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Subject: What's Your Proficiency Rating? rss

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James Engelhardt
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In a forum on the twenty-five steps from Apples to Apples to Paths of Glory (here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/27587), a commentator gently chides the OP by critiquing the idea that there’s a gaming proficiency. You can’t compare it, he suggests, to the learning of foreign languages.

But I think you can.

I got re-introduced to boardgames through Apples to Apples (as luck would have it) and other specialty card games (Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot and Munchkin). This exposure happened in the context of a group of new friends who were also into MMORPGs, tabletop RPGs, and console games systems. So the general acceptance level—and discussion of—games was high. Someone brought Ticket to Ride to the table. Then someone went out and bought Arkham Horror.

Ooh.

So when a copy of Carcassonne showed up at a local coffee shop, I thought, well, I can just sit down right here and figure this game out. After looking through the rules I thought two things: first, that it looked very complicated, and, second, that I had to have it.

It’s been almost two years since then. I’ve added a lot of games to my collection, and I feel pretty good about embracing boardgames as a hobby. The Carcassonne rules now seem pretty simple, particularly if compared to something like Caylus or other, weightier games. Now, I can read rules and get a much better understanding of the game and its flow on the first encounter. Also, I find that I can more quickly understand what strategies are in play and how to use them.

So I have a few questions: do you think there’s a learning curve for understanding and/or appreciating games?, what was the first game you came across that seemed a little tricky at first but that you came to love? (I realize that I’ve set the bar fairly low with Carc, but I could also bore you with my attempt to teach myself Go from the tiny pamphlet that came with the board I bought. I’m not any better at that game, but I have a much better idea now of how it’s to be played.), and do you think that social setting—having gaming friends—helps with this progression (if, of course, you think there is a progression at all)?
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Every game has its own learning curve and proficiency level.

I have played "Go" over a hundred times and am still an unranked amatuer. It would take close to 1000 games under my belt before I understood what it was I was doing wrong.

With "Amun-Re" I have played over 60 times and not yet come up with strategies that hold up for more than a half-dozen games. I am uncertain that there is a way to master it.

Same with "Taj Mahal".

Just a few thoughts on this subject, which I too have been pondering since seeing that list.
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John Farrell
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I'm at level 22, with no ambitions to go higher or even stay at that level :-). I don't think this rating is about skill at any one game, it's skill at learning rules and deriving strategies from them. If you take two people - a level 1 and a level 22, who've both never heard of Go, you'd expect the level 22 to wallop the level 1 because level 22 has experience in other games and can guess at what some of the strategies might be, whereas the level 1 might not even understand that some moves will be defensive and some will be offensive.
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Rob Herman
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I believe there is both a general gaming aptitude and skills at specific games. As the most seasoned gamer in my group, I can skim a rulebook and understand the game, and rarely get lost when a game is explained to me. When learning most games, I usually feel I have a chance to win even on the first play. On the other hand, I have one friend who always beats me at Catan and another at Puerto Rico. (And Go? Forget about it.)

And although I believe that there is also a curve for appreciating games, I would argue that superheavy wargames--or indeed heavy Euros, or heavy AT games, are the "peak". I think people subconsciously realize their preferences quickly. Someone who is going to love very deep or very long games will instinctively seek them out. I personally prefer a shorter challenge that is less of a mental (and time) investment.
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John Farrell
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Sitnaltax wrote:
And although I believe that there is also a curve for appreciating games, I would argue that superheavy wargames--or indeed heavy Euros, or heavy AT games, are the "peak".


I think they're at the peak of complexity but that's very different from depth. Depth is what Osiris Ra was talking about. So yes, maybe this skill is dealing with complexity. I'd love to play fewer games and play them in more depth, and I think it took a while to realise that. For example, when I bought Age of Mythology I didn't realise I didn't like never-ending dicefests.
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Friendless wrote:
Sitnaltax wrote:
And although I believe that there is also a curve for appreciating games, I would argue that superheavy wargames--or indeed heavy Euros, or heavy AT games, are the "peak".


I think they're at the peak of complexity but that's very different from depth. Depth is what Osiris Ra was talking about. So yes, maybe this skill is dealing with complexity. I'd love to play fewer games and play them in more depth, and I think it took a while to realise that. For example, when I bought Age of Mythology I didn't realise I didn't like never-ending dicefests.


Yeah, I mean "learning curve", which is what makes or breaks a game for me. Too steep and I might invest more time to up my aptitude in the game. But too low and I will put that baby down, unless the challenge comes from playing the player and not the game -- Poker, Pow-Wow, Citadels.

I do think that learning one of a type of game -- whether it be CCGs, Euros, ATs, abstracts, CDGs, wargames, what-have-you -- prepares you better for others in that "genre". You at least have the mind-set. I mean, a game like Agricola makes perfect sense to someone familiar with Euros, while it would make little-to-no-sense to a party-gamer.

Also, though, experience with a complex game in one genre can prepare you for the complexities of another. I "cut my teeth" on Squad Leader, so Third Reich did not seem so bad and neither has any other game I encountered. It has just been a matter of time in picking up each game's subtleties.

Now, what I am finding the more I play games is that I do increasingly enjoy games where you play the players. Trying to mentally outduel a person within the confines of a game is a lot more interesting to me than defeating then through game mechanics (multi-player-solitaire or MPS). That is also a developed skill.

Go, Chesss, Taj Mahal, Maharaja: PBiI, Poker, Pow-Wow, Citadels, even the TtR series, and few other of my favorite games mostly come down to playing, reacting, and anticipating what others' will do.

So, maybe, we are talking about skill-sets that develop in the course of play, and in the long-term of all the games we experience.
 
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James Engelhardt
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In thinking about depth and complexity, I'm interested to hear if depth is a characteristic of the play of the game or of the rules? Is there a complex but not very deep game? It seems to me that there might be, but nothing immediately springs to mind.

 
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The list shows that there are different complexities in gaming. Further interpretations are nonsensical.

I for example went throught the list in playing (and learning games) like this:

6 (Carcassonne)
21 (War of the Ring)
11 (Memoir '44)
25 (Squad Leader, which is not in the list but should be of equal complexity as Paths of Glory)

There's no way in concluding that you should be able to play games 1-19 before trying to comprehend 20. You can start at any level.

The reason why people start playing lower complexity games is that those are better known to the public for obvious reasons.
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magisterludi wrote:
Is there a complex but not very deep game? It seems to me that there might be, but nothing immediately springs to mind.


I think there's heaps of them. Caylus, Twilight Imperium 3 (in fact, any of the big plastic Ameritrash), maybe Reef Encounter, Twilight Struggle and Up Front as well. I can't be too sure as I don't play the really complex games. Yes, you can be good at those games, but there aren't so many different levels of skill. My theory is that the more complex a game is, the less each individual move matters. Games like Hex, Go and Chess have such simple moves that each move matters in the grand scheme, but some moves can have absolutely devastating non-obvious consequences. The closer a game moves to being strongly themed the more obvious the consequences are and the shallower the depth.
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Friendless wrote:
magisterludi wrote:
Is there a complex but not very deep game? It seems to me that there might be, but nothing immediately springs to mind.

I think there's heaps of them. Caylus, Twilight Imperium 3 (in fact, any of the big plastic Ameritrash), maybe Reef Encounter, Twilight Struggle and Up Front as well.

Up Front is a deep game. It's not strategical depth, but how can it have any being a tactical game? And the game's not even that complex.
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John Farrell
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Simon Mueller wrote:
Up Front is a deep game.


Could you elaborate?
 
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Friendless wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
Up Front is a deep game.


Could you elaborate?

Hmm, I thought I had but somehow my second edit of the above post didn't save.

Ok, many people adore games with a "vast amount of options each and every round". Up Front doesn't have that, because you're restricted in the cards you have on your hand. Often enough you can't do anything at all.

However, when commanding an assaulting group, a covering fire group, a group with an AT weapon and a mortar, there's more to the FIRE card than just "fire". For example you could lay covering fire on an enemy position trying to pin some of the defenders, you could try to knock out an enemy tank with a Panzerfaust, have your assaulting group enter close combat, shoot your mortar, etc.
 
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Kevin Lloyd
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I'm inclined to think that complexity is not the only variable here. Another would be, well, for want of a better word, 'style' (not a great choice, but bear with me).

One of the earliest grown-up board games I got to grips with was Squad Leader. I progressed through all the add-ons and played for many, many hours. Recently, I've been collecting the ASL core modules and have been messing around with them (no opponent, just trying things out) and enjoying it.

However, Caylus I just don't get. It seems over-complicated, so I traded it (and there's a saga in itself).

Currently the only opponent I have is Mrs kevwill, so we stick to more approachable games such as the Carcassonne family, Settlers of Catan and, thanks to Secret Santa, Downfall of Pompeii.
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