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Subject: Rules Explainer Nightmare rss

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bryden
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Well it appears that my concern has become reality. This is a rules explanation nightmare. No longer can someone cozy up for a game of 504 and say "yes, I have played it before".

As one who commonly is the teacher, I have found this to be extremely difficult to work with on a regular basis. I have come to the realization that it is just not worth it. Imagine having to explain Race for the Galaxy every time that you want to play a quick game.

Hang on let me check on that, I think that still applies ... , no that is how it worked in world XXX not here. If your group is more coherent and flexible then perhaps this is not an issue.

As a game project, it is monumental, original (in a gaming structure way) and defines a new approach to game design. On the flip side, I never want to go to a game con or meetup to be taught this game over and over by a myriad of teachers who are quite frequently a mixed bag. Nor do I have the desire to be the one on the spot.

Additionally, the game could last less than an hour or go on for way too long. So when someone asks how long, do you have any real way to tell?

Some games are random with its mechanics 504 is random in its entire experience. I wish I knew that world XXX was going to be fun and that the others that I welcome into the game could share in the experience.

Maybe if the game was lighter this would not be such a problem. As a strategy game I would rather play something more focused. The game play experience is much more enjoyable and repeatable.

Is this a shared experience for those that have had to explain this game multiple times?

Edit: I watched the Dice Tower's review of 504 yesterday and Tom's reaction was the same. I don't want to guess which combination is good and invest the time in finding out. While he did not refer to having difficulty with the rules you will note the if/then makeup of the "2 pages". Paraphrasing his last words. " ... only for a very specific type of gamer".
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NoDicePlease wrote:
Well it appears that my concern has become reality. This is a rules explanation nightmare. No longer can someone cozy up for a game of 504 and say "yes, I have played it before".

As one who commonly is the teacher, I have found this to be extremely difficult to work with on a regular basis. I have come to the realization that it is just not worth it. Imagine having to explain Race for the Galaxy every time that you want to play a quick game.

Hang on let me check on that, I think that still applies ... , no that is how it worked in world XXX not here. If your group is more coherent and flexible then perhaps this is not an issue.

As a game project, it is monumental, original (in a gaming structure way) and defines a new approach to game design. On the flip side, I never want to go to a game con or meetup to be taught this game over and over by a myriad of teachers who are quite frequently a mixed bag. Nor do I have the desire to be the one on the spot.

Additionally, the game could last less than an hour or go on for way too long. So when someone asks how long, do you have any real way to tell?

Some games are random with its mechanics 504 is random in its entire experience. I wish I knew that world XXX was going to be fun and that the others that I welcome into the game could share in the experience.

Maybe if the game was lighter this would not be such a problem. As a strategy game I would rather play something more focused. The game play experience is much more enjoyable and repeatable.

Is this a shared experience for those that have had to explain this game multiple times?


I would say that maybe it's a "gamer's game"? In that, gamers tend to be familiar with all the different mechanisms and rules commonly used in strategy games, so it'll be easier for them to catch on and quickly grasp whatever the current combo is. Sounds like it won't be good for casual/non-gamers, won't be a gateway game, etc. And point taken that it's not the kind of game someone can take home to learn and "teach" to the group. But as long as you've got a few hard-core gamers who know going in that there'll be a little more than usual "set-up-and-learn" time, then it sounds like an interesting experience...
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Russ Williams
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Perhaps the explainer could simply teach a permutation which they already know when teaching newbies.

I can certainly imagine it being tricky to explain a random permutation each time to new players, especially if they are less experienced gamers (or unfocused "I'll play on my phone while you explain" type people).
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David desJardins
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NoDicePlease wrote:
Well it appears that my concern has become reality. This is a rules explanation nightmare. No longer can someone cozy up for a game of 504 and say "yes, I have played it before".


Why not? Just ask people if they know how to play and don't play with them if they don't. If that's going to be a "nightmare" for you.
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bryden
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DaviddesJ wrote:
NoDicePlease wrote:
Well it appears that my concern has become reality. This is a rules explanation nightmare. No longer can someone cozy up for a game of 504 and say "yes, I have played it before".


Why not? Just ask people if they know how to play and don't play with them if they don't. If that's going to be a "nightmare" for you.

It is difficult to recognize an omni-gamer on sight (one who can adjust on the fly and deal with gaming permutations). Some say they are but the reality is usually very different.

This is why I see 504 as a niche within a niche. Only for those who want to parse rules game to game with very little visual clues as to what is to be performed differently. When you play completely different games you can rely on visual clues to assist you. Not so here.

To your last question, that was the point of my post. Just asking is not enough. Are you an omni-gamer? What gaming mechanics are your familiar with? and how about you sir and you?

The issue is just because you played it before does not mean that you will be able to understand a new permutation ...

Therefore my feelings are that a random setup is bad news. To increase the odds of a good experience, I am going to have to setup a permutation and play through it a bit and get a feel for its approximate length, decide if it is interesting enough to play and if those I know who might be interested in this type of game would like it.

Preparation is the key to success. I don't think that you can just pull it off the shelf and say lets give this a whirl. I do not have the time to put in this kind of effort to "maybe" get a good experience. Every now and then I might give it a try but just like Race it will appeal to a specific type of gamer.

So 504 ... this is your final resting place. I prepared this space on the shelf just for you. I may visit you every now and again to dream about what excitement you might provide us. Until then revel in your uniqueness. You are a true original. {close the gaming door}
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Russ Williams
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NoDicePlease wrote:
So 504 ... this is your final resting place. I prepared this space on the shelf just for you. I may visit you every now and again to dream about what excitement you might provide us. Until then revel in your uniqueness. You are a true original. {close the gaming door}


I'm just a little verklempt!
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David desJardins
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NoDicePlease wrote:
It is difficult to recognize an omni-gamer on sight (one who can adjust on the fly and deal with gaming permutations). Some say they are but the reality is usually very different.


It seems to me that your problem is with the people and not the games. You don't need to recognize gamers "on sight", you can talk to them and figure out whom you like playing with and whom you don't.

Personally, I don't like playing most games with most people, the solution to a lot of problems seems to be to be picky about whom you play with. Now, if it's really important to you to play a lot of games with random people you've never met before, and you are picky about the experience when you do that, then yeah, you probably need to be really selective about which games you do that with, I can see that. But personally I would just go in a whole different direction.
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bryden
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Personally, I don't like playing most games with most people, the solution to a lot of problems seems to be to be picky about whom you play with. Now, if it's really important to you to play a lot of games with random people you've never met before, and you are picky about the experience when you do that, then yeah, you probably need to be really selective about which games you do that with, I can see that. But personally I would just go in a whole different direction.

I would rather not set such tight limits. The more variety the better. In this way we are very different. I find the social aspect to be just as important as the game itself.

I like to game with as many different types of people that I can. You never know when you will come across that person who just fits perfectly into your group and provides a rewarding experience. This has happened many times over the past decade.

My "different direction" is to limit fringe purchases and stick to buying games that I really want to experience or I know will fit my group. 504 sounded too good to be true and it was in my case. It has been very rare that I have chosen to invest in a game that turned out this way.

If asked at a con to play, I would politely turn it down unless I knew the person asking to play. The risk of a bad experience is too high.
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David desJardins
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NoDicePlease wrote:
I like to game with as many different types of people that I can. You never know when you will come across that person who just fits perfectly into your group and provides a rewarding experience. This has happened many times over the past decade.


If you are saying that you wouldn't choose 504 as the game to play in that circumstance, that makes sense to me. But why can't you play it with all of those many people whom you've already met and know well and who fit perfectly into your group?
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Russ Williams
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FWIW I'd also be very leery of playing this game with unknown newbie players and a random module permutation. I think I'd consider teaching unknown newbies ONLY with a permutation I already had played and knew well, rather than with a random permutation.

(E.g. the one in the Game Night video looked pretty straightforward and teachable.)

But I'm still very much looking forward to receiving 504 (when will it finally arrive, gaaaah zombie) and playing it with some more experienced gamer friends with whom I've been gaming regularly for years.
 
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I really love reading rules manual and I like to teach games (and I think I'm pretty good at it). Also I like to learn and try new Games. So I think 504 is just a really awesome game, as you can experience the feel of a new game every time. Sure parsing the rules is not something you just do quickly, but still getting to the rules of a specific games is something, you can get in a time, where other player build up the board. Then you need to explain, but that doesn't take so long, especially if they already played one 504 game before. And the games I played were mostly really cool, so I'm eager to try some more with different players.
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Alex Churchill
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I agree with a lot of your concerns. However this point:
NoDicePlease wrote:
Additionally, the game could last less than an hour or go on for way too long. So when someone asks how long, do you have any real way to tell?
I believe it is fairly possible to have a good inkling for which rulesets will go in less than an hour, which ones will be 2 hours +, and which will be in between. Something like:

* Any game with 5 (exploration) or 9 (shares) will be loonngg
* Any game with 6 (roads) will be pretty long unless playing with experienced players (which as you note is almost a contradiction in terms)
* Games without residents (which implies 1) will be quicker (<1hour)
* Out of the remaining modules (2, 3, 4, 7, 8) my feeling is that 4 (military) will make for slightly longer games than the others. But 3 (privileges) in major position has auctions, and some groups are pretty slow at auctions.

So there are a number of guidelines one can use to get a feel for how fast or slow a given game will be likely to be.
How good it's going to be, though; and which bits of previous rules apply, which don't apply, and which have special cases for this particular ruleset? Yeah, that's going to be a significant burden on the rules explainer.
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alextfish wrote:

How good it's going to be, though; and which bits of previous rules apply, which don't apply, and which have special cases for this particular ruleset? Yeah, that's going to be a significant burden on the rules explainer.


I don't understand this part. Every game is basically two "pages" of rules. You just have to explain to everyone that every world is unique, so every two page rule set is unique. You can't leave one world and expect the next world to behave exactly the same, because it won't.

Just describe the game to everyone equally, and tell the "experienced" 504 players to ignore their notions of how it should behave. Granted, you are explaining rules every time you play, but there are only two pages of rules, ever.
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Chris Dieckmann
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Mine came today!! Hurray.
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alextfish wrote:

* Any game with 6 (roads) will be pretty long unless playing with experienced players (which as you note is almost a contradiction in terms)


I don't understand, why people tend to believe that roads make the game longer. If Roads is in I and especially in II you will likely connect everything you have with your head-quarter. This means placing settlements residents is irrelevant, as they can move anywhere. This will shorten the buy phase, which can take a while, as you have to think were you need your guys.
 
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I've said it before: I wouldn't take the game to a board game evening and then spontaneously or randomly decide which combination to play.
I'd always read and prepare the rules for one or two setups beforehand, and that's the combination(s) we're going to play.
At the end of the evening you can collect suggestions or randomly determine which combinations to play _next_ evening.
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Alex Churchill
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lordpenquin wrote:
alextfish wrote:

How good it's going to be, though; and which bits of previous rules apply, which don't apply, and which have special cases for this particular ruleset? Yeah, that's going to be a significant burden on the rules explainer.


I don't understand this part. Every game is basically two "pages" of rules. You just have to explain to everyone that every world is unique, so every two page rule set is unique. You can't leave one world and expect the next world to behave exactly the same, because it won't.

Just describe the game to everyone equally, and tell the "experienced" 504 players to ignore their notions of how it should behave. Granted, you are explaining rules every time you play, but there are only two pages of rules, ever.
There are several problems with what you describe.

a) "Tell everyone to ignore their notions of how it should behave" is a real problem. People are pattern-formers. We learn ways that things behave, and expect them to behave the same way next time. If someone's first game with residents has residents-in-a-hurry, for example, then in their next game where residents are slower they'll keep making mistakes due to expecting residents to work in a hurry.

b) "Every game is two pages of rules" - No, it really isn't. There are plenty of concepts not spelled out in the Book of Worlds for any given game. The pages for module 9 explicitly say in bold "This is just a summary! Read the rulebook for the full rules!" Or for another example: After our first game of 123, we tried a game with residents and were really confused at the absence of explanation about residents anywhere. We had to consult the base rulebook. And if you try to say "But residents are something you just need to learn once and they work the same each game", you're undermining your first point, the idea that people can throw away all their experience of 504 each game and start afresh as if they had no prior knowledge.

c) "Every game is just two pages of rules" - Even if we pretend this were true... Have you seen those two pages of rules? They're incredibly confusing. Before you can even set up, the rules explainer needs to scan up and down the conditions for each of the 3 modules just to figure out what players start with, what the turn order is, what pieces to get out. (And "what pieces to get out" is not even complete - again, you need to refer to the base rulebook to figure out the "common" components to fetch in addition to those listed in the "two pages of rules". And don't try to say "but they're the same every game" because i) they're not, with things like residents / no residents / "a few residents", and ii) again you're undermining your first point that players should abandon all their prior 504 knowledge for each game.)

Even once you get set up, the Book of Worlds double-page-spread is very confusing. There are so many conditional clauses, boxes, sections of tables that do or don't apply under various conditions. It takes quite some practice at reading the BoW to understand what bits of those two pages are in effect. And the information so densely packed into those two pages certainly doesn't have room to answer questions what the other players will ask during rules explanation such as "why should I want to do this".


No, 504 is an amazing project and an intriguing game system, but it feels utterly indisputable that it's a nightmare both for the rules explainer and for the people trying to listen and follow the rules explanation. Certainly if you try to teach from the Book of Worlds. Much less so if you use an electronic version of the BoW, like http://504rules.github.io/#987 , though about half of what I wrote above still applies no matter how the rules are presented.

With a better base rulebook, and a much cleverer Book of Worlds (which basically has to be electronic, like 504rules.github.io ), the game might be able to get past some of the issues with rules explanation and comprehension.
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Andy Mesa
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It's not a thing you can just pick up off the shelf and start playing, unless you've played that particular game before. However, it's perfectly viable to decide beforehand what you want to play, familiarize yourself with the rules, and be ready to go when the game gets on the table. I've had a couple trying experiences learning the game as we go along, but everyone says they enjoyed themselves in the end. Learning the game is honestly part of the fun.

You also only need to play 9 different games to play each module in every position, and then only the intricacies of the modules added together are necessary to learn each time. I've played five games now, and I know almost all of the rules and each game makes me that much more knowledgeable for the next ones.

As far as how long the games will be, this is also something you'll know with time. If you need a quick rule of thumb, the higher the module numbers, the longer things will take.
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Thank you Alex for expounding on what I was inferring with my OP. Your comments are spot on. It is difficult for some (many?) to unlearn what they have learned. Additionally, it makes some feel very uncomfortable.

To put this in perspective by the 3rd game of Mage Knight everyone had a very good grasp of how to play. There are 2 "rulebooks" and the game has many complex and little rules that need to be remembered. If I was to pull it out today I would have to do little to no rules explanation to get the game going. The players can refer to their cards, get visual clues from the tiles etc. These are experienced players mind you.

504 while simpler in many ways is more "regular" work for me. As a previous poster stated you really have to determine what 1-2 worlds you are going to play. You may need to discard some mechanics from previous games and play through it a bit to get a feel for the flow, game length etc. Some players get turned off by rules mistakes and while I would not necessarily say that I made mistakes, ambiguities may be more apt. This is frustrating for me as the players have little recourse to review the rule book and this sours the whole experience.

I can tolerate the setup as it is a little puzzle like and a game in itself. It gives me time to collect my thoughts and give them something to do.

As Alex stated, this is an amazing project and one to be commended (I agree). This is a gamer's game for a specific type of hard core gamer or more to the point a collector's game. A piece of history, if you will.

IMO, I cannot see 504 replacing any game on the market and don't think that anyone should be thinking that it will.
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lordpenquin wrote:
I don't understand this part. Every game is basically two "pages" of rules.

After receiving my copy yesterday, I don't feel this is a completely accurate description. With 2 books of rules, each game is around 8 pages of rules. 2 pages from the Book of Worlds + 6 or more pages from "The Rules" book(where there are 2 pages per module).

Depending on how often one's group meets and plays 504, that's not a trivial amount of rules to review each time you play or change modules.
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With a regular gaming group, I like the idea of deciding at the end of a session, what the randomly decided combo will be for the next meeting, then the game owner or someone else could learn that combo and teach it next time...

Or alternatively, if you're headed to a game night in the near future, randomly pick a combo and learn it, and teach that at game night.

If I had a group that met weekly, I think it would be fun to play through all 504 combos, once per week, picking the next week's at the end of the night. Admittedly, it would take ~10 years...whistle
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
If I had a group that met weekly, I think it would be fun to play through all 504 combos, once per week, picking the next week's at the end of the night. Admittedly, it would take ~10 years...whistle

My wife proposed that we do exactly this Decade Plan if we enjoy 504. So I am hoping we enjoy 504.
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
With a regular gaming group, I like the idea of deciding at the end of a session, what the randomly decided combo will be for the next meeting, then the game owner or someone else could learn that combo and teach it next time...

Or alternatively, if you're headed to a game night in the near future, randomly pick a combo and learn it, and teach that at game night.

If I had a group that met weekly, I think it would be fun to play through all 504 combos, once per week, picking the next week's at the end of the night. Admittedly, it would take ~10 years...whistle


What he said. (Except for the playing through all 504 combinations!)
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I think you can claim a major victory if you play all 72 combinations of the modules in the first 2 slots.
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russ wrote:
JohnnyDollar wrote:
If I had a group that met weekly, I think it would be fun to play through all 504 combos, once per week, picking the next week's at the end of the night. Admittedly, it would take ~10 years...whistle

My wife proposed that we do exactly this Decade Plan if we enjoy 504. So I am hoping we enjoy 504.


I like that as a subtitle:

504: Decade


Being how long it takes to play through them on a weekly basis
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