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Subject: Games without a rulebook (or close to it)? rss

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I was thinking tonight about some of the drivers that have contributed to the mass success of video games, and how they relate to board games. One thought that kept creeping into my mind was the fact that for video games the "rule book" so to speak is almost non-existent. Sure, there's usually a small reference booklet indicating a few controls, but almost all learning related to game play rules and mechanics is done while you're already playing the game. Understandably, this wouldn't be an easy thing to do in a board game, but it did get me wondering... Are there any games out there that have little to no rule book and instead have found a way to teach the player(s) how to play while they're already playing? The majority of people I've tried to get into the hobby (even casually) are very put off by the thought of having to sit still and do nothing but watch and listen while being shown the mechanics and rules of a game.
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John Breckenridge
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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Rory's Story Cubes only has a few sentences of suggested rules.
 
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Blokus... your pieces can only touch on corners, but must touch a previous one on at least one corner. Fewest squares left, wins.
 
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Julien K
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I believe I saw a review once of a figurine-based combat game that had kind of a tutorial. I beliebe it was a kid version of Krosmaster Arena, though I may be wrong.

Not like it has not rulebook, but it does the job of teaching the game through playing it.
 
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Francisco Gutierrez
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I try to teach every game while we are playing, usually limiting myself to a 5 minute spiel to introduce game. I tend to overload players with information otherwise...
The game which I though handled "teaching while playing" best was XCOM: The Board Game. The game guides you through a tutorial, pausing the action to explain what players should be doing and when.

However, to be fair, if the people you are introducing to gaming have trouble sitting and listening, they aren't the type to sit there patiently waiting for their turn to come around
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Jens Thernström
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closets I know of is Legends of Andor that only have a quick start guide and then the game teaches you the rest whilst playing. XCOM as previously mentioned does something simular. Also Zendo might be interesting to take a closer look at.

But the main difference between analog and digital gaming in this regard is that for videogames the rulesbook is everpresent just behind the world that the player interacts with.
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Tim Royal
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Legends of Andor is practically manual free: in fact, the designer prided themselves on "teaching as you go".

Works decently for that game. Not sure playing Fire in the Lake without a manual would be a good idea, though.
 
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Ryan Keane
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There are many board games that provide a playbook and recommend you learn the game that way, introducing new rules as your progress through each game or from scenario to scenario, and use the rule book only as a reference. I think this would be the best corollary to how video games provide tutorials to teach you the game as you play.
 
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Jason
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Many video games aren't good for first time gamers because there's a barrier to entry with the controls. Some games provide a tutorial that teaches the gamer as they play, but for many games the expectation is that the gamer is coming in with knowledge. For example, many shooters expect the gamer to know movement, shooting, and how to switch weapons. These games usually only provide the more unique mechanics like how to use the cover system.

With that said, video games provide a space for trial and error that provides feedback. The controller can only perform actions that it's been programmed to do. For example, you can start playing with the joy stick and pressing buttons in Mario to learn how Mario works. I don't think think this can be done with board games since at least one player needs to know and enforce the rules.

I think the best you can get are board games that provide a tutorial and/or board games that add mechanisms as the game progresses.
Legends of Andor provides a tutorial with the first mission. Subsequent missions build on that knowledge and introduce new mechanisms.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 starts with base Pandemic and builds on that knowledge as the campaign unfolds.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault provides a tutorial mission to learn the basics. But, it leaves a lot out that you need to know to play the campaign.
Flick 'em Up! starts with a basic scenario where about all that needs to be taught is move and shoot. Each scenario builds on that by introducing a new mechanism.
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T. Ips
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Definitely XCOM - it was pretty weird not having anybody having read the rules prior to playing - It was ok, and I'm sure some appreciate it but when you are this integrated into the hobby you are so used to having the rules read carefully prior to playing. It was a bit of an issue when it came to looking up specific rules (since unlike computer games, you have to do the book keeping), despite their attempt to make a thorough reference manual.
 
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Russ Williams
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Many abstract strategy games (like Blokus mentioned upthread) have very minimal rulesets. E.g. see also Pent-Up, for instance: take turns choosing one of your tiles and placing it, either on the table or on top of at least 2 tiles; you must place it on as high a level as possible. When the game ends (after all tiles are place), whoever has the most tiles on the highest level wins.


FWIW: I dimly remember that a while back there was some thread about someone trying to make a more conventional BGG style non-trivial euro-type game with no rule text, just iconography to explain the game, but I remember the results being unconvincing.

...

I doubt that a boardgame that is literally without a rulebook is possible. Unlike a computer program, a boardgame does not act on its own, but requires humans to manipulate it, and those humans need to have some idea what manipulations are legal.

Even if text on revealed cards is meant to completely guide people through the rules as they play, they at least need to know something like "Shuffle the deck and then reveal a card, following its instructions from there" or whatever.
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Bryan Carpenter
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joetaco wrote:
However, to be fair, if the people you are introducing to gaming have trouble sitting and listening, they aren't the type to sit there patiently waiting for their turn to come around


This was my first thought when reading the OP. Definitely rang alarm bells.
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russ wrote:
I doubt that a boardgame that is literally without a rulebook is possible.


Well, there's Tic Tac Toe...
 
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Timothy Young
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Well most computer games these days teach you as you go during the first few levels.

Some board games are getting 'how to play' videos made ready for their release, so you can learn as you play.

Therefore it would be possible for a new game to completely lack a rulebook and you just watch an instructional video to learn it.

Wouldn't work for any games above a very low level of complexity as the need to refer to a rulebook is often essential, but not impossible.
 
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Tomi Vainikka
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Well, Dized is building the 'video game tutorial' system to board games right now, so in the near future, there will be games popping up that you don't need to open the rulebook and just start playing with a few instructions and learn the rest as you go. Videos do it as well, but at least I've had to watch the videos every time from beginning to the end before I start.
 
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Karl
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Der Millionen Coup also more or less fits the bill. The manual is practically only needed to tell you how the parts look.
 
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