Intro (skippable)

"Are you really the smartest member of the Hunters' Guild?"

"I'm the smartest at fighting! What's the difference?"

"Well, you're just about smart enough to write, at the very least"

"And you're just about short enough, and just about annoying enough, that if you don't shut your nerd mouth you'll find yourself flying out of that window"

The master hunter shoves a heavy leather-bound journal towards you. You look inside, and see just-about-legible scrawlings:

'Dear Diary, this week I took a big fiery flamu club to the thunderwood peaks. Even though I was wearing the nicest icemail in the armory, I got beaten up and came home with nothing :('

The junior research intern biologist hands you a meticulous-looking sheaf of parchments. The first - he insists - contains the sum total knowledge of all the creatures they've ever observed. The rest are a log of all the tracks the guild have found in the past five years. Somehow the handwriting is even worse than the hunter's.

You shoo them out of your office before they come to blows. The statistician's guild has been tasked with forging an alliance between the hunters and the biologists. The former typically see the latter as "a bunch of nerds who should go and get their own samples if they want them so much", and in return they're seen as "a bunch of thugs who would rather skin monsters for weapon parts than understand them".

Data and Objectives

The master hunter has given you a list of her hunts from the past five years. This consists of the time and location of the hunt, the weapon and armour she used, and what (if anything) she successfully hunted. You've managed to get your interns to clean up the data a bit and annotate it with information about the weapons and armour mentioned.

The biologists guild have given you a list of their expeditions over the past five years. They also send out one foray, consisting of three biologists per week, to look for monster tracks. On top of this they've given you "all their knowledge of monsters".

  • It's currently the start of Year 6, and you'll be able to advise the hunter what gear to take, and where to go, from weeks 6-15.
  • The Hunters' Guild want to maximize their total haul, i.e. they want as few hunts as possible to return with nothing, and they want to return with the largest monsters possible.
  • They've agreed to let the Biologists' Guild take a look at their specimens for the duration of the collaboration.
  • The Biologists' Guild also want as many specimens as possible, but would prefer rarer ones (i.e. ones they see the fewest tracks of).
  • EDIT: I'll add that each repeated monster will be worth 1/2, not stacking, so getting 3 Dull Vipers would be worth twice as many "points" (from the Hunters and Biologists) as getting 1.

Bonuses

  • Both guilds would also like any advice about patterns of monster fights and sightings you can find.
  • The biologists use "ancient rules" to decide where to explore and would like to understand why on earth these rules are the way they are.

I'll be posting an evaluation of answers in a week or so unless people ask for extra time. As always feel free to collaborate in the comments but use spoiler tags for the benefit of people who want to work alone.

Evaluation is up here!

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The known Genus in the monster file appear to be grouped. Together with hints about data being obscured by poor handwriting it suggests the unknown ones belong to the group they are in:
Toxicala = Beast
Earthmover = Beast
Raging Windrider = Avian
Flying Storm = Drake

Within a genus the data is consistent with being ordered by size  suggesting:
Rimewinder <= Scary
Dull Viper >= Rinewinder, <= Scary
Peaksnake  >= Dull Viper, <= Scary
Wrathrope >= Peaksnake, <= Scary
Earthmover >= medium, <= legendary
Macrophant >= Earthmover, <= legendary
Flamu >= small, <= large
Puffdrake <= small
Sandcrawler >= Medium
Thunderclap Wyvern >= Sandcrawler

Sightings by biologists:
All times/During weeks 6-15
Cassowarrior 46/13
Cold Parrot 47/4
Downhanger 98/22
Dull viper 65/16
Earthmover 71/15
Flamu 53/12
Flying Storm 45/18
Macrophant 35/5
Northern Badger 77/7
Peaksnake 41/3
Puffdrake 33/0
Rimewinder 25/6
Sandcrawler 53/7
Thunderclap Wyvern 31/14
Toxicala 19/0
Wrathrope 41/8

So the Toxicala is the most desirable specimen for the biologists, followed by the Rimewinder, Puffdrake, and Macrophant. The Toxicala  and Puffdrake have never been seen between weeks 6 and 15. and the Rimewinder is quite likely to be a small beast. The name of the Macrophant together with it's position in the list suggests it is probably a large beast, suggesting this is the most desirable one to find on balance. During this time of the year in the past it has only been seen in the The Lordesteppes, suggesting that is a good place to go. Hunts in this location also seem to be more successful on average than the average hunt. Posion Plate armour from the Poison element has been used on more than half of the succesfull Macrophant hunts, suggesting that is the best choice for them. A sword with the wind element is the most succcessful weapon.


For the locations the biologists look for specimens the following stand out:
They enver go to the Devils Maw between weeks 37 and 39 or between weeks 46 and 49
They never go to Miresmouth Forest in weeks 13 or weeks 33-45
They never go to Scorchsan between weeks 1 and 6 and between weeks 46 and 52
They never go to the Lordesteppes between weeks 20 and 32, and also in week 52
They never go to Thunderwood Peaks in weeks 7-19

Looking though the hunters logs hunts suggests:

Hunts in the gap periods in Devils Maw are either unsucessful or yield a Sliding Queen Shash (only in the first period) which has a scary size. Possibly this is only present during these times and the ancient biologists were
to scared to got there then? That monster has not been seen anywhere else or at any other times which is consistent with this.

Hunts in Miresmouth Forest between weeks 33-45 are unusually unsuccessful. Maybe the biologists are avoiding it because of poor pickings. Or more likely the Legendary Crow That Breaks The Sky frightened the biologists off, The hunters never caught one of these outside of this window which suggests the crows may only be present during this time? The times at which the crows have been caught in the Lordsteppes and Thunderwood Peaks also correspond to time when the biologists don't go there.. No crows were caught in Scorchan during the gap, however it they are migratory birds that are always present in one location then the gap would perfectly align with the time at which their location was not otherwise known, suggesting the cause of this gap is the same.

My final advice is as follows:

 

 As there are only half points for duplicates focusing on one area is not a good idea. As hunts in locations where the Crow That Breaks The Sky are present it seems like a good idea to avoid Thunderwood Forest (excpet in Weeks 6). There's no information on how many points you get for different sized creatures which makes it difficult to factor that in. The number of datapoints for hunts in this period is very low so I will just crudely weight the hunts to the areas that look more promising.
 
Week 06: Thunderwood Peaks
Week 07: The Lordesteppes
Week 08: Miresmouth Forest
Week 09: Scorchsand Shores
Week 10: Devil's Maw
Week 11: The Lordesteppes
Week 12: Miresmouth Forest
Week 13: Scorchsand Shores
Week 14: The Lordesteppes
Week 15: Miresmouth Forest
 
Armour and Weapons:
Again there seems to be too litle data to draw any firm conclusion so just go with what looks to be
best on average for each region.
Thunderwood Peaks - Flaming Faulds armour and a Stormblade
The Lordesteppes - Electro chainmail Armour and a Badger Bludgeon.
Miresmouth Forest - Electro chainmail armour and a Winder's Rime
Scorchsand Shores _ Ground Greaves armour and a stormblade
Devil's Maw - Windy Wear armour  and a Winder's Rime

Thanks for setting up this problem. Initial remarks from considering biology data only:

There is a clear seasonality with 

Winter= weeks 46-6

Spring=weeks 7-19

Summer=weeks 20-32

Fall=weeks 33-45

The biologists do not check Miresmouth Forests in the Fall, do not check Scorchsand Shores in the Winter, do not check The Lordesteppes in the Summer, and do not check Thunderwood Peaks in the Spring. There is also Devil's Maw which they can check year-round.

For all the species the biologists have seen tracks for, they are consistent either with being in one or more locations year-round or migrating between two locations, one in winter or summer and the other for the rest of the year. Note that the information can have gaps due to the seasonal non-checking mentioned above, so it might be that they really aren't all in these patterns, but I'm going with consistency.

The species seen are:

Downhanger (98 total). Migratory. Devil's Maw, wintering in Thunderwood Peaks.

Northern Badger (77 total). Non-Migratory. Scorchsand Shores and Thunderwood Peaks.

Earthmover (71 total). Devil's maw, summering in Scorchsand Shores.

Dull viper (65 total). Miresmouth Forests.

Sandcrawler (53 total). Scorchsand Shores, wintering in Miresmouth Forests.

Flamu (53 total). Non-Migratory. Scorchsand Shores and The Lordesteppes.

Cold Parrot (47 total). The Lordesteppes, summering in Thunderwood Peaks.

Cassowarrior (46 total). Scorchsand Shores, summering in Miresmouth Forests. Edit: incorrectly first wrote wintering here instead of summering, caught the mistake after finding Hunter data inconsistent with what I had written.

Flying Storm (45 total). Miresmouth Forests, wintering in The Lordesteppes.

Wrathrope (41 total). Scorchsand Shores, wintering in Devil's Maw.

Peaksnake (41 total). Thunderwood Peaks.

Macrophant (35 total). The Lordesteppes. Edit: migratory, summering in Miresmouth Forests. This was clear in the bio data but I somehow missed it when summing up and detected the omission from the Hunter data.

Puffdrake (33 total). Thunderwood Peaks, summering  in Miresmouth Forests.

Thunderclap Wyvern (31 total). The Lordesteppes.

Rimewinder (25 total). The Lordesteppes, wintering in Devil's Maw.

Toxicala (19 total). Thunderwood Peaks, summering in The Lordesteppes. I'm going on a limb on this one (since the Lordesteppes has no summer data, their tracks have only actually been seen in Thunderwood Peaks). But, they definitely are not found in Thunderwood Peaks in the Summer so for consistency with the assumed pattern I think they must be in the Lordesteppes at that time. 

todo: check Hunter data for consistency with this, plus learn more from the hunter data. 

The biologists have not seen tracks for: Sliding Queen Shash, Bull-King of Heaven, Raging Windrider, Crow That Breaks the Sky, despite these being included in their notes.

Followup comparing to Hunter data:

Unfortunately, the Hunter data also does not have any Toxicala hauls in the Summer, so the hypothesis that they summer in The Lordesteppes is neither confirmed nor refuted. All data seems consistent with what I should have wrote above (not necessarily with what I actually wrote pre-editing).

The Hunter data also has info on:

Bull-King of Heaven (Summer in Thunderwood Peaks, only 1 data point).

Crow That Breaks The Sky (Summer in The Lordesteppes, Spring in Thunderwood Peaks, Fall in Miresmouth Forests, Winter in Scorchsand Shores). Hmm. This is a familiar pattern - looks like the biologists' "ancient rules" are avoiding this monster for some reason. 

Raging Windrider (Scorchsand Shores and Miresmouth Forests).

Sliding Queen Shash (Fall in Devil's Maw, 2 data points).

Some additional remarks:

The available diet data is compatible with the following rule:

Herbivores migrate in the summer, Carnivores migrate in the winter, Omnivores don't migrate and live in multiple zones, Scavengers don't migrate and live in a single zone. Hmm: to check - do omnivores really not migrate, or do they migrate at a higher frequency than the seasons? (edit: falsified: year 1 week 45 Flamu seen in both Scorchsands and the Lordesteppes.)

Strategy thoughts at this point.

Like abstractapplic, I would recommend going for Crows until we get one (but I see that's not allowed by Jemist, so I'll refine below). So Scorchsands on week 6 and Thunderwood on weeks 7-15 if still hunting Crows.

However, I'll recommend Electro Chainmail rather than Ground Greaves for Crow hunting. Electro Chainmail has only a single instance of coming home with nothing during Crow season, better than any other armor type, and was used in 2 crow kills, tied for the best of any armor type.

I was on the fence between Windrider Crossbow and Stormblade, but settled on Windrider, same choice as abstractapplic, for the reason that the Stormblade+Electro Chainmail combo has the single case of coming home with nothing during crow season while wearing Electro Chainmail (though this is probably a coincidence).

After Crow hunting, it'll be time to hunt Raging Windriders which apparently don't leave footprints (so the biologists foolishly think they're super rare, and they're also large so the Hunters will like them). They are found in Scorchsands and Miresmouth. Miresmouth has much less other monsters in spring, increasing the chance of getting Windriders (but also chances of duplicates).

Raging Windriders are most commonly caught when wearing Flaming Faulds or Icemail (though likely coincidence) and Icemail has fewer cases of coming home with nothing in the Windrider territories. So I suggest Icemail. Though, in spring specifically Icemail looks worse (likely coincidence). I also note that the single Poison weapon in the game, Toxicala Blowgun, has only failed once in it's admittedly small 13 uses. It's also never brought down a Bull-king/Sliding Queen/Crow, suggesting maybe it isn't used in difficult circumstances (but has brought down a Raging Windrider, with Icemail). The single fail was in Thunderwood in the spring, suggesting it might have lost to a Crow. 

So, for hunting Raging Windriders, I'll use Toxicala Blowgun and Icemail, and do it Miresmouth for better chance of a Windrider. I'll also do it in weeks 8-10 to line up with when Windriders have most commonly actually been caught in Miresmouth (in case of sub-seasonal migration).

I expect much further progress could be made by going through all the failed hunts and trying to assess the most likely causes of each one, then seeing what we can infer from this when compared with successes, and then reassessing the causes of the fails, etc. However,  I have been finding little motivation to do it because it looks like a lot of work, and still would be uncertain due to low N.

So, recommendation (unless I change it in the likely short time until the answer is posted):

Week 6: Scorchsand Shores with Windrider Crossbow and Electro Chainmail

Week 7: Thunderwood Peaks with Windrider Crossbow and Electro Chainmail

Weeks 8-10: Miresmouth Forests with Toxicala Blowgun and Icemail

Weeks 11-15: Thunderwood Peaks with Windrider Crossbow and Electro Chainmail

Thank you for making this, and for extending the deadline for me.

My Strategy:

After some thought and analysis, after reading everyone else’s research, and in the absence of a more specific evaluation function to optimize for . . . I’ve decided to go all-out on trying to bag at least one Crow That Breaks The Sky. They’re confirmed to be big enough to make the Hunters happy, they’re something Biologists have never seen before, and they’ve been slain 8 times in 260 weeks by a Hunter who wasn’t specifically trying. We have ten chances, and can improve on those odds significantly.

Thanks to simon, we know they’ll be in Scorchsand for day 6 and Thunderwood for the rest of our allotted span. The problem thus reduces to “what weapon and armor should the Hunter bring?” and “what should she do once she’s managed to catch one?”.

Three of the eight successes were achieved with a Windrider Crossbow; three more with a Stormblade. Considering how many weapons were available, that doesn’t look like a coincidence. Of these options, I like the Crossbow better: a (weak, possibly spurious) correlation suggests Bow-type weapons tend to work better against Avians in general, and common sense suggests using ranged weapons against flying enemies is a more robust idea than hacking at them with swords.

Armor type doesn’t seem to matter here. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Ground Greaves, on the (ridiculously flimsy) basis that:

.The other Legendary and potentially-Legendary monsters she fought (Bull-king of Heaven and Sliding Queen Shah) were only ever defeated while wearing Ground Greaves, suggesting they’re good for fighting Big Things.

.The Crow That Breaks The Sky has an element of ‘Something Weird’, and the weirdest possible element for a bird to use would be Stone, so Stone-type armor might help.

.The Crow That Breaks The Sky has been defeated once before while wearing Ground Greaves, so this choice probably doesn’t guarantee failure.

When and if she manages to get a Crow, I’d advise her to move to Scorchsand Shores, so she can try for a Raging Windrider. This is also something fairly large which Biologists have never encountered before, despite it being fairly common (possibly because it doesn’t leave tracks?): seems like another opportunity to please both clients (especially since Hunters can make use of its body to make more Windrider Crossbows).

My Final Advice to the Hunter:

Spend Week 6 in Scorchsand Shores, and Weeks 7-15 in Thunderwood Peaks. When and if you take down a Crow, go back to hunting in Scorchsand Shores. Use a Windrider Crossbow and Ground Greaves throughout.

(This strategy will probably benefit the Biologists more than the Hunters, so be sure to extract gold and apologies from them when they’re gasping in amazement at the new specimens you bring in.)

My One Mostly Irrelevant Piece Of Original Research That Doesn’t Piggyback On Anyone Else’s:

Weapons are (almost?) always made from the corpse of a specific type of creature. Aside from 'Edged katana "Whisper"' and ‘Rock-on-stick’, it’s fairly obvious which weapons match to which monsters. This doesn’t seem to be useful for our main task – I tried and failed to detect evidence of a “ha ha, I’m hitting you with your family’s corpses!” bonus – but since weapon elements are always the same as the element of the creature they were made from, this lets us fill in some gaps in the Biologists’ knowledge. Namely: Dull Vipers are Stone, Northern Badgers are Cold, and Macrophants are Lightning.

I'm afraid I didn't intend for people to be able to add conditions to their plans. While something like that is completely reasonable I can't find a place to draw the line between that and what would be too complex. The only system that might work is having everyone send me their own python code but that's not fair on people who can't code, and more work than I'm willing to do. Other answers haven't included conditions and I think it wouldn't be fair on them. I think my decision is that:

If you don't get the time to respond with a time to move on from the Thunderwood Peaks then I'll put it at a week (which I have chosen but won't say here for obvious reasons) somewhere between 0 and 10 which I would guess best represents your intentions.

I'm really sorry about the confusion, I should've made that all clearer from the start!

That's fair. In that case, I'd just have her spend every day after the first in Thunderwood Peaks.

*after the first week

I've been meaning to play this one, but I spent the last week wrapping up work stuff before the holidays and worrying over Omicron. I suspect others may be in a similar position. Could you delay sharing the answer key until the end of the weekend?

Sure! I was planning to anyways but that plus my own busyness means it will more likely be early next week/even later if people would prefer.

Thanks, I could also use a bit extra time.

In addition to the seasonal pattern of the biologists expeditions as noted by simon and Yonge, they almost always go to three different locations, but occasionally two (once all three) explorers go to the same location. This occurs most often (but not only or always) on weeks that are multiples of 13, which correspond to the exact middle of a "season".

My recommendations:

There are some obvious patterns here, but not enough data to be sure of anything (it's especially hard to figure out what weapons are best against what monsters). Because of this, I'm simply recommending the overall most effective gear and taking a stab at which locations seem to have a good diversity of species at this time of year:

Always take the Toxicala Blowgun and the Electro Chainmail.
Week 6: Thunderwood Peaks
Week 7: The Lordesteppes
Week 8: Devil's Maw
Week 9: The Lordesteppes
Week 10: Scorchsand Shores
Week 11: The Lordesteppes
Week 12: Scorchsand Shores
Week 13: The Lordesteppes
Week 14: Scorchsand Shores
Week 15: The Lordesteppes

The monster knowledge list looks suspiciously like 5 of each genus sorted from smallest to largest.

Several of the monster types have been caught by the hunter in locations where the biologists never found their tracks:

  • Thunderclap Wyvern has only been sighted at The Lordesteppes, but has been hunted often in every location.
  • Raging Windrider has never been sighted, but has been hunted often in Scorchsand Shores and somewhat in Miresmouth Forests.
  • A few others have been hunted occasionally but never sighted.

These seem like good target candidates since they're apparently easy to hunt but would be considered "rare" by the biologists.

I got beaten up and came home with nothing

Which of these does a haul of "None" indicate?

  1. No monster was found.
  2. A monster was found, but it couldn't be beaten and we're not told what monster it was.
  3. One of the above, but we're not told which.

I'm somewhat bemused that the hunters want us to get bigger monsters, but the size data only comes from the biologists and is incomplete. The obvious thing would be to just ask the hunters, but I guess they have such contempt for us they will not even provide that information?

I imagine their response would be along the lines of: "Why the hell should I let to someone who doesn't even know how big a Dull Viper is tell me how to hunt it!?"