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Subject: Quick reflections on first two complete games rss

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Severus Snape
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Quick thoughts on First Game: Much confusion amid more confusion. Recruitment and desertion among many questions—see the seven—and counting—I have asked on BGG. The rules reflect verbosity and a lack of clarity, balanced by a sense of humour and well-grounded history. In my game, the cards were mostly stacked in favour of the Royalists. Roughly 3/5 to 2/3 of the Parliament event cards were dealt to the Royals. The deal allowed the Royalists to eventually draw three cards from the deck, while, at separate times, removing four cards from the Parliament hand. With a 12 needed for victory, the Parliament side scored a 9 at the end. Is this considered “close”? Late in the game, I allowed Rupert’s forces to disperse rather than fight Cromwell (second to last turn). The brigade strength was plus one for Cromwell, but I did not want to risk the Royalists permanent losses. In hindsight this was a mistake. The recruitment capabilities are at their lowest in the first turn and the last three turns. There’s not enough time to build Rupert back to strength. With better OPS cards, Cromwell could have done some real damage by taking more economic infrastructures. As it was, the Parliament side ended with control of five, with three for the Royalists, and one disputed. Control of Regions helped save the Royalist side from defeat. There was a fair bit of fighting, as the Royalist worked hard to knock out Notable Nobles. Parliament lost eight brigades permanently to the Royal’s two (not counting the required units that have to be permanently removed with play of the NMA card).

Quick thoughts on Second Game: Still a bit of rule confusion, though, as expected, less so. I noticed the “gamey” tactic of a smaller force breaking a siege, but dispersing during the battle phase; thus, you can lift the siege points your enemy has accumulated, while not permanently losing any brigades. Q: Does the ECV have examples of this? The game itself saw the Parliament side score a 10, two shy of the needed 12, but the game was much closer than it seems. It looked as if the Royalists would lose, but good OPS cards helped in taking PC’s away from the Parliament side. The Royalist controlled 29 areas and 3 regions, but just barely. The fight over the Midlands, including the economic infrastructure that controls “the supplies for the city,” was touch and go during the last turn. Parliament captured the economic infrastructure from Royalist control, but the Royals won the region 9 to 8. If Parliament had one more OPS to play, the Lord General would have attacked Charles, who was in “the Forest of the Dean.” If the Royals lose it, they lose both the region and the economic control of that area. Parliament would have won with 13 points. One economic infrastructure was being “masked” by Prince Maurice, thus it was controlled by no one. I rolled for the Lord General to see what might have happened, and he would have lost narrowly (7 to 6 on the dice, after the modifiers are applied). When the Scots invaded the North in late 1644, I thought Parliament would win easily, and the North did fall quickly. But these armies move slowly, desertion is steady, and the right number of OPS cards are needed. Still, this was more satisfying from the perspective of a close contest. Parliament lost four brigades permanently to the Royals’ two—much more even. Less fighting and more movement.

goo
 
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Gideon Sadler
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No mention of raiding or discard activity!
 
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Severus Snape
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gidsadler wrote:
No mention of raiding or discard activity!


Going for PC of areas through discarding seemed all too frequent because I did not see any other valuable use for event cards intended for the other side. I played both sides to try and knock out local notables early on. At the end the second game, Laugharne, in Pembroke, was the only one left on the board. Two had "converted" to generals through play of the NMA. I think the only reason Laugharne was still standing is the distance of Pembroke from the "centre of gaming gravity." I do need to adopt a strategy of more aggressive raiding in one of my games.

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Charles Vasey
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bentlarsen wrote:
Quick thoughts on First Game: Much confusion amid more confusion. Recruitment and desertion among many questions—see the seven—and counting—I have asked on BGG. The rules reflect verbosity and a lack of clarity, balanced by a sense of humour and well-grounded history.


The asking of questions, many of which are answered by quoting the rules does not demonstrate the rules are unclear, simply that you did not understand them. There are two different factors at work there. We have played those rules over many months and built in the text that we feel is required to cover the eventualities that we have experienced. So what may appear verbose may in fact be necessary for reasons you have not yet encountered.

Have you an example of these two problems for discussion?
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Charles Vasey
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As a general observation although dispersal avoids permanent losses it also means that recruited brigades have been lost to no purpose. As there is a limit to the number of Brigades that can be recruited there is a sense in which one is losing a resource permanently when you disperse. So it is important not to expose too small an army led by a poor general to risk. I have seen players "dispersed" out of contention.
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Severus Snape
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Charles Vasey wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:
Quick thoughts on First Game: Much confusion amid more confusion. Recruitment and desertion among many questions—see the seven—and counting—I have asked on BGG. The rules reflect verbosity and a lack of clarity, balanced by a sense of humour and well-grounded history.


The asking of questions, many of which are answered by quoting the rules does not demonstrate the rules are unclear, simply that you did not understand them. There are two different factors at work there. We have played those rules over many months and built in the text that we feel is required to cover the eventualities that we have experienced. So what may appear verbose may in fact be necessary for reasons you have not yet encountered.

Have you an example of these two problems for discussion?


Charles, with as much respect as I can muster in cyberspace, I disagree. You, as a highly intelligent person, and experienced game designer, have, along with a team of intelligent, experienced play-testers, designed a set of rules that you feel include enough to cover the eventualities. Yet, my reading of the rules says that these good intentions have fallen short.

Humanly speaking, I do not expect you, or anyone else, to write the perfect rulebook. Pefect for its clarity, perfect because it is error free, perfect for its prose, perfect for its conciseness. Such a rulebook has yet to be written,

In regards to quoting the rule, as a teacher, I know that it is not enough to simply repeat the instruction which I have given to students who do not understand it. Although I now focus on English, at one time, in elementary school, I was required to teach a variety of subjects, math included. If some students did not understand a math formula, repeating it, quoting it, did nothing to help them to comprehend. I had to find a better way to explain the formula, perhaps by using differnt words, by restating it in another way, or by finding the right examples. I think this works for wargame rulebooks as well.

As far as specific examples, I am taking note. I will send them to you with the full review, at which time I will appreciate your help in clarifying them.

goo
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Severus Snape
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Charles Vasey wrote:
As a general observation although dispersal avoids permanent losses it also means that recruited brigades have been lost to no purpose. As there is a limit to the number of Brigades that can be recruited there is a sense in which one is losing a resource permanently when you disperse. So it is important not to expose too small an army led by a poor general to risk. I have seen players "dispersed" out of contention.


This is an excellent point, and I feel I almost led the Royalist side to defeat late in my first full game.

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Charles Vasey
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bentlarsen wrote:
Charles Vasey wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:
Quick thoughts on First Game: Much confusion amid more confusion. Recruitment and desertion among many questions—see the seven—and counting—I have asked on BGG. The rules reflect verbosity and a lack of clarity, balanced by a sense of humour and well-grounded history.


The asking of questions, many of which are answered by quoting the rules does not demonstrate the rules are unclear, simply that you did not understand them. There are two different factors at work there. We have played those rules over many months and built in the text that we feel is required to cover the eventualities that we have experienced. So what may appear verbose may in fact be necessary for reasons you have not yet encountered.

Have you an example of these two problems for discussion?


Charles, with as much respect as I can muster in cyberspace, I disagree. You, as a highly intelligent person, and experienced game designer, have, along with a team of intelligent, experienced play-testers, designed a set of rules that you feel include enough to cover the eventualities. Yet, my reading of the rules says that these good intentions have fallen short.

Humanly speaking, I do not expect you, or anyone else, to write the perfect rulebook. Pefect for its clarity, perfect because it is error free, perfect for its prose, perfect for its conciseness. Such a rulebook has yet to be written,

In regards to quoting the rule, as a teacher, I know that it is not enough to simply repeat the instruction which I have given to students who do not understand it. Although I now focus on English, at one time, in elementary school, I was required to teach a variety of subjects, math included. If some students did not understand a math formula, repeating it, quoting it, did nothing to help them to comprehend. I had to find a better way to explain the formula, perhaps by using differnt words, by restating it in another way, or by finding the right examples. I think this works for wargame rulebooks as well.

As far as specific examples, I am taking note. I will send them to you with the full review, at which time I will appreciate your help in clarifying them.

goo


Yet there are cases where a question asked is answered by pointing out the rule which the querist has not noticed in his consideration of the question. Or where the querist asks a question about whether something is the case and this something is not to be found anywhere it the rules (for example, the series of questions about whewther King can do (a) (b) or (c) where there is no suggestion in the text that he cannot do these things).

Teaching the concept of a single formula is rather different from teaching a set of wargame rules in which a mass of formulae are covered, some of which must be resolved simultaneously. Nor is a set of wargame rules analgous to the teaching process as wargame rules are not the subject of face-to-face discussion and iteration. Wargame rules are more like statute or a legal agreement; those who use them may never discuss them with the originator or with someone who "knows the answer". As someone with long experience in reading tax statutes there are many reasons why people find they have qestions:

1) The statute is inconsistent or vague.
2) The statute sections dovetail in one way and they have not spotted this and are running into a blank wall, whereas by turning right or left they will spot the linkage.
3) They have not studied it enough.
4) They have come to the statute with a preconception of its purpose or methodology.
5) They disagree with the statute's effect and are determined to defeat it.
6) The answer requires them to follow a chain of sections to arrive at an answer.

Their questions are undoubted, but they are not always the result of a lack of clarity or of verbosity.

Surely you must have one example in mind of each?



 
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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Teaching the concept of a single formula is rather different from teaching a set of wargame rules in which a mass of formulae are covered, some of which must be resolved simultaneously. Nor is a set of wargame rules analgous to the teaching process as wargame rules are not the subject of face-to-face discussion and iteration. Wargame rules are more like statute or a legal agreement; those who use them may never discuss them with the originator or with someone who "knows the answer".


We both know that it helps to have a lawyer, teacher, or rulebook author present to help explain and clarify. Language--even math has to address the language problem--and communication being what they are, questions will always arise. Is that the "fault" of the lawyer, teacher or rulebook? Is it the fault of the learner? Is it no one's fault, per se? Teaching is part science, part religion, and part magic.

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Surely you must have one example in mind of each?


Yes, I do. What's your hurry? laugh

goo
 
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Jon Badolato
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Surely the calmest disagreement I have seen on BGG.
Shall I get the tea and crumpets ?
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Severus Snape
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jonb wrote:
Surely the calmest disagreement I have seen on BGG.
Shall I get the tea and crumpets ?


Around Charles, I tread with great care. Crossing swords with him is like dueling with a Vulcan. In this case, the Vulcan comes fully equipped with a sense of humour.

goo
 
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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They have come to the statute with a preconception of its purpose or methodology.


I run into this repeatedly with my drafting. A problem with any set of rules is the baggage the reader brings to it. If he assumes the rules resemble those of a more familiar game he might misread both the rule and the intent. The most well-drafted rules can be undone by such preconceptions.

Quote:
Teaching is part science, part religion, and part magic.


This is not teaching. This is rules drafting, and I'm not sure how much religion or magic I'd ascribe to it, as opposed to a solid grasp of composition and organisation, the ability to assemble a good cadre of testers/proofreaders, and a keen ear for feedback. The primary function of a rulebook is to explain the rules that regulate the game. Communicating the rules in a manner that they can be easily learned is an important function but very much subordinate to the first.
 
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Charles Vasey
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jonb wrote:
Surely the calmest disagreement I have seen on BGG.
Shall I get the tea and crumpets ?


/Mary Poppins on

cheeky!

/Mary Poppins off

I think there's a chance to discuss some interesting stuff here. I've just come off a phone con with Mike Siggins about Spanish Eagles, which we are not quite "getting" at present. The dynamic interests me. That's why in UKC we give you rules (defined by Iain Cheyne as rules to play with not to learn), a general description and a playbook. We're trying to find multiple ways of explaining the same thing in different venues.
 
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Charles Vasey
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bentlarsen wrote:
jonb wrote:
Surely the calmest disagreement I have seen on BGG.
Shall I get the tea and crumpets ?


Around Charles, I tread with great care. Crossing swords with him is like dueling with a Vulcan. In this case, the Vulcan comes fully equipped with a sense of humour.

goo


And a lovely delta wing shape.


Oh....you meant the other kind of Vulcan!
 
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pilotofficerprune wrote:
Quote:
They have come to the statute with a preconception of its purpose or methodology.


I run into this repeatedly with my drafting. A problem with any set of rules is the baggage the reader brings to it. If he assumes the rules resemble those of a more familiar game he might misread both the rule and the intent. The most well-drafted rules can be undone by such preconceptions.


Do you remember our playtest of ENGLAND EXPECTS? You had loads of questions on the set-up but I insisted you follow the order given and it worked. The problem was that without me present pressing a gun to your forehead you'd not have had the faith that it would work. So the rule was absolutely correct and yet a total failure. An interesting drafting problem to which I shall return.
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Severus Snape
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So the rule was absolutely correct and yet a total failure. An interesting drafting problem to which I shall return.


Insights such as this show what a fine teacher you would be, if you so chose to be one.

On another subject altogether, isn't it past your bed snore time "over there"?

goo
 
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The problem was that without me present pressing a gun to your forehead you'd not have had the faith that it would work.


The faith issue is an interesting one. Much of the basis of any rule set is following steps in a prescribed order, which is why the first play aid often asked for is a detailed sequence of play and we frequently set the SOP before a series of rules sections arranged with headings that match the sequence. Some players respond well to following menus of instructions. Others want to know the intent of the rule because they are concerned as much with playing well as actually understanding how to play.

I shade towards that latter group, which is why I expend word count on additional verbosity within the rules body. You took a slightly different but interesting route with UKC! in that you tried to impart the grand vision of the game up front before the main body of the rules. It was quite a bold experiment. I'd be interested to know how the players responded to that. Who found it useful and who didn't.
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Others want to know the intent of the rule because they are concerned as much with playing well as actually understanding how to play.


Lee, you being closer to the game than the average person, how many games or tries did it take/has it taken for you to get a sense of playing UKC well? I know in the early plodding I must be missing a myriad of strategic or tactical possibilities in the need to play it "correctly." But such is my experience with any new game to which I take a liking.

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That's why in UKC we give you rules (defined by Iain Cheyne as rules to play with not to learn), a general description and a playbook. We're trying to find multiple ways of explaining the same thing in different venues.


This is all very good and groovy, but the problem is that it takes space. On UKC! we had the luxury of a publisher who indulged our desire to have multiple sets of player notes in addition to the usual example of play.

I'm running into a slightly different problem at the moment in that I have a game whose rules I am purposely trying to keep short. How do you balance clarity and precision with economy and the mission to explain? I'm finding it a challenge, though a quite rewarding one.
 
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On UKC! we had the luxury of a publisher who indulged our desire to have multiple sets of player notes in addition to the usual example of play.


Something which is appreciated by GMT customers ( including myself ) no doubt as this goes above and beyond what several other companies are providing for their customers.
 
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Lee, you being closer to the game than the average person, how many games or tries did it take/has it taken for you to get a sense of playing UKC well? I know in the early plodding I must be missing a myriad of strategic or tactical possibilities in the need to play it "correctly." But such is my experience with any new game to which I take a liking.


There are several parts to the answer, some of which may seem contradictory.

One is that I'm still learning how to play well. Charles jokes on CSW that it is like a grognards' version of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch there, everyone is so intent on self-deprecation. Fact is I lost my last game by surrendering King Charles, which is a pretty damn fool thing to do, and may indicate my true skill level.

The second is that I learned in an odd way, without all the components in front of me. I read the rules without map and pieces laid out as you might with the boxed game. That slowed comprehension.

The third is that when I played I did not have the benefit of the playbook. It was at this stage an idea in the mind of God.

The fourth is that I first played with Charles, which seems like a boon--learning at the feet of the designer--but Charles will only hold your hand so much and will ruthlessly kneecap you at the first opportunity. Charles's school is one of hard knocks.

I think I did not begin to 'get' the game until maybe halfway through the first playing. However, it did not come together until the post-match debrief where we could analyze the play. By that point it was clicking. This probably made up for the lack of the playbook. I imagine if I had come to this the conventional way, returning to the playbook after the first playing would have cemented most of the lessons.
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pilotofficerprune wrote:
One is that I'm still learning how to play well.


Played thrice at the club today. In a heretofore unheard-of departure we swapped sides, so I got the socialists. Things went very well. Both cavalry commander cards on turn 1 allowed Waller to overwhelm Hopton with brigades from Essex's army, and then to send back two Southern veterans as Essex moved to Gloucester. Soon I had Waller-Essex-Manchester-Fairfax all with good armies in a line just in front of the usual Portsmouth-Hull front, backed by spare recruitment in places like Bristol, Gloucester, Nottingham and Peterborough. There were nowhere near enough Ops to exploit all opportunities. We slowly crushed the King back into Wales, where he resigned. As usual lots of heavy fighting everywhere, with the Royalists suffering numerous +4 defeats but few majors. Apparently the final bodycount was a remarkable 12-2, which must have been reduced by event. Several times I lost an initial advantage of +4 or more.

In each game I learn lessons that I suspect are lost an hour after I stop playing. Its easier and more useful to play repeatedly than to spend the same time writing a review.

Clearly there's no point attempting to describe this game in terms of what has gone before. UKC positions us as Great War generals in France 1940.

The Scots are great siegers or maskers because they don't desert, and here I had Leven on Newcastle with Callander looking at York. It helps to have a hole card because some events work better after some preparation eg. it may take until the next turn to get a general into the East, whilst at the same time recruiting East brigades, in order to play Eastern Association for brigades from the dead pile. So much for the ills of taking casualties. The trick is to get all veterans on the map and most militia either off it or in small numbers in remote locations, in order to return deserting vets asap. Patterns emerge. The first Powicke Bridge veteran can go to Rupert at Shrewsbury but it is required by Hopton, however Cornwall & Devon are easily gained and lost, so dispersing or moving Hoppy to points east usually works fine. Control of the south is made more fluid by Local Notables arriving by event, and all this suggests the region is hardly vital to victory. The King can shoot a nice brace by riding over Lord Fairfax to land on Brereton as he moves off York at game start. Its best for Lord Fairfax to escape behind the rough ground, where the cost in Ops of finally dispersing him, plus a poorly-positioned army, makes him a Parliamentary asset, so long as he makes his evasion roll. As always it helps to recruit/kill off the militia of one region preferentially in order to get at the veterans, and for the Royalists this mean the Midlanders and Welsh, and for Parliament the Easterners. It may well be that the rarest of rules sued in a game, Assault, may help in this regard when Essex gets five bombard points on Oxford in the opening turns. You lose an Eastern militia, and you save an Ops 2 card for the final two points. This cropped up in my current Vassal game with Iain Cheyne. Its the end of turn 2: do I stay or do I give the Go code?



the successful sacrifice of the brigade allows Essex to nip into his newly-taken fort if Hopton attacks, whilst Manchester is about to recruit two veterans on Willoughby.

Game 2 lasted halfway through turn two. Rupert swept south, taking out Waller and Essex and then besieging London with Byron's help, whilst all the remaining Parliamentary generals were under siege at Hull, Bristol and a fourth location.

Game 3 was characterised by formation of large armies on both sides, with strengths of up to 14. Hopton went down to an opening turn 6-1 major victory, but in the overall picture this didn't matter too much. Very little in UKC has far-reaching consequences, but the assumption it must occurs on so many of these threads. Whilst not doing too well in the usually impregnable North, the King fought a series of attritional battles down the Thames valley, the core of his very powerful army being his starting brigades plus the southern veterans recruited by event under Rupert. Eventually he pushed Waller into the east as London was masked by his last two brigades, which was enough to remove the remaining non-fort PCs in the south. All up to this point was then rendered null [as aforementioned] by the play of Lady d'Aubigny's Plot and a 4dr, which took London handily, forcing my opponent's resignation.
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Charles Vasey
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bentlarsen wrote:
Quote:
Others want to know the intent of the rule because they are concerned as much with playing well as actually understanding how to play.


Lee, you being closer to the game than the average person, how many games or tries did it take/has it taken for you to get a sense of playing UKC well? I know in the early plodding I must be missing a myriad of strategic or tactical possibilities in the need to play it "correctly." But such is my experience with any new game to which I take a liking.

goo


There is a school of design that says one ought not to supply hints on this area in the games material as it spoils the fun of breaking the code. This of course depends on whether you find breaking codes interesting. My view is that you need to supply a few hints because no-one will ever break the code of game that he has hurled out of the window followed by curses.
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Charles Vasey
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jonb wrote:
Quote:
On UKC! we had the luxury of a publisher who indulged our desire to have multiple sets of player notes in addition to the usual example of play.


Something which is appreciated by GMT customers ( including myself ) no doubt as this goes above and beyond what several other companies are providing for their customers.


The good news is that it can easily be added because the testers have done the difficult bit of the job already; they just haven't reported it in the game materials.
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pilotofficerprune wrote:
Quote:
The problem was that without me present pressing a gun to your forehead you'd not have had the faith that it would work.


The faith issue is an interesting one. Much of the basis of any rule set is following steps in a prescribed order, which is why the first play aid often asked for is a detailed sequence of play and we frequently set the SOP before a series of rules sections arranged with headings that match the sequence. Some players respond well to following menus of instructions. Others want to know the intent of the rule because they are concerned as much with playing well as actually understanding how to play.

I shade towards that latter group, which is why I expend word count on additional verbosity within the rules body. You took a slightly different but interesting route with UKC! in that you tried to impart the grand vision of the game up front before the main body of the rules. It was quite a bold experiment. I'd be interested to know how the players responded to that. Who found it useful and who didn't.


This reminds me of an item that was presented on a KPMG manager course that I attended. There were sixteen of us and we were split into two groups, each of six instructors and two doers. Group one had for the doers two of the nicest most helpful guys you could ask for. Group two had Phil from Birmingham ("Phil, we know what you are, but we've never seen one this close before") and me, who were by common acclamation dyed-in-the-wool troublemakers and rascals. Our team looked suitably downhearted, while we doers smirked triumphantly.

The mission was to write a series of instructions to assemble a particular shape out of tangram-type pieces. This was to demonstrate how learning is done differently by different people and to improve how instructions were passed to the lower ranks by challenging our ability to understand our own instructions. But it was (in design terms) a game set-up problem.

The instructors prepared their instructions and the two teams of doers were then summoned into separate rooms to follow the instructions before the silent panel of instructors (like a designer watching a cyberboard game). In the interim Phil and I got into a fight with another course leader - so things were not looking good. Our lot looked glum, helped on by taunts from the other team's instructors as we parted.

We sat down and looked at the instructions. We raised a number of eyebrows (and phoned Roger Moore to get him to raise his too) but being far too lazy to subject them to Daurridean deconstruction we decided to have a pop at following them. (I have to say in my view they were very good instructions but like all of them they did not provide an overview, hence my overview in UKC). After about four minutes we had assembled our picture frame (for such it was) watched over by our beaming parents/instructors. We had a brief chat about how the instructions could have been improved and trooped out to await the other team.

Over 30 minutes later the other teams emerged a broken body of men, hurling blame at each other. Their doers had tried to understand what they were doing rather than tried to do it. The instructions had crumbled and the instructors been reduced to silent rage. Though Phil and I were complete arses, it seemed we were easier to instruct than the helpful chaps. The course leaders suggested that we were confident enough to try and do what we were asked to (despite ritual grousing) but that the others required the instilling of confidence. Yet I would have bet that we would be a disaster. Most insteresting.
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