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Subject: Soured on great games? rss

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Shelby Buttimer
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We're fairly recent to the board gaming hobby, and a lot of our new gaming friends have been playing a lot longer than we have. I feel kind of like I've had some great games spoiled by the fact that I'm kind of late to the party.

Take Dominion for instance. I've played this several times, but every time I've been trounced soundly. I'm sure it's a great game, but I always kind of groan internally when someone wants to play it. The people we play with have played Dominion and whatever various expansions they own so many times that they know when this card and this card come up, to swoop up as many of those as possible, snag a couple of these, and forget about these others. Then they use them in key combinations and get dozens of victory points in one go.

I feel like I'd like the game, except that I'm kind of over it.

Or Defenders of the Realm. When I played this game for the first time it was with people who'd played it innumerable times. They kept telling me what I should do so incessantly that I felt like a puppet player. I feel like I should have liked it. I really like cooperative games. Except that I really got kind of angry when playing it.

Is there any way around this?

Some games have a great balance that allow a new player to have half a chance, but some really feel almost unfair in the advantage experience gives. I've been thinking about buying Dominion to just play with my husband and I, but I think I'd rather buy something no one owns just so we can play it with friends without that disadvantage.
 
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Bryan Daley
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ShelbyB wrote:
I've been thinking about buying Dominion to just play with my husband and I, but I think I'd rather buy something no one owns just so we can play it with friends without that disadvantage.


I think you have already found your solution. You should do both of these things. You should buy some games that are new to you and your existing gaming group, so that you are all on the same playing field.

You should also enjoy some of the greats. They are considered great games for a reason. Get a copy and then start playing with your husband. Then find some new gamers to teach it to and start a new gaming group.

There is nothing wrong with being a part of more then one gaming group. In fact, I enjoy having different groups to play with. If you always play with the same group then you will find your self always playing similar strategies. Whereas new people will likely force you to play in different ways.
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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Welcome to Boardgamegeek.

I'm sorry you have had some bad experiences with games. My first (and thus far only) play of Dominion was kind of similar to what you described, except that I felt like I was slowing everyone down (in addition to not having a clue what I was doing).

One thing to maybe try is hidden role games like The Resistance or Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. I would guess it would be hard for experienced players to tell you what to do if they don't know whether you're on their team. devil
 
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T. Fred
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Good questions.

1. As for Dominion, your friends aren't doing our hobby any favors by crushing you every time you play. At the least they should be giving you some tactical suggestions or pointers regarding uses of cards you may not have considered. Regardless, you can "cheat" and "train" for your next game by playing online at places like:
• Goko (real-time vs. AI or humans)
• dominion.isotropic.org (real-time)
• dominion.frenopatico.net (no real-time, spanish, english, french, russian)
• dominion.NET (PC Game, with AI)

An alternative is to persuade your friends to play other deckbuilders so that you start on a "level playing field." Games like Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin and Arctic Scavengers come to mind...

2. What you're describing with Defenders of the Realm is a common problem in co-op games --the "Alpha Player." This happens with experienced players as well and often just reflects personality types. I'd address by agreeing before you start that the group wants to avoid this issue and that folks are free to help each other but that you'd prefer to ask for help or advice, rather than receive it unsolicited. Of course you could try a different co-op like Freedom: The Underground Railroad or Pandemic, but the alpha player will still often arise and requires some disucssion to reach understandings regarding how the group will play the game. The forums are full of suggestions and comments regarding the "alpha player" issue in co-op games.

Have fun and enjoy the games!
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Luke Heineman
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I would have a (nice) talk with your group and address both of these points that you raised.

1. Dominion: Ask them to explain their strategies after the game and why they did certain things, and what worked. Or perhaps ask for input on what card combinations may work well at the onset of the game. Some games are going to reward experienced players no matter what. It's the group's job to find a way to not let this create a barrier for new players. Perhaps all your group needs is a reminder that you're new to the game so that they don't go for the proverbial "jugular" every time you sit down to play.

2. Defenders of the Realm: your issue is commonly referred to as an "alpha gamer". People run into this problem all the time, and there are a lot of discussions about how to deal with it. Some choose to not play co-op games that "foster" this behavior. (Games like Pandemic where there are obvious consequences to sub-optimal moves). I personally find that gently reminding the offender to let you play your turn is all that's needed (repeatedly if necessary). Perhaps start there and see what happens.

Good luck.
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Michael Off The Shelf Board Game Reviews
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Take this with a grain of salt coming from someone who put the "Issue" on notice and it never came back....

Is the alpha player really that much of a continuous problem for gaming groups? I understand it affects all gaming groups at least once but I personally solved the problem by adding the following rule to all co-op games "If it's not your turn you cannot give unsolicited advise". The rule went over well and co-ops are all better for it.

So I ask are people in general afraid to make "house rules" like this, are other players refusing to abide by this kind of house rule, or is there some kind of in between issue going on?

I am honestly asking because this issue has popped up on the "Geek" literally for years now and it happened in my play group once but it hasn't come back for me and I wonder if others are amending the issue or just giving up on co-ops?
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Holger Doessing
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Actually, if you feel your lack of knowledge of what the game might throw at you is the problem, I would simply ask to loan the game to try it out.

You might also find some good pointers in the various Strategy forums on the subpages for the individual games.
 
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Bill Eldard
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ShelbyB wrote:
Take Dominion for instance. I've played this several times, but every time I've been trounced soundly. I'm sure it's a great game, but I always kind of groan internally when someone wants to play it. The people we play with have played Dominion and whatever various expansions they own so many times that they know when this card and this card come up, to swoop up as many of those as possible, snag a couple of these, and forget about these others. Then they use them in key combinations and get dozens of victory points in one go.

I feel like I'd like the game, except that I'm kind of over it.


That's how I am. I don't have enough experience with the expansions to appreciate their cards and the synergistic effects of card combinations, so my decks routinely get trounced by more experienced players. I guess I don't like Dominion enough to get into the expansions.

So, my preference these days is for Trains. It's essentiallly 'Dominion with a gameboard.' Players can't attack each others' decks, and can't deny areas of the board to opponents, but they can make access to areas very costly for the opponents.
 
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Samuel Hinz
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heres a simple strategy, whenever you can buy a gold unless you can afford a province. if you cant afford a gold buy a silver or something else that will help you buy a gold in the future.

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Karlican Gamer
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I have the exact same problem with several classic 2-3 hour games: Agricola, Puerto Rico, Through the Ages, and Nations. These are all great games, and I like them for the first few turns, but almost any table you play at will have someone who REALLY likes the game. At such a table, I am doomed after just a few turns, with no real way to crawl back out. The next hour or two consists of making a short hopeless turn, followed by watching the leader cackle and hum as they decide what to do next with their massive resources. Winning isn't everything, but come on.

The solution for serious games like Chess, Go, and Bridge, is to have a rating system for player ability. If you play people at about your rating, it will be a fun game. It works as far as it goes, although with the giant caveat that your play partner is chosen for gaming reasons rather than because they're someone you want to play with. Still, it gives a partial answer: try to steer away from lopsided matchups. There's no shame in it.

In theory you can catch up by playing online. However, expect to spend a few dozen hours to get anywhere with it. With any lesser commitment, how will you catch up to someone who has played for 50-100 hours? Playing games online doesn't make sense unless you just want to play games online. If you do, then great. If, like me, you like board games for the real-life social aspect, then it's not a great strategy. There are a LOT of ways a person can spend a dozen hours.

On the bright side, a lot of skills map from one game to another. So, playing *any* games will cause you to catch up to the regulars. Slowly. Eventually. Over a period of years.

Getting chattier can help. Ask a lot of question, talk about your own strategy. Even if you lose, you can perhaps have a good experience this way.

Playing shorter games can help. This is one reason I like Power Grid: even when I lose, it's not for all that long. Be glad that Dominion is short.

Some games automatically end once one player gets way ahead. Power Grid and Settlers of Catan are good examples of that.

Sliding handicaps can help in theory, but sadly I don't see them very much. As an example, one could play iterative Dominion, where the winner has one less hand-size limit for each net game they have won. Pretty soon they are down to 1-2 and you'll get an automatic win, after which they'll have 3-4 cards and it's a closer match. You'll figure out the sweet spot hand limit pretty quickly.

Multiplayer games often have an automatic sliding handicap, in that the leader tends to get trounced by everyone else. So a partial answer is to play more multiplayer games.

Multiplayer games also have the possibility of the losers all socializing with each other. Again, multiplayer games have an edge.

Just a few thoughts. Reading back over this, I realize I'm the worst salesman ever for board gaming newcomers. Really, it is very fun with the right people!
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Will

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A long time ago, in a... never mind, but way back when I used to play a lot, we ran into this problem. One of the guys dropped out of the group after he met someone & I ran into him & we got back to playing separately from the others in our old group. His SO wanted to learn to play, but was new against 2 players who had repeatedly played out this 1 game & forced each other to improve well beyond textbook tactics. Even after she learned the rules, she was having trouble with the nuanced tactics. I came up with the "tactical officer" idea. She would play against 1 of us & the other would be her tactical officer. She chose to fight him so I was her TO. I pointed out her options, but left the decisions to her. After that, she was better able to play on a much more competitive level.
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Garcian Smith
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Quote:
Is there any way around this?

Some games have a great balance that allow a new player to have half a chance, but some really feel almost unfair in the advantage experience gives. I've been thinking about buying Dominion to just play with my husband and I, but I think I'd rather buy something no one owns just so we can play it with friends without that disadvantage.


Well, the more experience a player has, they generally will beat a player with less experience.

You need to play in the mindset not about winning, but about learning. When you learn more, you'll tend to win more often. When I teach new games to players, I try to teach them how the game usually plays and what things are good to go for so that they don't blunder too hard.
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Derek H
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bwingrave wrote:
Welcome to Boardgamegeek.

I'm sorry you have had some bad experiences with games. My first (and thus far only) play of Dominion was kind of similar to what you described, except that I felt like I was slowing everyone down (in addition to not having a clue what I was doing).

This. When I first played Dominion it was with an experienced group of players who put down card combos faster than I could blink. I hated it and swore I never would play again. Fast forward four years and I find my son has been playing with some friends and really likes it... and now his birthday is coming up. What to do, what to do? I buy the game and we play as a family. I still lose every time (OK, one time I almost won, but found out I had ignored my penalty points...), but at least we are all on the "same page" and the game goes at a pace we can all manage because its our pace.

TLDR; Buy your own "great" games and learn them with others who are just starting out on learning - you'll have a great shared experience!
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