titan: the arena [Updated April 2006]

TTA     
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  19    

  22

   11      12

  Limerock    Paradise Terrace, Table 3

Robert Kircher, RI

2005 Champion

2nd: Dan Eshleman, NC

3rd: Harry Flawd, PA

4th: Carmen Petruzelli, PA

5th: Morio Taketori, Japan

6th: John Poniske Jr, PA
Event History
1997    Peter Staab       72
1998    Brian Sutton      178
1999    Kaarin Engelmann     115
2000    Alan Witte      97
2001    Rebecca Hebner      56
2002    Joe Sposito      45
2003    Brenden Coomes      47
2004     Devin Flawd      63
2005     Robert Kircher      79

AREA Ratings:

GM: Greg Crowe

Always a titanic struggle ...

"Eight will enter, three will leave!" Come on, say it with me, "Eight will enter, three will leave!" Dyin' time is nigh.

Welcome to Titan the Arena, the only game where it doesn't matter who dies, as long as you didn't bet on him. Place your bets on who you think will survive, and play your strength cards to make sure they do. Rounds continue until only three live, and whoever has the biggest payoff from their bets wins. What could be more fun?

Again this year I decided to have three preliminary heats leading up to (optimally) a semi-final of 25 players. The winners of each of the five games in the semi will compete in a final to determine who will take home the wood.

To determine the 25 players who will play in the semi-final, I will use the following criteria based on the WBC Standard MESE tie-breakers in this order of precedence:

1) Win in first Heat entered
2) Most Wins
3) Win in second Heat entered
4) Win in third Heat entered
5) Has brought a copy of the game, if needed for next round;
6) Average finish in all heats entered; e.g., a 2nd and two 3rds = 2.67 and beats a 2nd and two 4ths (average: 3.33)
7) High dice roll

If I don't have 25 players who won at least one game, I will fill with those who won second in at least one game, using a modification of the tie-breakers above:

1) Second in first Heat entered
2) Most Seconds
3) Second in second Heat entered
4) Second in third Heat entered
5) Highest percentage of First place score
6) Average finish in all heats entered; e.g., a 2nd and two 3rds = 2.67 and beats a 2nd and two 4ths (average: 3.33)
7) High dice roll

Last year we had 22 winners, and 21 of them elected to continue to the semi-final, so we needed only four alternates who got a second place in their heats. In all likelihood, we can expect similar numbers this year.

The GM will be playing and will have two AGM's identified.

Note about the New Version: In 2004, Fantasy Flight Games re-released this game, entitled Colossal Arena. I am making the following pronouncement. Usage of this version of the game will be allowed with the following provisos: 1) The eight creatures that will be used are: Amazon, Cyclops, Ettin, Magus, Titan, Troll, Unicorn, and Wyrm. Remove all strength cards for the other four creatures from the deck before beginning play. 2) When the deck is exhausted, instead of ending the game immediately, use the 'Original Stalemate Rules' as printed in the Official FAQ (available at Fantasy Flight's website), which are the same as the rules in the orginal game.

In the Final, there will be the option to play the new version of the game according to its rules, but only if all five finalists desire it. If a single one wishes to play with the original rules, then that is what will happen. If the new version's rules are used, the eight creatures used will be randomly determined, for time considerations.

In order to make the two versions jive even more, I am instituting this rule, applicible to all games of both versions: The method of determining who begins play may be by strength card auction, or by any random method agreeable to all players


 Greg will also offer a Juniors version for those 12 and under on Tuesday at 6 PM in the Heritage room. See http://www.boardgamers.org/yearbkex/jnrpge.htm


Stats

One of the nice things that we did during the 2000 WBC TTA Tournament was to fill out a relatively extensive data sheet that recorded secret bets and creature kills for each campaign. I thank those people who took the time to complete these charts during their games. Their efforts are what I used to derive the following analyses.

There were 30 campaigns played resulting in 60 total games. Of those, only 55 games were evaluated because the rest of the games had incomplete or non-legible records. 53 games were five-player versions; only two games were four-players. Please note that this evaluation is limited by three major factors. First, we assumed that secret bets, creature kills and player diplomacy, which happened in the first game, would not unduly influence the second game. I did try to look into evaluating only the first games played, but that resulted in only 28 games available for evaluation and the results were not dramatically different from this complete analysis. Second, we assumed that the likelihood of creature kills and placement of secret bets for each of the different creatures would result in the same expected value. Of course, the differences are what's interesting about this analysis. Finally, these analyses are based upon a rather small sample of less than 60 games and "your mileage may vary".

We looked first at the secret bets that were placed on the different creatures for the evaluated games (here, only 54 games had available records). If we assume that all creatures are just as worthy of secret bets and that initial card play and open bets did not overly influence the choice of subsequent secret bets, we can expect 33.5 bets placed on each creature (52 games with five-players and two games with four-players) and considering a no-secret bet as a mistake.

Secret Bets Placed 

Number

Variance

 Cyclops

27

-6.5

Warlock

30

-3.5

Dragon

32

-1.5

Titan

32

-1.5

Troll

32

-1.5

 Hydra

33

-0.5

Ranger

37

+3.5

Unicorn

38

+4.5

None (expected should be 0)

7

+7.0

What this data suggest is a definite bias against betting on the Cyclops, which is later reinforced by the fact that it is one of the creatures that is killed early. As to whether the lack of secret support dooms the Cyclops to being in the early kill group or whether players just don't like the Cyclops' power, it's unclear from this data (but perhaps the multiple-bid data suggest that the lack of support dooms the Cyclops). However, I would tend to agree with those players who see the Cyclops' as having the most annoying power to the non-backers. I was a bit surprised to see that the powers that I tend to prefer and think of being useful (Dragon, Titan, Troll and Hydra) did not significantly vary from the expected. I would have expected higher positive variance rather than the relatively neutral deviation. I was perplexed somewhat by the positive variance on the Ranger and the Unicorn, since I only find these powers to be helpful in specific situations.

Next, I took a look at which creatures got eliminated first. With 55 games being evaluated, we would expect each creature to be the "First Kill" 6.9 times in this data. As noted, Cyclops got clobbered first rather resoundingly. Also, the Titan was the first creature killed nearly as often. This seems to suggest that these two "annoying" powers that can affect another player's hand tend to bring unfriendly attention rather rapidly. I would suggest from this data that you should not put any secret wagers on these creatures unless you have some additional support and ability to keep them alive.

 First Killed

Number

Variance

Cyclops

12

-5.1

Titan

10

-3.1

Ranger

6

+0.9

Troll

6

+0.9

Warlock

6

+0.9

Dragon

5

+1.9

Hydra

5

+1.9

Unicorn

5

+1.9

Looking further along the continuum at the first three creatures killed in a game, we see that it confirms the "loser" nature of the Cyclops. However, the Titan appears to do much better, once it survives the initial assault for the first kill. Surprisingly, the Troll emerges as an increasingly likely target to be killed when looking at the first three eliminations. Later we will look at a "survivor"-analysis which may suggest that this switch for the Titan and the Troll may be just an anomaly. Based on 55 games evaluated, if this was random, we would expect each creature to be one of the first three creatures eliminated about 20.6 times.

 First Three Killed

Number

Variance

Cyclops

31

-10.4

Troll

26

-5.4

Titan

22

-1.4

Ranger

20

+0.6

Hydra

19

+1.6

Unicorn

16

+4.6

Warlock

16

+4.6

Dragon

15

+5.6

Next, we attempted to determine whom among the TTA creatures would be considered "survivors" and not likely to get "voted" off the arena. With 55 games, we would expect each creature to be one of the three survivors 20.6 times if due to chance only. This analysis merely confirmed that the Cyclops and the Titan were the least likely candidates to remain standing at the end. Also, the Warlock appeared to be slightly vulnerable. The most likely survivors appear to be what I consider to be the two most powerful creatures, the Hydra and the Dragon. In games that I play, I try to convince people that the Hydra and the Dragon must be killed because of their powers, but perhaps I should be looking into betting on them more often.

 Survivor

Number

Variance

Titan

14

-6.6

Cyclops

16

-4.6

Warlock

18

-2.6

Troll

22

+1.4

Ranger

23

+2.4

Unicorn

23

+2.4

Hydra

24

+3.4

Dragon

25

+4.4

As an aside, it should be noted that in most of the games played, the five eliminated creatures were killed by three or four different players. Only in a handful of cases were all the killings done by two different players. In no cases were there the extremes of only one or all five players being involved with the creature eliminations.

Finally, further analyses were done to reflect some of the player interactions that are so important in the dynamics of a multi-player card game such as TTA. Since we don't have actual after-action reports that capture the thoughts, exact bets and card play for this tournament, I attempted to use multiple secret bets on creatures to serve as proxy for some of the player interactions and its effect on creature survival. There were no games with four or five secret bets on the same creature (this would be likely limited by general card distribution at the beginning of the game). However, there were 42 instances of double-secret-bids on one creature and 12 instances of triple-bids on one creature.

 Creature

Double Bets

Deaths

Triple Bets

Deaths

 Unicorn

5

3

4

1

Ranger

9

3

1

0

Troll

3

1

2

0

Titan

4

1

1

0

Dragon

5

1

1

0

Cyclops

3

0

2

0

Warlock

5

0

1

0

Hydra

8

0

0

0

With this analysis, it appears that having multiple-bids on the Unicorn and the Ranger weakens the ability of these creatures to survive. Even with several players interested in the survival of these creatures, they appear to be very vulnerable to elimination. In contrast, while the Cyclops and Warlock may be easily eliminated when backed by only one or no players, they appear to be stronger when backed by several supporters. As expected, the Hydra and the Dragon appear to be generally good bets based on this information.

In summary, there are many limitations to this analyses of TTA and this information should be recognized as only providing general thoughts on creature survivability and some ideas about placing secret bets based upon some actual data. I have already noted some of the caveats earlier, and certainly there are many other strategies that have been discussed about betting and card play for TTA in other forums. This analysis is not meant to be a substitute for good game play, understanding of the game, opponent psychology, card counting, etc., that occurs in any good card game involving bidding. From this data, the two general rules appear to be: 1) be very wary of placing secret bets or bids on the Cyclops and the Titan, and 2) secret bets and bids on the Dragon and the Hydra may be worthwhile and defendable.

 GM     Greg Crowe  (4th year)   NA
   gregcrowe@mindspring.com   NA 

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