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Planning in the face of competition is a difficult process. It is made even more difficult when the planner is competing with an adversary that he also has to cooperate with in other situations. Trying to take into account your own goals, as well as those of competitors, can be quite complex and requires reasoning about the effects of actions in both the short and long term. In order to be successful, a planner must consider the competitors’ plans and modify his own to best achieve his goals. This kind of planning is called adversarial planning. Getting good at it requires practice. What Columbus provides is a safe and entertaining way to get practice.

Games are often the subject of planning research because they provide microenvironments in which to test planning theories, while offering some of the challenges of the larger real-world domain. Columbus is an implementation of an agent that will play a board game called Settlers of Catan, a complex game that involves adversarial planning and negotiation. In the game, players compete to colonize a small island. Players must compete for the best building opportunities and locations. However, a player cannot build without the proper resources. If a player is short on a resource, she may also obtain it through trade. Thus, a successful player must have strong negotiation skills to support her building and production plans, and form and act on opinions about what other players want.

JSettlers on Sourceforge. See the source and host your own server.

Click here to play Settlers of Catan with Columbus

Project Papers

  • Java Settlers: A Research Environment for Studying Multi-Agent Negotiation