Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting Rules Wrong

So many rules, so little time
I had some friends over last night to play some games and have some fun. We started with a 4 player game of Lords of Waterdeep, which I am still enamored with. Quick note on this before I move on, I just played a two player game with my wife over the weekend and it was interesting to see the difference in how the game scaled with a different number of players. In a two player game, each player gets 4 agents to place as opposed to only 2 in a four player game. This leads to games with more players feeling more tense and increasing the wish that you wish you had just one more move. The number of agents in the game remains relatively the same so the board will always fill up, its just a matter of how much you get to do before it does so.

We then played a game of Saboteur, which was pretty nice. Players act as dwarves trying to dig for gold that is placed in one of three possible locations. The catch though, is that there's a possibility that one or more of the players is secretly a saboteur, trying to stop the operation in its tracks. This is a great mechanic that adds some nice tension and really forces players to analyze each others movements to try to detect who the traitor might be. Even if the players figure out there is no traitor, the player who finds the gold first gets the highest reward, which still causes the players to try and slow each other down, just a little bit. I'd like to play this game again, hopefully with more players.

The final game of the evening was Doom: The Boardgame. I've had this game for just over a year and this was the fourth time I've brought it to the table, each time with a different group. As a result, I've been playing the first scenario over and over, but that's besides the point. As with most Fantasy Flight games, the rulebook is fairly hefty and chock full of rules and exceptions and symbols and explanations. This unfortunately means that if I'm not properly prepared (such as last night) then some things can slip through the cracks. In this instance it was forgetting that all figures block line of sight and that grenades don't need line of sight.Luckily for me, the guys I was playing with were pretty chill about the matters and we were able to move on. This did, however, make me think of what to do in situations such as this.

The Best Case Scenario: Hopefully in most cases the mistake is caught early on and maybe a move or two is retracted and fixed. Going back to my game of Doom last night, after the the first round of actual combat I double checked the LOS rules and realized all figures block it, not just enemy ones. The first player just slightly altered his turn, moving back to allow another player to move up and play continued. Nothing detrimental to the flow of the game and we were able to move on.

The Not As Good As Best Case Scenario: My other example from Doom fell into this category. It wasn't until halfway through the game that I realized that I was hindering the usage of the grenade weapons. This did cause some missed opportunities from the players, but none of them were really that game changing.  This is most usual for cases that a resource is being expended. Either used earlier or later, the resource is gone even if it wasn't used in the most optimal way.

The I'm Serious I'm Not Being A Jerk Scenario: Perhaps the most embarrassing one of the list. This usually happens a at least halfway through the game. When teaching a game, one his turn that player suddenly remembers a critical rule that other players could have greatly benefited them if they knew about it. This can suddenly lead to the teaching player having a great advantage as he has the first stab at whatever was forgotten. This could take the form of terrain benefit, or additional move options. To attempt to make things a little more fair, when I find myself in this situation I explain my mistake and then make a sub-optimal move, trying to ignore the information I just shared.

The Way Too Late Scenario: Sometimes it isn't until after the game ends completely that you double check a rule and realize that you completely played it wrong. As long as the game ran smoothly, I don't tend to dwell too much on this one. Its just if I gave someone bad information that would either led them a bad move or prevent them from taking a good one. This most recently happened when I was teaching Alien Frontiers. It was only my second time playing and I didn't fully understand one of the territory bonuses. I didn't realize this until the end of the game and one or two of the players weren't too pleased.

While none of these scenarios are the best way to play any game, the best thing to do is just to learn from your mistakes and try to learn from them. I also suggest the following tips.

  • If you know what games you're playing in a session and you're a little rusty, take some time to review the rule books. 
  • Make notes in the rule book or highlight things that often slip your mind. The files sections on boardgamegeek.com are good resources to players aids and cheat sheets.
  • If you're an experienced player and someone else is explaining the game, try to let them take the lead as not to confuse the other players. If they gloss over something though, politely remind them and the relinquish control again.
  • Remember that its just a game and try not to take it too seriously. Have fun.
Did I miss any good examples or tips?

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