Weekly Article: BattleCON Attack Selection Heuristics

Hey, everyone! Welcome to our new piece of Daily Content! Every Tuesday, we will be releasing articles about our games! These can range from simple things like analyzing the base pentagon in BattleCON to complex card counting in EXCEED. This week, we have a newbie BattleCON guide from 2015 Marco!


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Hey, everyone! Jay Green recently released a guide to the game theory of selecting attack pairs and it inspired me to share my heuristics with you. Now, remember that these heuristics are advanced, and require the ability to pick good attacks in the first place. If you want to learn that, I suggest looking at Jay Green's post, or the "Base Case" post I made before.

Jay Green's post: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1315526/game-theory-optimal-...

Base Case post: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1089294/base-case-guide-base...

Okay, now that you've educated yourself on some of the basics and can now pick effective attack pairs, let us move on.

The Problem
After learning how to make optimal attacks in almost any situation, any Battler is still left with one problem: You can't read your opponent's mind. This might sound pretty obvious, but it presents a huge problem.

Due to the nature of the game, opponents will usually have a way to counter any "optimal" attack you've planned. Even then, the "optimal" attack might not be the "best" attack (as getting force clashed is a problem as well). So, what is a Battler to do? How does one select the best attack, knowing that the opponent can possibly just straight up counter it with one of their moves? Simple! You only need to learn two heuristics: The 50/50 and The Worst Case.

The 50/50
First up, we have what I'd like to call "The 50/50." Note that this is simply a cute name for it. Those numbers are not exactly accurate. Now that that's out of the way, what is "The 50/50?"

"The 50/50" refers to a certain "state" one reaches when picking an attack pair. More often than not, one's "optimal" attack is faced with the problem of one of your opponent's options straight up countering it. However, remember that this fact is true for you as well.

This means that whatever move counters your "optimal" move has a counter as well. However, due to the nature of the game, your "counter counter" is easily beaten by another attack pair your opponent can play. This leaves you with a "50/50" choice. Do you play your "optimal" attack or do you play the "counter counter?"

This is the 50/50. You have 2 "good" attacks that you can play, but its effectiveness is dependent on which attack your opponent plays. If the opponent plays X, your first attack wins. Otherwise, it doesn't. If the opponent plays Y, your second attack wins. Otherwise, it doesn't.

Of course, it's not that simple and the percentages/outcomes are not as binary as that, but this is a heuristic, so just assume that both attack pairs have an equal chance of succeeding (and failing).

Now, it takes a lot of experience and know-how to even get to the "50/50" problem, so one might ask: "Why waste all that energy to just reach a state that's the equivalent of a coin toss?"

The answer to that is the second concept: "The Worst Case."

The Worst Case
This is where the "magic" happens. Remember how I said your attack can get countered, while your counter counter can also still be countered? This is where you can put those counters to good use. Again, remember that this takes a great deal of experience to even consider what the "worst case" for each attack pair is, so know that this is some "hard" stuff to do.

Now, when considering your two "50/50" attacks, imagine what option in your opponent's hand will totally DECIMATE your attack. Imagine the worst, most painful thing the opponent can do to you. Literally, think of the "worst case." Now, don't just think of the opponent's attack and how much damage it does, also consider what final position you'll end up in, how many resources you lose, and all other factors that affect the game state.

Do this for both of your "50/50" attack pairs and place their "worst cases" beside each other. Now, compare them.

Among these two worst cases, which one are you fine with happening? Which one will leave you in the better position, should everything just blow up in your face?

Decided?

Great!

Play that attack.

Summary
This might seem REALLY simple, but it's something that a lot of people don't consider. Often times, they get to the 50/50 problem, but simply end it there. They just think "I lose to X if I play B and I lose to Y if I play A." However, the degree to which you lose matters a lot in a game like BattleCON.

This strategy is basically giving your attacks a form of insurance. You attempt to play the game in such a way that makes it easier for you to come back, if everything goes wrong.

I know that this doesn't always win you games, but making sure that when you lose, you don't lose a lot will make the game easier!

BattleCON is a game of tug-of-war and the person who "pulls" the most towards his side wins. Doing the 50/50 and worst case heuristics will ensure that whenever your opponent gets a successful "pull," it doesn't pull a lot. This makes it easier for you to come back from losses. However, more than that, it makes sure that you maintain whatever lead you have!

This makes the heuristic relevant whether you're winning, losing, or at odds with the opponent!

And whenever the heuristic seems to stop working, simply switch to one of the adjustments. That'll keep your opponent on his toes!

Wait adjustments?

Advanced Adjustments
As Jay Green has pointed out, one fatal flaw to any heuristic used in the game is that it exposes to your opponent how you plan to go about the beat. The moment he realizes that you're running this heuristic, your opponent can and will beat you into the ground, even if you've given yourself insurance.

Now, I've personally found a way around it by simply adjusting the heuristic above, giving you a total of 3 "ways of thinking" that you can freely switch between, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. The first one, which I detailed above is the "Defensive" version of the heuristic. It's also the easiest one to do (because it serves as the basis for the two adjustments below). The defensive version ensures that if you lose, you don't lose by much, allowing you to win games by providing you with "insurance" whenever you lose a beat. This means that the advantage is never really pulled towards the opponent.

Now, remember that in order to do these adjustments, you need to master the base heuristic first, so be wary!

1) Total Aggressive Adjustment
This adjustment reverses the heuristic. Simply put, do the heuristic AS THE OPPONENT. That is, do it as if you were the one playing the opponent's character. Then, at the "worst case" part, determine which of the opponent's 50/50 attacks has the outcome that places the opponent in the worst position/game state. Then, simply play the attack you have that causes that "bad thing" to happen.

This adjustment operates on the opposite of the original heuristic. This one shoves away any "insurance" in favor of getting huge swings of tempo. Basically, if you win the pull, you pull HARD. As for what happens when you lose, it's variable. Could be okay-ish. Could be TERRIBLE.

2) Balanced Adjustment
This one is the "third" because it's more advanced than the first (the original heuristic I gave) and the second (Total Aggressive Adjustment).

In this adjustment, you play as the opponent up until the 50/50. That is, you figure out which 2 of your attacks counter his "optimal" and his "counter counter." These 2 attacks then become your 50/50. Go to the "worst case" part with those 2 attack and proceed as normal with the heuristic.

This adjustment makes you more "offense-oriented" as the attack pairs you have to choose from will place the opponent in a terrible position. However, unlike the Total Aggression one, you still try to give yourself some semblance of insurance by making sure your "counter" attack will not result in you getting decimated.

This is more advanced as you have to evaluate more sets of attack pairs compared to the first two ways of using the heuristic.

Ending Words
I really hope that this has helped all of you up your game! I've been a bit swamped to make a video, but I wanted to share this valuable piece of information with all of you. I've also decided that this was something explained better in text, rather than in video. Thanks for reading!


Thanks again, 2015 Marco! Tune in next week for another article about our games! Tells us the kind of content YOU want! Just put it in the comments below.