Pig is a folk jeopardy dice game described by John Scarne in 1945, and was an ancestor of the modern game Pass the Pigs® (originally called PigMania®).

The rules are simple: Two players race to reach 100 points. Each turn, a player repeatedly rolls a die until either a 1 is rolled or the player holds and scores the sum of the rolls (i.e. the turn total). At any time during a player's turn, the player is faced with two decisions:

To familiarize yourself with play, you can play an optimal Pig opponent online. The key decision facing a player is how large a turn total should be risked to possibly get an even larger total. To learn more about the game of Pig, visit The Game of Pig web page.

Summary The Game of Pig - Milestone-based approach to implementation of the dice game Pig with side opportunities for simple, interesting analysis driven by curiosity to better understand game play.  Also includes object-oriented and GUI programming exercises.
Topics Bottom-up, milestone-based development, dynamic programming and Monte Carlo analysis techniques.
Audience Assignment suite below is appropriate for CS1.  Upper-level Pig-related assignments for networking, artificial intelligence, etc. are described in Pedagogical Possibilities for the Dice Game PigJournal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 149-161, June 2006.
Difficulty These assignments range from beginner to intermediate difficulty.  CS1 students complete all but the object-oriented and GUI programming assignments in less than 3 weeks.
Strengths Pig offers one of the best fun-to-SLOC (source lines of code) ratios of any game.  One would be hard pressed to find another game with such simple rules that engages and leaves one on the knife-edge of indecision.  As such, it is a teaching treasure.  Mathematics instructors have long used this game to teach probabilistic concepts.  We here offer a rich collection of CS1 Pig exercises that illustrate bottom-up development.  Alternatively, one can approach the final "Pig Game" exercise as a good top-down, stepwise refinement exercise. Opportunities for Monte Carlo simulation abound.
Weaknesses Except for GUI assignment, text-based and non-graphical.
Dependencies Most assignments require only understanding of random number generation, text I/O, and simple control structures. GUI assignment requires additional understanding of basic GUI concepts and components including labels, buttons, panel image display, and popup window dialogs. O-O assignment requires understand of basic O-O concepts, including interfaces.
Variants One can easily create variants by choosing different play policies and/or rule variations.  Both are described in detail below.

A Plethora of Playful Pig Programming Problems

Each exercise below may be used stand-alone or in a logical sequence of milestones.

Problem Description Previous Milestone
Hold-at-20 Turn - simulate a single turn of Pig where a player holds at 20 points  
Hold-at-20 Outcomes (Estimation) - statistics on Monte Carlo simulations of hold-at-20 turn outcomes Hold-at-20 Turn
Hold-at-20 Outcomes (Computation) - dynamic programming computation of hold-at-20 turn outcomes Hold-at-20 Turn
Hold-at-20-or-Goal Turn - simulate a single turn of Pig where a player holds at 20 points or the goal score Hold-at-20 Turn
Hold-at-20-or-Goal Game - simulate a single game of Pig where a player holds at 20 points or the goal score Hold-at-20-or-Goal Turn
Average Pig Turns - average turns of Monte Carlo simulations of hold-at-20-or-goal games Hold-at-20-or-Goal Game
Two-Player Pig - simulate a single two-player game of Pig with hold-at-20-or-goal players Hold-at-20-or-Goal Game
First-Player Advantage - Monte Carlo simulations estimate the first-player advantage in hold-at-20-or-goal Pig Two-Player Pig
Pig Game - the user plays Pig versus a hold-at-20-or-goal player Two-Player Pig
O-O Pig Game - the user plays Pig versus a hold-at-20-or-goal player.  Implementation is object-oriented.  
Pig Game GUI - the user plays Pig versus a keep-pace-and-end-race player via a GUI  

Different subsets of these exercises may be chosen according to different desired goals/emphases.  For example:
Pig Game Milestone track:
Hold-at-20 Turn, Hold-at-20-or-Goal Turn, Hold-at-20-or-Goal Game, Two-Player Pig, Pig Game
Monte Carlo track: Hold-at-20 Turn, Hold-at-20 Outcomes (Estimation)Hold-at-20-or-Goal Turn, Hold-at-20-or-Goal Game, Average Pig Turns, Two-Player Pig, First-Player Advantage
Cut-to-the-Chase GUI track: Pig Game GUI
Minimalist O-O track: O-O Pig Game


Creating variations of the these exercises is simple.  One can both vary the simulated play policy, and/or rule variations.

Pig Play Policies:  Let i be the player's score, j be the opponent's score, and k be the current turn total.

Game Variations:

With the many ways the problem set above may be thus varied, it is not difficult to craft a unique (i.e. not easily plagiarized) assignment experience for your students.

Additional Resources

With its simple rules and engaging play, Pig lends itself to many uses across the Computer Science curriculum:

Todd Neller

Extra info about this assignment: