Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Teacher Gets and "F"

Friday my son, Chris, and his girlfriend, Jessica, came over and after a game of Ingenious, I brought out Hansa to teach them. Jessica doesn’t really enjoy games and has said a couple of times that she likes Trivial Pursuit, a game I find dead boring and a waste of way too much time, so my goal has been to find simple yet challenging games that she will enjoy playing. She liked Ingenious enough to request it on this night but it isn’t a game that I want to play and play and play, hence the shot at Hansa.

Once I’d laid out the pieces and started explaining the relationship between buying goods/selling goods and the markets I realized that it doesn’t actually sound that simple and this thought was echoed by Jessica who said, “You said this was going to be simple.”

“I know it sounds complicated now but it’ll be clearer when you see how it works,” I replied with my fingers crossed.

Now I know from experience that just because you gave all the rules, doesn’t mean they all sank in, especially with non-gamers, because there’s nothing to relate the rules to until you’ve seen it in action. My solution for this is to point out how the game works while it’s in progress.

“If you move there, you can pick up the good for free since you have the majority of markets.”

“If you move there, you can sell those goods which means Richard loses his good—it’s out of the game.”

“You can only sell goods where you have a market so it’s good to have them spread out around the board.”

This is how the teacher’s mind is focused: help Jessica “get it” so she enjoys it and won’t mind playing again. Add to this the fact that Chris has a tendency to analyze each move to within an inch of its life so we were doing a lot of talking and laughing and maybe you’ll understand why, in the middle of the game on Jessica’s turn, I look over and see that she has NINE gold to spend this turn. Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Now I finally look at the big picture and do an assessment of the board and realize that she has the majority in 5 cities while Chris has 2 and Richard and I have 1 each. We’ve been buying goods from her the whole round and she’s going to kill us if we can’t get some markets out there. Unfortunately, she has 4 or 5 markets in a couple of cities which is hard to beat and at this point the board has a scattering of chits, mostly 1 and 2 barrel which isn’t very helpful because it’s going to cost me all my gold just to pick one up. Can you say, “Deep doo-doo”?

Desperation set in and I found myself spending a pair of goods with 2 and 3 barrels on them to build markets (oh, the pain, the pain) and even skipping a couple of turns since the only thing I could do was pick up a 1 goods chit which I would have to buy from Jessica. In the end it was just too late and we had let Jessica get the upper hand. The final scores were Me-30, Richard-35, Chris-38 and Jessica with an impressive 50.

On the plus side, I don’t think it will be too hard to convince Jessica to play it again. Then the teacher will stay home and the gamer will sit in her place.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in America—a day we gather with our family and friends, taking time from our hectic lives to relax and remember all that we have to be thankful for. We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with it’s giant balloons in the shapes of cartoon characters; singers and dancers, marching bands and finally Santa Claus. We eat turkey and stuffing, yams and cranberry sauce, potatoes and gravy and maybe that green bean casserole with the crunchy deep-fried onions on the top, and finish up with a piece of pumpkin pie. We watch football games, and talk and laugh with the ones we love.

Both of my children will be here, which is an unusual occurrence, along with Jessica and her father and Chris’ little dog, Bart—a Pomeranian-Dachshund mix who loves playing with our Corgi, Tucker. The cats will be in hiding, wondering why all these people have invaded their quiet and why that little dog keeps showing up and wanting to play with them. Whether we play a game or not isn’t important. It’s the time together, sharing the day, that’s important.

I wish you all a wonderful, noisy, laughing, loving Thanksgiving.



Coldfoot said...

Hansa as a gateway game?

Tell Chris that girl is a keeper.

Coldfoot said...

Hansa really isn't that hard, and the management aspect suits an organized mind so that it just clicks. Maybe Hansa is a female's game! :)

huzonfirst said...

Maybe. To me, Hansa has a significant learning curve, as the main mechanism is anything but intuitive. Most gamers I've played it with need at least a game to figure out what's going on and I still don't think I'm anywhere close to mastering it. But I haven't played it with any women; maybe they'd kick my butt!

Have a great Thanksgiving, Mary. Here's hoping for at least a little bit of gaming while you digest!

ekted said...

I try to explain Hansa thematically at first. That is: One your turn, you can move the ship, buy, sell, or build. If players can at least remember the possible actions, it makes it easier to decide what you WANT to do, even if the results of that action are a little abstract.

Rick said...

Actually, I think the teacher gets an 'A'. Throwing the game and letting the newbie win is an effective way to make the newbie feel very good about playing games. It's a great marketing tool when applied to golf: always let the customer/your boss win. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Mary.