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Subject: The rules simplicity almost killed my hardcore gamer brain. rss

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Paul DeStefano
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Netrunner. That's a card game. A real gamer's card game. The manual is a 13 meg download in the lo-res version, clocking in a 36 full size pages packed with illustrations, definitions and the complex interweavings of an asymmetrical customizable deck game.

I get a message from the boys over at North Star. Would I like to review their trick taking climbing game, Clubs (and better variant, Crazy Clubs).

Sure thing, I say, send it along.

The unassuming package shows up, filled with unassuming attractive yet very plain cards, and a rule sheet that is more like a tiny pamphlet.

OK, let's rewind. "their trick taking climbing game".

To a hardcore gamer like me, where card games usually simulate battle between various neohuman factions past and future, these were fairly alien words.

I kind of understood, vaguely, what it meant.

The rules assume you're like a normal guy on the street who plays Rummy and Poker and such. If you come in fresh off of Netrunner, well, there's a weird disconnect.

I read the rules. It takes under two minutes.

And I had no clue how to play the game. We all have cards we somehow play.

I was a spaceman stranded in the time of dinosaurs, wondering how to charge my GPS.

It starts so clearly. Based on number of players, remove the following cards, deal out 10 each, someone becomes lead.

Pass or play are your only options (save the fancy, yet risky "Double Or Nothing" declaration). So far, I was right there. This was just like Incan Gold.

Rules: A Trick is won anytime someone plays a Meld-Type with a...

Trick... Is that like mana? Credits? Did I just kill a monster? Complete a quest? Hold on - like any decent game, there's a glossary.

Glossary: Trick - The pile of cards that have been played face-up on the table.


Ah.

OK, played face up on the table.

But.... but.... but....

The rules say the LEAD takes a meld (I knew the word meld. That's either X-Of-A-Kind or a sequential run of cards, ignoring suit. Why are there suits then? I don't know. This wasn't addressed in the rules), and places the meld face up in the center of the table.

Now, when I Play Cards (of higher value - that's the 'climbing' part of the game), it says place my meld face up on the table.

It does NOT say the center of the table. It says the table.

Obviously, like Race For The Galaxy, each player has their own tableau then.

Hmmm. Not much of a climb then, if people need to all just keep beating that first - sorry - Lead play.

Let me reread the rules another 5 or 6 times.

AH.

OK. The key wording of "in the center of the table" is what is needed to make each play add to the prior. So much for that tableau thing.

Now, you get bonus points for running out of cards. It's diminishing, so the first to go out gets the best bonus. If no one can beat your meld and add to the trick (that's the ONE pile of cards in the CENTER of the table), you win the trick.

Yeah, OK, I hit another bump in the rules road here.

Rules: The winner takes the Trick

I read this line several thousand times.

My wife's current favorite card game is Ascension. When you WIN a card - it goes in your deck.

This line clearly says the winner takes the trick. Well, if the idea is to get rid of cards, why the hell would I want to take that whole pile of cards into my hand? It's kind of like Uno when you're drawing cards against your will - but why is that called winning the hand?

The winner takes the trick.

Man, the rules lawyer ambiguity almost killed me. As I tried to decipher this in fits on apoplectic gamer short circuiting, I began to sweat and swear. How would this game work if I took all the cards and my goal was to get rid of my cards first? Would I intentionally pass each round? Then how would anyone ever score? We'd all just pass, not wanting to take the trick...

See, now, all the games I'm used to have like multi page illustrations of the play area. The winner takes the trick REALLY means the winner takes the trick and PLACES IT IN THEIR SCORE PILE. Your score pile is NOT apparently a pile of cards on the table, as it is never actually referred to.

OK, so there's the trick - where EVERYONE is playing their melds. And when you win it, it goes off to some place where points are scored (for clubs only, which is annoying, because do you want to win that hand to use one or two cards, or not win it, saving those cards for later, hopefully getting some clubs for points, but losing the going out bonus...). This integral part of the gaming architecture may be obvious to a guy on the street, but not to someone who has shelves heavy with boxes of cards that are ranked by common, uncommon and rare.

And when you play a lone card, it is a ONE of a kind. Not a run of one. I know this because of an illustration. I'm assuming since there is no illustration of a run of one, that would be illegal.

So, it's not the game, it's me. The rules assumed casual player knowledge, not CCG player baggage.

Ha, ha, you think. That's funny, because he's used to complicated rules and he didn't understand this simple game.

Sure, it's funny NOW, but when I was torturing myself over the rules for THREE DAYS wondering if I needed a playmat illustration, it wasn't so funny then.

It was like reading miniatures rules and having it not define if line of sight was from the corner or center of the base. To a miniature gamer, the game meets unplayable situations.

I was defeated by this pamphlet.

So, getting passed the ungamer nature of the rules, skip Clubs, go straight to Crazy Clubs, and you have a pretty fun family type game.

Just don't read too deep into the rules.
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Liz Burton
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I feel like taking up a donation to send you somewhere to get help.
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Derek Thompson
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Very nice review of the rulebook. How about the game(s)?
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Paul DeStefano
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aldaryn wrote:
Very nice review of the rulebook. How about the game(s)?


As I stated:

me wrote:
"So, getting passed the ungamer nature of the rules, skip Clubs, go straight to Crazy Clubs, and you have a pretty fun family type game.
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Derek Thompson
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Geosphere wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
Very nice review of the rulebook. How about the game(s)?


As I stated:

me wrote:
"So, getting passed the ungamer nature of the rules, skip Clubs, go straight to Crazy Clubs, and you have a pretty fun family type game.


Sorry, not trying to be a douche, that just tells me very little. What is wrong with regular Clubs? What's better about Crazy Clubs? Does the game have a lot of strategy? Interaction? etc etc
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Clyde W
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Very rarely does a review come off as simultaneously dense and elitist! Very well done. It was, at the very least, entertaining.
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aldaryn wrote:
Sorry, not trying to be a douche, that just tells me very little. What's better about Crazy Clubs? Does the game have a lot of strategy? Interaction? etc etc


Not trying to be a douche, but the game does not warrant further detail.

The whole point of the review is that the game is simple and pleasant and nothing like most games I play. As such, I am not the right target audience.





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clydeiii wrote:
Very rarely does a review come off as simultaneously dense and elitist! Very well done. It was, at the very least, entertaining.


It's a very thin line to tread.
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Mike Spartz
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Geosphere wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
Sorry, not trying to be a douche, that just tells me very little. What's better about Crazy Clubs? Does the game have a lot of strategy? Interaction? etc etc


Not trying to be a douche, but the game does not warrant further detail.

The whole point of the review is that the game is simple and pleasant and nothing like most games I play. As such, I am not the right target audience.







I would argue a review that lacks a review belongs in the general forum. The original post feels a heck of a lot more like a session report at the closest.
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Derek Thompson
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Sparticuse wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
Sorry, not trying to be a douche, that just tells me very little. What's better about Crazy Clubs? Does the game have a lot of strategy? Interaction? etc etc


Not trying to be a douche, but the game does not warrant further detail.

The whole point of the review is that the game is simple and pleasant and nothing like most games I play. As such, I am not the right target audience.







I would argue a review that lacks a review belongs in the general forum. The original post feels a heck of a lot more like a session report at the closest.


Yeah, that's kind of what I was trying to hint at.
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Paul DeStefano
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If you read between the lines you will see that not only do I go over the actual rules, but at several points comment on how moments of play and strategy effect you.

The game is simplistic. But a four line review, once I take out the flavor text, is about all that's left.

I've written over a hundred reviews for this site, and each specifically has a different voice. Some, literally by characters.

If you get through that, everything I feel interesting about the game is here.
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Geosphere wrote:
If you read between the lines you will see that not only do I go over the actual rules, but at several points comment on how moments of play and strategy effect you.

The game is simplistic. But a four line review, once I take out the flavor text, is about all that's left.

I've written over a hundred reviews for this site, and each specifically has a different voice. Some, literally by characters.

If you get through that, everything I feel interesting about the game is here.


I found your review entertaining and informative. It told me everything I needed to know about this game. Thanks!
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Bill Reed
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I think "another reviewer" whistle wrote the the only negative to this game was that it was "Not complex enough for some 'serious' gamers".

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wmreed wrote:
I think "another reviewer" whistle wrote the the only negative to this game was that it was "Not complex enough for some 'serious' gamers".



And now you have documented proof.
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Dominic Crapuchettes
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Geosphere wrote:
wmreed wrote:
I think "another reviewer" whistle wrote the the only negative to this game was that it was "Not complex enough for some 'serious' gamers".



And now you have documented proof.


We have documented proof that reading the rules was a very frustrating process. We have documented proof that you used this review to vent your frustrations (though in an entertaining and amusing manner). But we don't have documented proof that you ended up playing the game, nor documented proof that you played it's crazier half brother. We're left wondering if your main grudge with the game is the poorly written rules, or whether there was something about the game play that you didn't like.

People are asking to hear what those reasons are, because they are trying to figure out if they want to purchase the game or not. Your reasons might resonate with them, or they might not. The humor part of the review was entertaining and informative. It just ended abruptly, without giving us a sense of the game play. We're left wondering if Clubs is a non-game like LCR or if it is more similar to a card game like Hearts.

Almost every reviewer has commented on our poorly written rules. It's killing me right now how we totally f-ed up on that account! But I have to thank you for this review, because we'll be revamping the rules starting next week, and this review is most helpful thing we have in giving us insight on what needs to be changed. Cheers!
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Paul DeStefano
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domcrap wrote:
But we don't have documented proof that you ended up playing the game, nor documented proof that you played it's crazier half brother.

The fact that I wrote the review should be proof I played the game. I point out I like Crazy Clubs better. We played each version 3 times with 3 players and Crazy Clubs another 4 or 5 with 4.

domcrap wrote:
We're left wondering if Clubs is a non-game like LCR or if it is more similar to a card game like Hearts.


I have played neither LCR nor Hearts to know. I know the rules of LCR.

That was the main point of the review. This game is far from my comfort zone. I have no decent reference for it.

I stick again to:
Quote:
So, getting passed the ungamer nature of the rules, skip Clubs, go straight to Crazy Clubs, and you have a pretty fun family type game.


I didn't like Clubs. The ending of each trick seemed to abrupt. Crazy Clubs seemed to climb more and have more to do without the sudden shutdown..

Again - this game is not my cup of tea. I can't compare it to anything. It was a pleasant family game. I really swear I have nothing more to say.

And the experience ended abruptly for me, which I tried to get across in the review. I spent a lot of energy piecing together the rules, and in the end, it came down to "Oh. That's it?" If that's the feeling you got from the review - that's the feeling I got from the game - mission accomplished.

Forever in my mind, clubs will be as this review - a long frustrating battle to a meh payoff.

I swear, Dom, I really, truly didn't want to say it like this and have been resisting doing so, hoping the tone of the review was enough. I was hoping the review would go under the radar, since I really didn't enjoy the experience. And much of that came from the frustration of getting started.

But you guys sent the game, so I felt obligated to write the promised review.

I did my absolute best to kind of hide the review under the carpet, knowing I was not the target audience.

The thing I'm trying to get to is that this game is not in my sphere. It might be awesome for what it is, but I don't like what it is. If I hate auction games and I'm presented with an auction game, I'm probably not going to like it.

In my mind, I believe my review shows all of that. I really do. But I also wanted it clear that I am not the target audience.

I repeat yet again "it's not the game, it's me".

And I really swear, that's what the review is all about.
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someotherguy wrote:
Actually, it sounds like the problem is with the rules, not the audience.


A bit of both.
 
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Dominic Crapuchettes
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I'm sorry it put you in an awkward position in regards to posting a negative review. I feel your pain. But a negative review is actually quite helpful. Our goal is to get Clubs into the hands of people who will enjoy it. A negative review helps ensure the wrong person does not go out and waste their money on the game. This is good for them, AND good for us. We strive to make our games inviting to the most number of people possible, but we know it's not possible to please everyone. You fell outside of the target audience, and it's good for us and others to know that.

We'll be putting out some heavier strategy games in the future. Nothing heavy enough to make it into the BGG top 50, but I'm holding out hope that one of them may hit your sweet spot anyhow! At least it'll have swords and resources and armies and ships and buildings and other cool stuff.
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domcrap wrote:
I'm sorry it put you in an awkward position in regards to posting a negative review.


Actually Dom, I've done a ton of negative reviews.

The difficult part was doing a negative review about something by such a nice guy.
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Frankly, I found the review entertaining and apparently more informative than most. It told ME that if someone's favorite style of card game is like Android: Netrunner, or Lord of the Rings the card game, they will be bored by this game. Which I think is an accurate and fair review.

The fact that you showed you spent more time on the rules than on the play is also informative.

Readers need to know their reviewer to get value from the review. I've said the same thing about other reviewers. Even if Paul said he didn't like Clubs, I wouldn't know whether I would like it unless I had context to know whether he and I like the same kind of games.

I looked at the ratings he had in his collection, as this is the first review I've read by Paul.

I think it was clear enough.
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wmreed wrote:
Frankly, I found the review entertaining and apparently more informative than most. It told ME that if someone's favorite style of card game is like Android: Netrunner, or Lord of the Rings the card game, they will be bored by this game. Which I think is an accurate and fair review.



Man, I just don't think this is true. I've only played Netrunner a few times, but my favorite games are things like LOTR LCG, Magic, Dominion, 7 Wonders... and I love Clubs.

I'd say it's because of my traditional card-playing background, but I think that's ALSO why I like all those other games (which are all card games).
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wmreed wrote:
Frankly, I found the review entertaining and apparently more informative than most. It told ME that if someone's favorite style of card game is like Android: Netrunner, or Lord of the Rings the card game, they will be bored by this game. Which I think is an accurate and fair review.

I wouldn’t say will. Original Netrunner is my favorite game, but I like Clubs quite well. Although—even having played another climbing game—I was confused by the rules for no good reason. We awarded a bonus card after each trick (confusing "going out" with "taking the trick" and it destroyed the game. The second game, someone noticed the "0 points for the game" penalty on the last bonus card, and all became clear.

In hindsight, I don’t know how I didn’t grok the game the first time around.
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HuginnGreiling wrote:
I don’t know how I didn’t grok the game the first time around.


Gamer Brain.

Its a simple game, but a few loopholes in the rules lead to creating what we think is right.
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Yeah, just because you like or dislike Netrummer doesn't imply anything about if you'll like Clubs. If all you've ever had is steak, and then you have a burger you don't like it, it doesn't mean that the burger is bad, it just means your expectations are not being met. If all you have ever played is NR and then someone teaches you Clubs and you dislike it, the problem is most likely yours, not the game's. Once you come to realize that A:NR is like a gourmet steak dinner and Clubs is like a well-crafted burger, then you'll realize that they're simply two different types of food.


(Having said that, I would suggest fans of NR look into other "burger" card games first: Tichu, Haggis, Was sticht?, Nyet!, Mü & More, even Bridge.)
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clydeiii wrote:
Yeah, just because you like or dislike Netrummer doesn't imply anything about if you'll like Clubs. If all you've ever had is steak, and then you have a burger you don't like it, it doesn't mean that the burger is bad, it just means your expectations are not being met. If all you have ever played is NR and then someone teaches you Clubs and you dislike it, the problem is most likely yours, not the game's. Once you come to realize that A:NR is like a gourmet steak dinner and Clubs is like a well-crafted burger, then you'll realize that they're simply two different types of food.


(Having said that, I would suggest fans of NR look into other "burger" card games first: Tichu, Haggis, Was sticht?, Nyet!, Mü & More, even Bridge.)

I'll second this. I like Clubs quite well, but having played it I really think I need to get a fourth so I can play my copy of Tichu.
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