What are the Odds?: A Utilisation of Settlers of Catan to Provide a Framework for Monte Carlo Based Game Theoretic Oriented Decision-Making

Everett, A, Systems Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
White, K, Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia

The importance of making decisions well is paramount in all fora, especially when making long range plans (what would generally be called strategy). Random events in life, as well as unpredictable decisions made by others, can impair or eliminate years of time and work. Accurate planning is needed in order to respond to changing conditions brought on by those events and decisions.

Settlers of Catan is a Eurogame popular across many spheres, from tech executives to NFL players to friends playing at home. Settlers previously has been the object of study and modelling in the artificial intelligence realm. In this research, Settlers of Catan is analysed for its suitability for providing a framework to study and modelling of strategic decision-making. We demonstrate that Settlers has strong value modelling the strategic/operational level of decision-making. Play involves random events determined by the roll of a pair of dice and decisions made by other players regarding resource trades. Defeat and victory are strictly defined and judging what works and what doesn’t is a direct exercise with no ambiguity.

The complexity of Settlers of Catan rivals or even exceeds that of the board game Go. As explained in this study, Settlers of Catan is an n-person, finite, extensive-form game, which means that it possesses one or more subgame perfect equilibria. Regular backwards induction only has value for finite games of perfect information. Analysis of subgames allows extension into fora that are of imperfect information, which is to say most spheres of human activity.

In order to assess issues of strategy and trade for this game, roughly 180 people were found to complete a general survey that covered these issues, as well as measured demographic and personality information thought relevant to the game. Roughly 40 games of two types were also conducted, upon which observations of strategy and trade were made.

In addition to devising as a protocol to record game play, this study develops and applies a means to map personality characteristics to a quantitative strategic thinking quotient. This is method generalizable and what has been demonstrated in through use of Settlers of Catan, can be used in many other one decision-making contexts. It is a first foray into this sphere using this approach, so the results are tentative, but do demonstrate promise for future study and application.

MS (Master of Science)
Settlers of Catan, Monte Carlo Methods, Game Theory, Strategy, Strategic Thinking, Monte Carlo Tree Search
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