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Guilds of London» Forums » General

Subject: Don't let iconophobia keep you from trying this game! rss

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Dave Moser
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While anxiously awaiting my copy of GoL, I followed the reviews and comments pretty closely here, and it was impossible to escape the fact that virtually every review states, or at least implies, that the game is burdened with complex iconography and a steep learning curve.

I've now logged four full games; all were 4-player games, and every player in every game (other than myself after game 1) was brand new to the game. So I have now witnessed 13 instances of someone playing GoL for the first time (including once myself). In all cases we had a couple of copies of the player aid available, and in some games we had a separate reference card I created that lists the standard icons/meanings individually. The reference materials were obviously used very heavily during setup and instruction, and while people were selecting Mayoral Reward cards and reviewing their initial hand of Action cards. During the mid-game, there was still plenty of looking things up as players drew new cards, but the reliance on the cheat sheets steadily declined. By the end, most players were completing their turns without any help from the reference cards.

I didn't directly poll the players after each game, but my distinct impression (as well as my own experience) is that one full game is sufficient to learn and internalize the GoL iconography to the point that you could play the game from that point on with little or no need to look anything up.

My point is, if you're considering this game because the mechanics or theme appeal to you, do not be deterred by all the reviews that make the iconography seem daunting. It's really not, and the game is definitely worth the little bit of effort it takes to learn it.


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Jimmy Hensel
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I heartily concur! The icons are definitely easier to grasp than those of Race for the Galaxy. (But that might not be saying much. )
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Steve Valladolid
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Too bad you weren't actually in the game on Sunday at Escon where you lent me your player references. The game soundly flopped at the table, although I blame my lack of preparation for part of that. I had played the one other time with you and thought I had a handle on things, but a brief review of the rulebook ahead of time would have helped.

The main complaint, beside the iconography, was that it was one turn on, followed by one turn off. You play out your hand in turn 1, and then need to spend the next turn recovering. Repeat.
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Dave Moser
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svalladolid wrote:
Too bad you weren't actually in the game on Sunday at Escon where you lent me your player references. The game soundly flopped at the table, although I blame my lack of preparation for part of that. I had played the one other time with you and thought I had a handle on things, but a brief review of the rulebook ahead of time would have helped.

Sorry to hear that it didn't go over that day. Hope my reference cards weren't to blame! I think you'll agree that it's not a game that is easily pigeonholed; I can see that it just isn't going to be some people's cup of tea.

svalladolid wrote:
The main complaint, beside the iconography, was that it was one turn on, followed by one turn off. You play out your hand in turn 1, and then need to spend the next turn recovering. Repeat.

There are always aspects of a game that are not part of the rules per se, but emerge as a result of actually playing the game. In my experience with GoL, the first of these was the importance of turn order. The second is the point your opponents seem to have struggled with.

The card drawing rules can be surprisingly punishing at first. I suspect that without even being consciously aware of it, starting with 6 cards, with a hand limit is 7, gives a new player the sense that he will typically start a turn with ~4-7 cards in hand. That sense collides with reality rather abruptly as soon as it sinks in that you only get two more in the draw phase, no matter how many you've played, unless you essentially forfeit a turn to get a paltry 4. Cards don't just fall into your lap the way they do in some games. You're going to need to go get them.

Different players react to things like this differently. I don't recall who you were playing with in that particular game, and I certainly am not casting any doubts on their character or gaming style, but faced with a game that diverges from expectations, some players will change their opinion of the game, while others will change their approach to the game. (Perhaps the best example is the feeding requirements in Agricola; for some, they make the game too stressful, for others they make the game, period.)

Based on what I learned in my first two plays of GoL, I'm now paying a lot more attention to timing and hand management, attaching more value to cards and guilds with card-drawing benefits, and trying other ways to avoid the "one on, one off" pattern that you describe. Like the impact of turn order, the effects of the card draw in GoL were not apparent to me at first, but they're firmly in the "it's a feature, not a bug" category for me.


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