Game Theory


The RAND Corporation released as a free pdf their seminal 1954 book The Compleat Strategyst: Being a Primer on the Theory of Games of Strategy. Yes it’s math, but it seems pretty approachable as game theory texts go.


I own a physical copy of that book! I haven’t read it in years.


That is going on my kindle TODAY.


This is basically the only place where I can guarantee that a topic with this title is going to be something good. I have read an Oxford university published quick guides to game theory which basically gave me the background I needed to understand what I didn’t already know from my degree.

It would be good to read an actual a book from the field instead of a layman introduction to it.


For anyone interested in a more up-to-date book, Ken Binmore’s “Playing for Real” is quite good; it has a decent amount of the serious math but avoids being overly dry by having a focus on lots of examples.


Holy shit Ironfist is real.


would there be interest in breaking down modern board games into their game theory components? I know in some of the PAX talks there have been general statements about some sub-games that are contained, or how despite other mechanisms they boil down to a certain game theory game.

But, a detailed breakdown of the full mechanics of a game and how those pieces fit together.

I would expect a thread for each game in which we discuss the levels within a game.

any takers?


I’ve been ruminating on a panel like this for a while. I just never put it together.

Deconstructing Tabletop. We’d break a bunch of big-name games down to their core component mechanics.


i would certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts on various games, as well as how you actually do the “boils down” simplifications like how you suggested Risk is just a “vote who wins” game.

while i agree with the conclusion, how do you see past the minutiae of mechanics and decide that’s what is going on?

feels related, but maybe should be a separate topic is what do we do with game theory conclusions that fail in real world? like how sometimes irrational strategies overcome the rational ones.


One large aspect that complicates careful analysis of games is that many “game theory” games use simultaneous selection. Colonel blotto is very different if you have to place 1 unit at a time, versus pre-deciding all your placements then revealing them at once.