Stephan Beal
Germany
Geltendorf
Bayern
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Forewarning: if your sensibilities don't allow for anyone saying anything critical about Your Favourite Game, please don't read this post. i WILL say unpleasant things about this game. i will, however, also propose a solution to those unpleasantries which doesn't require making any rules changes. If you can be mature and stick with me until the final line of this post, please do. If you can't, please don't.

TL;DR: if you just want the "happy ending" part of this post, search this page for text "The Solution" and continue reading from there. If you want the background story which led there, continue reading from here...

Background (what led to this post)...

When my S&S set arrived in June 2017 i happily spent 2 days going over the rules before setting it up for play. It quickly became clear that the game, due to the amount of moving parts (in short, the number of state changes and state changers active at any given time) literally wasn't playable by a solo player with my sub-superhuman brain capacity. After two sessions i packed it away and waited for Wave 2, expecting that i would be selling it as soon as the rest of the game arrived.

January 2018: Wave 2 arrives. Again, i spend a day re-familiarizing myself with the rules and set up the first scenario, only to discover (again) that my brain literally isn't big enough to track all that needs to be tracked in this game. But i don't want to sell it. i WANT to enjoy this game.

To rewind a bit: S&S's predecessor, Galaxy Defenders, was my first-ever coop game, and i loved it... except that it left me with an intense headache every single time i played it, as the amount of Fiddly (state changes/changers) in the game was simply beyond my mental capacity to handle. (The manual's repeated misuse of the word "relative", when "relevant" is intended, also got on my nerves to no end, and S&S continues that tradition.) So i sold it. i backed the S&S Kickstarter campaign because it was advertized as being more "streamlined" and "faster-playing" than GD, while still using the basic overall engine. Let's be frank: that's not true. "Faster-playing" simply means "the scenarios are shorter" (which is fine - i prefer not to spend 3+ hours on every scenario). One single aspect of the game was ostensibly streamlined: the switch from hexes to squares for map measurement (yet i preferred the hexes!). For every aspect which was simplified, complexity was added in multiple other places, making S&S, on the whole, notably more complex than its predecessor. S&S has literally 5 times the number of distinct token types with which to track state. The monsters have more abilities (e.g. note the "charge token" abilities). Reaction fire was removed, so maybe that counts as streamlining. There really is, in my opinion, little about S&S which qualifies as "simpler" than the corresponding feature was in GD, and then S&S adds features which GD didn't have.

Here's a real example of what simply kills me when playing S&S:

A character spends some fraction of his movement and actions before moving onto a Story Event card. At that point, the game gets interrupted. We (the "royal we") have to refer to the Quest Book to see how to resolve that Story Event. The Quest Book tells us to look in section X.Y of yet another book (the Book of Secrets), so let's go flip through that second book. The Book of Secrets tells us to...

1) go pull your S&S box back off the shelf (which is where it is, as it's too big to fit on the table with an in-progress game session and these 200-square-inch rule/quest books) and pull out Monster X (which it didn't list in the quest setup notes "to avoid spoilers"). Great. For the love of spoilers, i now get to go dig the box out and find another miniature.

Three minutes later, when i've found the mini and its card (which is stored in yet another box), i go back to the Book of Secrets, which tells me to...

2) Place that mini in the space with the Story Event card. And then...

3) Go dig out an Event card which the Quest setup didn't tell me about (again, because "spoilers"). Sigh. Repeat step (1) and place the new Event card where it needs to go.

4) Now spawn a couple more enemies. (Oops, the enemy deck is empty, so let's re-shuffle it first.)

5) Now activate the new minis immediately. Fine... we take their turns before preceding...

6) Now continue your turn.

Errr... i'd love to, if i had any idea whatsoever what was going on at the time. How many of my actions and movement points had i spent at that point? Did i use any once-per-turn abilities before or during the triggering of the event? i have no clue, because that was 10 minutes ago and the game has overloaded me with other information since then.

Sigh.

Story Events are not the only culprit, just the worst offenders. Revealing of Shadow Tokens and traps also interrupt play, though not in nearly as drastic a manner.

In a gaming group, this cognitive load is spread across several minds, making it potentially bearable. In solo (my exclusive mode of play), its weight crushes any single non-superhuman mind into mush.

Nonetheless... i WANT to enjoy this game. It's a solid game, but the level of complexity borders on sadistic. So, i gave it one last chance and tried something new...

The Solution... (or a solution, anyway)

i experimentally tried something out before giving up altogether on this game, making an absolutely unthinkable change to how i play it...

i added more Fiddly.

Wha!?!?!?

My cognitive load problem in S&S stems from the game requiring that player(s) mentally keep track of the most-changing elements of the game: expenditure of action points (which includes movement). The game has tokens for every conceivable thing, many (most?) of which are used only in a single quest or by a single character skill, and yet it leaves out pieces for tracking the most volatile state in the game while also providing plenty of interruptions which complicate the tracking of that state. That's... well, it's kinda facepalmy, i don't mind saying.

So, let's fix that...

Introducing my Box of Gems:



i use those for generic "fiddly tracking" in any number of games. (Here's the link to my gems source, for those of you whose eyes just popped out of your head.)

One need not use "gems". Any sort of token or chit or glass bead or little cube will do just fine, but we'll continue to call them "gems" for brevity's sake. The important thing is that we have the following flavors of them for tracking various things:

1) Yellow Squiggly Symbol Actions (yellow gems)
2) Red Fist (Combat) Actions (red gems)
3) Greenish-grey Boot (Movement) Actions (green gems)
4) Misc. once-per-round Actions (i chose purple gems for these because they're so pretty)
5) Cooldowns. Yes, cooldowns. i find the flipping and rotating of the cards (which causes them to take up yet more tabletop space) to be inexcusably over-fiddly. Not only that, but flipping them blocks their text from view, increasing the cognitive load still further as one tries, for planning purpose, to recall exactly what a given skill card does. Feel free to skip these gems if you are happy with the built-in approach to tracking cooldowns.

At the start of play, i place these gems on the character like so:



Each gem is placed on the card or token which "creates" the corresponding action points. Red and yellow go on the Soul Gem. Green (movement) goes onto the character card. This character currently has no once-per-turn bits to track. If he did, a gem would be placed on that ability's text.

As a character's turn progresses, the gems get moved around. Yellow and red gems get moved to the card which consumes that action. Movement and once-per-turn gems simply get placed somewhere to the side. Here's what our barbarian looks like after some activity:


(Sidebar: that skill on the right requires a two-handed weapon, which this character doesn't have. No big deal - this is only for demonstration purposes.)

We've moved the red gem to the card which consumed an Attack action. Likewise, the yellow gems have been moved to the cards which consumed those. When using the "focus attack" action, i place the associated yellow gem on the attack which was focused. The blue gem is used to note the cooldown period of the talent (one gem per point of cooldown). The movement gems were simply moved to the side. If this character had an artifact in that slot, the gems would have been placed at the bottom of the character card.

When the Time Phase comes around, we move all of the gems back to their original location except for the cooldowns: we remove one blue gem from each skill card which has any blue gems on it. If it has no more blue gems, it's ready for use, else it's still cooling down.

That's all there is to it.

With this simple approach i've been able to play through two whole sessions in two days without a single headache (not even a small one). i'm going to call that a win.

The lesson here is: sometimes fiddly must be fought with more fiddly. Nobody is more surprised by that than i.
22 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel U. Thibault
Canada
Québec
Québec
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
This gem thing is reminiscent of how Conan works.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
The Fire
United States
Warwick
RI
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
Love this idea, especially the cool downs!

I had the same problem and too make it worse; each time I played I was forgetting something different so it wasn't like I could train my brain to remember that thing I couldn't keep in my head.

I have enough bits and bobs around here to see if this works for me too and if it does, I'll get me some gems. after all, who doesn't like bags of gems.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephan Beal
Germany
Geltendorf
Bayern
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
Urhixidur wrote:
This gem thing is reminiscent of how Conan works.


Actually... i bought all of those gems while waiting for Conan to arrive. That game was the first place i had seen them, and "had" to have as many as i could get my hands on.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephan Beal
Germany
Geltendorf
Bayern
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
Wayne LaBanca wrote:
I have enough bits and bobs around here to see if this works for me too and if it does, I'll get me some gems. after all, who doesn't like bags of gems.


Any generic widgets will work fine, though smaller is better (less intrusive). Simply cut out some half-inch chits and color-code them with markers or colored sticker dots. If you use markers, be aware that some color might rub off, so i don't recommend that with unsleeved components.

If you want to get really fancy, make chits with the corresponding icons from the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Gingras
Canada
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
I love the gem idea! Certainly makes things easier!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Felipe
msg tools
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
As a solo player who gets headaches because I don’t talk outloud I am hoping this will work for me. I think I have a bunch of cool gems in a game I hate somewhere too. I’ll be coming back to this.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephan Beal
Germany
Geltendorf
Bayern
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Sword & Sorcery: one Solution to the Sadistic State-tracking Situation
FFidget wrote:
As a solo player who gets headaches because I don’t talk outloud I am hoping this will work for me.


i talk out loud and get headaches :/. This approach has helped with the headaches, but talking myself through the fiddly (out loud) is still required.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Cantor
United States
Columbus
Ohio
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's fascinating how differently people's brains function. Not only do I not have the problems you have with the game at all, but adding the gems would make it worse for me because I'd forget to move more bits around. I can keep it straight in my head much more easily than with tracking more bits.

I just tried Gloomhaven for the first time, and like with just about any game involving card/hand management, *that*'s killing my brain to the point that if it didn't play solo with only two characters so I could slog my way through it, I'd have to sell it off.

Perdition's Mouth is a really cool game but needing three characters and having to manage hands for all three, makes it impossible for me to solo. It's my version of what you seem to be struggling with in S&S. Same problem I had with Darkest Night.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jerry Santos
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I started reading your post thinking, it’s not THAT big of an issue for me to track things, but after seeing your suggestions I plan in trying it out as I could see the benefits. I too disliked turning the cards for cool down.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.