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Subject: Gateway Game? Indeed... A Gateway to Tears! rss

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Lester Dizon
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We were having a great time. We'd gone to the zoo earlier that Saturday, had a great dinner and we had arrived at the neighborhood pub for some fancy beers and, if I was to get my way, some light card gaming. This was the perfect pub for gaming; tons of beers on tap, plenty of lighting, nice sized tables and a light crowd on the weekends. In the past we'd had a pretty good time playing Magic: The Gathering and Kung Fu Fighting and I had high hopes for Lost Cities. Little did I know that this night was to be the third and final time I'd get my girlfriend to play Lost Cities. A game session that would end in tears.

Some background... I was excited because our first two plays of the game, months before that ill-fated night, had left us flat. After all the glowing session reports and reviews as a couple game, I ordered it as my first "Euro" title hoping to get my girlfriend interested in Euro type game mechanics and to see what all the hubub was about this Knizia dude. Well we were less than impressed. I had no idea where the fun or the strategy lay in Lost Cities. It seemed more like an odd two-player version of Solitaire to me. And my girlfriend felt like she had been lied to. "Um, I thought this game was about discovering Lost Cities... Like Indiana Jones. It even says Daring Adventure for Two on the box! This more like Uninteresting Math." I quietly packed up the cards and board and tucked Lost Cities into the back of my closet.

Turns out we had been playing it wrong. After modding a session report about this game I realized why I didn't like our attempts to play. I had set up only one discard pile next to the draw pile as opposed to individual discard piles for each expedition. Also we had been playing the values in descending order as opposed to ascending order. Both of these differences vastly changed the game and eliminated any sort of strategy we could have enjoyed.

After some discussion and placating I had convinced her to give it another go. "I know, I know... there aren't any actual lost cities to discover in the game. It's a "Euro" style ga—" I decided to shut up. I had a bunch of other Euro games I wanted to her to try and I didn't want to ruin their chances with her in case Lost Cities went bust. "Just give it a shot, I'll play pool with you if you hate it."

And so there we were. Two intrepid explorers about to set off to parts unkown for daring... Okay, okay I dealt out the cards and took a swig of my Flemish sour.

I immediately saw how much better the game was when played as it was actually intended. I carefully laid out cards I hoped to re-capture later, I kept an eye on which expedition multipliers she played and zeroed in on which expeditions I wanted to try to exploit to the fullest. I was really enjoying Lost Cities at last.

She... well she was bored out of her mind. She didn't seem to care which colors I was collecting or which cards I had discarded. When I had picked up the 9 and the 10 of a color she had two multipliers played I pointed out, "See? I effectively took a bunch of points away from you." She stared at me blankly. "That's part of the strategy," I continued; even though I could feel this going nowhere. "I took those cards so you wouldn't be able to play them, now I need to get them out of my hand before the game ends otherwise they count against my score." She just shrugged and started dropping snide remarks about it still wasn't much of an adventure. The comments and complaining escalated and I just continued to play hoping to gleen whatever else I could regarding the game's design.

Finally I had two cards left in my hand and she still had at least 10 despite my warning that either of us could end the game by drawing the last card in the draw pile. (EDIT: we had the requisite 8 cards. See the following posts) it was just I picked up the last card. She was none to pleased as was about to launch into another complaint when I just sighed and picked up all the cards and packed up the game without scoring.

She got quiet. "It's cool, really. You didn't enjoy it, I'm glad you at least tried it hon. Thank you," I said.

"But you didn't have to do that. I didn't hate it... it just wasn't any fun..." This is when the tears started to flow.

I groaned. I probably didn't handle the situation in the best way but I was really tired of hearing her complain about the game and I didn't feel like defending it. If she didn't like it, she didn't like it. She was certainly entitled to her opinion. I just didn't want to be beaten over the head by it.

We talked it out instead of playing pool. She apologized for being so negative and I apologized for being so abrupt with ending the game. She's not completely turned off of Euro gaming. We had a great time playing Ticket to Ride the other day. She was impressed by the simplicity of the mechanics and the various ways to score. I think she'll also be into Alhambra when I finally get my copy. But never again will we play the game that ended in tears.
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Eric Brosius
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You must still have at least one rule wrong. At the end of every turn, you have 8 cards in your hand. Every turn, you start with 8 cards, play a card (either to an expedition or as a discard,) and pick up a card (either from the draw pile or the discard pile,) leaving you with 8 cards. So it's impossible for you to have 2 cards left at the end or for her to have 10.

Also, how did you pick up the 9 and 10 of a color in which she had two multipliers? Do you mean you drew them from the deck? If so, that was bad luck from her. But if they were in the discard pile, how and why did they get there? You almost never discard a 9 or a 10.
 
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Lester Dizon
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Eric Brosius wrote:
You must still have at least one rule wrong. At the end of every turn, you have 8 cards in your hand. Every turn, you start with 8 cards, play a card (either to an expedition or as a discard,) and pick up a card (either from the draw pile or the discard pile,) leaving you with 8 cards. So it's impossible for you to have 2 cards left at the end or for her to have 10.

Also, how did you pick up the 9 and 10 of a color in which she had two multipliers? Do you mean you drew them from the deck? If so, that was bad luck from her. But if they were in the discard pile, how and why did they get there? You almost never discard a 9 or a 10.
Hmm, you are right and we were playing by the rules you stated. Having 8 cards in our hand at the beginning and end of each turn. It's a bit foggy but I knew that I had ended the game with her hand being much more damaging to her score than mine was.

As for the 9 and 10 I think she dropped them early because she didn't have anything she could play right away. You don't put 9s or 10s down as a general strategy but, like I said, she wasn't really into the game to begin with.
 
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Daniel Corban
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I suggest reading the rules and trying out a solo game a bit first before bringing out the next new game.
 
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lstr wrote:
now I need to get them out of my hand before the game ends otherwise they count against my score.
I think you need to go check the rules again. The cards in your hand at the end of the game do not count against anything at all. They are not scored. Cards you have played as expeditions may count for, or against, you depending on whether you have reached a total of twenty for the expedition or not.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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Also - points in your hand *DON'T* count against you.

If you manage to grab the 9 and 10 your opponent needs, you keep them until the end of the hand. They do no harm to you (other than taking up two valuable spaces in your hand of course).

Edit: Actually, if you get the 9 *AND* 10 you usually just play them. It's -1 point only, and it's usually worth that price to free up the two hand spaces.
 
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Lester Dizon
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Ha ha, okay back to the rules again. Thanks for the catches. I really don't understand why I'm having a hard time with understanding how this game is played. I've been able to read and grasp the rules for plenty of more complicated games. Sigh.
 
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Steven Dennis
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Even my wife likes this game, so it must have been the screwed up rules that ruined it for you.
 
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Pete Gelman
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Sorry to hear about your unhappy game experience. You described it well and I feel for you. I think some games naturally threaten trip players up that way, I mean two-player battle of wits games... Battle Line is another (quite good) game that you might want to avoid. Also there are a lot of good two player games with a reasonable "take that" element which can feel more frustrating than it warrants. I know that I really like Kuperferkesel and Odin's Ravens, but both have annoyed me more than I think it should, when my kettle explodes or I can't move Odin from my path.

It makes me think about the extremely subjective and shifty question of what makes a game fun? Maybe it isn't as fun to play some of these mechanisms with two players than with more. Or maybe it has something to do with different people's feelings as they learn while competing. I've seen couples have to leave a game and "process" in another room when, under game tension, the one speaks with the wrong voice inflection to the other, the kind of thing that isn't really a problem until the game tension nudges it over. (Meanwhile I often game with nonsense chatter and jokes coming out of my mouth, which once in a while goes awry.) I also think that head-to-head games can just be intense by nature, part implied competition by compared IQ test and part relationship communication-under-tension test. Maybe that helps explain the continuing appeal of luck-heavy games.

This is probably obvious, but I also think that the way we teach/learn a game makes a huge difference. I'm often in the position of teaching games to friends; when I don't know them well (new games, no one to teach me) I teach them badly, and it can lead to frustrations and sometimes problems getting along in one way or another. Now I'm a lot more careful about teaching games, and have come to feel extra appreciation for games that are easy to teach. I also feel appreciation for games that seem to easily give a positive game atmosphere, like Tower of Babel, in which even when it's not your turn you have to make decisions and can turn points.

But if that were my only criteria, what great games I'd miss. The game tension that can lead to problems is also a big part, a big specific part of what I like in Knizia games. I clutch my head and think "There's that Knizia game agony again! Ow, I love it! What am I going to do?"

You mentioned Ticket to Ride going well, and Alhambra on your list... Those seem like good choices to me. I think you're headed to great game spaces... Cheers & happy gaming to you.
 
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I've played lost cities about ten times now. I'm not bad, even. But I just don't like the game and no one I know does either (probably due to my sour opinion). Whenever I play, I feel like it's a very slow remake of the game spit (aka speed). I don't know what makes this a great gateway game. I guess that like the cities, the enjoyment of this game is lost on me. I know I don't have any solid reasons for not liking the game (except that there are plenty of card games that can be played with a standard deck that are more thought provoking and engaging). I just wanted to let you know that there are plenty of people who think that Lost Cities is not for them.
 
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Darren M
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I feel for you and we've all had at least one really bad gaming session like that I'm sure. It does all come down to personal preferences and there are absolutely ZERO games that will appeal to everyone... so it's a very good possibility that Lost Cities just isn't going to connect with some people.

I would agree that a BIG part of teaching new games (with non-gamers especially) is having a decent feel for the rules in the game so the game flows smoothly and then at least if the game fails... it's because the game just doesn't mesh with the personalities of those playing instead of because of problems with rules comprehension and contorted gaming mechanisms.

With gamers it's not so bad because generally gamers have a higher tolerance for learning rules and realize that even simple games take some time to grok the rule sets and play correctly. It's actually a much bigger challenge to play with casual gamers as they will just say this is stupid or boring and either want to quit or play something else before really giving a game much of a chance. The window for breaking in a new game to casual gamers is much smaller... and first impressions last a long time if it's not done properly the first time.

Keep trying though and don't give up. If she likes TtR then there's of course hope that she will like other games as well... but there is also a very good chance that TtR is about as heavy and complicated as she will want to play.

I'd certainly look at some other fairly light games like Ingenious, Blue Moon City and Thurn and Taxis as they are pretty good gateway style games as well.
 
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Robin
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lstr wrote:
"Um, I thought this game was about discovering Lost Cities... Like Indiana Jones. It even says Daring Adventure for Two on the box! This more like Uninteresting Math."


I felt the same way playing this game. Lost Cities just does not work for everyone. Maybe your girlfriend would enjoy something with more theme driven. Since she did apologize for being negative, there is also a possibility that she was not in the mood to learn or play a game which has often affected whether I've enjoyed a game or not.

Lost Cities is a gateway game for people comfortable and more familiar with card games, those who grew up with Rummy and Bridge. If she already enjoys Ticket to Ride, she past that step. Good Luck! I'm sure you'll find more games that she would enjoy.
 
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Daniel Corban
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Lost Cities is not a gateway game. It is a card game. The end.
 
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Lester Dizon
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dcorban wrote:
Lost Cities is not a gateway game. It is a card game. The end.
Indeed... A CARD GAME OF TEARS!

Thanks for the advice all. I'll be playing Lost Cities again, and following the actual rules, but it won't be with my GF. Maybe Blue Moon? As much as I'd like to play Euros with her of all the games I've told her about I think she's most interested in playing Doom.
 
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lstr wrote:
dcorban wrote:
Lost Cities is not a gateway game. It is a card game. The end.
Indeed... A CARD GAME OF TEARS!

Thanks for the advice all. I'll be playing Lost Cities again, and following the actual rules, but it won't be with my GF. Maybe Blue Moon? As much as I'd like to play Euros with her of all the games I've told her about I think she's most interested in playing Doom.


Some people just do not enjoy games. They'd rather do something else. IF your GF is not a game person, it may be time to look to outside friends for your gaming hobby and do other things together with the GF that you both enjoy. Less tears that way. Speaking from personal experience here!
 
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Lester Dizon
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xombe wrote:

Some people just do not enjoy games. They'd rather do something else. IF your GF is not a game person, it may be time to look to outside friends for your gaming hobby and do other things together with the GF that you both enjoy. Less tears that way. Speaking from personal experience here!
Perhaps it's a lost cause, but she's into comic books, animation, sci-fi/adventure movies and video games. I am thinking there might still be hope on the gaming front. If not, then you are right, no need to force BGs on her. I'll have to settle for reading comic books, playing video games etc. with her.
 
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Daniel Corban
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xombe wrote:
Some people just do not enjoy games. They'd rather do something else. IF your GF is not a game person, it may be time to look for a new girlfriend. Less tears that way. Speaking from personal experience here!


Fixed.
 
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Øyvind Monsen
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lstr wrote:
Perhaps it's a lost cause, but she's into comic books, animation, sci-fi/adventure movies and video games. I am thinking there might still be hope on the gaming front. If not, then you are right, no need to force BGs on her. I'll have to settle for reading comic books, playing video games etc. with her.


Given her hobbies stated above and her statement from the session report:

Quote:
"Um, I thought this game was about discovering Lost Cities... Like Indiana Jones. It even says Daring Adventure for Two on the box! This more like Uninteresting Math."


I'd say that if you're keen on involving her in you hobby you should probably try out games where the theme is more part of the game than what is the case with Lost Cities.

\oymo
 
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You got me worried now. I picked three 2+ player games because I'd like more games to play with my wife (she enjoyed Settlers very much and I'd like to exploit that. Also, I know LC and Settlers are nothing alike) and LC was one of them. We're going to give them a try tomorrow (Ticket to Ride and Through the Desert being the other two) and maybe post how it went. Here's to hoping for no tears.

PS. One of the things I absolutely detest are people who are clearly not having fun but keep playing anyway. I'd rather do something else than have someone sulking on the other side of the table. I probably would have handled it the same way, pack it up and do something else.
 
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