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An experimental investigation of Colonel Blotto games

Abstract

This article examines behavior in the two-player, constant-sum Colonel Blotto game with asymmetric resources in which players maximize the expected number of battlefields won. The experimental results support the main qualitative predictions of the theory. In the auction treatment, where winning a battlefield is deterministic, disadvantaged players use a “guerilla warfare” strategy that stochastically allocates zero resources to a subset of battlefields. Advantaged players employ a “stochastic complete coverage” strategy, allocating random, but positive, resource levels across the battlefields. In the lottery treatment, where winning a battlefield is probabilistic, both players divide their resources equally across all battlefields. However, we also find interesting behavioral deviations from the theory and discuss their implications.

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Correspondence to Dan Kovenock.

Additional information

We have benefitted from the helpful comments of Jason Abrevaya, Tim Cason, Ron Harstad, Brian Roberson, seminar participants at the Free University of Berlin, Louisiana State University, Purdue University, and the University of East Anglia, and participants at the 2008 Annual Conference at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (Calcutta, India), the 2008 North American Annual ESA Conference, the 2009 Midwest Economic Theory Meetings, and the 2010 Public Economic Theory Conference. We also gratefully acknowledge extensive comments from an associate editor and two anonymous referees. This research has been supported by National Science Foundation Grant (SES-0751081).

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Chowdhury, S.M., Kovenock, D. & Sheremeta, R.M. An experimental investigation of Colonel Blotto games. Econ Theory 52, 833–861 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00199-011-0670-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00199-011-0670-2

Keywords

  • Colonel Blotto
  • Conflict resolution
  • Contest theory
  • Multi-dimensional resource allocation
  • Rent-seeking
  • Experiments

JEL Classification

  • C72
  • C91
  • D72
  • D74