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On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Cambridge Analytica and Guardian logos, HipBone Game boards ]

A while back, I posted a series of pieces about the felicities of graph-based game-board design. This piece picks up from that series, with a bit of a refresher, and a pointer to the Cambridge Analytica logo.

First, the question arises of what graphs are. A graph, from a mathematical point of view, consists of nodes and edges: nodes are, in this diagram, the red circles, and edges are the lines connecting them:

We know a great deal about the mathematics of graphs, but they underlya vasst repertoire of modern systems, including — for an extreme. complex instance — the design of washing machines:


Back at least to medieval times, graphs can be found with concepts assigned to their nodes and the reasons connecting those conceptts assigned to their edges. These thre show one Jewish (Kabbalistic) conceptual graph, one graph of the four elements and their relaations, and a Christian ttrinitarian graph:

I have usedsc similar conceptual graphs as the boards of my HipBone Games. SHown herear ethree of my boards, together with a spiffy board by my friend and colleagues Cath Styles for her Sembl games:


All the above, to show you why all usees of graphs are potentially of interest to me, and why I am particularly interested in the Cambridge Analytica logo (left, below), which offers a graph in the shape of the human brain, and the logo the Guardian devised (right, below), to give visual continuity to their articles about Cambridge Analytica;

I think you can see how the Guardian logo would make a fine HipBone game board for teen Agatha Christie -type games.


Hey, on complexity — which graphs and diagrams are better at than “linear” verbal explanations — there’s this — not a graph! — from another post of mine — wow!:

Shaping strategy — Constant turbulence and disruption


Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • Okay this re North Korea this morning from WotR

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — from Korea hands vs nuclear wonks ]

    Okay, the title of this piece intrigued me: Korea hands vs nuclear wonksVan Jackson at War on the Rocks today.

    Okay, I mostly like wonks, but hands have on-the-ground awareness that beats the hell out of book-footnoted research and chat with like-mindedd others, so to my mind, Korea hands would naturally beat nuclear wonks (Cheryl Rofer and friends explicitly excepted), no contest. Anyway, neat, interest-grabbing title. I therefore clicked to see the piece, and while my own opinion was not affirmed, I found this:

    I ranted about this a bit on twitter over the weekend, but what we’re witnessing is an open split between the United States and South Korea over North Korea policy. It’s not the first time; this happened in the early years of the George W. Bush administration too. Both sides have an interest in papering over differences in public, but the rift is there. The question is why.

    Nuclear scholars see the emerging differences in the alliance as strategic “decoupling”—North Korea’s growing nuke threat is leading South Korea to search for security by other means because U.S. reliability shrinks as U.S. territory falls within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea would be hard-pressed to have faith that Trump would be willing to let Seattle eat a nuke in exchange for Seoul not eating one.

    But Korea scholars see a more familiar pattern in the current divergences between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The breakdown of the U.S.-Korea alliance in 2002 and 2003 was about as bad as it’s ever been, it was due entirely to the politics (on both sides) of North Korea policy, and it was years before North Korea had a functional nuke.

    So we all see a fissure opening up between allies, but what’s the best explanation for it? If the nuclear scholars are right, and the fissure is a function of North Korea’s growing nukes, then the alliance is in big trouble, because the nuke problem is on-trend to get worse not better.

    If the Korea scholars are right, then the alliance is in a bad place but the situation is recoverable. South Korea’s president is just being a political opportunist, in this interpretation, and once the domestic mood in the South shifts against him (or North Korea), then the alliance will be in a better place.

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.


    Two points-of-view — the view from two points, two perspectives — distinct but not necessarily opposed, ie capable of binocular vision, if the balance between the two lenses is adjusted to the perceiver’s taste.

    Binocular vision, adjusted to balance the inputs from the two lenses, is — if nothing else — an opportunity for dialectic, or for the HipBone approach (stereophany — see Meditations for Game Players, vii).

    Binocular — stereoscopic — dialectic vision is a central aspect of my interest in polyphony, the capacity to hear twwo or more points of view at once. F Scott Fitzgerald once said, much to my delight:

    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

    Then there’s Sir Lawrence Freedman, in The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives:

    For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”

    Strategy! Dialectic! Stereophany!


    And now, back to N Korea and Van Jackson with all that in mind..

    I’ve taken into account two viewpoints in my “binocular” discussion here — but Jackson offers a third possibility at the very end of his piece:

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.


    WHat do you think, Zen, Scott, Tanner, Cheryl, Michael??

    War Books, local version

    Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — saved from a slush pile]

    A while back, I presumptuously submitted my effort for Modern War Institute‘s War Books Profile series, where it has languished on the slush pile for a few months now. No need to waste a decent post, though, so I’m posting it here, locally, on Zenpundit, for any who may be interested.


    Name: Charles Cameron

    Brief Biography:

    Charles Cameron is the managing editor of the strategy blog Zenpundit, and a past Principal Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at BU and Senior Analyst at The Arlington Institute. He is a three time finalist in the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center’s Art of the Future challenges, and author of the essay “The Dark Sacred: The Significance of Sacramental Analysis” in Robert J Bunker, Blood Sacrifices (a Terrorism Research Center Book). He is the designer of the HipBone family of conceptual games, and is currently working on a book on religious sanctions for violence titled Landmines in the Garden.

    Top Five Books:

    Mustafa Hamid & Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan. Respectful enemies – he, a friend of UBL and Mullah Omar, she, a counter-terrorism expert for the Australian Federal Police – debate and confer across battle lines to draw a detailed picture of AQ structure and history. A unique collaboration.

    William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse. The key to ISIS intensity has to do with what then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey called their “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.” McCants masterfully reveals that apocalyptic driver, and the somewhat obscure scriptures on which it is based.

    SH Nasr, ed., The Study Quran. With enemies such as ISIS and AQ that are given to quoting scriptural texts, it is important to have a reputable, non-sectarian translation and scholarly commentary on the Quran. This is that book.

    Hegghammer & Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi Revisited. A slim volume, a delight to hold in the hand, and packed with detailed scholarship on what is arguably the seed moment of contemporary Jihadism.

    John Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine. This book, and Christian de Chergé’s astonishing letter to the jihadists who would shortly martyr him, is an eloquent testament to values we should cherish in a time of brutality and hatred.

    The One That Shaped Me The Most:

    Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game. The human mind, attuned to variety and complexity yet primed to understand complex matters in binary terms, tends to hold war and peace as poles apart. Musically speaking, war is equivalent to discord, peace to harmony. The musical technique of counterpoint, so central to Bach, plays “voices” against one another in a manner that recognizes their variety and individuality and allows for discord while constantly working to resolve it harmoniously. It thus offers us an analogy for the constant interplay of warlike and peaceable motivations, both within the individual human and among the world’s societies and cultures – an invaluable overview of the natural condition. Hesse’s novelistic Game shows analogy rather than linearity as the key to creative insight, and offers a contrapuntal play of ideas as the overarching architectural structure for comprehending a world of conflict and resolution. It won the Nobel.



    Reworking my list today, I might well reckon the McCants book has served its brilliant purpose, illuminating in fine detail the apocalyptic nature of ISIS theology, and substitute a no less valuable but more wide-focus tome, Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam, which broadens our understanding by offering a comprehensive exploration of “lived Islam” across the centuries and continents, going far beyond “scriptual” Islam as understood by the fundamentalists.

    Ideally, of coure, there’d be room for both McCants and Ahmed, as there is in the tiny bookshelf on my desk..

    From maps to graphs and back, from life to death and eternity?

    Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — graphs and networks, life and death, quality and quantity of life, personal mortality, the (implictly immortal) trinity ].

    I was struck by these items, verbal and visual, in Numberphile‘s YouTube video, The Four Color Map Theorem. The speaker introduces a simple, four color map:

    Then indicates:

    I’ve turned that map into a network:

    The question, can this map be colored using four colors, or better? is the same question as saying, can this network be colored using four colors, or better?

    There are things we can learn now about maps, by studying networks instead. .. By studying networks, we can study all the different kind of maps. Now, all maps make networks, but not all networks make valid maps.

    Given that my HipBone game boards are graphs — my games as played are conceptual graphs — I’m always on the lookout for easily digested gobbits of graph theory to see if they’re applicable to my games, or to put that another way, whether they can startle me into any new insights.

  • At least some HipBone games could be played on maps..
  • **

    One could thus view maps of the various sectarian interests in play in the Levant / Shams — theologies onto geographic areas, Alevi, Twelver, Salafi, Salafi-jihadist, Yezidi, Druze, Christian etc — as conceptual maps analogous to conceptual graphs.

    And these conceptual maps are important in terms of strategy.

    Different graphs could be obtained by articulating the linkages between different sects and ethnicities, eg Turkomen with Turks, Alevi and Ismaili with Twelver Shiism, and Shia with Sunni vs (eg) Christian.. and switching back and forth between map and grapoh might then prove suggestive, instructive..


    Once started on Numberphile’s math-curious videos it can be hard to stop.. Here’s a surprise from the third such video I chased thids afternoon, the one on The Feigenbaum Constant:

    Life and Death can be mathematized!

    I think that diagram — if it can be believed — answers the vexed issue of quality and quantity, and possibly also the hard problem in consciousness.


    I naturally attempted to place myself on the implicit timeline between Life and Death on that diagram. I’m reasonably far along (minor stroke, check, triple bypass, check, on dialysis, check, etc), and, shall we say, somewhat aware of my mortality.

    Someone get me a slide-rule, I’d like to calculate the precise.. unh, on second thoughts, maybe not.


    The only happily viable move from here — I believe — is to infinity, so let’s go.

    My games, I’d suggest, make a contribution to graph theory. Specifically, to that branch of graph theory in which Margaret Masterman was a pioneer, is the area of conceptual graphs, which I meantioned above. Indeed, the (theo)logical icon Masterman explored with her Benedictine Abbess friend as described in Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis (part 1), Theoria to Theory Vol 1, 3rd Quarter, April 1967, pp 240-46:

    visiting it in Boolean terms:

    is none other than the graph used as an exemplar of the map-graph correlation in the Numberphile video, second illustration at the top of this post.


    In the Trinitarian version of this graph, however, two kinds of “edge” or linkage are required: for the links between individual Persons (“non est”) and the links between Persons and Godhead (“est”).

    And the same is true, interestingly enough, with even more types of linkage, in Oronce Fine‘s (entirely secular?) map of the elements:


    And that’s enough thinking for one day, perhaps. We shall see..

    Carl Jung on Play

    Monday, April 17th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — all i do is play / to play is to create / I am creature / I am pawn / < bows lifelong gassho >]

    Here’s a key quote on play from Carl Jung, from Psychological Types, CW vol 6. #197:

    My thanks to Mitch Ditkoff for pointing me to this fine quote.


    The question arises, what is this process in which “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”? There’s an object, right, and the mind, that much is coear — but does the mind observe the object? absorb it? analyzie it? play around with it?

    If play is what we’re trying to understand, around would be the word sitting right next to it, so around may be what we should think about.

    Around is context. Playing around is seeing in context, seeing from unexpected angels, seeing unexpected close connections. Here’s Arthur Koestler‘s diagram of play, which he thinks of as a diagram of creativity — which he idemntifies with bisociation, or the conjunction of two otherwise separate planes of thought:

    You’ve likely seen it before: that’s my personal Diagram in Chief.


    Okay, more basics. Play is how infants so richly learn and masters so richly express their mastery. It is rich, it masters and is mastered — “Thou mastering me God” says Hopkins in Wreck of the Deutschland, “giver of breath and bread; World’s strand, sway of the sea..”


    As a game designer and a Brit with Jungian sympathies, I am also delighted with this other quote:

    One of the most striking testimonies to the quality of the English spirit is the English love of sport and games in a classical sense and their genius for inventing games. One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games and it cannot be done by men out of touch with their instinctive values. The English did it and, by heaven, they even taught us Swiss how to climb our own mountains and make a sport of it that made us love them all the more. And their Wimbledon, did they but know it, is in sort a modern version of an ancient ritual.

    That’s from Laurens van der Post‘s Jung and the Story of Our Time, and game designer Mike Sellers shares my delight in it.



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