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GAMING THOUGHTS - The 'Playing Games Wrong' Syndrome. What is the impact on the gaming experience?

-matt s.
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At some point I was reading the forums for The Castles of Burgundy and the question asked was what defines a 'Turn' during the game because you can only buy a black tile once per Turn...

This game has 5 'Phases' with 5 'Rounds' for each Phase where each Round consists of all players rolling their 2 dice at the same time (plus someone rolls an extra die and places a good) then each player takes one 'Turn' each where you can take 2 'Actions' (one per die), plus maybe one extra 'Action' but its not called an action, its actually just called: 'buying a black tile' for 2 Silverlings.

Their confusion ultimately came from not understanding that you use BOTH dice together as one 'Turn' - they were going around the table using 1 die, then once around the table again, so they weren't sure if they could 'buy a black tile' during EACH die usage. Makes total sense since, in that case, each 'Round' they were getting 2 'Turns'

Reading the rules again for myself, if you look at the definitions it should be fairly clear what a Turn is and what you can do with the dice, except they leave off the one-time buy until the END of the rules and not in the 'Turn' section.....

This got me thinking about a general 'problem' with games that is not really discussed much, if ever - what I'm calling the 'Playing Games Wrong' Syndrome. And, when I say 'Playing Games Wrong' I primarily mean playing the game INCORRECTLY without realizing it, although it can also be 'confusion' (where you aren't sure if you're playing correctly) due to lack of clarity of how the rules should work.

When you run into this 'syndrome' it can have different impacts on the game:

- Sometimes playing a game wrong can have good consequences (a new/fun/better variant!)
- Sometimes playing a game wrong can be bad (boy, that game was really terrible!)
- Sometimes you don't even notice (hey, I think we played this one part wrong! oh well, it didn't matter much...)
- And, if things REALLY go wrong, more than one of those situations might happen.

Now, if playing a game wrong makes it more fun for you, there's absolutely no reason why you can't keep playing it that way. One of my good gaming buddies played Quarto wrong for years without realizing. And, they never wanted to go to the 'correct' rules once they found out since they liked their rules better!

This is one great thing about playing games FTF (Face to Face) rather than electronically - if you don't like the rules or want to take back a move or make some other sort of adjustment, you can!

This, of course, leads into the related discussion of 'house' rules. House rules are fine but can create problems when gamers come together that have different rule sets they use. If it isn't agreed ahead of time it can cause conflict when that moment comes. Generally, it is resolvable but it can sometimes mess with your strategy if you expect the rules to be something different.

And, this brings me back around to my point again - playing by the wrong rules can change the game and how it is played. It can CHANGE THE GAME EXPERIENCE.

Fundamentally, this makes sense. However, if you don't realize you are doing it wrong and it changes the game in such a way that it is no longer enjoyable the way it is being played, the game can suffer as a result.

Why is this important? Well, if a game cannot be understood and played correctly, people will likely have a bad experience and refuse to play it again.

If the rules were written poorly, are too complicated, are too open or are just ambiguous and open to interpretation - this can cause the game to suffer and possibly fall by the wayside in light of other easier to understand/play games.

If the rules to a game are difficult to understand (or just easy to confuse/forget) and they are interpreted incorrectly it can dramatically affect the perception of the game.

Ok, so that's a lot of talk....what are some examples?

Below are some games that suffer from rules confusion and can easily cause people to play them incorrectly.

Initially, I thought it would be difficult to track down some good examples, but reading through my owned games list, I would try to remember the rules and if it was a game I knew I'd always have to go back and read the rules again, no matter how many times I'd played, I knew it would fit this list.

Many of these games I've either printed player aids to ease the confusion, made my own player aids, written/compiled an FAQ, or in some cases, flat out re-written the rules into language I understand for myself.

MANY MANY EXAMPLES....

ALADDIN'S DRAGONS - The magic card usage is confusing in that when you 'activate' the ability to play magic you can play magic as much as you want for the rest of the round. However, you may not play magic again the rest of the game. This is very powerful but also limiting at the same time. Also, turn order/reactions to other cards played is not clear. I tried to go back and figure it out just now and got frustrated again! I *really* like this game but the confusion around magic really makes me anxious about playing it again.

Its also easy to forget you have to properly bribe the palace guard before you can do the palace actions or else YOU DO NOT GET TO DO THEM AT ALL. Frustrating if you forget (which is easy to do with everything else happening) This is more a rules 'forgetting' issue though (i.e. feature of the game) not really a 'playing wrong' issue (unless EVERYONE forgets the requirement)

ATON - The order of revealing and using the cards is very important but a little ambiguous. I ALWAYS have to re-read how it works because I can never remember. Playing it incorrectly can really change how you play the game.

BISON - This is a Kiesling/Kramer game that doesn't get much attention. It is an interesting game, but how scoring works is very confusing and not well written. It is, ultimately, fairly straight forward once you figure it out, but extremely difficult to parse in the rules. This is really a great game, but having to spend 20 minutes every time I play to re-figure out the scoring kind of kills it for me.

BARGAIN HUNTER - This is a really neat trick taking game as it is somewhat counter-intuitive. And, how scoring works is confusing and VERY opaque if you haven't played before. A very interesting mechanic that I need to figure out a better way to explain (i.e. make a player aid so I can remember each time I play)

BURGER UP - We played with the wrong number of customers and the game went on WAAAY too long and ended up having a terrible time as it dragged on. We were thinking "this would be better if it was shorter". Then we re-read the rules and found out it was supposed to be shorter.

I think this can happen in many games - getting the setup wrong and the game drags on or falls short.

THE CLIMBERS - Determining the end of the game and how to keep track of when it will end is problematic, how to use the ladders can be confusing (how far does it actually reach? can it go across gaps? etc), and what is and isn't allowed when taking your move isn't always clear. This game can seem very 'simple' and it almost looks like a kids toy, but it is very open in what you can do, and once you start realizing how to play to 'win' it gets nasty and rules disputes are inevitable if they aren't agreed upon from the beginning.

CLUE Last year I decided we should play Clue as my kids (15 and 18 at the time) had never played it!

I was reading through the rules and wow, it was different from what I remembered as a kid (haven't played since I was a teen). First, you MUST move on your turn, you can't stay in a room you moved into previously and made a Suggestion in. However, if someone else pulled you in you can stay there. Then we realized if you go into, say, the Conservatory and the door is blocked (you can't move through other players' space) when you try to leave, then you MUST take the secret passage to the Lounge.

The more shocking rule was this: When you make a "Suggestion" you don't direct the question at a particular person. It starts with the person on your left and if they have one of the room, weapon or suspect, they must show you one of them. BUT THEN IT STOPS! We always played you would go around the table to everyone and each must show you one if possible. But that's not how the rule is written! (at least in the 1982 version).

Also, there is a distinction between making a "Suggestion" vs. making an "Accusation". Suggestion must be done in the room you're in. You pull in the suspect and weapon, then go around the table as per above. An Accusation can ALSO occur on the same turn as a Suggestion. And it doesn't have to be the same as the Suggestion. You also can be ANYWHERE to make an Accusation, even not in a room. For instance if you figured it out between your last turn and current turn and can't get to a room to make a suggestion, you can still guess with an Accusation to see if you win!

Wow, how many times over years did we play it wrong? But, did we still enjoy it the way we played it? Ultimately, yes we did! But it definitely was a different game than what the rules spelled out - it was easier to make "Suggestions" and find out information the wrong way.


FLEET - The rules are actually pretty good for this game, but there are two things that cause much confusion in the game:
1. You must have a license to launch boats of that type. BUT, having the license gives you a special ability regardless of whether you have boats for it in play or not. In other words, you don't even have to have boats in play EVER during the game and you still get the benefits of the license. Thematically it doesn't make sense so causes confusion in that regard.
2. How you set up the License deck is confusing as written and makes it easy to set it up incorrectly. This can have a huge effect if you have too many Premium Licenses coming out early - if one person gets a decent License and everyone else is stuck vying for the Premium Licenses (which they can't pay for in the first couple of rounds) the game can get lopsided very quickly. This happened the first time I taught it and no one much liked the game as a result. Subsequent plays with correct setup were much better.

FRESH FISH - Figuring out what is and isn't legal for creating pathways is extremely confusing and very easy to overlook. And, getting it wrong could really screw you over if discovered too late. The new version of the game seems to address this (and other issues) so I'm interested to see how it plays now.

EL GRANDE - The Veto action is very powerful - but how it actually works is often mis-understood (it took me a couple of readings of the rules to figure it out): you can Veto an action at any time including IN THE MIDDLE of someone else's turn special action (not their regular placement action). For instance, if they are taking their special action and are moving cubes around and you agree with their first movements but not subsequent movements you can veto right there, thus allowing the first part of their move but disallowing the remaining part of their move. Timing is very key on this and is easy to get wrong - they have to announce each part of the action they are doing before they do it - then the person with the veto can stop them or allow it. Its a great/important ability but easy to mishandle. This is the reason it is missing from the online game on Yucata as there is no good way to implement it in a turn-based environment.

They even had to put together a special 'rules clarifications' document by the designers on how to properly handle certain actions, and over half the document deals with just the special Veto action: New rules of action cards confirmed by W. Kramer.pdf

GUATEMALA CAFE - Everything is confusing about this game. Just....everything. shake It is a terrific screwage game - what I call a 'nasty, NASTY game' or an 'evil game' (i.e. one where everything you do causes evil giggling to ensue). I completely re-wrote the rules incorporating all of the clarifications (I still need to finish it and upload it ). It is another great game beaten down by its confusing rules. It is difficult to NOT play this game wrong.

HABITAT - This game has 'live' gameplay where everyone is playing at the same time and a little bit of 'going around the table'. I think. Maybe its the other way around. Its not entirely clear in the rules. Excuse me while I go read them again...

HANSA TEUTONICA - There is one rule I *always* forget AND, I know its there but I can never find it and waste 5-10 minutes looking for it every game. I finally just marked it in my rulebook and wrote a note to myself. I HATE writing in my rules books, but it clearly saves me time now. It is the rule and scoring regarding how the network that traverses the board from one side to the other works. Luckily this one isn't a game breaker though.

Actually, there is another rule that is confusing - I know because I had played this game many times and, after many games teaching/playing wrong, realized I've been counting Networks incorrectly when scoring. When you count up a network, you are counting the number of OFFICES (Kontors) in CONNECTED cities. Thus, 2 kontors in one city and 3 in a neighboring city for one player is 5 * key multiplier. I used to count that as 2 (cities occupied) * key multiplier. GAAAAH!!! Luckily it didn't ruin the game for me (still a 10) but now I see the game completely differently.

HELVETIA - There are two things that are easy to get wrong or get confused on. First, the setup requires you to put an action disc onto neighboring players' boards. The other players do NOT get to use those discs - they are used to encourage marrying into the other players' villages; when you do that you can pick up your disc and subsequently use it in future turns. However, it IS legal to grab someone else's disc that is in another players' village (i.e. one that is NOT yours) but you just put it into your OWN village to encourage that other player to marry into your village. Confused? Now you understand. It is also confusing because you think that somehow discs end up back in other players' villages later in the game, but they don't - once you get them that's it. The way it is worded it is very confusing and, if played incorrectly, can really mess with how you play the game.

Scoring is also confusing because your score is not 'cumulative' but re-counted every round. It CAN go down - think Settlers where you are constantly checking scores. But, unlike Settlers, you COULD possibly get to a 'winning' score, but if you don't keep it at that level by the end of the round, you still don't trigger the game end and 'win'

JAVA - When moving your surveyors, you may NOT move on the board surface, only on TILES that were previously placed on the board surface. Playing this incorrectly really changes the game. I think we played it incorrectly the first time I played. I recently played it again with the correct rules and it seemed much better. Also, the face up festival card ONLY changes when that card is actually taken/drawn into hand by someone which is also really important when scoring festivals.

RUSSIAN RAILROADS - Some of the special orange round shaped tiles are confusing (ok, that sounded confusing too). Actually, most are pretty much ok. The most confusing one is the one showing the two cards on it - you get one each of BOTH card types - one for instant resources and one for end-game scoring purposes. We completely missed that the first game.

Also, its easy to forget to put the special action tile that only goes on the board ONCE the entire game - only for the last round. I now try to stack it with the last engineer so I remember. It doesn't kill the game if you forget it, but its an important action to be able to do.

LEWIS & CLARK - Fantastic game and overall very good rulebook. However, how the multipliers work with Indians on cards varies slightly depending on how the cards work. Most make sense, but there are a few special cards that are used slightly differently. This (and a couple of other things) really need to be put into an official FAQ as not knowing the proper way to use them can either make them way overpowered or way under powered.

MACHT & UNMACHT - This is a bizarre mind-bending game and, overall, the rules are not TOO difficult to get through. The most difficult part is that every round switches between two different piece types where one is active and one is passive. You are generally only allowed to work with the active pieces for that round BUT sometimes the passive pieces come into play. But not always. Both players have some active pieces and some passive pieces and what you do in one round might affect what you can do in the next round if you save some of your special action tiles.

Also, one set of pieces has adjacency based on the actual adjacent locations of the board. The other set of pieces has adjacency by special symbols that are randomly placed on the board each game. Good variety, but difficult to wrap your mind around.

And, scoring each round is ONLY based on the current ACTIVE pieces so you might be doing good with one piece type but if you don't win and the other player is even stronger on the next round with the other piece type, they might win instead....It is extremely confusing to see how everything interacts. It is a brilliant game that is super opaque even though it is a perfect information game. Its almost like chess on steroids. With really really weird and confusing twists that make it easy to get the rules wrong.

Interesting to note this game was designed by the same designer as Hansa Teutonica (which is way more accessible and just as brilliant)

MEDINA - The bonus tiles for the corner towers can be confusing and understanding how they work is crucial as they often are the deciding factor in the game - timing of getting them near the end is very important.

The key thing to remember in this case is that each palace, once claimed, can only control each tower ONE time during the game. If you gain that tower token then lose it, you can never get it back with the same city - you would have to claim some OTHER city touching a wall connecting to that corner.

Of course, reading the forums mostly supports this same interpretation, although one discussion says it can be claimed twice, once per each wall that ends up touching the palace. Apparently the online version of Medina at BSW uses this rule.

Interestingly, the 2nd Edition of Medina completely changes the rules so that ANY time you build a wall next to your palace gives you the tower scoring card. But they also tweaked other rules for balance.

MILESTONES - One of the more confusing parts of this game are the black pieces that form an intersection and two roads. You really have to think of using 3 pieces (circle and two straights) as "one" piece that are all connected together where the round piece is like the elbow joint of an arm and the 2 roads the upper and fore arm. Reading the rules can be confusing but, in practice, it makes sense once you start doing it and figure it out based on the diagrams.

Another rule that is easy to get wrong/have confusion about is when moving around your player board you MUST always stop at the castle. This takes an action to stop there! AND, you are then forced to lose a worker (the king steals them away). Frankly, I love the ever-changing rondel but it can catch you off-guard forgetting that you MUST lose a worker each time around. Its a great mechanic, but you are constantly NOT wanting to do it so its easy to 'forget'.

MONAD - This is a really interesting, brain-burning Sid Sackson game. There is a particular action called a JUMP that lets you get extra cards by performing a special action. It is easy to get excited and keep trying to do more than one jump on a turn, but you can only do it ONCE. Doing it multiple times breaks the game and you can super-combo your way along if done right (in this case 'right' is 'wrong).

MORELS - I can never remember how the Destroying Angel card works. It feels like it should be something REALLY horrible. Depending on when/if you pick one up (we rarely do) it CAN work to your advantage. But it is hard to see that since the rules for handling it are not very clear. I actually think the Destroying Angel is an important card/action if you get stuck with your hand, but it sounds so BAD that you never want to do it. Really, its not so horrible and sometimes necessary to discard cards (since you are not allowed to discard otherwise). Although, I STILL haven't ever felt like I had to do it.

I ended up making my own player aid, mainly for the Destroying Angel mushroom, but also to make it easy to teach and play the game in general without having to flip through the rulebook. It is NOT a difficult game but the rules seem to drag it out more than necessary.

NEXUS OPS - I ALWAYS forget when you get the various cards and when you can play them exactly - there are also limits such as only being able to play one RED point value mission card on a turn. Universal Head made an awesome player aid and this helps a lot: Universal Head NEXUS OPS Rules Summary but I still get confused. I just now read it and have already forgotten. I also just noticed another rule I always forget - that you can discard cards to get Rubium (i.e. money). Fantastic game but I need to get those card rules down....not getting cards when you are supposed to can really hinder your play.

NINJATO - Ninjato is actually a pretty easy game to play once you learn the rules. The hard part is actually learning the rules - the way they are laid out, the details are buried in paragraphs of text so if you need to look up how many of this or that, you have to READ the paragraph to find out (as opposed to a quick skimming). Also, the rulebook uses its own terminology which makes it hard to quickly parse the rules. Once you get the game down though it flows nicely.

The most difficult part of the game is how to correctly manage an invasion of a clan house - one known guard is there visible and the rest are 'surprises'. If you defeat the main guard and then all of the subsequent guards, they all go away. However, if you fail or decide to stop without defeating all guards/getting all the treasures, you discard all guards EXCEPT the initial guard - he recovers and stays there. Also, one new treasure comes out. It is easy to get this wrong without reading the rules carefully. Also, there are 'elite' guards that only come out when you set off the alarm and managing them correctly is tricky to understand as well. We played the first game or two incorrectly until we closely re-read the rules and finally figured it out.

ON THE UNDERGROUND - Movement of the traveler is tricky and there's no good way to 'check' yourself - you just have to try tracing several paths and counting each one, especially if he is far away from the destination. Granted, this is part of the fun in the game, trying to puzzle that out only to discover you mis-calculated when you made your move. Otherwise, this is a fantastic early Bleasdale (of Keyflower and Black Fleet fame) with some interesting/different mechanics.

PACRU - This is an abstract game (I generally love abstracts) and there are actually 3 sets of rules, each with a different name for the game: Azacru (easy), Shacru (moderately difficult) and Pacru (advanced). The first two are pretty easy to play, the 'easy' one is almost a little too simple. Shacru is fairly easy to understand but challenging to play well. Pacru has some very different mechanics and it is difficult to 'see' the board well and understand all of the ramifications. Think Chess with only one piece type but multiple possible move combinations depending on position of the pieces to each other. This is another game where the opaqueness of the rules probably holds it back - the descriptions are overly complicated. I've worked on re-writing the rules for my own consumption but never quite completed it.

PIRATE'S COVE - Timing of playing the cards gets a little crazy - each card really has its own timing and mini ruleset of when and how you can use it. This makes the game much more difficult than it needs to be and always drives me crazy - when we haven't played it for a while, I think "it can't be THAT bad" and then I will play again after many months and realize "yes, its very annoying". I cannot play this game without having to refer back to the rules for something (and not just the card play, although that's a guarantee for me). Sometimes it just doesn't feel worth the effort.

NOTE: I recently played this with 'gamers' and it went pretty well. I also used the Universal Head player aid and that helps a lot, along with another card reference sheet. For non-gamers I think it still will be a bit of a drag for me.

POWER GRID - All those steps are confusing as to when you start them, when you stop them and what you do in-between them. This is fantastic game that just needs a little help/tweaking to make it perfect. According to Friedemann's BGG video at Essen, it looks like they tried to address these issues in the new version, so I'm very curious to see how successful they were.

QWIRKLE / QWIRKLE CUBES - The patterns can't be THAT difficult to make sure you're following the rules, right? Well, we invariably have someone mis-play and not notice until at least a couple more turns are completed. Then we have to backtrack or deal with it somehow. For the record, I much prefer Qwirkle Cubes as I love to be able to have the option of re-rolling my cubes to improve my options for placement. In standard version sometimes you're just completely stuck. The same issue exists for both versions though.

RAPTOR This is a really great 2 player game and most rules are easy to understand. The two rules that cause issues are: Mother's call where the mommy raptor calls her babies - they must be able to get to the same TILE - this means they must have a clear path to the tile, not just 'teleporting' there. Also, it becomes confusing when the mommy raptor is on the L shaped tiles as they are near the edge, hard to access, and give little room to maneuver.

In addition, one game end condition involves eating all scientists ON THE BOARD. Note this is NOT the same as what we initially thought - eating ALL 10 of the scientists. If not all the scientists are deployed to the board, you don't have to eat them, you just have to clear the ones that are on the board!

ROADS & BOATS - The prayer track for turn order is confusing in how you manipulate it. Once you get it, it makes sense and totally works, but I have to read the rules closely EVERY TIME I play the game. I'd relay that information here but - I can't remember. Most everything else is pretty straight forward as it is logistics and resource management which is much more intuitive.

RELIC RUNNERS - Some games there is always that 'one thing' that you forget to do (draw up to x cards, discard cards, move a marker, etc). In this game, that 'one thing' you tend to forget is placing the idols on the board. Our first game we did fine most of the time, but the 2nd time we forgot to place ALL the crystal skull idols for some reason. It really changed the result of the game when we remembered. We still had fun though, but it would have played out differently if done properly. I'm trying to figure out how to remember when to place the idols.


SIENA - I love the idea of having a game board based on a piece of art. The problem is letting the art dominate the board with no regard for allowing the players to see how the game is played on it. In other words, this board is cool, but it needs some graphics to support gameplay.

Also, the rules in this game are terrible! There are many many niggly rules that you have to remember - special rules for special circumstances. Which is most of what the game is - lots of special rules and nothing to help you remember them. Nothing will kill the desire to play a game again more than having to wade through too many rules exceptions.

One other thing to note - this game has a great concept of switching from one role to another mid-game. Deciding when to do this is crucial to being successful. And, if you don't do it soon enough, you might lose automatically because of it! This is a great concept, but sometimes you can get stuck and not be able to make the transition, and then you're screwed. Especially since this is a 3+ hour game, getting screwed is particularly harsh.

SNOWDONIA - I started writing this blog post a long while ago and decided to finish now. Way back when, I had Snowdonia on the list noting that setup of the coal and scoring of contracts was important and easy to mess up. I recently played this game and it is definitely still an issue. Coal is very scarce and ensuring the right amount of coal is available is an important part of the game. Also, the scoring of contracts and understanding what they mean is crucial. We ran into this again as at least two people misunderstood what they needed to accomplish and it definitely affected endgame scoring and would have changed how they played the game.

Also, an important note: DO NOT buy a train engine in the round prior to the likely drawing of an event cube that triggers having to pay maintenance for the engine if you don't have anything to pay the maintenance cost. It might set your game back by immediately losing said train (and related resources spent on the engine purchase)

SPLENDOR - For some games the setup is critical to the game being challenging or interesting. In Splendor, you sometimes forget that you don't always use all of the chips and bonus tiles - it varies by player count and is important to keep the game tight.

TAKENOKO - This game seems like a great entry level game for families. And it IS! But it can also be so (indirectly) MEAN! Eating other people's bamboo. Placing a tile that kills your landscape goal! Completing multiple goal cards on one turn to end the game unexpectedly! Which speaks to one rule people tend to forget (and I constantly try to remind others) - you are NOT required to play goal cards when you have completed them. Reaching a certain number of completed goal cards triggers the end of the game. If you hold back and play several all at once you'll probably catch at least one person off-guard. And they'll probably be mad and not want to play again.

Also, it is easy to forget that tiles need to be watered to count for goal cards (including the landscape goals!) And, when tiles are first watered, more bamboo will grow on them. It is an easy rule to overlook. Forgetting to automatically grow the bamboo can change the game a lot by not having enough bamboo around, especially for the higher point cards.

TOBAGO - Tobago has a lot of ambiguity in the rules - the game is very open and lends itself to this. On top of that, the Amulet tiles that allow for additional actions (with some limits) also contribute to the ambiguity/confusion. Some common rules to overlook or get wrong are:
* You can drive your truck through water.
* Moving in the same landscape anywhere costs 1 movement point.
* During REGULAR movement you CAN pick up an Amulet for 'free' for each movement point (although getting more than 1 or 2 is unlikely)
* When you spend an Amulet to move, you CANNOT pick up more Amulets. This is CRUCIAL, otherwise someone can grab all the Amulets by continuing to spend them after they get them. This happened our first game and it really sucked.
* You can spend as many Amulets on a turn as you want. You can even spend an Amulet that you picked up on a 'regular' movement (Action B)
* You can use an Amulet to play an additional clue card (we always forget you can do this!)

Check this file for better understanding the order of actions and what is allowed when: Tobago Turn Sequence flowchart
This FAQ is great too: Tobago FAQ

ULURU/PELICAN COVE - For speed games it is crucial to get the rules correct and make sure everyone understands them. When the symbology is confusing to even the rules teacher during explanation, the game is going to be that much harder under time crunch with no chance to ask questions. The original Uluru game has some iconography that is difficult to interpret. The Pelican Cove version is much better (hence the reason I picked it up instead)

Yspahan - Overall, Yspahan is a very smooth playing game with clear choices. However, the camel track is not so clear and people tend to forget about it - until someone starts scoring tons of points and cards from placing cubes on it. It seems so innocuous and cute! The other confusing part is that its use varies with different player counts and really should have different versions of the board to clarify this. This is the one sticking point for me in an otherwise excellent and unique game.

Actually, there's one other small but crucial rule - you can spend 1 card to get 1 additional gold/cube/camel with selecting dice. AGH! This is frustrating me even now as I know it could have helped me at some point in a game I played in the past!

WALNUT GROVE - This game is actually pretty simple in terms of gameplay once you get the rules down. The hard part is some of the details that are easy to overlook such as how movement works (once per round you get ONLY ONE action as you move clockwise around the board) - this means you only get 8 actions in town per game! (well, you do other stuff too, but not in the town). Players tend to remember that you can use coins as entry into a building but you can also use them to pay for winter costs. You CANNOT use them in trade at the markets or to pay back Neighborly Help tiles.

Most importantly, it is easy to forget that the Neighborly Help tiles are not "minus 2 points" for taking one - unless you take a second one while already holding one. This means you can immediately pay off the Neighborly Help tile with 3 cubes, then take another one if necessary, etc (say if you were short 2 cubes in winter, you could effectively use 6 of some other resource you have too many of). It is really a cube conversion mechanism even though it isn't really sold as such in the rules. This is one way to gain an edge on other players and can really change game play.


I have covered many games where 'playing it wrong' is easy to do, mainly from overlooking rules or having unclear or ambiguous rules. There are a TON more games that I see having various rules issues that can directly impact how a game plays. Even one small rule that is played incorrectly or neglected can really change the way a game plays. It can make the difference between a 'good' game, a 'bad' game, and an 'excellent' game.



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Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:00 pm
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GAMING THOUGHTS - Of Civilization and Card Sleeves and Time and Maps

-matt s.
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Today I received some wooden tokens I ordered from Mayday during one of their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. I am going to use them as replacements for the cubes in Walnut Grove (which I love and have wanted to pimp out so couldn't resist the sale)

But Walnut Grove is not on my mind at the moment. I also received a pack of standard Euro card sleeves. I don't normally sleeve cards so was surprised to see the pack. I didn't order them!? Free!? Hmmmm. What can I use them for?

I checked their website and looked at the spreadsheet that shows you which sleeves go with which games.

These ones (59mm x 92mm) fit a variety of games. The ones I own that I *might* consider putting sleeves on are:
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor
Agricola: The Legen*dairy Forest Deck
Aladdin's Dragons
Atlantic Star
Balloon Cup
Blue Moon City
Civilization (1981 Avalon Hill)
El Grande Decentennial
For Sale (Uberplay 2005 Ed)
Jambo
Kingdom Builder
Le Havre
Princes of Florence
San Juan
Stone Age
Taj Mahal
Times Square
Torres
Troyes
Yspahan

I was a bit surprised to see they would fit Civilization! It was the first 'real' game I owned. I was 11 when I bought a copy of the 1st edition of it after it was part of the Games 100 in Games magazine in 1982 (or thereabouts - I did a couple of quick searches and it seems that's the year). Not sure what intrigued me about the game - perhaps the map. At some point in my youth I plastered my walls with National Geographic maps as I was fascinated by them (don't worry, I had a half-naked girl on the back of my closet door, too) But, yes, I was a game geek and a map geek way back then...I think that's why I've always been interested in war games - more for the maps than for the actual game play. I'm definitely a Euro die-hard, but I am still drawn to war games for some reason, even though I suck at fighting games and generally never play them. Ah, those maps are beautiful though....

Well, interestingly, I have a mostly unpunched copy of Civilization I'm in the process of selling so I had it on hand. I pulled it out and tried on a sleeve - nice fit although a bit long. Well, I wasn't putting it on THAT copy since I'm selling it. I have a COMPLETELY unpunched 2nd edition copy that I received from my Secret Santa 2 years ago that I've not had the heart to punch yet (sorry SS!) He got it to replace my long missing 1st Edition that I've pined since getting back into gaming.

But I keep thinking about that unpunched copy. I've been very close to punching it lately. VERY close. I really want to play again. Now I have sleeves for the Civilization cards which are a pain to deal with by themselves so I'm thinking the sleeves were meant to be....to get me to punch the darn thing and actually get it played!

No, I'm not planning on buying sleeves for the trade cards. Well, not yet....(nice marketing hook by the way - send card sleeves to get you thinking about buying more!)

Well, Civilization only needs 72 sleeves so I'll probably use the rest on Kingdom Builder terrain cards since there are only 25 of those and my Dad and I love playing it.

Anyhow, Civilization - I want to get it to the table again soon, but it takes a lot of time to play. 6+ hours (probably a lot more depending on number of players). Plus I'll need to re-read the rules if I want to run a game of it.

A friend ran a game with Advanced Civ a couple of years ago that I enjoyed immensely. You definitely need someone to drive it. That game took 12 hours to complete (and I think we decided ahead of time on an earlier end point)

But, I want to play the original game without Advanced Civ. That may be sacrilege for some gamers, but its how I want to experience it - in its purest form like when I was a kid...which, ironically, I don't think I ever actually played a full game way back then as I didn't have that many geeky friends. I just loved looking at it and reading the rules and I think I even played a partial game by myself. I don't recall exactly, I just knew I loved it. Funny, I bought The Civil War 1861-1865 around that time as well but probably only played a partial game by myself of that as well. Another map game I suppose....

Well, I think its time to get that unpunched Civilization box out and punched soon. I'll get those sleeves on the Civ cards and look for some player aids. And maybe, just maybe, I'll find a way to get it to the table and played soon...or at least to look at the map...


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Sun Dec 8, 2013 10:14 am
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