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I recently bought this math-based boardgame for my little cousins, and am now trying to verify its design with some MATLAB code. The relevant parts of the game are:

  • A board with numbers from 1 to 100 in one tile each, and each tile colored in one of nine colors
  • There are three dice, the usual kind (1-6)
  • In your turn, you roll all three dice. You have three numbers x, y and z now, from the dice. Now, using these three numbers, and applying the four basic math operations on them (+, -, *, /) in any order, you must arrive at one of the numbers on the board (i.e. from 1 to 100). The catch is, the resulting numbers have scores based on their color on the board, so that for eg. arriving at 13 or 26 (red tile) gives you a much higher score compared to arriving at 25 (pink). So if you die values are 5, 5, 1, you're much better off going with (5*5+1) = 26 than with (5*5*1) = 25. Choosing these operations right in each turn is the crux of the game.

Now, the part I had doubts about was the coloring of the tiles - were they really colored according to the difficulty of arriving at them? That seemed easy enough to verify - find the frequency of occurrence of each number from 1 to 100 given three dice and four mathematical operations - and so that's what this MATLAB code attempts to do:

function freq = compute_freq

idx = 1;
for x = 1:6
    for y = 1:6
        two_die_combos = get_combos(x, y);
        for z = 1:6
            three_die_combos = get_combos(two_die_combos, z);

            valid_combos = three_die_combos(three_die_combos > 0 & ...
                                                three_die_combos <= 100 & ...
                                                (three_die_combos == floor(three_die_combos))); % only integer values
            all_combos(idx:idx + length(valid_combos) - 1) = valid_combos;
            idx = idx+length(valid_combos);
        end
    end
end
freq = tabulate(all_combos);

end

function combos = get_combos(a, b)

num_results = length(a) * 6 * length(b);
combos = zeros(1, num_results);
idx = 1;
for x = a
    for y = b
        combos(idx) = x + y;
        combos(idx + 1) = x - y;
        combos(idx + 2) = -x + y;
        combos(idx + 3) = x * y;
        combos(idx + 4) = x / y;
        combos(idx + 5) = x \ y;
        idx = idx + 6;
    end
end

end

I get some frequency values from this, but:

  • first of all, I have no way of verifying the correctness of results themselves, so I would like to know if there are any logical errors in the code
  • secondly, I'd love feedback on the quality of the code itself. Loops within loops make me feel icky, but there doesn't seem to be any other reasonable way of doing this (one other option that occurred to me was having character arrays like ['1' '2' '3' '4' '5' '6'] and ['+' '-' '*' '/'], using MATLAB's permutation functions to get all possible expressions and then eval them, but that has complications with commutativity and order, and also... eval!). Am I missing some other better option?
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Discussion

You have three dice, which you can assume to hold three places for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the four operations +, -, *, / would hold the two in-between places, which are shown as square brackets and round brackets respectively as shown in this blueprint - [] () [] () [].

The total number of possible combinations would be 6*4*6*4*6 = 3456. Out of these, you need to find the valid ones based on flooring and values in the range [1 100].

Looking at your code, I don't think -x+y would be a valid one, because you can't just pre-append a operator. If that is to be allowed, why not multiplication operator too? Moreover -x essentially means -1*x, for which you are already using two operators - - and * and assuming one of y or z to be 1. For these reasons, I am guesstimating, -x+y to be an invalid one, unless it says in the instructions manual to be a valid one.

Again, x\y won't induce anything new, as we are already juggling through all values of 1 to 6 across all three places around the four operators, as shown in the blueprint earlier.

Code

Considering all the assumptions and avoiding the "scandalous" cases, we would have this vectorized code -

%// Define possible values of x, y and z, denoting values from three dice
x = 1:6;
y = 1:6;
z = 1:6;

%// t1 would take care of x and y and the one operator in between
t1 = [bsxfun(@plus,x',y) ; bsxfun(@minus,x',y) ; bsxfun(@times,x,y') ; bsxfun(@rdivide,x,y')]

%// t2 would take care of x, y and z and the two operators in between
t2 = [bsxfun(@plus,t1(:),z) ; bsxfun(@minus,t1(:),z) ; bsxfun(@times,t1(:),z) ; bsxfun(@rdivide,t1(:),z)]

%// Get the valid ones based on flooring and limiting within the range [1 100]
t2 = t2(t2==floor(t2) & t2<=100 & t2>=1)
freq = tabulate(t2)

Output

freq =
    1.0000  151.0000    7.6186
    2.0000  157.0000    7.9213
    3.0000  146.0000    7.3663
    4.0000  148.0000    7.4672
    5.0000  130.0000    6.5590
    6.0000  150.0000    7.5681
    7.0000   94.0000    4.7427
    8.0000  106.0000    5.3481
    9.0000   87.0000    4.3895
   10.0000   89.0000    4.4904
   11.0000   53.0000    2.6741
   12.0000   91.0000    4.5913
   13.0000   35.0000    1.7659
   14.0000   37.0000    1.8668
   15.0000   46.0000    2.3209
   16.0000   36.0000    1.8163
   17.0000   14.0000    0.7064
   18.0000   41.0000    2.0686
   19.0000   10.0000    0.5045
   20.0000   34.0000    1.7154
   21.0000   16.0000    0.8073
   22.0000   10.0000    0.5045
   23.0000    7.0000    0.3532
   24.0000   42.0000    2.1191
   25.0000   16.0000    0.8073
   26.0000    7.0000    0.3532
   27.0000   10.0000    0.5045
   28.0000   11.0000    0.5550
   29.0000    5.0000    0.2523
   30.0000   33.0000    1.6650
   ......

Observation

freq percentage value for 26 [red colored] is 0.3532 that is slightly lower than for 25 [pink colored] which has 0.8073. Similarly, for 13 [red colored] it is 1.7659, that is again slightly lower than for 15 [looks like pink colored], which has 2.3209.

To confirm, you can create another column to the "tabulated" one and mark different weights for each number from 1 to 100 based on their colors. Then, see if such a pattern continues across the entire board. Good luck and hope this would make sense!

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, and welcome to Code Review. Your answer shows a great understanding of the problem, but actually, for all the good content, it really just shows a different way to do things, without reviewing the OP's code. Your answer would be even better if you found more ways to show why your alternate code is an improvement over the OP's code. \$\endgroup\$ – rolfl Jun 21 '14 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rolfl Thanks for the welcome! Well I have used a vectorized approach that looks different to avoid the "ickiness" as mentioned in the question. I believe the vectorized approach would be better with its very nature of performing on a larger dataset at a time instead of using for-loops. My review also included getting rid of two cases from the code in the question, as discussed in the Discussion section. \$\endgroup\$ – Divakar Jun 21 '14 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @Divakar, vectorization was definitely something I was hoping to be able to do, I'll look into bsxfun to understand the code. \$\endgroup\$ – sundar - Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '14 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree about the omission of cases though: -x + y is just a fancy way of writing y - x, which is a value which has to be considered and counted for frequency calculation. Yes, the same result will be calculated when x and y values change too, but that is irrelevant as we want to count it every time it can be formed, independent of other turns. For eg., with 3, 4, 5 on die1, die2, die3, the combos are 3 + 4 + 5 = 12, 3 - 4 + 5 = 4, 3 - 4 - 5 = -6, 3 + 4 - 5 = 2, 4 - 3 - 5 = -4, 4 - 3 + 5 = 6, 5 - 4 - 3 = -2. Skipping (4 - 3) i.e. (-3 + 4) will make us miss some possible combos here. \$\endgroup\$ – sundar - Reinstate Monica Jun 21 '14 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sundar Thank you for getting back with your concerns. I have just updated the code to make it more sense to what it tries to achieve. For your example case, for the calculation of t1, bsxfun(@minus,x',y) is included, which considers all cases of [x] (-) [y], where both x and y vary from 1 to 6. Thus, it would include case for [4] (-) [3], which you can verify if you display the output of bsxfun(@minus,x',y) and in it look for 4th row and 3rd col, which is 1. Let's hope this comment would make sense! \$\endgroup\$ – Divakar Jun 21 '14 at 16:41

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