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An Agenda question, and proof that gamers can argue over anything


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#1 Anacreon

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 03:55 PM

A Cylon Leader draws the following (newly minted) Agenda:

 

"Political Manipulation"

The Humans have won, and

Morale is the highest resource.

 

At the end of the game, the Humans win and the resources are:

Population: 8

Morale: 8

Food: 2

Fuel: 5

 

What do you think: Based on the agenda as written, did the Cylon Leader meet their agenda?  Did they win or did they lose?

Thanks!



#2 subochre

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 04:09 PM

I'd say yes, tied for highest is still highest.  If you wanted it to be the other way, it could say "higher than any other resource."



#3 Anacreon

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 06:05 PM

Subochre: So, let me just be sure I understand fully.  The agenda the Leader must meet is

The Humans have won, and

Morale is the highest resource.

Let's say the situation is that at the end of the game, the Humans win and the resources are:

Population: 8

Morale: 8

Food: 8

Fuel: 8

 

Then the Leader had met their agenda, because, according to what you see, morale is the highest resource?

I just want to make sure.

 



#4 dwightsboardgame

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:12 PM

I would consider both cases sucessful. The agenda could have said "higher than all other resources" or "exclusively the highest resource".

In your 8/8/8/8 example, I'd consider morale to be both the highest and lowest resource, but since they don't mentioned anything about lowest that doesn't matter.



#5 Anacreon

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 03:04 AM

If I've learned anything from seeing how much FAQ/errata a complex game like BSG can have, it's that even professional game designers frequently must clarify or reexamine their rule sets.  What seemed clear language to them ends up being interpreted several ways or differently than they might have expected or intended.  In this case, when I wrote the above agenda, I didn't expect anyone to think the words "the highest" could include 2, 3, or 4 highest.  To me, that defies the meanings of either the words "the" or "highest."  In this case above, "eight" is the highest value, but as there two resources with the value "eight," then there is no one (or "the") "highest" resource.  There is mathematically a highest value, but semantically not a highest resource.  If someone showed you that all the resources were 8 and asked "which resource is the highest?" you might answer "All are highest" because you already know what I'm getting at, but I imagine if you had no idea what I was getting at beforehand, you might well answer "There is no highest."  Another way of looking at this is that if there are several resources with value "eight" (as in the first example, where resources are 8/8/2/5)  then "eight" is the highest value of the the three different values (collapsing the two eights as being "the same"), but since there are actually four categories being compared, not three, there are two eights.  Can one of the eights being higher than the other eight?  By definition, they cannot.  Therefore, neither could be the highest category among the four categories.  But language being highly open to interpretation (see: Clinton, Bill, and what the word "is" is), I see people can lawyer the language of "the highest" to mean "tied values are both or all the highest, therefore the resources they define are also equally highest."  Once I've pulled my jaw off the ground, I can agree that the easiest fix is the simply to change the language to the less ambiguous "higher than any other resource"!  



#6 dwightsboardgame

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 09:38 PM

Highest is a soft and vague word. It doesn't have a very precise definition and isn't used in mathematics so we can't rely on a mathematical definition of it. If you want to go by common useage of the word, there is a list of the highest mountains:

http://en.wikipedia....ghest_mountains

So, in common English usage we see that there can be multiple highest. Now whether or not you want to get up on the article 'the', 'the' doesn't imply singularity. e.g. "I'm going to bring the board games."

What about the fact that resource is singular? Maybe that implies that there can only be one highest. Well, I'd say that's only singular because it's matching the "Morale" resource which is singular.

I stated that 8 would be the highest because of the reasons I stated in my previous post. If they wanted it to be exclusive, they could have added that one word. If the FAQ states that it has to be exclusive, then the card wasn't clear and now we know what it actually means.

As far as your claim that someone might respond "There is no highest," I'll simply point out that person might just be wrong. When posed if your question, I imagine that if I respond that they're all the highest each time. Asked the question and provided that there is no highest, then I'd probably answer, "kinda" or not put too much effort in correcting you because in a vacuum of context, you wouldn't be that wrong and I deal with too many people who are wrong about too many things to stop and correct every single one of them. However, I truly believe that they're all the highest and the reason I'll give is that if I were to do something code up like max([8,8,8,8]), it would return an 8, not a [ ], or NaN. That's a reflection of my education, experience, and bias.

If you want to argue for the sake of arguing, you could say that if morale was at 8 and fuel was at 7, then fuel is the highest because it's at 87.5% of its starting value of 8 and morale is at 70% of its starting value of 10. The only true way to compare them would be in terms of percentage of starting value because you can't compare units of fuel to units of morale. What if they're on the metric system and I use imperial units. As long as you and your fellow gamers are enjoying yourselves, I'm not going to stop you.



#7 Anacreon

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 02:27 AM

Hi Dwight, if. that is. your real. name,

I agree, in English, there can be many items within a grouping of the highest, compared to all others.  However, when one states "What is the highest mountain?" I believe the typical expected answer is going to be a singular response.  If there were two mountains of exactly same height, then one would likely say, "Well, there are actually two highest mountains" but it would be weird to insist then that one of them remains "the" highest "mountain."  Grouped, they are "the highest mountains" plural, but not singular.  The fact that "the" can mean other things in different language contexts is irrelevant.  We can be pretty sure it means something in this context and that is the singular "resource."  The Agenda does not say "one of the highest resources," for example, it says "the highest resource."  I believe a common person reading of this is a singular response, i.e., that the CL is expected to create a singular highest resource.

Of course, language is merely a way that two people communicate meanings and assumes the two people have similar enough meanings assocated with those words to convey this.  As you point out, different education and bias can create different meanings.  I am not educated to think in terms of computer science, math, etc as a basis for the language meaning of "highest."  

What did the writer of the Agenda mean when he wrote this?  You wrote: "If they wanted it to be exclusive, they could have added that one word. If the FAQ states that it has to be exclusive, then the card wasn't clear and now we know what it actually means."  Well, to be clear, I am the 'they" in this sentence, as I wrote the agenda.  I made it up.  It's an agenda I added to the game for our game group with the consent of the group, after everyone had a chance to read them - not that we ever went over the cards to be sure we all agreed as to what they meant, I guess (who would take the time?).  I fully intended it to use the meaning I've stated, without intent of any kind of alternate mathematical or semantic variations, such as "what is the max?' or "what is the highest relative to their percentage of the original starting value" or any other potential meanings.  I don't know why anyone would ever write a rule with the intention of allowing for that.  Instead, I was just try to improve our Agenda varierty.  What happened was that once the Cylon Leader revealed that he "won" on his Agenda, I said, "Sorry, no, that is not what that means," and the debate began. 

Probably this wouldn't have gotten so meaningful, except that the CL had been the one who ended the game by using the location Caprica to choose from one of two Crisis cards and made this choice - ending the game with a jump icon card rather than extending it with an Attack card - because he believed it was okay if he had Morale "tied for highest" rather than "the highest resource."  So, the reading was impactful on everyone's immediate win/loss, not just his own.

 



#8 dwightsboardgame

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 08:17 AM

So you should apologize for your vague wording and re-write it. Because it seems that two people online, and the person who drew the card all interpreted it as you had written instead of how you had intended.



#9 Anacreon

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 09:42 AM

With respect, I don't agree that the wording was vague, but I do accept that there are other people besides just the person with whom I played who choose to interpret the statement in the same way and not in the way in which was intended.  Just because it's possible to make an alternate interpretation doesn't make that alternate appropriate or make the statement vague.  If someone argued that your alternate wording "higher than all other resources" could mean "higher than the sum of the other three resources," I would argue that it was just not the likely meaning, as well.  So, in sum, I don't agree, but I can see that there are others who also think the same way, and that's informative and I'll try to respect that and bring that back to the group.  I also get that it's not a helpful battle to fight and refight.  The wording will be changed so that there is not that alternate meaning.  Thanks for the helpful feedback!



#10 Mephisto666

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 10:23 AM

Wow… I got confused..   If you are tied for something, I guess you are something.  If you have 3 items, 2 wiegh 3 lbs one was 1 lbs, which is the heaviest?   You can't say "It isn't either of the 3 lbs ones cause they are tied, its the 1lb!" so both - or either - of the 3lbs.  

"Must the highest" can have an impled meaning "only", but would be better stated than "higher than all other"…  so I think without reading into the words I would say a tie counts.  

God I love this game.



#11 subochre

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 11:22 AM

Although I'd endorse the possibility of an "all resources are the highest (and lowest)" outcome rather than the alternative, it is, if nothing else, an odd way of describing such a situation.  I don't know whether it's any more counterintuitive than "there is no highest," but, as a veteran of the recent "Does 'all' imply 'some' in Netrunner" war, I'm conscious of the fact that the interpretation of such phrases can be a very subjective matter (even though "all" clearly does not imply "some" reir).  But yeah, in the end, all that matters is that everyone's on the same page, so, problem solved.



#12 Anacreon

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 11:35 AM

Mephisto, I can comprehend the confusion, and I've thought through it a few times.  There is no reason to assume there must always be "the heaviest bag."  It's not that strange, because the phrase is simply a concept to describe a setting.  The 3 lb bag is something.  It's heavy.  It's heavier than the one pound bag.  It's the same weight as the other 3 lb bag.  But is it heavier than the other 3 lb bag?  No.  So, among the three bags, it's not "the heaviest bag."  To be the heaviest, you are, I believe, heavier than any other bag.  Otherwise would be like saying, "See that three pound bag?  That's the heaviest bag in the room.  See that that other three pound bag?  It's the heaviest bag in the room."  How is that better than saying, "Actually, neither is the heaviest bag; they're the same weight"?  And if you were asked to pick up one bag that was "the heaviest bag," you wouldn't 100% know which one I meant you to choose.  The three pound bags are certainly "the heavier bags," relative to the other bag.  Each one is one of the two heavier bags.  If there were four total bags and the fourth was 2 lbs, then each of the three pound bags is "one of the two heaviest bags," plural; or, together, they represent "the heaviest bags," again plural.  But neither is "the heaviest bag," which is the sole metric of the bag agenda.  Strictly speaking, there is not "the heaviest bag" present - that awaits a time when a 4 lb bag rule the world.  You may indeed have a heavy bag, and a bag heavier than two other bags, and a bag tied for one of the heaviest bags, but it is not "the heaviest bag."  My underlying presumption for all these things as and is simply that "the heaviest bag" means that the one bag in question is heavier than any other bag.  If you have not managed to make Bag X fit this definition, you have not succeeded.   

Which is why, by the way, I intend to simply change the wording to "higher than any other resource."

I also love this game, but it sure does get the blood up!  :)

 



#13 Skowza

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 04:50 PM

I would have voted that Morale being tied with another Resource means there is no "highest" Resource.  I say this based on many other games I play in which the rules clarify that a tie for X means there is no "highest X"



#14 noise

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 04:20 AM

I love this game and I love this kind of debate :)



#15 Mephisto666

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 05:54 PM

So it's the Schrödinger's cat resource?  It is both the highest and not the highest?  haha.

I think the assumption is that highest is singular, which is may not be.  If two things belong to the set highest, they are both highest individually.  "The highest" does not require singularity…  So it could be seen as "A highest" or "The ONLY highest"…   so, I would say…  better wording would be useful.  "higher than all other resources" might have been a better choice! 

Hey, while we are at it…  is 5 "within 2" on 3?   Wouldn't it be just outside of 2?  4.99 would be INSIDE of two…    wait… ignore that.



#16 Anacreon

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:36 AM

I think you're stretching to make the point that the words might mean something if you really think hard about it, but where does this get us?

 

I think people approach games from many different perspectives.  Some people approach the language of rule sets, which are often filled with ambiguity, looking for loopholes to argue why they should be allowed to get away with some otherwise unconventional tactic in a game (e.g., "It doesn't say I can't do such and such, it just implies I can't do it.  Therefore I'm golden!").  I find this kind of rule lawyering tiresome and find it opens up the games to more adversarial experiences.  I admit that I have been wrong many times on my own judgments about rules and there are many situations where there is no clear or obvious interpretations (or too many), and I have had no problem asking this board many times or consulting the FAQ repeatedly to find what people think is the "proper" answer.  When it came to this situation of "the highest resource," I thought it seemed obvious to me and others at the game that the pretty clear expectation was that the job was to make one single resource the single highest among its peers.  That you could argue it could mean something else because it did not specially say it could absolutely not mean what you want it to mean (and motivation is indeed important here) was one of those moments where I just wanted to bonk my head repeatedly on the table.  Or bonk someone else's.  As for posting this here, looking for support, I think I overestimated that people - especially people who play games - would take the same "likely interpretation" approach as myself as opposed to the "that might mean that, so it's all good" approach.  On the upside, it's a way of improving the wording… so, it is, indeed, all good. 



#17 BrandonCarpenter

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 07:39 PM

I think this is being looked at from the wrong perspective. If that was my Agenda, I wouldn't stop if Morale was tied with anything. I also woudn't be thinking the entire time that I had to make sure Morale had to be the highest, or tied for the highest.



#18 kargie

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 10:32 AM

I think this example is rather clear.  Look at sports (or almost any other ranking system) for a good analogy--when there's a tie, and no tiebreaking method, tied members get the same number, and then you skip numbers until you've accounted for them all.  So, in your 8-8-5-3 example, there are two highest (or 1st place), follwed by a 3rd and a 4th.  There is no second.  If all are 8, all are highest.

Think of this one other way, and I've found it very useful in writing rules for games and in general (its also why contracts also have a definition section): define the word "highest".  It generally would mean something that has nothing above it.  highest is defined by the absence of something else, and in a 4 way tie, all fit that definition, nothing is above them.  Want what you intended? Then use words that define it in relation to the others, like "higher than each of the other resouces".  No ambiguity--all others must be lower in this definition, you're not defining something through absence, which is where rules can easily get tricked up or used counter to intent.

To your second point--you may have intended something different.  But I think your card, absent clarification or an FAQ, allows for multiple highest.  The most basic thing to take into account in game design is ties, and if you want a specific outcome, you need to clearly state your intent.  Saying that "I was clear, and this is what I intended" doesn't help your argument when a single word ("single highest") can actually make it airtight, and virtually everyone who's read it at best (for you) says its ambiguous.  Furthermore, when you have to add emphasis (and on the world "the" of all things) to try and prove your point, that was not present on the card text, then you've already lost the argument.  Leave the emphasis on the operative word, in this case highest (though, as I said above, I'd choose a different operative word--higher--to get at your intent). Write rules with functioning, defined terms, and you'll avoid issues like this.  Use natural language, as unfortunately many game designers do, and you'll have no end of arguments.  Think of writing rules as writing laws, or a computer program.  Absolute clarity is essential.  Normal language defeats it.



#19 Anacreon

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 12:31 PM

kargie, your points about clarity or writing rules are well taken, just as others above have been, and the change has now been made. 

As for the rest, I think we can go around and around with these arguments, and I don't know when is a good place to end.  I think your analogy about sports is not apt.  It isn't about whether you share first place (an ordinal system you've imposed by your analogy), but whether your raw score is nominally the highest, which is what the language is on the agenda.  To use a sports analogy, having all people in a race get the Gold Medal because they all cross the finish line at the same time is not the issue.  The issue is, did one of the contestants run the fastest among all the contestants?  If you had a job to fix the race (which is what the Leader agenda essentially is), and it was to make contestant X somehow be "the fastest" runner, and at the end of the race everyone else ran the same time as your runner, I have little faith that you would get paid for fixing the race even if your runner got a Gold Medal. 

Emphasizing the word "the" does not lose the argument, it's simply pointing out all parts of the language to place the word highest in context.  The italics is there for rhetorical emphasis, just as I also italicize the singular of resource for rhetorical emphasis, to draw attention to what the actual words actually are.

 



#20 dakuth

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 12:34 PM

Well I'm going to risk re-ignighting a war… but my initial read of it I assumed it had to be the sole highest resource.

If I was put on the spot to explain why (ad-hoc mind you) I might say that it was clear the *intent* of the agenda is that it is the sole, highest resource. I follow the rules to the letter, until they are ambiguous, at which point I try to follow them based on intent.

In this case I wouldn't have thought it was ambiguous… but it turns out it is! Go figure.






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