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Subject: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting...Updated! rss

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Robin
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My husband and I really wanna play some of the wargames we own. However, with full-time stuff (seminary, children, etc.) going on, our time is limited. Yet, we would be able to squeeze in more time for games if we did a little rearrangement of our schedule.

However, one of the biggest hurdles we have to cross is reading a set of rules--any of them. We have to read them in chunks, a page or two here and there, and sometimes we can only do this once or twice a week. Thus, there are times when it takes a month to get through a set of rules, but by then they still make no sense.

So, what are your suggestions for reading, digesting, and putting into action wargame rules? How do you find time? What methods do you use?

Thanks!
 
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Joe Lott
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Sorry to say this, but your screwed here, unless you can get more time, your never going to be able to play one. To understand a set of rules, one needs to read them pretty much in full. You read a page or two here and there, your not going to get the big picture. Read the full first, then read bit by bit one your down time as you have time. No other choice really. Oh, also, as you go through the rules, set up a situation, and run through it. For combat, take a few units and see how they interact. Supply? set up some wierd possible sits, and so on. This always works for me. (it sounds so stupid since no wargamer actually follows the advice of the rule book, but I found it works!)

Good Luck.

P.S. you could also use time at work to read a rule set? Not like work is anything important is it?
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
For me, the lightbulb doesn't really go on until I set up a scenario and start moving pieces around while reading the rules. (Without that, I find that I can move my eyeballs across a page of rules without having much stick.) Running through a few turns alone helps fix the rules in my head and raises the kinds of questions which will come up during play.

If it's a block game, I'll apply all the stickers first, but if it's using counters, I just punch what I need for that scenario.

Given your small-pieces-of-time circumstances, it seems like it might help to have a place to leave games set up. (Did you post about that a while ago? I thought so, but I don't see it.) One of the designs someone suggested when I was thinking about the Frankentable was basically a bookshelf about the height of a desk, with a footprint the size of a poster frame; the poster frames themselves are the shelves, resting on horizontal cleats about 3" apart. So you set up a long-running game on a poster frame; when you need to put it away for a while, you pick up the poster frame, carry it over to the shelf-box-thing, and slide it back in.

Another suggestion (in the EuroFront II rulebook, I think) for storing a game in progress out of the way is to have brackets near the ceiling in a corner; the brackets support three corners of the board, and the fourth is suspended with wire from a hook in the ceiling.

(Of course, the ideal is just a table in a room where the kids don't play; then you don't have to bother with putting away/getting out.)
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Robin
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
kuhrusty wrote:
For me, the lightbulb doesn't really go on until I set up a scenario and start moving pieces around while reading the rules.


I am the same way. I have to see it to understand it.


kuhrusty wrote:
Given your small-pieces-of-time circumstances, it seems like it might help to have a place to leave games set up. (Did you post about that a while ago? I thought so, but I don't see it.) One of the designs someone suggested when I was thinking about the Frankentable was basically a bookshelf about the height of a desk, with a footprint the size of a poster frame; the poster frames themselves are the shelves, resting on horizontal cleats about 3" apart. So you set up a long-running game on a poster frame; when you need to put it away for a while, you pick up the poster frame, carry it over to the shelf-box-thing, and slide it back in.

Another suggestion (in the EuroFront II rulebook, I think) for storing a game in progress out of the way is to have brackets near the ceiling in a corner; the brackets support three corners of the board, and the fourth is suspended with wire from a hook in the ceiling.

(Of course, the ideal is just a table in a room where the kids don't play; then you don't have to bother with putting away/getting out.)


Leaving a game set up is a good idea too. We have a conference table that we leave folded in our room that we could use for wargames to be left set up. We originally got it for that reason so we could spend weekends actually finishing some of our wargames that take over 3 or 4 hours.

We also use poster frames. I never thought to put it on top of a shelf for storage.

 
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Andrew Vignuzzi
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Yeah - kind of tough,

in 3-4 years time your oldest child can probably be given the task of reading and condensing the rules for you (that's how I learned to play Memoir 44 and Princes of Florence), but in the meantime, my only suggestion is to pick a game system that will let you read rules once and then let you play many games using it. I could get into some options, but it really depends on how complex a wargame you are interested in.

As an example, I learned Simple GBoH for that exact reason. I can now play a whole bunch of battles using a simple rule set. The Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage system, once learned, also leads to many other CDG similar games from different eras.

In the end, there are a few game rules systems that once you understand them, a lot of games use variations or adaptations of these systems (command, activation, ZOC, supply, stacking, line of sight, etc.) so the learning curve is less intimidating.

Also, think about skimming and just jumping into a scenario. Some wargame rule books only make sense when you are actually trying to work your way through a situation. Looking things up while playing, or just deferring it and asking a question here or on CSW (or on the Yahoo groups) is immensely more productive.

Of course, you could start with A World at War or World in Flames and you may not see your kids for months on end....

Cheers,

Andrew

 
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Darrell Hanning
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
The only alternative not covered by Rusty and Jo would be to get someone who knows the game to explain it to you, in person. This usually goes much quicker than learning them yourselves (as you've no doubt already experienced with other games), and someone knowledgeable can also more quickly walk you through some examples of movement, combat, supply, etc. The only time you would have to devote to learning after that would be for the odd situation that raises a question in your mind.

One other thing that, in the long term, can reduce your rules learning time, is to seek wargames that are in a series, and learn the first one. These usually have summaries as to what is different, in the subsequent games.
 
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Jan van der Laan
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
First of all: take your time. Second of all: take even more time The way you intend to make rules your own is imho the baddest way to do it. I usually try to do it in this way;

1. Read the rule book once or twice (read the basic rules solely)

2. Read the rulebook again.

3. Study the book (making notes) once or twice (again: leaving all other than the basic rules for what they are)

4. Set up the game and play it solitaire (just the basic version without all optional/extended rules) and look up in the gamesrulebook everything you do.

5. Read the rulebook again.

6. Set up the game and play it solitaire (trying nót to use the gamerulesbook all to often)

7. Read the rulebook again.

8. Read and study the optional/extended rules

9. Set up and play the game solitaire (using the optional/extended rules)

10. Read the rulebook again.

11. Find an opponent and play it with him/her.

12. Read the rulebook again.

For me this is the best way to get into the game. But it takes time to read the rulebook over and over again. And, as Rusty states, playing the game and having the opportunity to leave the set-up game for a couple of days in order to play a few gameturns is essential. In that way you can visualisize the just read rules.


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Ray
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Helenoftroy wrote:
So, what are your suggestions for reading, digesting, and putting into action wargame rules? How do you find time? What methods do you use?

The key to learning wargames (and this is the direct opposite for Euros) is to just play them wrong and not try to look up the rules you are in doubt about. Rely on what you gleam from the play aids and your knowledge in history to guess what the rule would be and play it out.

Then when your done reread the rules (which will now make more sense and read *much* quicker) taking notes on what you missed (so as to construct a mental or physical cheat sheet from this). then repeat.

Why is there this difference between how to approach wargames and Euros? Because at their heart Euros are about presenting the players with a puzzle to solve and the wrong rules will change the puzzle and play balance (for instance making only one of the actions to choice from profitable). Wargames on the other hand are about immersion into simulation and reenactment. Play balance is far less important than that sense of being there.

Once players learn the unimportance of following the rules with learning wargames even the monster wargames become less intimidating and more accessible.
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Michael Lucey
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Is this only a problem with wargames or all of your games? Wargames on average are harder or more rule intensive but not all. There are some quick setup and reading rules that can be done in an hour. Take Warrior's of God on pre order from MMP. I am helping out with the RB, and I read those rules inside an hour and had very little problem understanding 90% in one reading, and it is an entirely new game engine so I have no prior experience to fall back on. Other games take longer and more readings, but I think the best bet is to read the rules through first, flag the difficult sections (some are no brainers) and then just re read the harder sections a 2nd or 3rd time. My first CDG game I had to read the rules a few times to get the mechanics down because it was an entirely new system to me. Once you learn the game engine though, other games are easier to learn.

I do like to setup the game and go through combat and movement, those are usually the stumbling blocks for wargames. The visual aspect others have echo'ed work for me. I do tend to learn games "on the fly" so to speak, I have the rules in front of me and play a game and learn the rules as I go along. That is almost the equivalent of having someone teach you the rules. One thing though, never be afraid to play the game wrong. What I mean by that is don't shelf a game because you are not sure you are playing the rules right. Some games take a play or two to insure you are doing it right if self taught.
 
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Michael Lucey
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
As a follow up to reading a rulebook in chunks you can do what I have done. I have learned rules in chunks as you suggest and what you should do is skip the combat, movement, supply (if applicable) and skim over the game setup and piece explanation sections while you are reading over the rules for the first time. Understand the object, goal and flow (mechanics) of the game but skip the parts that will bog you down initially. This way here you get the overview of the game so you can understand how to play and win at a high level. Then you drill down and learn each more complicated component, because I assume these are really the sections causing the slow learning process. If you could find a way to dedicate 15-20 minutes a night for 1 week, you can probably get through the RB and get the majority of the game system down. Then you will just have to dedicate one playing for rule retention and solidification.
 
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Ray
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
and in anticipation of the next question most players of Euros ask of:

"if playing with the wrong rule doesn't mater then why have the rule in the first place as this is the type of stuff that adds all that unneeded chrome and complexity to wargames?"

the best expalination I read on it was here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/895902#895902
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Keep a copy of the rules in the bathroom...most games having living rules you can print off, so its easy to keep multiple copies lying about.

Use Vassal, ZunTzu or others like it to setup and desktop push counters around.
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Kent Reuber
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Read through the rules a couple of times to get an idea of how the game plays. Don't try to memorize it; just get a feel for what mechanics are included.

Now that you're kind of familiar with how the game plays, make yourself a cheat sheet. Include things like the turn order, any odd mechanics, etc. You might end up creating 3-4 pages of summary here, but that's better than 12+ pages of rules.

Now you have a chance at playing. Once you've played, you can revise your cheat sheet if you forgot anything.

Out of curiosity, what game are you and your husband going to play?
 
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Peter Bogdasarian
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
I like to build quick reference sheets to highlight the differences between one game and the next. With judicious editing, you can normally get a one page or so summary of the meaningful stuff which will let you sit down and play.

The key is to concentrate on the reference part - if you can summarize it in a sentence then go ahead. If it's a one off event or is more complicated, put a note so you remember it and then crossreference to the appropriate part of the rules.
 
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Ken B.
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
wtrollkin2000 wrote:
and in anticipation of the next question most players of Euros ask of:

"if playing with the wrong rule doesn't mater then why have the rule in the first place as this is the type of stuff that adds all that unneeded chrome and complexity to wargames?"

the best expalination I read on it was here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/895902#895902




Yikes...that was a very ugly time in my gaming evolution. Looking for a home between Euro and wargame and having a tough time finding it. (This was months before the "Ameritrash/Light Wargame/Plasty" stuff really took off).


I must admit that the folks posting in that thread were so supremely nice and helpful that it began changing my perception of hardcore wargamers. Now I consider them "cousins", for lack of a better term.


EDIT: Back to the original question--I really only absorb rules by playing. That's how I see things working for the first time and the wheels start clicking.

I would do it in chunks--maybe handle one turn, or a combat, or something like that, absorb the game in easily digested modules. That's how I learned TI3, War of the Ring, Game of Thrones, and others. Though those aren't nearly as complex, the same principle applies, just on a different scale.
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Robert Fix
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
What I have done over the past few years is read the rulebook and highlight it. Then I try to type out a 1-2 page outline of the important things usually using the highlighted portions as my guide (I usually take into account the fact that my opponent will be pretty familiar with Zone of Control rules, etc). By and large, the outline takes care of the majority of any issues that pop up.
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Based on your time constraints...

Put a copy of the rules in the Executive Reading Room. Try one page at a time over a few days. Then, set up the game and play through one or two turns. Just focus on the moves, combat, supply and whatever other elements of the game you remember. I suspect that you will immediately come up with more questions. spend the next week or two answering the initial questions, and getting comfortable with the basics.

If you do something wrong, just blame it on the cat. After all, cats won't care...

Set up a new game and play 3 or 4 turns. Identify the new rules areas that you need to clarify, and look up the answers when you get a chance.

Repeat as needed.

I actually enjoy the challenge of learning a new game, and the social interaction that occurs when the players get a chance to discuss and figure things out.

Hope that helps!
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Well, your big advantage is that you're going to be playing this game with your spouse.

Some wargames come with "easy" versions of rules: play the easy version then tackle the advanced version.

On the other hand, if you're like me - I really like getting the whole "picture" in my mind before playing - you can both read a section, then TALK about it together. Once you feel comfortable, move on to the next section. Use a yellow highlighter for what you think are important explanations.

Once you've read the rules and feel more or less comfortable, lay out the map, punch out the counters, break open a bottle of cabernet, and rewrite history!

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Brian B
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Figure out how a turn is supposed to flow (phases). Figure out how combat works. Then start playing and learn as you go.

My eurogaming side wants to know all rules to perfection before I play a new game. Fight this instinct when learning a wargame and get the basics running to see if it's fun or interesting. Only with many plays and mistakes will all the rules become clear or matter.

Lastly, don't be shy. If the designer gives you a bunch of good stuff at setup it's there for a reason- attack! Go for it! A good wargame will balance out in the end and you will be judged by your gains when strong.

Rereading the rules after a play or two will clear things up and a visit to the 'rules' posts on the geek is always worth the time for a game you enjoy.
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act

However, one of the biggest hurdles we have to cross is reading a set of rules--any of them. We have to read them in chunks, a page or two here and there, and sometimes we can only do this once or twice a week. Thus, there are times when it takes a month to get through a set of rules, but by then they still make no sense.

[/q]

What games are you trying to play? Some games are quicker to learn than others. My wife and I will often read through the rules and play a turn or two, then leave the game set up for a while. It helps that we're experienced wargamers, but even we have to go through the entire manual.

Something like War at Sea shouldn't take longer than an hour to learn. A simple wargame like Onslaught should be startable in two no matter how green you are.

As you learn rules, you'll find they really aren't so hard, and have much in common.
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
Jan van der Laan wrote:
First of all: take your time. Second of all: take even more time The way you intend to make rules your own is imho the baddest way to do it. I usually try to do it in this way;

1. Read the rule book once or twice (read the basic rules solely)

2. Read the rulebook again.

3. Study the book (making notes) once or twice (again: leaving all other than the basic rules for what they are)

4. Set up the game and play it solitaire (just the basic version without all optional/extended rules) and look up in the gamesrulebook everything you do.

5. Read the rulebook again.

6. Set up the game and play it solitaire (trying nót to use the gamerulesbook all to often)

7. Read the rulebook again.

8. Read and study the optional/extended rules

9. Set up and play the game solitaire (using the optional/extended rules)

10. Read the rulebook again.

11. Find an opponent and play it with him/her.

12. Read the rulebook again.

For me this is the best way to get into the game. But it takes time to read the rulebook over and over again. And, as Rusty states, playing the game and having the opportunity to leave the set-up game for a couple of days in order to play a few gameturns is essential. In that way you can visualisize the just read rules.





holy cow, I do almost the exact opposite, I scan through the rules, punch out a few counters and go to town blowing stuff up, I have to check the rules a few times, but I normally find after 1 session, rereading the rules is a LOT easier
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Nick Hawkins
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
It may depend on what you want out of the game.

If your main goal is to enjoy the experience then skim through the rules, pick a short/introductory scenario and start playing as soon as possible. If you get things wrong don't worry, it was a short game and you'll do things better next time.

If 'the win' is all then you may be better off studying the rules and clarifying all of your doubts before you start, unfortunately you risk never getting to play a game.

Nick H.
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Wargames normally have several inter-linked sub-systems. Unless you are an experienced wargamer, it is difficult to make sense of everything at one go. It gets easier after you have several similar games under your belt.

This is what I normally do:

1. Read the Turn Sequence. This gives you an overview of how each turn goes.

2. Skim through the rules. Do not be alarmed if things do not make sense. You are still trying to get a broad idea of how each of the subsystems interact with one another (like supply vs movement)

3. Go back and read in detail. At this stage, you may want to run through mechanics by playing simple situations. But I find that with a well-written rule book, the examples provided will allow me to read without setting up the game. But hey, I have been doing this for 20+ years.

Hope it helps.
 
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into act
It's interesting how divergent the advice given here is. I imagine this just reflects how different people's learning styles are.

Personally, I'm very much in the "play early and often" crowd. Skim the rules, set up the game. When you hit something you don't remember (which, for me, is probably at least 50% of things the first time through), either 1) look it up, 2) make something up, or 3) ignore it, depending on the importance of the question and your mood at the time. Save detailed rules reading for later.

Your situation of playing only for short periods of time is actually pretty helpful for learning wargame rules, IMO, because it should keep you from getting too bogged down. Sit down to the table with a goal of playing a set number of turns - how many will depend on what you're playing, but keep the pace brisk. Keep the rulebook handy around the house (or at work) and when you can find 5-10 minutes to yourself pick it up and carefully read *one* section that you weren't sure about in your last play. In the end, this method probably doesn't get you to rules competence any faster than serious rules study before playing (and wow are people serious - taking notes and outlines!), but it's a heck of a lot less drudgery.
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Re: Wargame Rules: reading, digesting, and putting into action
Which ones are you trying to play? What helps me is to read the rules, reread and highlight them, read the highlighted rules then play. If you don't play the game for a long period of time, you can read the highlighed rules and grap how to play. Are you going to try mem. 44 type or a hex type? Start with simple ones A victory Lost, GMT American Revolution series, Clash of GiantsII.
 
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