Karmona's Pragmatic Blog

Don't get overconfident… Tiny minds also think alike

Karmona's Pragmatic Blog

Strategy Games

January 12th, 2015 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · No Comments

StarCraftII

A few things I have learned from *countless* hours playing Strategy Games for more than 35 years (e.g. Chess, Go, Risk, Archon, Warcraft, Red Alert, AoE, Age of Mythology, StarCraft, etc.)

  • Plan a head | Map ALL possible “Candidate Moves” | The idea of candidate moves was first put forth by Grandmaster Alexander Kotov in his book “Think Like a Grandmaster”.
    In it, Kotov recommended looking for several moves that seemed feasible – the so-called candidate moves – and then analyzing those moves one at a time.
  • Adapt | You must adapt very quickly if you want to win
    • OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (developed by military strategist and USAF Colonel John Boyd) | An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.
    • “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
    • “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable” ~ Charles Darwin
  • Strategic Patience | “Timing Is Everything” | Sometimes you need time to place your pieces in the proper position before you can attack effectively; a premature attack will backfire.
  • Speed Matters | Have you ever experienced a “Zerg Rush” @ StarCraft? – If you are fast enough, you can win in less than 5 minutes.
  • Know (+ Play) your enemy
    • “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” ~Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
    • “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them… I destroy them” ~Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game”
  • The Art of Sacrifice | In his book “The Art of Sacrifice in Chess”, Rudolf Spielmann distinguishes between real and sham sacrifices. A “sham” sacrifice leads to a forced and immediate benefit for the sacrifice… On the other hand, “real” sacrifices, according to Spielmann, are those where the compensation is not immediate but more positional in nature.
  • Sometimes it is worth losing and not to sacrifice the queen ;)
  • Threat is stronger than the execution” ~ Aron Nimzowitsch | The idea is that by threatening an action, you can nudge your opponent in a certain direction. But actually carrying out the threat may cause as many problems for you as for your opponent.
  • “The best form of defense is attack ~ Carl von Clausewitz
  • Determination | “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” | This is true both ways. Don’t assume you won until the end and don’t assume failure until the last minute | “It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail” ~ Genghis Khan
  • Easy is bad – If it goes too easy, something is wrong
  • Good opponents make you stronger | “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Play the hand you’re dealt | Improve incrementally and be PATIENT. You will have your chance to win many times.
  • Different phases of the game require different skills.
  • Master your Emotions | “An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure” ~ Genghis Khan
  • Think outside-the-box. You must be creative with surprise moves to defeat a human enemy.
  • Play by the rules. Follow the rules or you might be disqualified.
  • Focus and Mass Matters | Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time
  • Deception | “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near” … “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak” ~ Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
  • Synergies Create Better Results | Leveraging the strengths of your armies so that the units are protecting each other while pushing forward is a timeless strategy in RTS games
  • Resources Management is crucial | Queues, priorities and timing can make all the difference with your resource management | “An army marches on its stomach” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Never mistake tactical success for strategic direction | Make sure that when you’re investing in short-term returns, you’ve also got plans in place to make longer-term strategic investments.
  • A chain is only as strong as its weakest link | Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team. You can’t win alone!
  • Counter-offensive | A strategic offensive taking place after the enemy’s front line troops and reserves have been exhausted, and before the enemy has had the opportunity to assume new defensive positions
  • Economy of Force | Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts
  • Intel is key | Scouting your enemy is crucial
  • Master the Micro | The best gamers excel in both Macro and Micro | Amazing strategy will not survive mediocre execution and vice versa
  • Study (game) history, because history has a weird tendency to repeat itself

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: Leadership · Planning · Psychology · Strategy

You Yong Wu Mou (“Having Courage but No Strategies”)

October 20th, 2010 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 3 Comments

I have just finished reading a very interesting book (!!!) “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely and came across a very interesting historic story.

“In 210 BC, a Chinese commander named Xiang Yu led his troops across the Yangtze River to attack the army of the Qin (Ch’in) dynasty. Pausing on the banks of the river for the night, his troops awakened in the morning to find to their horror that their ships were burning. They hurried to their feet to fight off their attackers, but soon discovered that it was Xiang Yu himself who had set their ships on fire, and that he had also ordered all cooking pots crushed.”

“Xiang Yu explained to his troops that without the pots and the ships, they had no other choice but to fight their way to victory or perish. That did not earn Xiang Yu a place on the Chinese army’s list of favorite commanders, but it did have a tremendous focusing effect on his troops (as they grabbed) their lances and bows, they charged ferociously against the enemy and won nine consecutive battles, completely obliterating the main-force units of the Qin dynasty”

Prof. Ariely is making a point about the advantage of making a choice to focus by closing other doors/options/opportunities.

Joshua Baer had an interesting allegory to the startup world in his “Necessity is the mother of Invention” post

“This is similar to when a bootstrapper enters the Valley of Death* and commits to their venture, but before they are making money and cash flow positive. They are forced to figure out how to make it work with what they’ve got. The timeline is not completely in their control.


We’re always tempted to leave ourselves an escape route or path of retreat. And usually that’s a good idea. But sometimes there aren’t enough resources to mount the attack and cover the retreat. In order to be successful sometimes you have to commit the resources to what you believe in because the retreat option isn’t acceptable. Sometimes once you head down a path there is just no turning back, so you might as well commit all of your resources to getting to the end”

Well… this is true but since I am a notorious pessimist and usually like my options open, I have continued reading about this fine gentlemen (a.k.a. Xiang Yu)

I learned that indeed in the beginning of the civil war Xiang Yu was winning but with his rude manners, arrogance and lack of political vision, the tide turned against Xiang Yu and in the end he lost the war to Liu Bang.

In 202 BC, when Xiang Yu and his remaining men had their backs against the river while surrounded by Liu Bang’s troops, a boatman on a raft persuaded Xiang Yu to go with him across the river so he can prepare a comeback.
Xiang Yu said, “When I crossed the River and went west, I took with me 8,000 sons and brothers from east of the Yangtze. Now none of them has returned; how can I face the elders east of the Yangtze?” After declining this offer, Xiang Yu turned around, charged against the Han troops, killed over a hundred men, and finally cut his own throat.
Shortly after his death Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty.

Three concluding facts about Xiang Yu:

  • Xiang is popularly viewed as a leader who possesses great courage but lacks wisdom, and his character is aptly summarized using the Chinese idiom “Yǒu Yǒng Wú Móu” (有勇無謀) – “Having Courage but No Strategies” (or  to be foolhardy or to be more brave than wise or to have reckless courage…)
  • Xiang’s battle tactics were studied by future military leaders while his political blunders served as cautionary tales for future rulers
  • Xiang Yu is also the kind general that raided the Terracotta** tomb less than five years after the death of the First Emperor – Xiang’s army was looting of the tomb and structures holding the Terracotta Army, as well as setting fire to the necropolis and starting a blaze that lasted for three months.

“Yǒu Yǒng Wú Móu” (有勇無謀) – “Having Courage but No Strategies” – Think about it…! ;)

* Valley of Death – A slang phrase to refer to the period of time from when a startup receives an initial capital contribution to when it begins generating revenues.
During the death valley curve, additional financing is usually scarce, leaving the firm vulnerable to cash flow requirements.

** The Terracotta Army or the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses“, is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China
The figures, dating from 210 BC, vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.
There is also a legend that the terracotta warriors were real soldiers, buried with Emperor Qin so that they could defend him from any dangers in the next life.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

p.s. Prof. Ariely also recommends another role model for door closing – Rhett Butler for his supreme moment of unpredictable rationality with his astonishing elan, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

→ 3 CommentsTags: Conspiracy · Leadership · People · Psychology · Strategy