Do Computer Programmers make better players?

  • 2007 AAR League

    My hypothesis is that computer programmers (and other occupations which require exactness) make better strategic board game players - at least in that you are less likely to make silly mistakes.  Strategy is probably another skill set.

    This excludes my present game where I’m regularly messing up 😃

    I know as a programmer I’m always suspecting that decisions I’ve made are incorrect due to the vast numbers of bugs that I’ve written (and the thousands of hours spent finding and fixing them).

    Do you agree?  What other jobs are good for this?

  • '12

    I think you could make a good argument for that but you could make nearly the same argument for any job that requires attention to detail and bad consequences for overlooking the less obvious pitfalls.  I think I wrote my first program for cash at age 14 back in 1981 so I can attest to the number of bugs written and the need to double/triple check moves.  It drives my buddies crazy, they call me ‘stuff-toucher-guy’ as I have a bad habit of changing non-combat moves to rejuggle defensive/offensive odds.  I have seen some esoteric bugs that occur from unforseen combinations of factors so I try to keep an open mind with ‘what-if’ scenarios.  On the other hand, often you can micromanage things to the point where you miss other avenues as you are obsessing over something too much.

    I also guess it depends on the meaning of a ‘programmer’.  Perhaps I am a bit of a snob, but I have seen dudes claim to be expert programmers who don’t know what a stochastic process is or have no idea what ‘Big O notation’ means as it relates to order of complexity for math functions/models.  Serious programmers spend about 1/3 of their courses taking math, though really, only the statistics courses are glaringly important.  Combinatorical optimization courses or linear algebra….not so much help.

  • Official Q&A 2007 AAR League

    Exactness is not necessarily a benefit in strategic or tactical thinking. Anything where you face an opponent and a random element like dice is at best ‘not exact.’ Strategy games like A&A are not about imposing order but managing and steering chaos.

    For most programming or other occupations (which are many) requiring the main tenants of tactical/strategic thinking (knowing your goals, knowing the goals of others, ability to visualize the likely consequences of a sequence of actions, and resource management) don’t usually come before gaming.

    My father taught me Chess not for some particular love of the game but because the things you learn playing Chess are applicable to programming or engineering or physics or fixing a car or re-arranging your cupboards. Sort of like Algebra is important even if you don’t do a lot of math at your job.

  • '12

    Managing chaos, I couldn’t think of a better term for dealing with programming for windows operating systems……


  • @MrMalachiCrunch:

    I also guess it depends on the meaning of a ‘programmer’.  Perhaps I am a bit of a snob, but I have seen dudes claim to be expert programmers who don’t know what a stochastic process is or have no idea what ‘Big O notation’ means as it relates to order of complexity for math functions/models.  Serious programmers spend about 1/3 of their courses taking math, though really, only the statistics courses are glaringly important.  Combinatorical optimization courses or linear algebra….not so much help.

    Hmm.

    I disagree with your math biased premise.  Good developers of ‘code’ do not need to know much about math, that’s what the computer is for!

    In all seriousness, back to your original point:  “What is a programmer?”

    Video Gamer developer?  Windows developer?  Java developer?  Oldy-moldy Cobol/mainframe developer?  the list list long, and I am sure I missed some with my vey quick short list.

    I think the basics of logic that are embedded in the exactness of math is the key principal that makes a good developer and a good A&A player.

  • '12

    Hmmm, anybody with 4 months of schooling can write code.  Does that make them a programmer?  Computers do math?  Well who ‘tells them’ to do it and how?

    A problem example, the travelling salesman problem:

    You have 100 cities all connected by roads, each city has 99 roads that lead to each of the other 99 cities each of which has various lengths.  So you have 99x99 roads.  A small number really.

    The problem is this:  Find a shortest route path to reach all cities.

    Simple solution for a coder and a really fast computer you think.  Generate all paths, sort them and pick the shortest one.  Problem solved before your first coffee break right?

    A real programmer who knows math will understand the order of complexity of this approach.  Would you believe me if I told you that if EVERY subatomic particle in the universe had as much computer power as the entire world combined has ever had in history.  That is would take billions and billions and billions and billions as much time as the age of the current universe.  Why?  Because math will tell you that that problem is a N! or N factorial order of complexity.  That means the number of paths equals 1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8x9x……x56x57x58x58…x97x98x99

    Perhaps we are getting off target.  I agree with you on most things, but a coder writes code, a programmer understands the ‘system’ and that requires lots of math.

  • 2007 AAR League

    I guess from Malachi’s perspective, I’m talking about a coder.  (I’m not talking about what I learned in computer science back in 1993-1997 where we did very little programming.)

    That said, I don’t think there are that many people who are only doing grunt work in software development - I think most people are taking on the bigger picture (though I might be biased since I’ve worked alone almost all the time).  But I think it’s the grunt work, the attention to detail, that has the benefit.


  • I believe my 20 year passion for the World Wars is my best quality in my A&A game play. With that said, my opposition compared to some of you guys has been elementary. I would love to play in person with some of you guys.


  • I agree with Frimmel’s assessment 100%,

    I have a friend I play occasional face to face. He is very good at crunching numbers but sucks at strategic decisions and more especially at making “command” decisions. While he can crunch the numbers very well his lack of being able to make strategic decisions and the indecision this creates for him kills his play.


  • @a44bigdog:

    I agree with Frimmel’s assessment 100%,

    I have a friend I play occasional face to face. He is very good at crunching numbers but sucks at strategic decisions and more especially at making “command” decisions. While he can crunch the numbers very well his lack of being able to make strategic decisions and the indecision this creates for him kills his play.

    I’ve seen it before. I call those players droids.

  • '12

    Oh sure, if the person lacks strategic vision or can’t see beyond the first ‘ply’ of moves then no amount of number crunching can make up for this.  Not being able to see ‘deeper’ into the game means you gravitate towards ‘local maximas’ that the combat simulator says is a good move.  “Sure, I’ll take that queen for the pawn.”  thus setting up a checkmate in 2 moves.


  • In my expeirence computer programmers just take longer to move.


  • OK, can we take this premise is a slightly different direction?

    what makes a great A&A player?
    [Not sure if these are in order of importance of not, we can argue that after we create a list]
    Also assuming a 1-on-1 game.  Team dynamics are a whole other discussion.

    1).  Experience

    Knows the game and the ‘better’ strategies and more important territories as well some of the nuances of the game (like sub / DD interaction / vulnerabilities as well as how to coordinate moves with your allies countries)

    2).  Vision / Ability to see 2-3 rounds down the road in a game.

    If you can not see what your opponent is trying to do to you or have a strategy for your side (at least a general one), it’s hard to win.  Knowing HOW to win is not hard (your objectives), you can gleen that from the rules, knowing HOW to achieve those are much more vital

    3).  Understanding / mitigating the risks

    Take good odds battles, unless you are falling behind, you might starting increasing your risks in order to increase your chances of winning.

    4).  Determining who is winning / losing (very tightly related to 3)

    If you think you are winning when you are in fact losing, your moves may be counter productive.  An example helps to explain my point.  If I think I am winning, I may have no sense of urgency to force my opponent to counter my move(s), or properly increase my risk exposure.

    5).  Being able to realize AND take advantage of an opportunity

    Many times in games, a battle may go awry for/against you (dice will do that!).  Sometimes it can be so bad that no level of contingency plan you have created can save you EXCEPT for your opponents failure to realize and exploit this weakness.  Good players recognize these situations.

    6).  Realizing any unit is disposable to meet your objective(s)

    Often times, a player is hung up on the COST of some units that are risked/lost.  “Oh, I took france but it cost me 3 bombers to do it!”
    Well that just might be the best move for the situation, ESPECIALLY if you can afford it or needed that battle to get back into the game (see #3 about mitigating the risks)


    Please feel free to add to my quick list.  I am sure there are many more.


  • A & A is about experience; however, a person able to think critically will get more from each game as they gain experience.

    An engineer can perform thousands of calculations to design a boat, and at the end, tell you where to paint the waterline within an inch or so.  The fellow who builds boats can build the boat, making a few modifications along the way, such as adding a larger, heavier engine, and still paint the waterline within an inch.  But give that same fellow a new boat design to build, and he will take some time to learn where the waterline is.  The engineer can still compute it, but it will take many calculations.

    This is sort of the difference between wisdom and intelligence.


  • @axis_roll:

    OK, can we take this premise is a slightly different direction?

    what makes a great A&A player?
    [Not sure if these are in order of importance of not, we can argue that after we create a list]
    Also assuming a 1-on-1 game.  Team dynamics are a whole other discussion.

    1).   Experience

    Knows the game and the ‘better’ strategies and more important territories as well some of the nuances of the game (like sub / DD interaction / vulnerabilities as well as how to coordinate moves with your allies countries)

    2).  Vision / Ability to see 2-3 rounds down the road in a game.

    If you can not see what your opponent is trying to do to you or have a strategy for your side (at least a general one), it’s hard to win.  Knowing HOW to win is not hard (your objectives), you can gleen that from the rules, knowing HOW to achieve those are much more vital

    3).  Understanding / mitigating the risks

    Take good odds battles, unless you are falling behind, you might starting increasing your risks in order to increase your chances of winning.

    4).  Determining who is winning / losing (very tightly related to 3)

    If you think you are winning when you are in fact losing, your moves may be counter productive.  An example helps to explain my point.  If I think I am winning, I may have no sense of urgency to force my opponent to counter my move(s), or properly increase my risk exposure.

    5).  Being able to realize AND take advantage of an opportunity

    Many times in games, a battle may go awry for/against you (dice will do that!).  Sometimes it can be so bad that no level of contingency plan you have created can save you EXCEPT for your opponents failure to realize and exploit this weakness.  Good players recognize these situations.

    6).  Realizing any unit is disposable to meet your objective(s)

    Often times, a player is hung up on the COST of some units that are risked/lost.  “Oh, I took france but it cost me 3 bombers to do it!”
    Well that just might be the best move for the situation, ESPECIALLY if you can afford it or needed that battle to get back into the game (see #3 about mitigating the risks)


    Please feel free to add to my quick list.  I am sure there are many more.

    Very solid list.

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