I need a working bot to tell me the best move once I get the "parse the board state from a photo of a board" bit sorted.
I'm still following the same approach as originally, but this time I'm reimplementing it in Python, not C++. Two reasons for that: first, I enjoy Python coding a whole lot more because it's easier; and second, there are some truly excellent open source machine learning libraries in Python that I'll leverage. Execution speed of course is much slower, which might cause some angst when training, so I might need to do some optimization. Perhaps use Cython or numba or something to speed that up - we'll see.
And a third reason: rebuilding it from scratch will help me remember how all the details work!
In any case I've rebuilt the structure now, and have got a pubEval player to play simple games against. I had to google around a fair bit to find a nice description of pubEval, and finally found one here, where Gerry Tesauro published a post with a C implementation. Basically pubEval is just a linear regression (actually two regressions: one for a race, one for contact) that takes a 122-element representation of the board state and returns a score, with a higher score being better. All you really need then is the board state encoding, plus the linear regression weights for the two regressions, which you can find at that link.
After playing some games manually against pubEval, I can honestly say that it's not very good. It's not terrible, but I now remember why it's pretty easy to beat.
And Happy Canada Day! :)