FYS 187-4 - Games and Computation
Course Information

Course Overview

This seminar is a computational look at a variety of games, focusing mainly on combinatorial games (e.g. Chess), games of chance (e.g. Backgammon), and games of imperfect information (e.g. Poker). Students will come to understand not only how we mathematically model such games, but also how we compute optimal (or approximately optimal) play for such games. Sophocles wrote, “One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty, until you try.” Thus, students will not merely read about game-playing techniques from fields such as Game Theory and Artificial Intelligence, but will also apply them through both handwritten and computer programming exercises. No prior programming experience is necessary; students will be introduced to simple programming languages and techniques as part of the course. By the completion of the course, students will understand the fundamentals for reasoning about many games, gain a sense of how the computer can serve as a power tool for the mind, and experience the joy of discovering new and deep insights into the artificial micro-worlds of games.

Learning Objectives

This course fulfills the Gettysburg College Qualitative, Inductive, and Deductive Reasoning (QIDR) curricular requirement.


No text is required.  Readings will be provided.


Section A - Glatfelter 112 Tu, Th 1:10-2:25PM:
Todd Neller
Office: Glatfelter 209
Office Hours: Mo 3-4PM, Tu 2:30-5PM, We 3-5PM, Th 2:30-3:45PM, Fr 3-5PM or by appointment.  Note: Generally, feel free to drop in if my office door is open (i.e., most of the time beyond class).
A Video Explainer about Office Hours for Students
Phone: 337-6643


70% Assignments
15% Game Book Writing (4th Hour Requirement)
10% Quizzes / Exams
5% Class Attendance / Participation

You are responsible to know the material from each lecture and reading assignment before the start of the next class.  Homework is due at the beginning of lecture on the due date.  Late homework will not necessarily be accepted. 


Class attendance and participation is required.  If you attend all classes and are willing to participate, you'll get 100% for this part of your grade.  Even if you know enough to give a particular lecture, please consider the value of helping your peers during in-class exercises.

Woody Allen is quoted as saying "80% of success is just showing up."   While our class attendance/participation grade is not 80% of the final grade, it is critical that late arrivals and unexcused absences are not excessive.  Missing more than half of class unexcused is considered being absent.  An unexcused late arrival is counted as a half absence.  If the total number of absences counted this way exceeds 20% of class meetings, i.e. 6 absences or more, the student will have failed the course. 

Work Time Expectations

College policy on work expectations: “Each course should claim an average of 12 hours of student time per week (four class hours and eight hours of preparation or homework) over the course of the semester.” (source: http://www.gettysburg.edu/dotAsset/43b5a59c-ffc7-44b7-9893-1a7f5302e6c1.pdf) Since our course meets only 3 hours (the fourth class hour being replaceable by an approved fourth hour project beyond the classroom), this means that all assigned readings, assignments, and game book writing should take an average of 9 hours beyond the classroom per week. My goal is to help you learn the best, most up-to-date, high-utility material on games and computation within that time budget.  If you happen to be doing more than 9 hours of work on FYS 187-4 outside of class on average, please meet with me so I can help understand and help you work towards the intended time budget.

Honor Code

Honesty, Integrity, Honor.  These are more important than anything we will teach in this class.  Students can and are encouraged to help each other understand course concepts, but all graded work must be done independently.  Submitted work should be created by those submitting it.  Submission of plagiarized work is a violation of the Honor Code, which I strictly enforce.  For detailed information about the Honor Code, see http://www.gettysburg.edu/about/offices/provost/advising/honor_code/index.dot.

What is permitted:

What is not permitted:

Put simply, students may discuss assignments at an abstract level (e.g. specifications, algorithm pseudocode), but must actually form concrete solutions independently.  Credit should be given where credit is due.  Let your conscience be your guide.  Do not merely focus on the result; learn from the process.