Saturday, November 17, 2007

After being defeated by the rules, the play made it clear...

There have been a few games where I have found myself utterly defeated after reading the rules. Instead of knowing how to play the game I have no idea at all, in some extreme cases I know less about the game than I did before I started and also I am no longer entirely sure what my phone number is.

In pretty much every case this has been cured by playing the game, preferably with somebody who knows how to play it.

Games where I have been defeated by the rules include Coloretto, Mamma Mia!, Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper, Tigris & Euphrates and Air War (OK I will admit that the last one was not at all recently).

With Coloretto and Mamma Mia! a step by step playing of the game in close concert with the rules meant that things that were previously clear as mud suddenly became obvious as if some magic spell had been lifted. Interestingly enough I had no problem at all with Zooloretto, mostly due to the familiarity with Coloretto.

Air War is really a case of being defeated by the errata. I spent hours working my way through the hefty rule book to suddenly find this enormous errata that basically poked out its tongue and said everything you have learnt before is wrong and you must learn it again. I put the rules and the errata back in the box, gave the game back to its owner and went back to playing Foxbat and Phantom instead.

With Tigris & Euphrates I read the rules and felt I was about half way. I had some understanding, but was clearly foundering. This time I went down the path of getting someone who had already played it to teach it. This worked a treat, again suddenly everything was very clear and we played it three times in a row. With the game in front of you an experienced player can teach this in about ten minutes and actually explain the internal and external conflicts in a meaningful way as opposed to that blank look that people get when they first read the rules without having played the game.

In the case of Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper I read the rules twice and even tried playing a game solo. Three - nil in the game's favour. The rules aren't that long, it shouldn't be that hard. I read the rules to War in Europe and just played it from scratch, but am now being defeated by a card game and its cursed melds. At least I could console myself that I was not the only one who has had this problem, there are many similar stories at BGG.

I issued the "Teach me" plea and to my gratitude Gregor responded and it was arranged for the next EuroGamesFest. Sure enough after a brief explanation and about a hand or two it was pretty much all perfectly clear and I could now successfully teach other people how to play, which means Melissa and Daughter the Elder are now fans of the game and we have played it quite a few times recently, including a hand or two waiting for meals to arrive at a restaurant and in the waiting room at our GP's waiting room waiting for a Doctor for Daughter the Younger.

My plan of attack for our unplayed pile is still usually:
1) Read the rules
2) If that does not succeed, try a solo game
3) If that does not succeed, call on somebody who has played the game before to assist.

Usually we have a successful game after step 1, but not always.

Hmmm meeples taste like...

10 comments:

Melissa said...

You forgot 1.5 - check for clarifications on BGG :)

thirtyseven said...

I was saved on teaching myself Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper by having taught myself Mystery Rummy: Jekyll and Hyde first. The extra complications of JtR, while large, could be handled. But my thoughts as I learned JtR were just that: "Thank goodness I wasn't trying to learn this one first."

Robert M Maier said...

Hmh, three of the games that you mention are originally German - any clue whether it was the rules themselves, or rather their translation?

Fraser said...

An interesting point Robert. With Tigris & Euphrates I found the rules very good after I had been taught, so I think the main failure was not being able to convey the conflicts to somebody who hasn't played the game. Other than that I think of them as a good rules set.

With Mamma Mia! and Coloretto I am not sure. In some cases translations are too literal, almost like they have been machine translated and not reworded for the target language.

Power Grid is a case where the English rules are usable, but they could be re-written to be so much more useful and more easily understood. Coloretto was fine after playing, so it could be the style of the rules. I haven't really rechecked the Mamma Mia! rules after playing, so am not entirely sure what my problem was.

Having a fluent German speaker in the house does help, especially with games that come with rules in multiple languages. In our first game of Thebes we were trying to clarify some points in the English rules and couldn't find the answers where we expected them to be. Lo and behold they were exactly where we had expected them to be in the German rules! Some sentences just seemed to get dropped in the translation, I don't know why.

ozjesting said...

I also find it can be a state of mind at the time the rules are read. Often I have a read a set of rules and left them with no idea what just happened. Then a maybe a day or 2 later I will read them again and "ding", somehow a light goes on and I can never understand what caused me such confusion in the first place.

Then there is War of the Ring...

Fraser said...

I find I need to read rules alone, at least the first time that I am reading them, so that I can concentrate on them. Well, if they are more complex than Ticket to Ride anyway :-)

Dani in NC said...

I did NOT want to hear that Mamma Mia is difficult to learn, especially as I am waiting for UPS to deliver it to my house :-). Unfortunately, I don't know anyone around here who has experience with these kinds of games so I can't get someone else to teach me. We'll just have to muddle through.

Fraser said...

Just start playing it as you are reading the rules and you will be OK. I just found I didn't understand it from the rules alone.

Dani in NC said...

Thanks for the tip, Fraser. That makes me feel better. My husband is an impatient sort, anyway, so I am sure he would prefer to play through a round as we are learning it.

D5YO said...

Caylus! I had no idea how the game was going to be played just from reading the rules.