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Subject: How Long Do You Study the Rules Before that First Play? rss

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Daniel Boits Jr
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It seems to take me a frustratingly long time to grasp a rule-set before my first play, sometimes as long as a month (I haven’t played a ‘monster’ yet, so we’ll see how long THAT takes). I tend to read and reread over and over. The more I read the more questions pop in to my mind and that leads to more research. In addition, I tend to read through study guides often found here on BGG or Consimworld. I’ll tread though forums discussing the game in question, gather up every piece of errata I can find, and, if I’m lucky, find an instructional/introductory video on Youtube.
I’m still fairly new to the wargaming, so I assume (and hope) over time the more games I play the faster I will learn the next one. I also need to work on my “SQUIRREL!” attention span. I will be focusing on one game, then another will catch my eye, then another. Before you know it, I have three or four hefty sets of rules in front of me, all getting only a percentage of attention… So many games, so little time.

So, how long does it take YOU to learn? And what are your learning strategies? How do you study? Do you read the rulebook cover to cover, or pick it apart in sections? Do you try to get an overall understanding or just jump in as soon as the counters are punched? Do you try to gather up all known errata before starting? I’m interested to hear what you do.
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Mark Herman
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I look forward to seeing what others say, but I use a very different method to learn a game.

1. Read the opening material in the rule book: glossary etc.

2. Sequence of play

3. Set up the game

4. Try and move a piece and read the relevant rules as I move along...

5. Cause a battle... read the relevant rules...

6. Rinse and repeat the first turn while continuing to try and integrate the rules.

Mark
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Tim Parker
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I usually skim over the rulebook to get a general idea of play. Then, if I feel that I'm not getting the big picture, I try to find a video of either a "how to" nature or a replay. If no such option exists, then I just start playing going over each section in detail as I play it.

The biggest thing though is having the mindset that, no matter what, the first play (or sometimes even the first few) are "clunker" plays where you will find yourself saying some or all of the following:
"Oh shoot! I forgot to move that!"
"Oh wait, i couldn't attack that. Whoops!"
"That was a great maneuver...oh wait,I can't actually do that. Well that's a bummer man."
"I totally forgot that."
"Oh yeah, there is this exception."

I used to be a perfectionist and got irritated when I would forget things right off the bat. And then one day I just said, "You know what. If I forget some rule or mess up some sequence, BFD. I'll just play again and learn from my mistake."
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mochara c
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Quote:
So, how long does it take YOU to learn?


Approximately seven weeks, judging from the dust accumulating on the game I currently have set up to learn.
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Michael J
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I usually get intimidated, give up, put it away until it starts collecting dust, then say screw it and just set it up and go, at which point I think "Why did I wait this long? This isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be...".
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roger miller
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I read them all the way through. Pondering along the way why certain rules might be the way they are. Making comparisons to other games in my mind. Then I play it solo taking my time to get it right. After that I am good to go. I can usually learn in an afternoon. Campaign for North Africa and Case Blue took a bit longer.
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Tony Doran
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It really varies, and I am not sure how to categorize the differences. Some games mke sense to me right away...red through the rulesonce and set up and play. The East Front Series games were like that for me. Others take weeks to get a clear enough picture that I feel ready to play. John Prados' Third Reich was like that for me, though well worth it.

Occasionally, I find one I just never get...World in Flames as like that for me. And I simply do not blame the game or the rules. Hundreds of folks get it with WiF and love the game. It just never clicked for me.

It's not the complexity either. One of my favorite games is Advanced European Theater of Operations. Some think it one of the most complicated rules sets ever..but it just makes sense to me.

I have never really figured out why some games are easier for me than others. Fortunately, there are so many really great games out there that I have never felt deprived by my failure to get any particluar game. I just move on to another title.
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Lucius Cornelius
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I have accepted the fact that any amount of reading will not survive the contact with actual playing where more learning takes place; reading helps to find the relevant rules easier though.
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Osprey
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My wargaming buddy and I will usually both read a set of rules about 3 times to get the words and general idea to attempt to stick in our brains. Then we'll play our first game, constantly consulting the rules and making our mistakes. After 2 to 4 plays, depending on the game, the big picture will start to appear where we can actually come up with some decent strategies. A real good game will continue to reveal more and more about itself the more we play it, even little subtleties that only appear after many plays. Gotta love games like that.
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Daniel Boits Jr
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sullafelix wrote:
I have accepted the fact that any amount of reading will not survive the contact with actual playing where more learning takes place; reading helps to find the relevant rules easier though.



Yes! "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." (Moltke)
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Alan Sutton
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Don't worry too much. A month isn't that long. I take about the same time, or longer. I am actually starting to suspect that it's the studying and learning that I like the most. Sitting down and playing sometimes seems like a bit of an anti climax.

Prevarication is my main activity when it comes to games. Reading the rules several times, clipping the counters, setting up the game, reading books and articles about the battle.

Phew....it's a big job. The game itself comes way down the list of tasks.....

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I read the rules once, cover-to-cover. I've no expectation of 100% retention based on one reading. The idea is even if I don't recall a rule or topic in detail I at least learn which rules and topics exist. Then I setup the game and play it solitaire re-reading sections of the rules as required. Sometimes that's simply just a clause here and there, other times I'll re-read a whole major section. Usually by the time I've gone through a few turns I've more or less read the entire rulebook a second time (and read parts of the rules multiple times) but the reading has been in chunks with the learning of each chunk reinforced by the fact I'm actually pushing pieces around, resolving combat and so forth.
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Padraic Kirby
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First thing I do is make a print copy of the rules and charts, stapled. (MMP Gamers and GMT are nice because you have access to PDF's of their rules.) I then take a Yellow Highlight Marker and start reading. Whenever I meet a concept I am not familiar with I highlight it. I make sure I read to the end of the rules with the highlighter. Make any notes, place arrows in margins with pencil. That might take a week. Then I read again with the game setup.

It certainly helps if you have a game scheduled with someone else and they are also reading the rules at the same time you are preparing for the game. Deadlines keeps you focused. You can correct each other's interpretations during that first playing.

Make sure all players have a copy of the rules when playing. Insist on confirming any assumptions by checking in the rules. Nothing creates a precedent. It has to be interpreted from the rules.

Pat
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T. Dauphin
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rayofsunshine wrote:
I read the rules once, cover-to-cover. I've no expectation of 100% retention based on one reading. The idea is even if I don't recall a rule or topic in detail I at least learn which rules and topics exist. Then I setup the game and play it
...with my buddy...
rayofsunshine wrote:
re-reading sections of the rules as required. Sometimes that's simply just a clause here and there, other times I'll re-read a whole major section. Usually by the time I've gone through a few turns I've more or less read the entire rulebook a second time (and read parts of the rules multiple times) but the reading has been in chunks with the learning of each chunk reinforced by the fact I'm actually pushing pieces around, resolving combat and so forth.

Pretty much exactly like this. I just hate playing solitaire .

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Roger Hobden
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I read the rulebook once cover to cover, then start playing the game and re-read the rules as the need arises.

Learning by doing is the best way to learn.
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Cameron Taylor
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I usually read the rules several times and try to work out the dynamics in my head. Then I play FTF and just wing it. We usually play a short scenario or learning scenario first, unless it's part of a series we're familiar with (e.g. OCS), then we just jump right in. The first game is always a learning game, so even if you get everything wrong it's not like anybody 'won' or 'lost', it's all just part of the experience.
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Larry Levandowski
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If the game follows wargaming conventions, I can pick up a 20 page manual in an hour. Then just play and refer to it as necessary.

For games with high complexity and non-standard concepts, it can take me weeks. I usually download these as PDF files and read them on my mobile phone on the train into work.

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marc lecours
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1. Read the rules once from start to finish without studying them. I don't worry about understanding them perfectly at that stage.

2. Set up the game. Play a few turns solo. Refer to the rules as needed.

3. Read the rules a second time from start to finish.

4. Teach the game to my friends. We play the game.

5. The next day, I read through the rules a third time. This time looking for details and places we might have played wrong.

That is usually good enough. Though, if I haven't played a game in months, I might have to look up some rules again.
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Daniel Boits Jr
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I appreciate everyone's responses!
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Jonathan Townsend
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I echo other's comments about learning by doing as the way to go. With many wargames you cannot expect to internalise all the procedures beforehand. The experience is unlike many other games where your decisions are based soley on the game engine. In a wargame you can make decisions based on more or less of what you would expect in its approximate real life situation. The game engine is designed to play out these decisions. For example you are not looking at how to exploit the permutations of a certain bid mechanic, placement process, and player interaction. Rather you are looking at how to move from A to C whilst the other player is blocking you in B for example.
This is all to say that the rules are there to assist and regulate you in your decisions rather than be a necessary precursor to any intelligent move in the game.
For my squirrel like love of nutty pleasures I have found that focusing on the victory conditions have heightened my facility in rules 'learning'. These are often the last listed, and in my desire to understand the game were often under-appreciated as I sat down to play bulging with all the other concepts that came before it. I would get so lost in trying to get the rules right that I would actually lose the point of the game.
So now I have turned it upside down (thanks to an article I read a few years ago in Moves magazine no.27 from 1976) and begin with the end. Next comes a study of the arena - ie. the map, how to move around it (terrain effects chart), and then how to succeed in combat (combat chart/system).
With those three in mind I then read the rules to a) see how the rules help me to acheive the victory and b) what special cases and advantages or disadvantages they may provide.
Then I start to play, with rules to hand.

As previously noted, many wargames have similar ideas and executions ruleswise but there can be big differences - thus the basic message in this method is to determine what victory is and then determine what maneuvers or procedures are required to achieve it. Focus on this bare minimum and then see how the rest of the rules support it rather than start at the beginning and try to wade through all the rest only to be exhausted by the time you get to the goal.
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Eddy Sterckx
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1) Learning rules is a trainable skill.

My eurogame group tackles at least one new game each week, and I'm usually the one reading the rules and teaching it. I noticed that over the years this has become less of a chore and that reading rules while keeping the "how would I teach this" in the back of your mind makes the rules stick better.

2) Don't sweat the small stuff.

Read the rules, set it up, make some moves, don't worry about all the exceptions and minor things. Seeing the game in action, getting the flow of the game is invaluable for that second, more thorough, read of the rules. When you finally play it, realize that in your first "real" game you're going to forget stuff and make mistakes, ignore that, a first game is almost always more a learning experience than a game.

3) Determine what you need to read before the first game. And what not.

Many games have entire sections devoted to the grand campaign, or a particular power in a multi-player game or whatnot that have no bearing on the first game you're going to play. Ignore those sections.

4) Let it sink in. But not for weeks

Usually my first read-through of the rules is in the same week that I'm going to play the game. The final read a couple of hours before the game.

5) Complicated games don't mix well

I'm male, hence bad at multi-tasking, so one complicated game at a time is what works for me, but I know guys who manage to keep several games all straight in their brain so that's a personal thing.

That's what works for me and so far I've only been defeated by one rulebook/game and that's the Guns of Gettysburg one. Just couldn't get it - became so frustrating I traded the game away.
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Charles Vasey
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I read the material from cover to cover.

Throw it on the floor

Come back over the next week to re-read some bits several times until I build a model in my head.

At that point I'll look at the counters and cards and recheck the model.

I may then read a book with a short description of the battle/campaign,

Then usually into a two-player game based on my descriptions but with us both in full-scout mode.
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Russ Williams
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Like many others, I read the rules once (which might take an hour, or a day or two) and then start playing. (Either solo or 2-player, depending.) Mistakes will be made, rule lookups will occur. But this gets me to the state of really knowing (and playing) the game much quicker than only reading and rereading the rules for weeks.

FWIW, I think that trying to learn it only by reading (or watching videos), and waiting until you feel that you "know" the game perfectly before playing it, is like trying to learn a foreign language or musical instrument by reading theoretically about it, without actually practicing it, and waiting until you feel that you (somehow) already know the language or instrument before actually speaking or playing it! You need to jump in and start doing it, and training your brain to the game's/language's/instrument's/whatever's routines. Theoretical knowledge is not enough. During the initial learning, it's not necessary to know every last detail 100% perfectly.
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Sven Weiler
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djboits2002 wrote:
So, how long does it take YOU to learn? And what are your learning strategies?


Personally I approach a new game the following way:

1. Set up the game to get a feeling for it / an overview of the components

2. Read the entire rules

3. Create a player aid that contains most of the information needed to play

4. Find any necessary errata

5. Play the game solo for a few turns

6. Update the player aid regarding the mistakes I made

The player aid is what takes the most time in this process but I find it's a good way to get back into a game after I haven't played in a while without having to re-read the entire rules.
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Leo Zappa
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The conclusion I've come to is that most games are simpler in practice than is suggested by reading their rule books. I'm not necessarily criticizing the writing efforts of most wargame designers, but I've simply found that once I start playing everything falls into place. As to how I approach the rules, I concentrate on four or five things each time:

Sequence of play
Victory conditions
Movement rules
Combat rules
Supply

Once I have a vague notion of how these things work, I punch, clip, and set up the counters and start pushing them. I will keep the rules handy those first few turns to check on anything special that comes up.
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