Thursday, July 21, 2011

V:tES Pool and Poker's Independant Chip Model

V:tES and tournament poker share a number of traits beyond the obvious card game comparison.   The one that I want to describe in this entry is the impact of declining resources during the course of a game.

First, we have to establish a common footing between the two games.  Here it is:

Tournament poker chips and V:tES pool counters are simply tokens intended to represent and limit resources inside the game. 

Everyone gets the same number of tokens to start, each player invests or risks those resources as they choose and their resource pool increases or decreases as a result.  Simple enough on the surface.

From that common basis, we can begin to share some theory between the games.  Tournament poker players developed a tool to calculate an expected monetary return from their chip stack in their resource-limited setting.  It's called the Independant Chip Model (ICM).  We're not playing V:tES for money, but victory points could be simply considered another type of currency.  So it's worth looking at the ICM with an eye toward learning something about V:tES.

The tournament Independent Chip Model (ICM) suggests that any individual chip (token) in a large stack is worth relately less than an identical chip (token) in a smaller pool of resources. 

It seems counterintuitive that a $100 chip from a big stack is worth less than a $100 chip from a small stack, but this entirely due to the limited-resource system.

This is a huge part of why late-game, low-pool decisions are so critical. 
  • Drop to zero tokens and stop playing altogether.
  • Hold one priceless token and keep playing.  Almost all your decisions are automatically made for you.  You push all-in for poker, lunge or wall in V:tES.  Most people tend to wall more than lunge until the last possible moment.  
  • A few more tokens makes decisions much harder, but at least you can make a few choices. 
  • A heaping pile of tokens makes you cavalier about decisions until you screw up and lose enough resources to create harder decisions. 

Sound familiar and more intuitive now? All the ICM does really does is to put a numeric value to this feeling for poker.

So if you believe the story so far, how can we leverage any insight from the ICM in V:tES?  Our situation is a bit different from tournament poker.  We actually gain and lose tokens from environment, instead of transferring them to someone else. 

But smaller numbers of tokens in front of a player creates the same increasing value of each token and the same increasing importance of each decision -that is the heart of the ICM.

Looking back to this question of pool value and decision-making, the first question I ask is "Would I prefer to see most people being active and making their own decisions?  Or do I want to depress a larger number of players' pool, limiting their decision-making in a more survival-oriented subset of actions?" 

The more effectively you can directly attack your prey's pool, the more tokens you can tolerate (or want to have) on the table as a whole. 
  • If I play a high-yield stealth-bleed deck, I prefer to see my prey's pool diminishing but everyone else comfortable.  I'll pound on my prey's pool and allow other people to play their games too.  Large redirected bleeds have less severe consequences in this model.  I also have enough offensive potential to easily work through any moderate to high pool total possessed by subsequent prey.
  • If I am building an offensive vote deck, I might want to see pool levels globally depressed a bit, which might simply happen as a function of the pool-damage cards I play.  This creates a setting where other players' decisions have more consequence per action.  They are more likely to be conservative as a result, allowing me greater flexibility and leverage in passing votes.  This helps to offset the lower per-action potential and the greater mechanical complexity associated with a vote-based deck. 
  • If I am building a vote deck with the ability to give other players pool (Con Boon or Parity Shift) but less concentrated offense, I want to press everyone's pool down even further, playing cards like Anarch Revolt, Domain Challenge and Anarchist Uprising.  This tends to make people desparate for help, which my deck can provide in a give-and-take fashion.  If my late-game play is deft enough, I can generate a large pool advantage while keeping other players alive through my actions.
  • If I am building a combat deck, I definately want all resources low everywhere.  The faster the table collapses to 3 players, the better for my ability to influence a favorable outcome through combat.  I also don't expect to dramatically influence my prey's pool totals with any single action, so I need both my prey (and maybe future prey) to be vulnerable to small shifts in pool.
  • If I am building an intercept deck, I also want resources low, which my deck design should facilitate.  There isn't much immediate offense on demand from these decks, so a key performance driver is to limit available pool everywhere on the table.
Of course these are only generalizations intended to get you thinking about how the ICM can apply to V:tES.  There can be a lot of variability in these broad deck categories.  It is easy to see how the output of weenie vote can differs from Inner Circle vote; a Bruise-n-Bleed deck might play more like stealth-bleed than pure combat, or that intercept decks with [DOM] or [PRE] might generate more transient offense than their [ANI] counterparts.

But the general trend remains true.  The more a deck can dependably strip chunks of its prey's pool in a single turn, the more comfortable it should feel with larger numbers of tokens available across the whole table. The less immediate offense a deck creates, the more it must rely on cards like Smiling Jack and Dragonbound to grind away pool over time, even from crosstable players. 

While there is no immediate deck design that leaps to mind based on this wall of text you've just read, hopefully it gives some of you a little food for thought or gives you a jumping off place for your own independent observations.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comparing Sect Isolation in Voting.

Despite the issues listed in the previous blog, I really like to play political decks.  I think they're fun because they create interaction with the whole table.  I want to oust with them, despite their innate inefficiency compared to simpler bleeding mechanisms. 

So I often ask myself things like "Beyond the typical [PRE] based vote-push mechanisms, what easily-accessible options exist to create more robust ousting via vote?"

Closed Session and Private Audience leap to mind. 

These votes simply remove "X votes", Barons and Magaji from the voting equation.  Done.  The sect that opposes your is finished too.  The only people you have to either convince (or shout down) are your same sect-cronies.  Considering this, both of these cards are amazingly good and underutilized in the current political environment 

Here's the rub, and think about this before you read ahead.  Which of those two cards is innately better?

On the surface, it's instinctual to say that Closed Session is inherently better.  It costs no blood and can be played by more vampires.  I think a little differently though.  You might see that is something of a theme in these blogs.

Let's start by counting the largest contributors to a referenda.
  • The 53 Princes grossly outnumber 33 Archbishops.
  • The 20 Prisci are intended to offset that difference. Unfortunately, they can't because multiple Prisci still only control 3 votes as a block.
  • The 19 Justicars balance the 18 Cardinals.
  • There are 13 Inner Circle members, compared to only a single Regent.

So, there are 85 Camarilla vampires who possess 2 or more votes, but only 52 Sabbat vampires that independantly control 2 or more votes.    There really is more opportunity to have Camarilla titles in play, even attached to a non-voting deck. 

Just as impactful as the gross count of titles vampires is that the difference between the sects are all Inner Circle members with 4 attached votes.  Wow.

The ways numbers of Princes scale in parallel, the Prisci don't scale and the ICs dramatically outnumber the Regents simply indicates that you're likely to see much more voting power present on the Camarilla side.

If you've heard of contrararian investing,  you'll see where I'm going now.  The idea is to do what other people aren't doing, creating value for yourself.   Buy when most people are divesting, sell when they are buying. 

In this case, the voters seem to sit in the Camarilla.  So we might want to play the contrarian here and vote from the Sabbat side with Private Audience.  If we exclude everyone else, we should be able to pass our referendum with less vote push, because there are fewer titles to fight against.

The result should be Sabbat voting powerhouses without requiring Presence.  Include the availability of Orlando Oriundus and Bruce de Guy and you have some interesting options.  All because of Private Audience. 

Go forth and build your decks.