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Subject: Solo Play - A random thought on improving the chances of correct rules interpretation rss

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Colin Taylor
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Hello there, fellow solo gamers. I need your opinion on something.

OK, so after 3 weeks of reading, researching and asking (stupid) questions on the solo rules of FitL, I feel I'm no closer to comprehending the rules to a level that I would feel comfortable playing it. A count of the number of Rules threads on the Forum would suggest that I'm not the only one. I know, I know, relax, sit back and enjoy the experience of playing the game, rather than fretting every detail. Believe me, I've been trying to tell myself that every time I attempt a game. But invariably, I get stuck/frustrated (probably didn't help drawing Vo Nguyen Giap as the very first card in my recent game, urgh). It's just the way I am. I was thinking this would leave me with 4 options, to wait for the Cuba Libre reprint, hope that one of the new releases was of a similar weight as CL, only play as multiplayer, or abandon COIN as a rules set that I'm just not suited for.

But then something in my head started nagging at me. Don't be so negative and pathetic, Colin. Come up with a solution, it said. So, I got to thinking, if I had my druthers, rather than giving in, how would I alter the rules, such that I could feel like they were more accessible to me? That I didn't have the feeling of drowning in details? Is that possible? Well, my first thought went straight to the Flowchart handout. It's a nice aid. Feels less intimidating than the wall of text in the main rulebook, and where things are simpler, it provides an opportunity for efficient turn resolution.

So why is the Flowchart not enough? Well, the answer is space. Because complex rules need to be distilled down so far, in order to fit on 1 page side per Faction, it is inevitable that not every single detail will fit. It compacts items that should be individual flowchart decisions/processes into single boxes. This leaves me having to refer back to the main rules reasonably often.

Which begs the question, if some flowcharts are good, are more flowcharts better? Is there such thing as too much Flowchart? If the solo rules, currently standing at 7 pages of Op/SA instruction alone, were converted into more comprehensive flowcharts, that were less limited on space, would that help?

I believe it would. I think that many of the confusing steps would benefit from conversion from text and bullets, to flowchart preparation hexs or decision diamonds. I would be willing to bet that you could do it all without adding to the rulebook page count. Heck, it would essentially remove any confusion over the Sequential vs Nested Priorities issue that I have. Removing interpretation away from the player is a good thing.

So, what do you think? Would it make it easier for you? Could it attract a larger pool of solo players, by making it easier to follow? If so, that would be fantastic, as I know there is a great game in there just waiting for me to get immersed in.

Thanks,

Colin
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Just play it and get it wrong a lot. Then play it and get less wrong next time. You can read all the guitar theory books in the world, but you are going to learn to play a song by playing it wrong, then playing it less wrong until you play it right. Nobody else sat down and got it right the first time either.

Don't be too hard on yourself and do whatever helps learn. Make some new flow charts. Any engagement in the material will help you play better sooner. I often write play flow for more complicated games into my own language (just did The Killing Ground, in fact).
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Colin Taylor
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BeatPosse wrote:
Just play it and get it wrong a lot. Then play it and get less wrong next time. You can read all the guitar theory books in the world, but you are going to learn to play a song by playing it wrong, then playing it less wrong until you play it right. Nobody else sat down and got it right the first time either.


Fair enough. How did you go about getting it less wrong the next time? How did you identify where you went wrong? As a solo game, there is no one there to correct you when you make an error, so spotting mistakes is tricky, no? Isn't your guitar analogy better used to compare losing lots, to losing less, as you pick up experience? To be clear, I'm not talking about forgetting to do something. Rather, not knowing you had to do it at all.

Thanks,

Colin
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Harold Buchanan
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ColintheFlea wrote:
Hello there, fellow solo gamers. I need your opinion on something.

OK, so after 3 weeks of reading, researching and asking (stupid) questions on the solo rules of FitL, I feel I'm no closer to comprehending the rules to a level that I would feel comfortable playing it. A count of the number of Rules threads on the Forum would suggest that I'm not the only one. I know, I know, relax, sit back and enjoy the experience of playing the game, rather than fretting every detail. Believe me, I've been trying to tell myself that every time I attempt a game. But invariably, I get stuck/frustrated (probably didn't help drawing Vo Nguyen Giap as the very first card in my recent game, urgh). It's just the way I am. I was thinking this would leave me with 4 options, to wait for the Cuba Libre reprint, hope that one of the new releases was of a similar weight as CL, only play as multiplayer, or abandon COIN as a rules set that I'm just not suited for.

But then something in my head started nagging at me. Don't be so negative and pathetic, Colin. Come up with a solution, it said. So, I got to thinking, if I had my druthers, rather than giving in, how would I alter the rules, such that I could feel like they were more accessible to me? That I didn't have the feeling of drowning in details? Is that possible? Well, my first thought went straight to the Flowchart handout. It's a nice aid. Feels less intimidating than the wall of text in the main rulebook, and where things are simpler, it provides an opportunity for efficient turn resolution.

So why is the Flowchart not enough? Well, the answer is space. Because complex rules need to be distilled down so far, in order to fit on 1 page side per Faction, it is inevitable that not every single detail will fit. It compacts items that should be individual flowchart decisions/processes into single boxes. This leaves me having to refer back to the main rules reasonably often.

Which begs the question, if some flowcharts are good, are more flowcharts better? Is there such thing as too much Flowchart? If the solo rules, currently standing at 7 pages of Op/SA instruction alone, were converted into more comprehensive flowcharts, that were less limited on space, would that help?

I believe it would. I think that many of the confusing steps would benefit from conversion from text and bullets, to flowchart preparation hexs or decision diamonds. I would be willing to bet that you could do it all without adding to the rulebook page count. Heck, it would essentially remove any confusion over the Sequential vs Nested Priorities issue that I have. Removing interpretation away from the player is a good thing.

So, what do you think? Would it make it easier for you? Could it attract a larger pool of solo players, by making it easier to follow? If so, that would be fantastic, as I know there is a great game in there just waiting for me to get immersed in.

Thanks,

Colin


You bring up an interesting question and there is no doubt it would benefit some subset - who knows how small.

It brings to mind my all time favorite player aid (Link below). Sword of Rome distilled into one massive flow chart. I have to say it was a great tool to learn the game for me. I know I am a little more tolerant than you of making errors or assumptions but this would be an interesting process for COIN and if someone were to do it I bet we would all learn something.

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/22414/sword-rome-rules-fl...
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BeatPosse wrote:
Just play it and get it wrong a lot. Then play it and get less wrong next time. You can read all the guitar theory books in the world, but you are going to learn to play a song by playing it wrong, then playing it less wrong until you play it right. Nobody else sat down and got it right the first time either.

This is what I've been thinking as advice for Colin also. It's starting to make me think of someone who wants to learn a foreign language by first mastering it via abstract study before ever trying to use it in conversation with someone. That doesn't work. You just need to jump in and directly experience it, accepting that mistakes will happen. The process of recognizing and dealing with and solving the mistakes will lead to learning more effectively than just theoretically studying. Some things will make more sense by practical application.

And the good news is that the game is fun even in the early plays when you are making all kinds of goofy mistakes.
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P. Fowler
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Colin,

I'm sorry I haven't been around to help with your barrage of rules questions. Part of me has been overwhelmed with them (not your fault - you should ask as much as you want to know ), and partially because I've been busy trying to hunt down a new job. But I have a solution that will help you immensely:

Just play the game.

I know that's really blunt and simplistic (and it probably sounds condescending), but let me explain. I have played probably 50 solo games between the 4 current COIN games. I have stared, scratched my head, stumbled, misinterpreted, asked many questions like yourself, and fought to understand the bot flowcharts. And, at times, I've realized that I waaaaay overthought these rules. And I'm not the only one; I know that Eric, Masil, Chris, Russ, and others have come across the point that they've been staring at these rulebooks for so long that they've completely overlooked the answer!

So the best solution, in my humble opinion, is to just play. Oerjan and Volko have crafted some very intricate bots over the years, and I appreciate their work and effort. But if you keep trying to fully grok everything the first time through, you're going to go mad! Use the flowcharts as a guideline and make your own decisions. I still have issues with some parts, but I'd rather go ahead and push on through than let my lack of understanding prevent me from enjoying their work.

When things don't quite click, come and ask. And while you wait for an answer, think it through and make a decision. I'm sure that you will enjoy the game even more. And we'll be here, waiting to scratch our heads with you.

Ed: It seems I'm not the only one with this advice!
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Colin Taylor
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russ wrote:

This is what I've been thinking as advice for Colin also. It's starting to make me think of someone who wants to learn a foreign language by first mastering it via abstract study before ever trying to use it in conversation with someone. That doesn't work. You just need to jump in and directly experience it, accepting that mistakes will happen. The process of recognizing and dealing with and solving the mistakes will lead to learning more effectively than just theoretically studying. Some things will make more sense by practical application.

And the good news is that the game is fun even in the early plays when you are making all kinds of goofy mistakes.


So, and this is a genuine question, not a snarky response, how do you improve each time, when you don't know you are making mistakes? The language/guitar analogies don't work here, I don't think. In each case, you are making a mistake that is obvious, and through external correction (you order one thing at a restaurant, but get served something completely different), or self-realization (that note didn't sound right, for example), you get feedback and can make future adjustments.

Thanks,

Colin
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Jason Sadler
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I often read the rules after a play and realize I was doing things differently than described. Some of the individual rules didn't signify anything to me until I interacted with them myself, albeit incorrectly. Then I read the rule and seeing the contrast between what I was doing and what the rule said made it clear what I was supposed to be doing.

In FITL in particular, playing all four sides in some partial solo games helped me to understand what they are trying to do and how they do it.

My point with the guitar could have been literally any complex task from riding a bike to doing math. At some point you have to just do it and accept that it will be done badly for a while. I see a lot of people get very frustrated with wargames because they don't acknowledge the complexity and accept the early hours for what they are.

ColintheFlea wrote:
BeatPosse wrote:
Just play it and get it wrong a lot. Then play it and get less wrong next time. You can read all the guitar theory books in the world, but you are going to learn to play a song by playing it wrong, then playing it less wrong until you play it right. Nobody else sat down and got it right the first time either.


Fair enough. How did you go about getting it less wrong the next time? How did you identify where you went wrong? As a solo game, there is no one there to correct you when you make an error, so spotting mistakes is tricky, no? Isn't your guitar analogy better used to compare losing lots, to losing less, as you pick up experience?

Thanks,

Colin
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ColintheFlea wrote:
russ wrote:

This is what I've been thinking as advice for Colin also. It's starting to make me think of someone who wants to learn a foreign language by first mastering it via abstract study before ever trying to use it in conversation with someone. That doesn't work. You just need to jump in and directly experience it, accepting that mistakes will happen. The process of recognizing and dealing with and solving the mistakes will lead to learning more effectively than just theoretically studying. Some things will make more sense by practical application.

And the good news is that the game is fun even in the early plays when you are making all kinds of goofy mistakes.


So, and this is a genuine question, not a snarky response, how do you improve each time, when you don't know you are making mistakes? The language/guitar analogies don't work here, I don't think. In each case, you are making a mistake that is obvious, and through external correction (you order one thing at a restaurant, but get served something completely different), or self-realization (that note didn't sound right, for example), you get feedback and can make future adjustments.

Thanks,

Colin

Gut feeling tends to help me. If I'm executing a US Sweep/Air Lift and I'm not super sure that how I'm going through it is right, then I'll come do a search. If I can't find someone who asked, I'll ask myself. Then I'll just go back and continue on and check on the answer later.
 
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Colin Taylor
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Turbine2k5 wrote:
Colin,

I'm sorry I haven't been around to help with your barrage of rules questions. Part of me has been overwhelmed with them (not your fault - you should ask as much as you want to know ), and partially because I've been busy trying to hunt down a new job. But I have a solution that will help you immensely:

Just play the game.

I know that's really blunt and simplistic (and it probably sounds condescending), but let me explain. I have played probably 50 solo games between the 4 current COIN games. I have stared, scratched my head, stumbled, misinterpreted, asked many questions like yourself, and fought to understand the bot flowcharts. And, at times, I've realized that I waaaaay overthought these rules. And I'm not the only one; I know that Eric, Masil, Chris, Russ, and others have come across the point that they've been staring at these rulebooks for so long that they've completely overlooked the answer!

So the best solution, in my humble opinion, is to just play. Oerjan and Volko have crafted some very intricate bots over the years, and I appreciate their work and effort. But if you keep trying to fully grok everything the first time through, you're going to go mad! Use the flowcharts as a guideline and make your own decisions. I still have issues with some parts, but I'd rather go ahead and push on through than let my lack of understanding prevent me from enjoying their work.

When things don't quite click, come and ask. And while you wait for an answer, think it through and make a decision. I'm sure that you will enjoy the game even more. And we'll be here, waiting to scratch our heads with you.

Ed: It seems I'm not the only one with this advice!


Hi Phil,

No worries! I'm not offended if my questions are not answered. In the grand scheme of things, it's really not important to me whether I end up playing FitL or not, and making sure I do should certainly not be on anyone else's to do list!

But perhaps I asked my question in the wrong way. Maybe it should have been, how happy are you that you have to struggle through the rules? And as a follow up, if I told you that I had a way to avoid all that, would you be interested?

I guess I view playing a game, and getting good at a game as 2 different things. The first should be easy. The second should not. I am not raising concerns about the latter, only the former.

Thanks,

Colin
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ColintheFlea wrote:
russ wrote:

This is what I've been thinking as advice for Colin also. It's starting to make me think of someone who wants to learn a foreign language by first mastering it via abstract study before ever trying to use it in conversation with someone. That doesn't work. You just need to jump in and directly experience it, accepting that mistakes will happen. The process of recognizing and dealing with and solving the mistakes will lead to learning more effectively than just theoretically studying. Some things will make more sense by practical application.

And the good news is that the game is fun even in the early plays when you are making all kinds of goofy mistakes.


So, and this is a genuine question, not a snarky response, how do you improve each time, when you don't know you are making mistakes? The language/guitar analogies don't work here, I don't think. In each case, you are making a mistake that is obvious, and through external correction (you order one thing at a restaurant, but get served something completely different), or self-realization (that note didn't sound right, for example), you get feedback and can make future adjustments.

Actually, in music playing and language one often is also unaware of mistakes. In that case, sure, you need feedback from another person to realize it.

But I mean the stuff you are talking about usually in you posts: i.e. that you are consciously unsure how to interpret some rule. You're aware that you are confused. In that case, the internalized knowledge you get from just Doing The Process often helps you grok the "philosophy" of the game and you start to get a feel for how to interpret and understand things, and you start making mental connections and analogies, grokking "the COIN way" so to speak. (Or so I found.) Like many skills: talking and theorizing about it is one thing, but doing it is another. Imagine trying to teach someone how to ride a bicycle only with words. At some point, the learner just needs to get on the bike and try it. They will start to get a feel for it on their own.

Also, I find there is a HUGE difference in my ability to meaningfully ask rule questions and grok the answers in the rules forum of a complex wargame before I've even played a game vs after I've directly experienced playing it. I'm pretty sure I'm not an outlier in that regard.

But yeah, FITL has a nontrivial ruleset, there's no denying it. For a game like this, I think it's inevitable that occasionally you'll screw up a rule or feel uncertain how to interpret some specific event card, etc. It just goes with the territory. It doesn't mean that you can't play the game and have fun though, just like you can generally ride a bike even if there are certain weird situations on a bike which you may not know how to handle well.
 
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Colin, if you're interested (and have the time), we could do a semi-solo playthrough over VASSAL sometime. I think it might be easier to work through it all as we go, rather than extrapolating on situations through the forums.
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BeatPosse wrote:
I see a lot of people get very frustrated with wargames because they don't acknowledge the complexity and accept the early hours for what they are.


I picked this quote out specifically, as it is most interesting. It seems to me, as an outsider, that "Wargames are tough to learn" is just the accepted way it is. My question is, is that true? Or at least, does it have to be true.

I played Warhammer for close on 30 years. The rules are complex, and getting good at it is tough to do. But a person can pick it up reasonably quickly. So why is it that Warhammer I can do, but FitL solo I cannot? I don't really know, to be honest.

Thanks,

Colin
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I echo the sentiments of the OP.

I found the normal 4 player rules of this game fine, especially with the play aids available on BGG. Works very nicely.

Playing the BOT rules solitaire was frustrating. It was a lot of work to comprehend and it felt like I was clearly doing them wrong. Problem is, I'm not sure what I was doing wrong or even IF I was doing something wrong. The end result though was a pretty mediocre AI with tons of work on my part figuring out what it should be doing.

I assume the AI is actually pretty strong (which is why it is so complicated and thorough). I suppose eventually working the rules out to the point where I could actually get a good challenging AI would be nice.

The plus side, is that I could see different moves and basic strategies emerge from the AI that helped me learn the game.

Anyhow, not interested in investing any more hours into figuring out the AI. But do really like the multi-player game.
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ColintheFlea wrote:
But perhaps I asked my question in the wrong way. Maybe it should have been, how happy are you that you have to struggle through the rules?

I'm quite happy to struggle. Then again, while other kids growing up read The Hardy Boys and Harry Potter, I read the instruction manual to our household appliances. So I tend to enjoy reading manuals and rulebooks.
ColintheFlea wrote:
And as a follow up, if I told you that I had a way to avoid all that, would you be interested?

Yes and no. The point of a rulebook is to set a standard of parameters to follow. The flowcharts just simplify those parameters, at the cost of detail. Unless you create a master flowchart (as Harold mentioned) that spells everything out in it's full wording (and that'll be as long as Santa's Christmas lists!), you're going to lose something in translation. It's unavoidable. Which is why I enjoy the rulebooks. They're longer, but they're clearer in what they expect from the player/bot.
ColintheFlea wrote:
I guess I view playing a game, and getting good at a game as 2 different things. The first should be easy. The second should not. I am not raising concerns about the former, only the latter.

My view is that your second point (getting good at the game) is part improving your play and part improving the bot play. They're one in the same to me.
 
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ColintheFlea wrote:
But perhaps I asked my question in the wrong way. Maybe it should have been, how happy are you that you have to struggle through the rules?

All else being equal, I certainly prefer simple short concise clear rules. E.g. I am a big fan of abstract strategy games like Shogi, Go, Hex, etc.

In practice, that simply doesn't happen with a wargame of this complexity. And I don't think it can. The rules are inherently more complex, so of course it takes more time and effort to learn them.

The complexity of the simulation means that the price of admission is longer more complex rules. When I've got my wargamer hat on instead of my abstract gamer hat, I'm willing to pay that price (within reason), because the simulation value is appealing. (In contrast, if I'm in the mood simply for deep strategy, I don't need to pay that price, because I get deep strategy with abstract strategy games which have simple concise rules.)
Quote:
And as a follow up, if I told you that I had a way to avoid all that, would you be interested?

I'd be skeptical.

But sure, of course I think most people would be happy to be able to learn the rules to a game like FITL as quickly as they can learn the rules of Shogi or Hex.

But I honestly don't see that realistically happening in the real world. (And FWIW I think FITL has much clearer and more carefully written rules than many wargames of similar complexity!)

Quote:
I guess I view playing a game, and getting good at a game as 2 different things. The first should be easy. The second should not. I am not raising concerns about the former, only the latter.

Did you reverse your last sentence there? Or am I confused?

In any case:
We may wish that learning a complex wargame with several dozen pages of rules "should be easy", but there's no empirical reason to think that it's so, any more than learning to play the guitar or speak a foreign language "should be easy". Some things require time and effort, alas, for better or worse.

And they require jumping in and directly doing them, not just reading and theorizing about them.

Seriously, it's worth trying, and I think you'll probably find it more fun than you seem to think, even with the mistakes and confusions.

BTW: Play it first soloing all 4 sides. The bot AI rules are an additional layer of complexity which is not part of the game itself per se. Learn the actual game mechanics first.
 
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hankhankhank wrote:

You bring up an interesting question and there is no doubt it would benefit some subset - who knows how small.

It brings to mind my all time favorite player aid (Link below). Sword of Rome distilled into one massive flow chart. I have to say it was a great tool to learn the game for me. I know I am a little more tolerant than you of making errors or assumptions but this would be an interesting process for COIN and if someone were to do it I bet we would all learn something.

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/22414/sword-rome-rules-fl...


Now that is a flowchart. So detailed, I can't even read the text unless i zoom in!!!

Colin
 
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russ wrote:

Quote:
I guess I view playing a game, and getting good at a game as 2 different things. The first should be easy. The second should not. I am not raising concerns about the former, only the latter.

Did you reverse your last sentence there? Or am I confused?


No, you were right. I corrected the original post.

Colin
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Hi Colin,

I am in your timezone.

Once I get a definitive ruling for Orejan about airlifts and sweeps, I feel confident in teaching solo. I could walk you through on Vassal with Google hangouts or via telephone.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1423440/playbook-example-4-...
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OK, so I think I'm being misinterpreted a little. I just want to clarify that:

1. I am not saying this is an easy game to learn. More that it could/should be easier. The number of rules threads as a percentage of total for FitL is far in excess of the other COIN games, and that suggests more issues with players getting hung up pn rules.

2. I am not saying the intended rules need to be altered. I am not comparing FitL to Settlers of Catan. I accept the number of individual rules in the rule book.

3. I am not theory-gaming. I have the board set up, and recreate scenarios from threads, as if I were playing them. Then I do what I would think is right, then compare. When it's different, I ask a question on BGG.

4. I like complexity. I do my taxes by hand. Intentionally.

What I am asking is whether there is a way to improve rules comprehension.

Thanks,

Colin
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If you can build an easy to understand Human-AI interface for FITL, the community will rejoice.
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This general sentiment has, I think, been expressed elsewhere in the thread. But let me see if I can put a bit of a different spin on it.

I don't look at the bot rules as part of the rules for the game itself. The rules that are worth learning accurately and in great detail are the rules for playing a 4-person, multiplayer game. What the bots do is provide a person with a method for playing that 4-person, multiplayer game without having to find 3 other willing living and breathing human beings to join in the fun. In that light, the importance of understanding the bot rules/flowcharts is to have a general idea of how and what the bot is trying to do. Resolving the edge cases is of minimal importance. This is especially true when you're just learning the game and getting a feel for how the game plays. Rather than trying to strictly comply with all the bot rules, think of the bots/flowcharts as an objective guide for informing the decisions of you non-existent opponents. The main thing is that the bots aren't making moves in violation of the core rules (the obvious exception being bots getting full ops+sa instead of just limited ops).
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Matt Deuber
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Colin, I see where you are coming from as far as the nagging desire to get things right. I suffer from that. This game has given me trouble in that respect.

But, it's so cool, I can't put it away.

I have to echo other opinions here, play it. I did. There are a few sequences that still give me trouble (NVA March, US Airlift/Sweep), so I play up to that point and work my way thru it. And, lately I have become much more satisfied with the way I performed them. Each time it gets a little easier (even though on some level, I still feel I am getting it a little wrong). It's right enough to let me continue the game and do the other bot sequences with confidence.

Just my two cents. Plus, it's good to have you around here working over the ruleset. I enjoy your posts.
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Colin Taylor
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russ wrote:

I'd be skeptical.


Skepticism is the enemy of innovation.

Thanks,

Colin
 
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BeatPosse wrote:
I often read the rules after a play and realize I was doing things differently than described. Some of the individual rules didn't signify anything to me until I interacted with them myself, albeit incorrectly. Then I read the rule and seeing the contrast between what I was doing and what the rule said made it clear what I was supposed to be doing.

In FITL in particular, playing all four sides in some partial solo games helped me to understand what they are trying to do and how they do it.



People learn differently of course but I believe BeatPosse's advice is excellent and wanted to highlight it again. It is the way I am able to go through complex rules as well.
 
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