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Non-Dojo Game Theory 2


This is a follow up article to “Non-Dojo Game Theory 1”.  I started with a brief description of game theory, pay-off grids and competitive interaction.  This is another deep math article but interesting food for thought that I’ll try to make as digestible as possible.  I’m going to describe another ‘game grid’ and how you can think about acting should you find yourself in either scenario.

First, The Hawk-Dove Game.

The name of the game references birds fighting one another.  Each player in the game can choose to fight like a Hawk (hardcore aggressive) or Dove (passive).  On the right I’ve shown the pay-off grid for the game.  The story goes that if a Hawk fights a Hawk they destroy one another.  That makes sense.  Hawks are bad-ass.  If two Doves fight one another, almost nothing happens.  Lastly, if a Hawk fights a Dove, the Hawk wins and he’s super happy about it.

Needless to say, I can go a round or two in Bird-Law with Charlie Kelly and still hold my own.

This game is like playing Dare or Chicken.  If both opponents are pansies, nothing happens.  If ones a pansy, the dominant player wins and if neither player is a pansy, things… get… messy.

In the Hawk-Dove game there are two natural solution points.  [Hawk, Dove] or [Dove, Hawk].  The game usually unfolds through some sort of signal from one player to the other saying  “Dude.  I’m the Hawk.  Deal with it.  Destroy us both or let me win.  Choose”.  If that player is convincing enough, that signal is his key to victory.

Real life scenarios of Hawk-Dove are EVERYWHERE.  Think about movie release dates.  All movie executives want their movie to release or certain Big Money days.  That said, they can’t all be Hawks.  So what do the big Motion Picture Houses do?  They call dibs in a big big way.  If they can convince the rest of their competition of their sincerity in claiming a date (through early advertisement), the competition is forced to Dove-out in favor of other weekends.  This game is played out in new product launches, market entries, diplomacy and arms races as well.

Finally… the application to Warmachine and Hordes.

Here the application relates to aggression.  If you announce to your opponent that your going to play so far down his throat he’ll have nothing to do about it, he’ll start playing strategies to manage that.

The announcement can even be made before the game starts.  Signaling early is a powerful tool.  If you can credibly (and this credibility thing is a crucial component) commit to aggression, a rational opponent will react accordingly.  If you’ve got Jarl and Fennblades or the Cygnarly Constance and a metric ton of Steelheads you’re signaling “JAM” pretty heavy already.  You’ve given your opponent data they’ll have to react to and dice haven’t even hit the table.  You can also signal this with a skew list or lists that “ask a question” rather than having answers.  The old “Can you deal with 40 Doom Reavers?” question is a pretty big Hawk signal too.

The lesson is to be a hawk or a smart dove that can counter punch like crazy and own it.  Look for the situations, look for the signals and use it to your advantage.

The more you know… (hum the little diddy in your head when you read this last part)


I'm a gaming and math enthusiast. I find games that balance strategic interaction with economic principles (delayed option, resource control, etc.) are some of the most rewarding for me as a player. I concentrated in Finance, Analytic Consulting, Decision Sciences and Management Strategy while getting my MBA at Kellogg (Northwestern University) and majored in Chemical Engineering during my undergrad at University of Illinois. I view WM/H through this lens and share my perspective via periodic articles. Thanks for reading!
  1. Luke Reply

    I love these articles. More! More!

    Any further reading to suggest?

    • Tmage Reply

      Compliments like these really keep me motivated. Thank you for the kind words. The next article I’ve got brewing is on Delayed Option Theory. (Balancing actions now versus actions later)

      The longest portion in the whole creative process is just finding a topic interesting enough to write about. If you’ve got a few questions or an avenue you like in particular, let me know.

      • Luke / glamage Reply

        Id love to make a sensible suggestion for what to ask but to be honest I haven’t a clue – game theory is a completely alien topic to me which is probably why I find the articles so interesting.

        Delayed Option Theory sounds intriguing and I look forward to reading your comments on that.

        Can I ask where this knowledge comes from? Do you have a background in this sort of thing?

        • Tmage Reply

          I have a formal education in this non-sense and I work in an environment where dynamics like these are actively applied. Most of the strategy, math and interaction models came while I was getting my MBA. I went to Kellogg (Northwestern). My concentrations were Analytical Consulting, Finance, Decision Analysis and Strategy. All that makes me sound really really pretentious. I promise I’m not. I’m actually just thrilled that the community is interested in this kind of analysis/framework. Thanks again for reading. I promise to keep writing in return!

          • Greg

            Tmage is really a big huggable dork. ;)

            Just kidding Tony, love you man! (Tony plays in my meta – very cool guy, very smart and paints like a madman even if he has some kind of warped reliance on studio schemes).

            To answer the initial question there are a number of really good books on game theory. “A Theory of Fun” by Raph Koster (of Ultima Online fame) or Game Theory 101 by William Spaniel are both good (and easy to read) books.

  2. Ross Reply

    Tmage, I love you long time. And your maths.

    Keep up the sweet work!

  3. Lynn Reply

    Haha. I woke up down today. You’ve cehreed me up!

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