Originally posted on the course-blog for "Strategic Decision Analysis"

On the occasion of Halloween, Yahoo! launched a new game “Shambling Hordes”: a game that makes you a commander of a troop of zombies out to capture enemy’s tomb. Well, I don’t know much about Zombies, and am not crazy about internet games. But what attracted me about the game was the introduction. Here is an excerpt:

Interested in game theory, advanced mathematics, classical economics and budget allocation problems? No? Let’s try again. Are you interested in commanding a legion of Zombie warriors in a pitched battle against your friends and random people online? We thought so, which is why we wanted to let you know about Shambling Hordes, a new social game experiment developed at Yahoo! Labs now available in our Sandbox.

Full details here: http://research.yahoo.com/project/3350

This was sufficient to pull me into the game and indeed, the game utilizes multiple concepts from Game-theory.

Yahoo game Shambling hordes

As I mentioned, the objective of the game is to capture the enemy’s tomb. (And as you might have guessed it, the enemy’s objective is to conquer yours). So on the way to your enemy’s tomb, you keep on conquering new territories. During your move,you can move any or all of your zombies to an adjacent territory. Moves of both players are executed at the same time, so the game is played as a simultaneous one. For example: In the attached image, I have captured four territories, against the enemy’s three, and am well on my way to the enemy’s tomb.

The real fun begins when you and the enemy step on a territory at the same time. A series of three battles ensues, where you have to divide your troops (typically 100, sometimes 105) into the three battlefields: left, center and right. For any battlefield, the group with more zombies win. So if you divide your troops as 33-34-33, and the enemy divides theirs as 40-40-20, the enemy wins the first two, while you win just the last one, and will have to give up the territory in question. Even this distribution game is a simultaneous game, and if you figure out the opposition’s strategy, it may be easier to beat them.

Yahoo game Shambling hordes

For example: when the enemy found that I was trying to “maximize” my chances of winning 2 battlefields by consistently playing a 50-50-0 (or another permutation for same combination), he beat me twice by playing a move like 40-55-5. My strategy had worked earlier, but perhaps, it would have been better to play a mixed strategies game.

There are multiple games going on in parallel: capturing the territories, distribution games in battles, blocking enemy’sprogression (by capturing multiple routes to your tomb) etc. but I would like to mention again that the main purpose is to capture enemy’s tomb. I lost the first game I played by losing the track of the main objective. I had won more territories, killed more of their zombies, won more of the battles, but missed that one of their zombies was nearing my tomb.

I know that this may be getting confusing now. So why don’t you try the game yourself and then, come back and leave your experience as comments? Not often, you will get a chance to play a game for hours, and have no guilt of wasting time. After all, you are just preparing for your SDA class!

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