Misunderstood Games?
Brent Mair
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Roy
Utah
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This is a list of games considered to be misunderstood. Please add.

In my mind a misunderstood game has one or more of these 'features':

1. Counterintuitive play
2. Steep learning curve to play well or make the positions equal
3. A few concepts difficult to grasp.

Add that to a low number of ratings here and you have a misunderstood game. For that reason I don't think Tigris and Euphrates is misunderstood even though it has some difficult concepts.

The list also begs the question about who is responsible for learning to play the game. Are we lazy gamers or should the companies do more to prepare the games or present the strategies.

So here are a few of my thoughts. Add your own.
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1. Board Game: Space Station Assault [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:11079]
Brent Mair
United States
Roy
Utah
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Space Station Assault is a great example. Few ratings, many of them low, and many comments that the game doesn't have depth since all you do is attack the opponent's station. So untrue!

I believe that destroying the space station is much more difficult. It is only obtainable when playing against someone new who doesn't get the game. Or you can win against a good player if you are greatly skilled.

Counterintuitive play:
1. When a ship attacks your space station you should consider not destroying it. Why? Because no other ship can attack on that flank until it is removed or it gets to move again. You want to attack my space station with a scout? Go ahead. I'll let you have at it for multiple turns.
If you destroy the ship then it opens up the flank for another attack.
Also if you just attack the space station and they attack your ships then they have extra ships in play to use for attacks next round.

The game has much more depth than first meets the eye.
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2. Board Game: La Strada [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:2636]
Brent Mair
United States
Roy
Utah
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I don't understand La Strada. It really appears to give too much advantage to the starting player. Are the player positions balanced? I don't know but they weren't in the two games I played. The beginning player places first which allows them to place closest to the biggest cities. The game ends when one player cannot play any more which means the starting player will likely get more turns than some of the other players.

You can try to choke the starting player by placing close to him but it still means they are close to fruitful cities and now it is more likely they can end the game on their turn which gives them an extra turn overall.

So can the game be balanced? If so, is it the responsibility of the players to discover that or the rules or design to help them find it?
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3. Board Game: Avalon [Average Rating:5.56 Overall Rank:13406]
Brent Mair
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Roy
Utah
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And Avalon. Certainly counterintuitive play. When you win you gain control of the land mass but you actually lose more troops than your opponent. I like that interesting aspect since you must sacrifice to gain ground. But the two people I have played it with disliked it and they are not alone. The ratings here are low. It also isn't widely reviewed since it is not in English. I think the game is misunderstood. Players don't take the time to understand the game play.

Is that true? Is it the game's fault?
 
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4. Board Game: Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1278]
Daniel Hurst
United States
Murfreesboro
Tennessee
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This is one of my favorites, and I think it fits nicely in the "misunderstood" category.

1) Is it counterintuitive? Yes. It's not a gamers' game. If you're A.J. Pierzynski, and willing to win at all costs, then this game won't be fun for anyone. But, if you're looking for fun and willing to immerse yourself in the premise, then this game is about as much fun as I've ever had playing games with a group of people.

2) Is there a steep curve? Not exactly, but it tends to take people a little while to catch on. It also takes a bit of time to warm up to being silly and just doing the best you can to tell SOME sort of story. It doesn't have to be James Joyce. You just gotta make it coherent and ditch the cards. Feel free to make the fairy princess shoot into space with an astronaut -- so long as you can make her meet up with an a) ugly b) horse along the way that c) can talk.

3) Difficult concepts? I'd say somewhat, but only in that this is different than most other games. If you go from Formula De to this, it takes more than a minute to change gears. (And cost you a happy point...) I've found that people sometimes need some time to understand how the "interrupt" cards work. The main concept that seems to be tough is that it's got to be played sort-of cooperatively. Every man for himself makes this degenerate quickly.
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5. Board Game: Raj [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1860]
Daniel Hurst
United States
Murfreesboro
Tennessee
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Another misunderstood game, in my humble opinion. It's one of my favorites, I can teach just about anyone to play, and it's got immense replay value. Shame it's not better ranked.

1) Counterintuitive? My whipping boy with this is that someone somewhere on BGG dismissed this game as (too) simple. Ha! Some of the best games I've ever played have only a few rules. I mean, how many "rules" does something like chess have, or checkers? (Not to start any "monopoly" thread here...) It's simple, but that's its beauty. Additionally, there's a BIG counterintuitive lesson to teach any newbie about the value of "dumping". You can't bid on all the tiles and try to get them all -- you've got to intentionally lose some of them, to set yourself up to win. Sometimes, that's hard to teach.

2) Steep Curve? Yes. Sort-of. I mean, I can probably explain this game in less than 100 words. But to get to where you understand the concepts enough to beat someone who's played a while -- even at such a "simple" game -- might take a while. You gotta master the "dump", how to "plus one" an opponent, judicious 15 use, and how to play to benefit from the tie.

3) Difficult concepts? No. Simply not. BUT(!), sometimes the toughest concept of all is in telling someone that, to win, you've gotta read your fellow gamers. Like poker, this is a "people game, played with cards." Once you've learned the ("simple") numbers and the math, all you gotta do is figure out the people playing. Depending on who you play with, this can be easy or hard.
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6. Board Game: Brawl [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2448]
Daniel Hurst
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Murfreesboro
Tennessee
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Ahhh... Brawl. Misunderstood as much as Star Trek fans everywhere. A personal favorite and I can't believe it's not yours. Or at least your kids'.

1) Counterintuitive? Oh, yes. It's gotta be played fast, right? So you gotta slap down as fast as possible, right? Errrr, no. Sometimes that helps. But not always. And true gamers, ala War of the Ring, etc, want to use ALL their cards to get premier benefit from their effects. Errrr, no. Sometimes, you just want to discard them. Throwing it away is to your best advantage. Another counterintuitive point -- and maybe the most important one -- is that a game that can be played in less than 1 minute can't be strategic. Errr, no. This is one of my favorite strategy games out there. And I'm into juggernauts like ASL and TI3, too. It just don't take 6 hours of game-time to invest in each war. Suggest playing best-of-7 -- which will take around 10-15 minutes.

2) Steep Curve? Yes. When I tell people that the game plays in less than a minute and that it takes longer to restart than to actually play, they always look at me funny. Add to that the concepts in paragraph one, above, and you have a difficult game to learn, at first. Again, I should be able to beat a newbie pretty handily.

3) Difficult concepts? Hmm.... Yes. I can't think of other games that are played like this. Fast, fast, fast. Again, people always look at me funny when I talk about the speed. And playing a strategy game at top speed opens up doors to a whole different dimension of speed. I'd like to play an ASL game sometime with a strict NO PONDERING prohibition. Also, the one-handed nature of it, and playing on both sides of the board is kinda tough to learn. Plus, the burn-through-your-deck-to-get-to-the-end aspect.

Honorable Mention for misunderstood games: Falling & Button Men. (I'm a fan of Cheapass Games. Just because it doesn't have a million beautiful miniatures and doesn't cost $60, doesn't mean it's not hours of fun.) If someone doesn't add them to this list, I might have to.
 
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7. Board Game: Why Did the Chicken...? [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:4551]
(ron lee)
United States
baton rouge
Louisiana
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Similar to 'Once Upon a Time', I think there is a misunderstanding associated with what the goal of the game is. I think most people come into this game realizing that it's a party game, and that the attempt to win shouldn't be taken to seriously. But people often don't realize is that they don't have to try so hard to be funny!

It's the same stress that some people associate with Karaoke--the idea that you have to be able to sing well in order for people to enjoy your performance. Not so! Bad karaoke performances can be just as entertaining (if not more so) than good ones--most of the joy of karaoke is that it allows personalities to shine through, and some people find it fun to perform to a receptive public. If you have talent, that's nice in a different way. The same holds true for this game--the rotten jokes are just as much fun as the triple entendres, the juvenal witticisms.
 
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8. Board Game: Sticheln [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:808]
Chris Pieters
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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This game seems to definite counter-intuitive. You take tricks with trump, but trump changes for every hand, based on what was lead. You also have to penalize yourself with your choice of 'pain'. It certainly feels inside-out for anyone that's ever played trump-type card games.
 
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9. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:15305]
Lyman Hurd
United States
Cupertino
California
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From the literature and history clearly an abstract game of quite some depth. The fact that go and chess may be deeper is hardly damining! However, it gets one of the lowest ratings of any "classic" game of its complexity. I think this falls under the category of people should not attempt to rate what they do not understand!
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10. Board Game: ZÈRTZ [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:476] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Lyman Hurd
United States
Cupertino
California
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Beginners tend to conclude that this is a light weight game in which the first several moves do not matter untila capture is inevitable. This is far from the truth. In fact, on the small board this is one of the few games I know that can literally be lost on move one! If one doubts that try either of the following against an experienced player:

a) Place the first marble on the edge.

b) Place the first marble anywhere and do not remove a corner ring.
 
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11. Board Game: Quoridor [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1000]
Lyman Hurd
United States
Cupertino
California
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Gentler learning curve that Zertz but still much more complexity than people give it credit for. One point people seem to miss is the strategy of placing fences to block your own possibilities to narrow the ways in which your opponent can further block your movemwnt.
 
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12. Board Game: Cape Horn [Average Rating:6.01 Overall Rank:4634]
Dwayne Hendrickson
United States
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma
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When I saw the title, I thought of this game
 
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13. Board Game: Boxes [Average Rating:4.60 Overall Rank:15072]
David Molnar
United States
Ridgewood
New Jersey
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Dots and Boxes is a deep game. There is a ton of theory out there for those who care to look, beginning with the "hard-hearted handout". No, you don't have to think deeply to play it, but there are multiple levels of understanding, and if you play someone who understands the game on another level, you will lose.
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