December 28, 2006

ISO NYC Python

I'm looking to get in contact with every NYC Pythoner I can. Therefore, if you're competent in Python, or interested in learning it, contact me: ambition_game Shift+2 yahoo. (N.b. the project I have in mind has nothing to do with Ambition, so if you're not into card games, that's not a problem.)

October 08, 2006


Ambition will be launched online, with high probability, this fall. Beta testing is underway, and the pieces are rapidly coming together. I couldn't have done this without the help of Randy Ekl, so I want to publically thank him for his work on this project.

Remaining is the development of AI using some high-risk, high-potential-reward techniques including neural nets and, possibly, genetic algorithms. So far, we only have "dictated" AI: we tell the computer what to do using a nest of conditionals based on what we think is the right way to play. My goal-- and this is only the second time I've used advanced AI outside of school-- is, next, to develop "evolved" AI, with the potential to develop strategies and have "insights" that emerge without the influence of human expectations. Ahead is a very challenging and extremely exciting research project.

Note the 2d: I'm beginning development of a new boardgame-- a tile-placing game loosely inspired by the Efficient Market Hypothesis. (If this intimidates you, trust me that you need no financial or economic knowledge in order to enjoy this game.) It should be, for "heaviness" level, somewhere between Bohnanza and, the best boardgame of modern times, Tigris and Euphrates. (That's a wide interval, but this is a very new concept.) I'm looking for playtesters, so anyone who's interested in testing should contact me: mikechurch72 (72 as in Slam) at gmail.

September 11, 2006

I really can't say much...

I have chosen, of late, to become a more private individual and avoid being a part of the "blog" scene. My other blog has been taken down, and I don't intend to resurrect it. The risks associated with personal blog activity do not, in any way, justify the improbable upsides.

However, there is a good chance that there will be an online implementation of Ambition very soon; the details are being worked out as I write this. When that is finished, I will let the world know.

July 21, 2006


The "major" announcement I promised shall be held until early August.

July 10, 2006

3.5 and time to mobilize...

Version 3.5, with very minor changes, is in the works for Ambition. This time, changes will be only to scoring and the winning/losing conditions; the essential character of the game will remain unchanged. However, I am likely to "fork" the game into two versions: a beginner's version, and a more skillful, but also more complicated, "expert" version. I will have this done by mid-August at latest.

I'm in New York and in the process of "mobilization"; that is, making the first steps toward realizing a permanent community of players for this game; while Ambition has been a success of design, it has been a promotional failure compared to its established potential. That I intend to change. I'll provide the details within the next five days.

May 02, 2006

I feel really left out, Kaavya...

I won't fan the stink of "Kaavyagate" much more, only because I've said enough nasty things about Kaavya and, also, because I think she has been used, essentially, as a pawn. It's hard to feel sorry for her given her actions, but surely she didn't anticipate her present situation, and she's almost certainly not the sole person responsible. At this point, she's suffered enough international humiliation, but for a recap: she wrote a book called How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, about a snotty New Money girl obsessed with Harvard, trying to get in. (Write what ya know.) This would be no crime, but she managed to snag an advance possibly as high as $500,000 from Little, Brown; this would be the largest advance ever awarded an unpublished author. [Wikipedia] The literary merit of her novel has been questioned, most notably on CNN International. [here] Perhaps not anticipating the scrutiny that would follow from such an advance, she plagiarized from several sources, including the novels of Megan McCafferty. [Harvard Crimson]

I've begun to feel bad for Kaavya, only because I think she's suffering a disproportionate share of the flak. She is a plagiarist, but certainly not the only person to have done wrong. It's possible that the "packager", 17th Street Productions, may have played a role in this debacle. Moreover, I would surmise that Katherine Cohen, CEO of IvyWise, played at least an indirect role. IvyWise is a consultancy that specializes in getting rich kids into top colleges, and the methods used to do this are absurd and highly unfair. For example, she advises that students seek internships with investment banks and "internationally prominent" museums-- in high school. [Harvard Independent] (In college? Sure, and many of my friends have. High school? Ridiculous.) Ladies and gentlemen: here is your XXI-c. analogue of "let them eat cake". Ms. Cohen has placed clients in such otherwise unattainable internships; she is, effectively, selling her own elite connections in order to give the already-privileged an additional advantage in the discredited meritocracy of college admissions. In short, she has no ethical principles whatsoever. (Oh, she's also uglier than tubgirl. Go here; work-safe but barely so.) Do I have special cause to believe that she played a role in Kaayva's decision to plagiarize? No, but it is evident that she played an indirect role in Kaavyagate; exposure to such a morally bankrupt person would've corrupted even the most innocent adolescent. Moreover, by having been the conduit through whom Kaavya received this outrageous book deal, with the intent of using it to get her into Harvard, Kat Cohen is even in that regard partially culpable for this disastrous fiasco. Of course, Ms. Cohen will nonetheless continue to distance herself from Kaavya, gleeful in the free publicity this scandal has given her. My personal belief is that Katherine Cohen, the puppet-master and reverse Robin Hood, deserves the bitch-slap de la saison; Kaavya's just a dumb teenager. But I digress...

On 23 April, Kaavya was discovered to have plagiarized Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. As of 2 May, she has been alleged to have also plagiarized Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, and Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret?. [ New York Times Wikipedia] Quite possibly, several more "borrowed" passages remain in it, yet undiscovered. Indeed, the well-read (if chick-lit counts toward being "well-read") might consider treating Viswanathan's work as a sort of "find the salami" puzzle at this point.

Here I speak to Kaavya directly. I have, ahem, written a card game set (given favorable conditions) to become the definining card game of our generation, but I need all the help I can get, and that includes yours. Why, when you seem to have "borrowed" from everyone else, did you fail to plagiarize me? It would have given me exactly the publicity I would have needed. Were the game's rules not "packaged" well enough for your tastes? Ambition was right there in front of you, on the Internet, sitting pretty and ready to be plagiarized! You could've at least used a construction such as "four strikes and 170 points later". Why was I left out? Please let me know.

February 25, 2006

Version 3.0 now available at BGG

Version 3.0 of the rules are now available at BoardGameGeek. In PDF form, they are here.

February 12, 2006

Rules document finished

The rules document for Ambition, ver. 3.0, is now finished and available in PDF or Word form. It is just under four pages long and includes the (highly recommended) Nil-bidding mechanic. The rules as given are not exactly as given in my post on 31. January; minor "tweaks" were made.

To request the document, please email me: ambition_game AT yahoo dot com.

The appendices (which include auxiliary material not needed to play the game) still need further work, and I'm undecided as to what I shall include and what not. I should have them finished by 18. Feburary. Once I've completed this stage of the process, I will send updated documents to

January 31, 2006

Version 3.0: Finished!

I've finished drafting, play-testing, and refining the rules for Ambition, version 3.0. While I'm a couple months behind the schedule of my six-month cycle, alas, the creative process cannot be so easily regulated.

I'll admit that I've been slow to finalize this game. It has been over two years since I've conceived of the thing, and yet I'm still tweaking rules. I don't regard this as a bad thing, but eventually I will amass a player base that will demand stability. Now is the best time to change Ambition's rules, if doing so can improve the game, because less than 0.1% of those who will eventually play Ambition already have played it, much less heard of it. Once it develops a large play community, the game will be tougher to control.

The biggest changes were made to scoring; specifically, I revamped the point values of the cards. The red suits were too weak, under the original system, so I bumped red honors (J, Q, K, A) to 3 points a piece. I also gave the 5d (which replaced the 3d as initial lead) a 5-point value; the 2h, 7. In order to maintain the personality of the spade honors, I bumped the As to 10 points, and to keep the Kc strong, I bumped it to 17. Removing the 6-point 6c that existed in ver 2.0-- it's now a zero-point club, like the others-- this brought a total of 112 points. I removed the optional 6-point deduction for the person taking the last trick, which I had always regarded as a bit of "patch work"; my scoring revisions as put will tend to reduce the "end-load" factor.

These changes brought natural cause for revisions of Nil and Slam. Slam, I determined, should be set at 72 points out of the possible 112. The reward for a Slam is now 40 points, with the caveat that no points or strikes are given to other players-- Nils and understrikes that occur in such atypical rounds do not usually reflect upon the skill of the other players. Thus, the value of a Slam is increased, to a degree, but its difficulty as well.

Nil I have revised to 21 points, which is not a substantial bonus; Nil has been overvalued for quite some time. In the "double Nil" scenario-- that is, where two players achieve Nil-- each scores 14. In order to maintain some value to the Nil strategy, I added an optional (recommended) silent bidding mechanic that allows players to bid Nil and score additional points upon making it. Bid Nil scores 35 points, but 21 in the "double Nil" situation. If Nil is bid and failed, a player earns a strike and no points.

I decided to remove the "Hold" round in passing, it being more prone to hand-luck than the others. Therefore, the pass cycle is now Left-Right-Across-Scatter, repeating every four rounds.

The above comprise the revisions to scoring. I also decided to lengthen the game somewhat: it ends when one player takes 4, rather than 3, strikes. However, I removed the rule that prevents a player from striking out on an understrike; in my view, a strike is a strike.

I retained the "hard" limit on game length, revised slightly to 11 rounds. While three- and four-round games are unsatisfying (hence, my desire to alter the ending condition) I find it unlikely that anyone will complain that an 11-round game was too short.

I'll release an updated document in a few days, to fill in the details.

December 10, 2005

Rules update postponed to Feb. 2006

While I intended on updating the rules document in November, I have of late been considering major changes that will require extensive playtesting over the course of at least a month.

Therefore, I will issue the next edition of the rules in February 2006. Sooner.

I will post details on the likely changes-- the design flaws they intend to correct, and my proposed solutions-- soon.