Wits and Wagers is apparently a board game, where players compete to be well-calibrated with respect to their trivia knowledge. I haven't played it.

Has someone else here played it? If so, what was your experience? Would it be good rationalist/bayesian training?


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It is actually mostly about social inference; first everyone makes a guess and then everyone can make bets - so you can see everyone's guesses when you make your bets. It is a good simple fast test in who you should listen to when.

I have played it, or something very much like it.

My answer is that people are shockingly bad at some aspects. Just knowing the world population, the population of the US, and the difference between million and billion is enough to do significantly better than average for many questions.

It's not good training, though: the people who did poorly didn't really seem to learn. It also is a "which answer is the closest without going over" system, which makes for interesting game play but is not a useful constraint for many practical questions. It also asks things for which you have no information at all, and you just pick based on only the available choices (much like guessing on a multiple-choice test). That's not really a useful skill outside of taking tests. (i.e., in real life you should get more information if possible instead of guessing)

"I have played it, or something very much like it."

What game have you played that is "very much like" Wits & Wagers? To my knowledge, there is nothing like it on the market right now. I'm the designer of the game and we're in the process of getting 2 patents on what we thought were unique concepts. If there is anything else out there similar, please let me know.

Thanks, Dominic Designer of Wits & Wagers www.NorthStarGames.com

Here is something from our website that seems relevant to your conversation:

"Other trivia games can make you feel like you're taking an academic test. Why? Because they reward you for regurgitating the same facts you had to memorize for standardized tests. Wits & Wagers has changed all the rules. It rewards you for making educated guesses, for knowing the interests of your friends (being social), and for making smart bets (managing risk). In short, Wits & Wagers is fun because you are engaging in activities that are an important part of everyday life. "

I also noticed that a lot of people brought up the "closest without going over" aspect of the game. You do not need to use this constraint if you have a calculator handy. That rule is there to facilitate quick play, making it easy to quickly know the answer that is going to payout for the round. Feel free to change the rule if you'd like to use the game for some academic purpose.

We've done a fair amount of stats on the payouts. The extreme answers pay out less often than the middle answers (though not an infrequently as the odds might lead one to believe). Let me know if you have any questions. We're working on a possible television game show now...

Dominic Crapuchettes dc@NorthStarGames.com

Sorry, yes, this is certainly the game that I played, I just couldn't remember the name. :)

I've played it and enjoyed it quite a bit. One interesting aspect was that you're penalized for guessing "too high," so you have to be careful.

Another is how you can manipulate peoples' biases - place your estimate at one point and then bet on someone else's. A perfectly rational player wouldn't fall for this, but some might think you wouldn't make a bad estimate for fear of looking ignorant.

I (an electrical engineer) played with an economist, two psychologists, and a musician. I was way behind until one question was for the speed of light in miles per second. I bet with high confidence, and all followed my bets, but the winnings were substantial.

I would recommend getting a good group of people to play it, and to change the rules around and see how they affect play. It's a good time.

Robin Hanson introduced me to it. It does ask about things for which you have no information, which is why it is about calibration. You draw a card with a question with a numeric answer. Everyone publicly guesses at the answer. You then wager on whose answer is closest without going over. It's a good demonstration of the effectiveness of recalibration. It's also about expected value, because your wager gains you more points if you wager on an answer far from the median, so you need to trade off confidence vs. expected returns.

I tried it out and it is much easier to play than my game (see http://lesswrong.com/lw/ilw/games_for_rationalists/ ) and thus is somewhat more fun. But it also has less insights.

My experience is as follows:

  • The trivia questions are not difficult enough. It is very seldom that values lie outside a times 2-range. And 'surprises' are rare.
  • The questions have an american cultural bias (no wonder)
  • The 'going over' rule is simple but totally skews the betting and guessing.
  • The simple payout-rules cause gaming for higher payouts thus mixing confidence and probability in non-trivial ways.
  • The two-phase setup where you can look where the 'experts' bet is interesting but doesn't help with confidence calibration.

It really is optimized for playability. I think it does some calibration of (over)confidence and it builds intuition for probability and risk-trade-offs.

But - and that is my main point - it doesn't have clear concepts. The concepts are all mingled up, skewed, hidden. You may gain intuition but it will not help you toward overcoming e.g. overconfidence bias or egocentric bias.

I still think for that the concept must be sufficiently present to be able to reflect and consciously use it.