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Subject: How can I make the first game a little easier? rss

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Gerald Rüscher
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Ok, so we'll be playing our first game of Panamax next week. I've read the rules and played a few solo games as preparation.

From my solo plays I've learned, that it's quite possible to seriously mess up the first turns. So seriously, that it will be hard to catch up. Panamax, however, is a pretty long game and I don't want to see a player being (virtually) eliminated early from his first game. So my question is: How could I make the the first game a little bit more accessible/easier?

The simplest idea would be to give everybody a little bit more starting money. But how much? Maybe enough so that everybody could buy one share and at least one move an action die (11$).

A slightly different idea would be to grant each player one free action named "Move Action Die" which could be used once within the entire game. This action would allow a player to move an action die for free to the second row of a empty column.

This way, a player could take a desperately needed action even if it is not available any more.

Any comments/ideas? Any experiences where the "critical" parts of the are?

Cheers,
Gerald
 
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Paul Grogan
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First, whenever I am teaching any game for the first time, all the players understand that it is a learning game. People don't play to win, they play to learn the rules and try things. If someone messes up on round 1, that's ok - everyone learns from it.

If you cant persuade your group to do that, maybe play the first round only. Then cancel the game and start again.

I would strongly not recommend changing any rules. These may give people a false impression of the game. They may go onto then teach other people with the same rule, etc. (I've seen this happen)

I don't think it's a pretty long game. My demos have generally been done in just over 2 hours.
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Gerald Rüscher
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PaulGrogan wrote:
First, whenever I am teaching any game for the first time, all the players understand that it is a learning game. People don't play to win, they play to learn the rules and try things. If someone messes up on round 1, that's ok - everyone learns from it.

I would strongly not recommend changing any rules. These may give people a false impression of the game.

I strongly disagree.

Its not unusual for a game to have different levels of "difficulty" (typically called "introductory rules" in contrast to "expert rules") and I don't see anything wrong to make the first game a little bit more accessible by removing certain shortcomings. In addition to that, you should be aware that not all players have the same, high tolerance for frustration you'd need to sit through a long game which goes terribly wrong (after a long workday btw)

For instance, I do remember our first game of Age Of Steam which was basically a total disaster for two players who then refused to play it again. In general, my group tends to play a game which is known to be fun instead of trying to "work" into a game which didn't click on the first try. I know that this sounds wrong and that any complex game deserves many tries but it's just the way it is.
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Denise Lavely
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I taught Panamax to three people on Friday, and it was my first time playing too, although I had read the rules & done a couple solo plays. I wish I had played through the first round & then reset, I think it would have made a big difference. I don't know how much having a Move an Action Die action would have helped because the things that were problematic were things like not understanding the importance of turn order, or not seeing how the contracts & contract tokens were going to affect their turn, or keeping track of which money got paid from which account. None of the problems we had would have been solved with an extra action die. You are of course free to try it however you like, but there's MY hindsight anyway
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Paul Grogan
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gruescher wrote:
Quote:
I would strongly not recommend changing any rules. These may give people a false impression of the game.

I strongly disagree.

Please note that I said "It MAY", not "It WILL". Seems a bit harsh to 'strongly disagree' when I am only saying it MAY happen.

I've seen it happen that someone creates a house rule for a game to make it easier, which the players then went and taught that same rule to others, thinking that it was an official rule and that's how the game can be played. If your group wont do this, that's ok.

And for your comment about players not having the patience to sit through a long game - I did also suggest playing 1 round and starting again.

I came here to help, offer suggestions, but give some warning for something that I've seen happen. I've also demoed this game about 8 times now to different groups of people, so I thought I would share my experience. Feel free to strongly disagree with it
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Jimmy Okolica
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Also, don't forget that paying to move a die comes from company assets, not player assets. Giving the player an extra $5 wouldn't change that.

What I've found is that the first round is _usually_ not the round where the cash crunch is felt the strongest. It's the second. So, spending $5 from the assets already in the company isn't a huge deal from a liquidity perspective. As a result, I tend to encourage people to do that if the result is getting cargo through the canal that pays the company. Whatever the cargo pays, it makes the $5 investment small and usually gives the player a card.

The first game is a learning game and can be rough. Generally when I'm teaching if someone is doing something really risky in the first round, I'll call them on it and suggest an alternative. If it goes to the second round before someone knocks themselves out (or is knocked out through no fault of their own), then it's just one more round. At that point, people will often look to see how they can mess with other people or try to twist some of the gears (assuming they like the game). In one game, a player who was knocked out tried to make sure my cargo fees were maxed each round. In another, a player bumped my stock price so I couldn't pay dividends in round 3.

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Gerald Rüscher
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PaulGrogan wrote:
Seems a bit harsh to 'strongly disagree' when I am only saying it MAY happen.

Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. If it sounded so, please take my apologies. Sometimes it's a little bit difficult for a non-native speaker to grasp the nuances of a foreign language

Quote:
I came here to help

Actually you did help. Alot. Without your excellent introductionary video it would have taken MUCH longer to get the general concept of the game. Thanks for that!
thumbsup

Regarding the discussion on how to introduce a complex game: I do understand your idea of restarting the first round and it sounds reasonable. I was just asking for an easier variant because I have made some good experiences with that approach:

I introduced 18xx to newbies, using delayed train obselescence. We played Agricola without the occupations, Alien Frontiers with a simplified set of tech cards. With my kids I played Ticket To Ride with open destination cards and Carcassonne without the farmers. All these modifications changed the games significantly. But they still kept the original "spirit" of the game while simultaneously making it more accessible. And that's what I was asking for here
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Paul Grogan
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Apology accepted. So... even though I don't think you should play with different rules, I'll have a go at trying to think of some

Reduced cargo fees. Maybe half? You'd need to adjust the Stevedore cards accordingly.

Forget the Financial advisors. Just don't use them at all. If anyone gets a big ship home, just give them $5 instead.

Movement. Everyone always gets an additional 1 generic movement point everytime they do an action.

Company money. Start all companies with a bit extra money so they have more chance of paying dividends (as failing to pay them can be crippling)
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Siobhan Beeman
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I like Paul's suggestions. Here'd be my take on the same idea:

1) Give every player a one-time-use "Half Cargo Fees" token. They can use it in any cargo fees step, but once used it's gone forever. They can have both this and a stevedore card, but can't use both at the same time.

2) Eliminate all Financial Advisor cards except the four Favored Nation cards (the ones with a single flag on them). Give each player a random one of these cards secretly at the start of the game, so that everyone has a goal to focus on. During the game just pay the $5 bounty for a 3-slot ship.

3) Give every player a one-time-use "Angel Investor" token. They can use this right before paying dividends on any turn to receive $5 into their company treasury. If they save the token unused until the final scoring, they can instead turn it in for $5 to their personal treasury.

These rules address the gameplay elements that are most surprising to first-time players: cargo fees that sneak up on you (especially in round 2 after pushing cargo too aggressively in round 1); out-of-balance FA cards; and falling just a few bucks short of paying dividends due to a hostile stock purchase or unfavorable ship move.
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Denise Lavely
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Stephen, those sound like great ideas, thanks!
 
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