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Thinking Out Loud

Friday, August 25, 2006

Getting it Right >> Do Rules Explanations Impact Perception?

On and off today there's been an interesting discussion I've participated in with Jay Moore (MUkid) and some other St. Louis gamers. It was talking about preferences for playing new games or established and well known games, and included elements about rules explanations and the learning curve of games.

Part of the discussion was about the accountability of teaching the rules. If you have the luxury of gaming with a set plan in place and a scripted list of games to play, folks can read ahead and prepare for a game, and ideally several people can read the rules or brush up on them, and perhaps even read up on strategies or FAQ content.

That rarely ever happens, though, and often a few games hit the table that are brand new and someone is only somewhat familiar with the rules, or a game that hasn't seen action in a long time surfaces and rules recollection is a bit fuzzy. Invariably, some rules get overlooked, misexplained or outright mangled. The impact can vary greatly, from a subtle nuance to a dramatic scoring shift.

I ended up teaching Blue Moon City over the weekend to folks who had not played. I have never read the rules or looked up anything about the game online. I had only played one game the week before with Jorge (hibikir) and Eva (DeiTass) who did a great job explaining the rules. So it was completely from memory.

I missed a point here and there, and didn't know if playing with 4 instead of 3 changed anything other than the winning condition... But I think I did okay -- at least, hopefully my rules explanation was good enough to show that Blue Moon City is a very good game, and didn't dissuade anyone from wanting to try it again.

If you play a game with the rules wrong and find out part of the way through, do you retrofit the rules? Just correct it from then on? Start over? Well, all those are fine options depending on the group. I'm actually more interested in what you do next.

If you didn't like a game but realize you had some rules wrong, do you feel your opinion is still valid? Are you willing to commit 1-2 hours to a game to give it a second chance if you were less than impressed, despite knowing there were some rules mistakes? Or would you prefer investing your time in a game you know well and believe is better overall than the former game could be, even with the correct rules?

Me? Ida know. I really enjoy churning through new games and trying new things. Some games suffer from bad first impressions (Mykerinos, Ticket to Ride, Euphrates & Tigris Card Game) while others have been redeemed only through second, third or fifteenth chances (Ra, Princes of Florence, Beowulf - The Legend). But with sooo many games out there, and still 125 or so unplayed in my own collection, it's getting harder and harder -- even with rules mistakes -- to consider giving those chances.

I'm at the point where it's worth passing on the chance to uncover another Ra if that means avoiding another Siena, Marco Polo Expedition or Risk: Godstorm.


  • I think someone with experience with a variety of games can tell with one playing (even with a missed rule or two) if the game is one that "fits" them.

    My friend, Mike, had just gotten Blue Moon City and taught it to me today. Something is different in the setup with different numbers of players--I think the number of dragon scales. Would having that wrong have made a difference? No. The basic mechanics of hand-management, racing around the board and gathering goodies would still be the same and it "fits" me very well. The fact that I won by a hair also did not influence my feel for the game. :)

    By Blogger sodaklady, at 8:24 PM  

  • Get some rules wrong and they're game breaking; but usually we - the players - come to some sort of agreement as to how we will proceed.

    The rule-of-thumb is to carry on as we have been playing - particularly if we're talking about an accidental alteration which won't damage the game too much and that everybody has been playing by.

    The most recent exception was a game of Tempus - one player complained when I reminded her that mountain hexes score zero at game end that she had been under the impression they did score. The solution was to allow her a point for each of the mountain hexes she had already expanded into. She won the game; it is debatable if she would have been able to win had she been aware of the rules as there were just two points in it (the mountains had gained her four). But, that's what we all agreed so she took the game.

    By Blogger Fellonmyhead, at 12:02 AM  

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