Friday, September 12, 2014

Decision making

Many a times we find ourselves taking decisions and making choices: be it buying a shirt, investing money, applying for a company for job or deciding on a place for vacation. And more often than not after we take such ‘decisions’, we regret on what we did and ponder how things could have been better if we would have taken decision in some other way. In this blog I would be reasoning that the outcome of such decisions is bound to sometimes go in our way and at other times the way we didn’t want it to go and this is a quite usual and scientific process.
Every problem or issue we handle is in a way a problem of optimization i.e. getting best out of limited resources with lots of constraints around it. Mathematically that means arriving at best possible solution but the understanding of available resources and constraints is the hard part. The decisions we need to take are to be taken in a finite time and hence the information about the constraints need to be collected in that time period only. In actual life decision making process is often complex with numerous stakeholders, intangible benefits and losses each having its pay off which influences our decision and very often we miss out on one or more of them to take into account in the process. If not missed, assessing their pay offs and influences on the outcome to an exact value is many a times not possible in the finite time period we have in our hands. Hence we are forced to take decisions with limited information often forecasting and guessing on the missing pieces leading to an outcome. Now if our assumptions about missing information are in line with reality the decision would be what we expected but if those are different or divergent, unexpected outcome is bound to occur.

So what is the solution? Limited time, information asymmetry about preferences of other stakeholders, resources constraints and the aspect of intangibility attached to most pay offs. The solution lies in understanding these issues and doing the best one could do under these circumstances. Regretting on past decisions and imagining how things could have been better will appear a worthless activity once we have understood and convinced ourselves under what situations we took that decision. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Age of Empires II

To start with, some special features (+'s and -'s) of most prominent civilizations (for land maps only):

a) Aztecs:
·    Positives: One of the few civilizations which can face Goths even in post imperial period because of faster production in military buildings, faster economy (villagers carry +5 – makes a big difference, about 1 minute even till castle age itself), garland wars and availability of last infantry armor research making the champion and eagle warrior very effective & players don’t feel lack of halberdier.
·    Negatives: Sometimes slow speed of movement as compared to cavalry civilizations is felt when player wants to attack after fast castle/feudal. Absence of last archer armor and poor dock restricts power in some scenarios. But despite of this, Aztecs remains favorite for players who like faster economy and infantry. 
 Bottomline – have 8-10 barracks with continuous production/face Goths.

b) Celts:
·    Positives: Very powerful, simply destructive civilization because of immense siege power. Woad raiders are a must to complement the siege. Siege engineers and presence of last research of both attack and armor (infantry) make the attack more comprehensive as champions can also be used if castles are not adequate. Hussars can be used to break the Onager defense of enemy (esp. for Koreans).
·    Negatives: Speed of movement restricted because of siege plus handling economy needs practice as balancing wood and gold becomes important with continuous production of expensive siege units.
Bottomline – have 75-80 villagers with approx 20-25 food, 20 wood and 35 (25 gold+ 10 stone) miners.

c) Chinese:
·    Positives: Best choice for Nomadic maps; Very useful team bonus (+45 farm food especially till about 30 minutes). Since technologies cost lesser, special attention should be paid as players tend to remember the food/gold required for other civilizations. Upgrade to elite Chu ko nu may appear expensive for just an increase of 5 hit points but the speed of firing also increases (similar to Mangudai vs. heavy cavalry archer). Full black smith provides ample options – champions, heavy camels, cavaliers, Arbalest and Halberdier along with destructive scorpions and bombard towers. A truly versatile civilization
·    Negatives: First 5-6 minutes in Dark Age require different strategy than other civilizations as we start with 6 villagers and less food and wood.  
Bottomline – Exclusive power lies in diversification and changing units (infantry – archery – cavalry – siege)

d) Franks:
·    Positives: Cheaper castles (especially useful for Gold Rush map). Better knights - right from the castle age, in the initial knight rush in Green Arabia map, enemy knights can be deceived if he is not aware of the hit points of Franks knights. Very useful but less known are free farm upgrades!
·    Negatives: Very poor archery (no thumb ring, no parthian) but to fight helbs & other anti cavalry units, champions can be used. Hussar is absent so once gold is over, edge is lost to mongols/huns/goths/spanish. Being a cavalry civilization, Hussar must have been given! Castle unit is throwing axeman which is not that great, but when in big numbers, buildings & infantry can be destroyed. 
Bottomline - Consume gold & food heavily & rely on Paladins + champs/axeman (as castles are cheap). Against mongols, early attack is the only saviour.

e) Goths:
·    Positives: Deadly speed of infantry (cheaper, more attack against buildings, +10 population, faster barracks, anarchy and profusion!!). Hussars are also present along with HC :)
·    Negatives: For boom, atleast 40 farmers needed. If economy is not sustainable, cavalry-cavalry archers can destroy. Poor archery (though not needed with amazing Huskarls). Last armour research absent in infantry (again, if it would have been there, Huskarls & champions would have been unbeatable).
Bottomline - Eat food, build farms, build barracks and see the magic!

f) Huns:
·    Positives: Easiest civilization to play (no houses - believe it or not makes a great difference especially in first 25 minutes when wood is of utmost importance). Cheap cavalry archers + pikes + siege - the combination has been used since time immemorial to destroy the closest enemy in 3-3 or 4-4 maps. And when enemy is making archery/pike units, boom at home, start making knights-cavaliers and eventually paladins in imperial. The castle cavalry archers along with hussars make perfect army for post imperial. Basically a complete civilization!
·    Negatives: Very poor castle unit (rarely used). Lack of champion against goths, poor siege except siege ram to assist archers. Last archer armour missing. 
Bottomline - Archery - Stables - Archery - Stables (units to be used in this sequence).

g) Mayans:
·    Positives: Best foot archer civilization (yes, better than Britons or even Mongols). Resources last 20% longer, right from the first sheep/farm, early castle 14-16 minutes can be executed easily for eagle raid in enemy base. El-Dorado eagle warriors are very fast and destructive because of pierce armour and 100 hit points though cavalry has bonus against them. But the awesome castle unit - Plumbed archer are very quick and have bonus against cavalry & cavalry archers. Plumber+eagle make a great combo. All archer research are available. 
·    Negatives: No champions - champions have bonus against eagle warriors but archers can handle infantry. No cavalry (obviously)!
Bottomline -Right from castle, produce cross bow from 3-4 archery ranges along with pikes from one barrack and keep attacking. Make Plumber archers & eagles to face goths rush - handling is of prime importance.

h) Mongols:
·    Positives: My favourite civilization. Cavalry archers fire 20% faster (mangudai even faster by about 15%). Hussars have +30 hit points (nearly equivalent to a castle knight). Champions, Heavy camels and hussar very well support the best castle unit of AOE 2 i.e. Elite mangudai. Nearly full siege (esp Drill) except Bombard cannon.
·    Negatives: Sometimes against good cavalry players, with less castles & gold deficieny, helbs become necessary which is biggest negative of mongols. Mangudai takes long time to get created from castle, and if enemy destroys castle, then one should quickly move to heavy cavalry archer+heavy camels+hussar (as far as possible) against cavalry.
Bottomlime - Handling economy is very necessary, food-wood-gold-stone all required in huge quantities. Face early attack with camels-pikes and then go into imperial by 33-35 minutes with elite mangudai research complete and 2-3 castles OR attack initially with Huns style by cav archer + pike.

i) Persians:
 ·   Positives: Additional food & wood along with faster town centre enables fast castle & early knight raid at enemy's base. Team bonus is useful against archer civilizations. Full cavalry is given. Town centres have 2x hit points - damaging TC in castle becomes very tough for enemy knights & unknowingly they incur losses, if fletching research is done, TC becomes really a big fort. Mining camp, lumber camp and mill have all researches available.
·    Negatives: Poor infantry (not even double handed). Archery though available is usually less used. Elephants very expensive on food and if helbs are present, of very little use unless supported by HC/skirms.
Bottomline - Early attack, faster economy and paladin rush by 30-35 minutes!

j) Vikings:
·    Positives: Better infantry right from early stage, and wheel barrow & hand cart are free (economy benefits a lot from these two esp wheel barrow as players generally do this research at about 25-30 minutes). Berserk and Berserkgang very useful, esp against archers when enemy uses them without effective handling as their movement is quite fast. Arbalest+champions & berserks make an effective combination.
·    Negatives: No helbs (though hit points of pikes are decent), no hussar (why?!). Poor cavalry - wholly dependent on infantry & economy advantages. 
Bottomline - Have 4 town centres by 20 minutes. Go early imperial and have large army as economy can sustain from lesser number of farmers.   

Details of attack bonuses among units and use of terrain while attack/defence to follow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mall versus Mela

Mall versus Mela

Visiting crowded melas, with dirty atmosphere and kids crying all around to acquire dancing horses with fluorescent lights, flutes & pawan chakki, and coaxing parents to eat gobhi pakoras and gol gappas selling at seemingly unhygienic stalls, appears to be either a very old story for those who at some point in time had experienced all these or an imaginative story crammed by school children to write an essay on ‘Dusherra mela’. For the children in the latter category, visiting mela or a mall appears to be the same thing – you go to a mall to eat food, do shopping and watch movies/shows, exactly what one does when she visits a mela (visiting mela is a hypothetical case). So what is the big excitement about the Dusherra mela?
That’s a question that is close to the heart of all those people living in tier II towns (or towns with high number of tiers) or in rural areas. Every year, thousands of people eagerly wait for those 9-10 days when at the biggest ground in their town or village, several shops and stalls would suddenly appear completely transforming the place. The same place which earlier was used by shepherds or villagers for feeding their animals on the long grass grown since the last mela or where budding cricketers displayed their skills had left wickets in the form of holes in ground & numerous piles of stone and sticks, abruptly gets covered by red jute carpet, tents and loud speakers to entertain people for the coming ten days. Some mela visitors ask themselves the question that was that the same place where they used to learn vehicle driving or jogged (walked) daily morning when the ground appeared infinitely big.
Talking about melas, Dusherra mela carries a special significance as it is that period of year when many towns, cities and villages simultaneously organize melas with Ravan and his two companions occupying special location in the ground. People proudly mention the fact that the Ravan structure is so big that it is clearly visible for the roof of their house. Added advantage occasionally stated is that during the Dusherra day, they don’t need to visit the mela venue to enjoy the Ravan-dahan, hence they can avoid the rush. Timings of lunch and dinner are fixed in such a way so that every member of household gets enough time to visit mela. List of shops selling handicrafts from far flung areas of the country (especially hilly areas as winters are approaching) are prepared in advance to avoid last minute hassles. Such is the excitement for those ten days that anything and everything circle around the mela and Ravan. Brothers and sisters argue and compete with each other to secure maximum points in the balloon striking game and the one getting maximum hits gets ice cream cone from the small stall standing near the mela entrance. The sounds from different types of toys bought from the mela form the majority of sounds in the house, even beating the whistling of pressure cooker for such period of time till they get broken either due to excess usage or due to mutual fight between the siblings. Sometimes these toys get way to the school to decide who has got best piece from the mela. After the mela is over, everything turns normal, even the venue is again back to exploitation by driving schools or cricket teams.
For tier 0 and I cities, Dusherra comes either as a day forming part of ‘extended weekend’ or for the concerned ones, it is celebrated as a special occasion calling for a grand dinner at the best fine dining restaurant in the nearby mall. Mall, centrally air conditioned, systematic parking facility, hygienic food along with the option of watching a movie at the multiplex on the top floor, provides a fully relaxed entertainment package to the whole family. Everyone seems happy as the working people in the family have finally got a hard earned holiday and in case, Dusherra falls on a weekend, that happiness also goes away. Since the coming half yearly examinations of Hindi/English have a high chance of carrying an essay on Dusherra, children enthusiastically question elders about this hypothetical festival which is limited to their books and TV (in case they switch it to news channels, but yes these days the saas-bahu soaps also carry special episode on each festival to spread awareness about the festival). Elders generally start their elaborate answers asking questions of the form “do you know, don’t you know”, due to which it becomes easy for the children to lose interest and focus on the butter scotch-dark chocolate fudge on their plate. Needless to mention, the day when children get back to schools after the Dusherra holiday, the hottest topic of discussion is the latest movie (Student of the Year) they have seen at respective closest malls, hence ensuring maximum utilization of the break.
This cycle continues till the next Dusherra festival.