Let’s Play With SQLModel

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As I continued with my project of dealing with 5 million Monopoly Junior games, I had a problem. Finding a way to play hundreds of games per second was one thing. How was I going to store all my findings?

Limitations of using a CSV File

Initially, I used a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file to store the results of every game. Using a CSV file is straightforward, as Python and pandas can load them quickly. I could even load them using Excel and edit them using a simple text editor.

However, every time my Streamlit app tried to load a 5GB CSV file as a pandas dataframe, the tiny computer started to gasp and pant. If you try to load a huge file, your application might suffer performance issues or failures. Using a CSV to store a single table seems fine. However, once I attempted anything more complicated, like the progress of several games, its limitations became painfully apparent.

Let’s use SQL instead!

The main alternative to using a CSV is to store data in a database. Of all the databases out there, SQL is the biggest dog of them all. Several applications, from web applications to games, use some flavour of SQL. Python, a “batteries included” programming language, even has a module for processing SQLite — basically a light SQL database you can store as a file.

SQL doesn’t require all its data to be loaded to start using the data. You can use indexes to search data. This means your searches are faster and less taxing on the computer. Doable for a little computer!

Most importantly, you use data in a SQL database by querying it. This means I can store all sorts of data in the database without worrying that it would bog me down. During data extraction, I can aim for the maximum amount of data I can find. Once I need a table from the database, I would ask the database to give me a table containing only the information I wanted. This makes preparing data quick. It also makes it possible to explore the data I have.

Why I procrastinated on learning SQL

To use a SQL database, you have to write operations in the SQL language, which looks like a sentence of gobbledygook to the untrained eye.

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/exploits_of_a_mom.pngI'll stick to symbols in my children's names please, thanks.

SQL is also in the top 10 on the TIOBE index of programming languages. Higher than Typescript, at the very least.

I have heard several things about SQL — it’s similar to Excel formulas. However, I dreaded learning a new language to dig a database. The landscape of SQL was also very daunting. There are several “flavours” of SQL, and I was not sure of the difference between PostgreSQL, MySQL or MariaDB.

There are ORM (Object-relational mapping) tools for SQL for people who want to stick to their programming languages. ORMs allow you to use SQL with your favourite programming language. For Python, the main ORM is SQLAlchemy. Seeing SQL operations in my everyday programming language was comforting at first, but I found the documentation difficult to follow.

Furthermore, I found other alternative databases easier to pick up and deploy. These included MongoDB, a NoSQL database. They rely on a different concept — data is stored in “documents” instead of tables, and came with a full-featured ORM. For many web applications, the “document” idiom applied well. It wouldn’t make sense, though, if I wanted a table.

Enter SQLModel!

A few months ago, an announcement from the author of FastAPI excited me — he was working on SQLModel. SQLModel would be a game-changer if it were anything like FastAPI. FastAPI featured excellent documentation. It was also so developer-friendly that I didn’t worry about the API aspects in my application. If SQLModel could reproduce such an experience for SQL as FastAPI did for APIs with Python, that would be great!

SQLModelSQLModel, SQL databases in Python, designed for simplicity, compatibility, and robustness.logo

As it turned out, SQLModel was a very gentle introduction to SQL. The following code creates a connection to an SQLite database you would create in your file system.

from sqlmodel import SQLModel, create_engine, Session from sqlalchemy.engine import Engine

engine: Optional[Engine] = None

def createDBengine(filename: str): global engine engine = createengine(f'sqlite:///{filename}') SQLModel.metadata.createall(engine) return engine

Before creating a connection to a database, you may want to make some “models”. These models get translated to a table in your SQL database. That way, you will be working with familiar Python objects in the rest of your code while the SQLModel library takes care of the SQL parts.

The following code defines a model for each game played.

from sqlmodel import SQLModel, Field

class Game(SQLModel, table=True): id: Optional[int] = Field(default=None, primarykey=True) name: str = Field() parent: Optional[str] = Field() numof_players: int = Field() rounds: Optional[int] = Field() turns: Optional[int] = Field() winner: Optional[int] = Field()

So, every time the computer finished a Monopoly Junior game, it would store the statistics as a Game. (It’s the line where the result is assigned.)

def playbasicgame(numofplayers: Literal[2, 3, 4], turns: bool) –> Tuple[Game, List[Turn]]: if numofplayers == 3: game = ThreePlayerGame() elif numofplayers == 4: game = FourPlayerGame() else: game = TwoPlayerGame() gameid = uuid.uuid4() logging.info(f'Game {gameid}: Started a new game.') endturn, gameturns = playrounds(game, gameid, turns) winner = decidewinner(endturn) result = Game(name=str(gameid), numofplayers=numofplayers, rounds=endturn.getvalue(GameData.ROUNDS), turns=endturn.getvalue(GameData.TURNS), winner=winner.value) logging.debug(f'Game {gameid}: {winner} is the winner.') return result, game_turns

After playing a bunch of games, these games get written to the database in an SQL session.

def write_games(games: List[Game]): with Session(engine) as session: for game in games: session.add(game) session.commit()

Reading your data from the SQLite file is relatively straightforward as well. If you were writing an API with FastAPI, you could pass the model as a response model, and you can get all the great features of FastAPI directly.

I had already stored some Game data in “games.db” in the following code. I created a backend server that would read these files and return all the Turns belonging to a Game. This required me to select all the turns in the game that matched a unique id. (As you might note in the previous section, this is a UUID.)

gamesengine = createengine('sqlite:///games.db')

@app.get(“/game/{gamename}“, responsemodel=List[Turn]) def getturns(gamename: str): “”” Get a list of turns from :param gamename. “”” with Session(gamesengine) as session: checkgameexists(session, gamename) return session.exec(select(Turn).where(Turn.game == gamename)).all()

Limitations of SQLModel

Of course, being marked as version “0.0.6”, this is still early days in the development of SQLModel. The documentation is also already helpful but still a work in progress. A key feature that I would be looking out for is migrating data, most notably for different software versions. This problem can get very complex quickly, so anything would be helpful.

I also found creating the initial tables very confusing. You create models by implementing descendants of the SQLModel class in the library, import these models into the main SQLModel class, and create the tables by calling SQLModel.metadata.create_all(engine). This doesn’t appear pretty pythonic to me.

Would I continue to use SQLModel?

There are use cases where SQLModel will now be applicable. My Monopoly Junior data project is one beneficiary. The library provided a quick, working solution to use a SQL database to store results and data without needing to get too deep and dirty into SQL. However, if your project is more complicated, such as a web application, you might seriously consider its current limitations.

Even if I might not have the opportunity to use SQLModel in the future, there were benefits from using it now:


Storing my Monopoly Junior games’ game and turn data became straightforward with SQLModel. However, the most significant takeaway from playing with SQLModel is my increased experience using SQL and SQLAlchemy. If you ever had difficulty getting onto SQL, SQLModel can smoothen this road. How has your experience with SQLModel been? Feel free to share with me!

#Programming #DataScience #Monopoly #SQL #SQLModel #FastAPI #Python #Streamlit

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu