

If more people show up to WBC it could increase the value of the event itself and give more people a better shot at overtaking Doug (30 different drivers participated in WBC last year but 37 participated the year before).  Same goes if higher ranked drivers make the finals (last season included a pretty highly ranked set of drivers making that race worth a good bit).

If fewer people show up to WBC it will make the event worth less in total and make it harder for people to over take Doug.  Same goes if the finals includes fewer highly ranked drivers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ways to Create Space for Signaling in Games

Hot on the heels (for me) of my previous post about "Games of Strategy" (June 1: Design Pattern: Repeat Play Within A Single Game) I just finished reading chapters 9 and 10.  OK, I mostly skim read.  Chapter 9 on uncertainty and information was interesting but I did not feel the connection to game design as strongly as some past chapters.  Chapter 10 on strategic moves had some really interesting core ideas and LOTS of examples... that I started skipping.

Look, if I'm going to finish this book any time soon I've got to make some compromises.

by Delapouite via
What is Signalling Again?
Signalling is something that the book discussed back in the first couple of chapters.  I talked about it a bit here.

Signaling is when you say or do something that implies your intent for the future.  It can be anything from an absolute guarantee that you will do X to a completely untrustworthy proclamation.

Chapter 10 talked a lot about signaling and strategic choices around signalling.  Parts of chapter 9 also delved deeper into signaling.

Why Do We Like Signaling?
I think signaling provides some really interesting strategic opportunities.  Social deduction games are an entire genre of around signaling.  Werewolf and The Resistance and their kin are built around trying to signal which team you are on -- either in truth or not.  Sometimes the signalling is all in the table talk but often there are mechanics that act as signals too.

Why does signaling have such value?  It gets to the core of what makes a game.  Remember that this book defines a strategic game in large part by having two or more participants who are aware of the impact their choices have on each other.  Signaling messes with that awareness and can add depth to the simplest of games.

Just think about Werewolf.  This is a game whose only required component is a small deck of cards -- from which you get 1 card each for the whole game.  Werewolf also has very, very few mechanics.  After set-up you basically have two things to do: talk and then decide who to hang.  That's it.  And yet this is a game that defines a genre and a game publisher.

Now lets look at three things that I think can be captured in game mechanics and generate space for signalling.

by Delapouite via
1) Partially Aligned Interests

In Chapter 9, the authors talk a lot about talk as a signal.  The big take-away is that talk's value as a signal is related to how aligned the interests of the participants are.  

If the players have perfectly aligned interests (and know it) their talk is a pretty reliable signal.  Think co-op games.  If the players' interests are completely competitive then talk is completely unreliable and best ignored as a signal.  But that leaves an interesting space in the middle -- a situation the authors term partially aligned interests.

Dead of Winter is a decent example of this.  In Dead of Winter, most players a shared public object and a unique secret objective.  So one goal is shared with the group and yet the other goal is not shared and sometimes those two goals are in conflict.  This creates an interesting dynamic where apparently sub-optimal plays can either be willful sabotage (there can be traitors), bad luck (they just don't have the cards to help), or prioritization of the player's second goal.

by Quoting via
2) Voluntarily Reducing Your Freedom of Action

The end of chapter 10 had a great section on ways to add credibility to your signals.

The first main category was reducing your freedom of action.  This harkens back to their old example of the game of chicken.  If the driver of one car throws her steering wheel out of the car, you know she isn't turning.  She is committed to going straight and you better turn.

I can't think of any games that really use this idea mechanically but I feel like this would be really interesting.  What if a game gave a significant advantage to the player who went first, but that player had significantly fewer options on their turn?


by Delapouite via
3) Public Betting on Outcomes

The second big category in this section was entitled changing your payoffs.  This is something I do have some good examples for.  Nearly every horse racing game has you bet on different horses.  Sometimes publicly, sometimes not, sometimes semi-publicly.

Titan: The Arena is a good old-school example.  In Titan Arena you bet on various monsters that may or may not last the round.  Obviously that action changes your incentive to have that creature win and strongly signals that you will and can do things to keep the creature around.

Further Discussion
I'm behind in my listening to the podcasts by Messrs. Aaron, Austin, and Paul on these topics.  Here they talk about Chapter 9... here Chapter 10.  

I'm going to go do that now, in fact.