Survivor: The Amazon – Strategies Begin to Formby Jeffrey D. Sadow -- 02/23/2003
The first two installments of Survivor 6 in fact have looked more like the very first series than any other, in terms of the most haphazard alliance-formation perhaps in all of the half-dozen efforts.
Let’s review the optimal strategy for building an alliance. First, they must be built with a minimum winning coalition (MWC), simply, your group having one more member than any other single group. Any more would dilute your strength in the game. Second, because of the number in each initial tribe (8) and the number at the merge (8-10), five is the ideal number for an overall alliance to achieve a MWC, but, third, the trick is in nesting into suballiances within that five. The optimal split to get one to endgame is 2+1+2, being part of a dyad with a singleton closer to you than to the other dyad. (Of course, you have to get to the merge with your five, i.e. win some immunity challenges and/or avoid having involuntary splits breaking up your alliance where its broken pieces can get picked off in each new reconstituted tribe, so lining up a 2-1-2 split is much easier said than done.)
On the men’s side (Tamaqui), at least there appears some of them have some clue. Roger and Butch seem to be a natural to form a dyad but nobody else seems to be getting together to form another. While there’s room for a singleton (the most difficult yet most potentially rewarding position) in a coalition with them, none of the others have shown any real skill in stepping into that spot:
Roger and Butch can take control of things right now by shoring up Alex, pulling Dave in, and letting Rob think he has control over the situation. If they play this well enough, first they isolate Matthew (next to go), then toss Daniel and, assuming by the time this sequence has played out the merge is upon them, they bring a dyad and three singletons into it and an unusually strong position for the two of them – think of them together as a Survivor 5 Brian.
Comparatively, collectively the men’s strategy appears light-years ahead of the women’s but there’s hope here. The only reason Janet got the boot over the others in fragmented voting was an unconscious coalition of sorts emerged that could be quite powerful – the Hottie Harem of Heidi, Jenna, and Shawna, plus Deena. The Hottie Harem, if they realize they have a community, could then basically pick two of the others to carry them into endgame, and dispose of them there.
Deena is advantaged here, having already fallen in with them (who knows, maybe she could be the house mom) and her bet is to hook up with Jeanne. While it might be an advantage to carry a weak player bent on destroying themselves such as JoAnna (preaching) or Christy (whining), math is not in Deena’s favor now – three against two. She needs somebody not seen as expendable but somebody who could attract one of the Hotties or one of the men to overcome their woman-down disadvantage.
Of course, the Harem could realize this and should oust both Deena and JoAnna, but, again, youth and wisdom of play often don’t go together in this game. But regardless of who they choose, if they and the male dyad get their acts together, we could be in for one clash-of-titans mid-game. Even better, maybe, just maybe, there might be some players intelligent enough to go for a third, Wretched of the Earth (WOE) coalition that could knock either of these over, or the loser of the struggle manages to form a WOE group with stragglers from the other tribe. Past play shows this usually is too much to expect, but hope springs eternal.
Two other interesting things about the Hottie Harem have so far emerged. One, depending upon attrition on the male side, the Hotties could have a real advantage if they face off against the younger males. On the other hand, if the older male dyad triumphs, they may have the upper hand. And, if the Harem wrests control, who will end up the singleton? My guess is Shawna and Heidi will form the dyad, cutting out Jenna because, and I’ll be blunt about this while simultaneously resisting entreaties to reveal life experiences that explain how I acquired this knowledge, women whose professions involve a display of sexuality usually are a little too long on ego and too short in brains – I think Jenna will have less in common with Heidi and Shawna than the latter two will between themselves.
This could be fun.
Empirical model update: After two episodes, the empirical model is faring poorly. Ryan was picked as a jury member but went first, and Janet was picked for the final four and also cashed it in. Possibly the fact that the model was built upon the mixed-sex assumption may have something to do with it, but also Janet got hit with the X-factor that strikes every series but is so hard to model: sickness, perceived or real. Another final four predicted, Daniel, has had a rough time, but the picks of Deena, Jeanne, and Roger are looking pretty good.
Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport where he teaches, among other things, classes in international politics, international organizations, and diplomatic history. He has published in the area of gaming simulations in international politics.
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