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Subject: Should a game be good the 1st time or the 10th time? rss

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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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As I promised in a different thread, I wanted to start a discussion on whether or not it was important to players that a game be good the first time or the 10th time. Now we all agree that we'd like games to be good both the first time and the 10th time, but few games achieve that.

For example, Race for the Galaxy is generally considered to get better and better as you play it more often (for those who like the game at least). On the other hand, Ticket to Ride is basically the same experience the first time and the 10th time.

The issue really becomes one of time and gaming group availability. For myself, I really prefer games that may be difficult or time-consuming the first time, but after the group has played the game 10 times, the game becomes quite fascinating with all of the possibilities that open up. I think games like Container, 18xx, Imperial, Twilight Imperium III need a significant number of plays to really fulfill their potential. But they are long games, so it's hard to get that 10th play in with them. This means, for me at least, that the types of games that are interesting the first couple of times will be played a lot more than games that need 10 times to really appreciate, particularly if each play is at least 2 hours long.

Also, many people like to move on to the next great game as soon as it is released. This precludes in-depth play of some of the more complex games, particularly war and strategy games.

So what about the rest of you? When you buy games, are you looking for a great first impression or do you trust your gaming group to keep playing a game for a bunch of times until you really learn it?

Poll
Should a game have a great first impression or be better the 10th time I play it?
A game should have a great first impression
It's ok for a game to be difficult or not that much fun the first time as long as it's a lot better by the 10th time
      244 answers
Poll created by jschlickbernd
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J.L. Robert
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I'm of two minds on this topic.

I do kinda agree that it's important for a game to hit you with that "wow factor" in order to keep it in circulation. But I also see how a great game will grow on you as you play it more often.

There has to be an initial hook for a game to get played the first time. The sci-fi theme got me to play Outpost. My experience with Outpost led me to buy The Scepter of Zavandor. But I don't have much of a desire to want to learn Tigris & Euphrates, and my ambivalence towards the system keeps me from trying Combat Commander: Pacific.

Another consideration is the experience gained from multiple plays. I know I've made mistakes, mis-read or mis-interpreted rules, or have discovered varying or alternative play strategies with later plays. It's those multiple games that makes the game grow on me that much more. Not trying to butter you up, Jennifer, but Advanced Civilization is a perfect example of that...there's no way to discover all of the variations in just one play.

So, I guess my answer is really, truly, yes for both.
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Aaron Cinzori
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I chose the second option. But...

If the first play of a game isn't that great, I at least need to see the potential for the fun to come from investing more time in the game. I'm also more lenient on games with lukewarm first impressions if people I know like the game (although that didn't save Arkham Horror). So a great first impression isn't necessary, but evident potential is.

The games that are both fun at first and better as you go (Glory to Rome is one such for me) are wonderful of course.

Finally, I expect a complex game to be difficult the first time through, so I don't penalize the game at all for that.

-Aaron
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J C Lawrence
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First plays of games are like first dates: It isn't about what you got, but what was promised as maybe available in future. A terrible first play is just fine by me as long as I got to see real promise in the game that is worth pursuing.
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Derek Anderson
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For the most part, when we play a game for the first time, we usually go into it knowing that it is going to be a learning game the first time, we'll usually mess something up, refer to the rules a few times, realize we made a mistake and 'redo' a turn, etc, etc...

The second time we play the game is the game that matters the most, we've looked online to answer any questions we were stumped on, ironed out details, etc.

As for getting to a 10th game, usually if the game is good then it just keeps getting better each time and we play it over and over, so it only gets better... a game that doesn't get better, or gives us the same experience each time we play it, usually won't make it to ten plays.

I am currently in the midst of trimming my gaming collection down from about 300+ games to under 50 games, and to be honest, most of the games I am getting rid of are not bad games, and not even games I didn't enjoy, but they are the games that fall into that 'same experience over and over' category where they just don't seem more fun the more you play them.

D.



 
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Lori
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I chose the first option in the poll, but really wanted to choose both of them. The games I like best are ones that have a lot of depth to offer and get better and better the more you play them. But it's also true that they had SOMETHING on the first play that was immediately appealing. I've played games where I fared horribly the first time, or misunderstood some rules, but still I enjoyed the game and wanted to try it again.

I do always wonder about some games that I've played once and disliked: maybe there's a great game there that I would start to appreciate if I gave it more of a try. But I haven't yet seen that actually happen.
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Brian Morris
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clearclaw wrote:
First plays of games are like first dates: It isn't about what you got, but what was promised as maybe available in future. A terrible first play is just fine by me as long as I got to see real promise in the game that is worth pursuing.


I completely agree and I think I'm walking proof of your analogy. Years ago I had a first date that was a complete disaster. She couldn't wait for the date to end and didn't want to go out with me again. We were married a little over a year later.
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alan beaumont
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Good the 1st or 10th time?
Quote:
A game should have a great first impression

It's ok for a game to be difficult or not that much fun the first time as long as it's a lot better by the 10th time


Well I voted for the first impression, but I think you biased your own poll. You've effectively bundled in 'I understood it and played well' into the first answer and assumed that if things aren't obvious you won't have a good time. There is a bit of an implication that if we don't like heavier systems we are a bit shallow. That is going to cost votes.

I mostly judge games on 'Do I enjoy what the game asks me to do for hours' rather than its depth as such. My experience is that some games are all done after a couple of plays (not Ticket to Ride, I think there is a little more to it than that), are therefore uninteresting with the winner the one most fortunate with the random elements.
On the other hand three of us struggled through Agricola in German with voluminous card translations for about 4 hours and I enjoyed it (but vowed to wait for the English edition). I still really enjoy Agricola, but I can't win at it to save my life.
I got Race for the Galaxy as I enjoy San Juan, but was repelled by the non intuitive iconography and the ridiculously tiny print/graphic bleed combination. There is a game in there, but it makes too much work to dig it out from under the presentation and I don't really want a bloated San Juan, an overchromed multiplayer solo system doesn't interest me enough (Played 2 games then sold it if you must know).
Then again I have recently had a couple of goes at Le Havre, which has graphics issues of its own (everyone really could do with their own buildings display), but I enjoy what the game requires me to do even though I am displaying no talent for it as yet. 10 games will eventually loom, but will I be 'good' by then? Who knows, it doesn't matter to me if the game system is interesting. That is where I find my 'fun'.
 
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Peter Folke
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Most videogames manage to have great first impressions. Several also hold up to repeated play. I look forward to the time when more boardgames are able to do this as well.

One example of a game which does this, is Heroscape. I only own 1 master set and no expansions. But if I wanted a more varied game, there are several options available. And even the single master set I own has a "basic variant" and a "master variant" to help ease new players into the game.

Keep in mind the target audience for heroscape. Here presentation is key. But other games should be able to do something similar, presenting an interesting mechanic to spark interest, and then keep on adding new layers.

I remember learning chess this way. First I played only with pawns (and the king). When pawns got promoted, you got a rook. The game was certainly interesting to me at this level, and taught me several lessons which are also valuable in the full game.
 
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Karl
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Depends on game length, number of players and rules complexity.
If the game is long, has a high number of players and many rules it has to make an impact on 1st play.
If it is short, has a low number of players and few rules it may need 10 plays to get good.

Reason is quite simple. If it needs many players I will in reality need 20-30 games until everyone has the needed 10 plays due to changing players. And that is too much to achieve for long and or complex games.
 
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Jens Hoppe
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Both, please.

Deep games, games where you keep discovering things, are fun - but if a game isn't fun (at all) the first time, there is no way I am going to play it again repeatedly.

I actually don't think it's either/or: My favorites are games I have played many, many times, so they obviously hold up to repeated play. But they were also fun the first time around. In general I don't see why a game being deep somehow takes away from the fun of initially trying it.

Sure, Race for the Galaxy is deep. After, I dunno, less than a dozen games anyway, I am still stumbling about like a blind man, strategy-wise. But that has no bearing on how much I enjoy my games. The initial exploration/learning process holds its own kind of fun.

Most, if not all of my favorites are games that are both 1) fun initially, and 2) rewarding of repeated play. I may not get the same kind of fun from exploring a new game as I do from playing an old chestnut, but both experiences are still "fun".
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Marvin
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I went for the second option. Agricola, Puerto Rico, Arkham Horror were all 'meh' in the beginning, but after a few plays (and it was more around 4/5 than 10 times) I connected and really started to enjoy the games.

Big plusses for those games are that I could 'feel' that there was a good game here (although a bit less with Agricola).

kilrah wrote:
Depends on game length, number of players and rules complexity.
If the game is long, has a high number of players and many rules it has to make an impact on 1st play.
If it is short, has a low number of players and few rules it may need 10 plays to get good.


Funny, I have the exact opposite If it's long and has a lot of rules, I'll keep digging. Bigger chance there is a great game hidden inside those rules.

If it's easy and short it has to connect right away. I tried blokus and tantrix and these are two games that have short, simple rules. But they didn't connect right away and I knew that they wouldn't. Yes, I understand the richness and mechanics of these games, but I'll never enjoy it.

Same reason I'll never listen to toto or queen, but try pink floyd once or twice a year.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Some games leave such a bad first impression that the struggle to reach play 10 makes it not worth the effort.
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A truly great game cannot be fully appreciated in one play. If you play a game once and understand it well enough to presume to pass judgment on it, it is either a very poor game or you are a very poor reviewer.

Indeed, a truly great game cannot be fully appreciated in ten plays.

A game should be playable hundreds or thousands of times and still bring fresh and interesting experiences to the players.
 
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Is it too much to ask for both?

But it were one or the other, I'd go for the latter.
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That is a good question. Depends on what you are looking for. A single serving experience, then yes, a first impression is most important. For a long term experience, you really shouldn't grok it on the first time playing, but you should see it's potential.

The first time I played Bonabo Beach, I thought it was dreadful and wouldn't play it again. A year later I was forced to play it again, and found the more I played it the deeper it became. The trouble with it was, it's depth wasn't noticeable with it's simple mechanics.

Same goes for Through the Ages. At first I was frustrated at really not seeing what was going on, and finding that it took so long to play. After several playings, it's the number one game on my list. But the potential there was completely noticeable.

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Eric Haskins
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cosine wrote:
A truly great game cannot be fully appreciated in one play. . . . A game should be playable hundreds or thousands of times and still bring fresh and interesting experiences to the players.


Take my first play of Agricola. No wading in with the Family Version for me. Jumped right into a 5 player with 3 others who knew the game. After the game I felt sick, light headed and might have even puked - I'm not sure I think I blacked out for a while. But the more time away from that first play, the more it really sunk in how great of a game it was. It took a few days and a few plays to fully appreciate all the nuances of the game. Now I'm an avid farmer who is also eager to help people discover deeper play experiences.

So bottom line - should a game be good the 1st time? Yes.
Will great games be able to be fully experienced on the 1st play? No.

That's my 2-cents worth anyway.
 
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jens_hoppe wrote:
Both, please.

Deep games, games where you keep discovering things, are fun - but if a game isn't fun (at all) the first time, there is no way I am going to play it again repeatedly.

I actually don't think it's either/or: My favorites are games I have played many, many times, so they obviously hold up to repeated play. But they were also fun the first time around. In general I don't see why a game being deep somehow takes away from the fun of initially trying it.


Agreed. I have to like a game at least a little on first play for me to go back and play it again.


EuroHobbes wrote:
Funny, I have the exact opposite If it's long and has a lot of rules, I'll keep digging. Bigger chance there is a great game hidden inside those rules.


Or a bigger chance that you just wasted 10 days playing a crap game

 
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If I buy it, 10th. If I borrow it or play it as a demo, first time.

I only buy games that interest me to such a degree and that are so deep that the 10th play is going to be better than the first, hands down. The first play is a learning game, the second play is just the beginning of a long journey of awesomeness.

Getting other people to play past the first game is the real problem.
 
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Ugavine wrote:
EuroHobbes wrote:
Funny, I have the exact opposite If it's long and has a lot of rules, I'll keep digging. Bigger chance there is a great game hidden inside those rules.


Or a bigger chance that you just wasted 10 days playing a crap game



True But he who dares, wins!
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Well I think the first impression should be good enough that you want to try it again to iron out the "learning curve." A game like Goa for example is a little un-intuitive at first (and the rules can confuse even the brightest players at the table), but you're able to tell pretty quickly it's well thought out so that by the 3rd play we were hooked! On the flip, a game like The Red Dragon Inn was easy to learn and fun right away, but didn't give me any desire to explore it much farther. I'm sure it'll be brought out again, but only after we have an excuse to do so.

Honestly, I'd rather a game like Goa, which I know I'll still enjoy ten tries from now, and know I still will discover new ways to play it.
 
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With very, very few exceptions, it would take years and years for me to play a particular game 10 times. In fact, in the past 3 years here are all the non-kid games I've played 10 times or more...

The Hanging Gardens
Scrabble
Formula Motor Racing
Blokus
Perquackey

That's it. So, if a game doesn't grab attention right off, it will likely not come back out. If I play San Juan, for instance as I did a few years ago, and I don't care for it, it won't come out for years (if ever) because I already know that it's not as good as Scrabble or Formula Motor Racing or Blokus or any of hundreds of other games I actually do play during the course of a year. That means to reach 10 games of such a title, I will have to live for a very long time.

 
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Ian Klinck
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Like a lot of others here, my answer is "yes".

I expect a good game to offer something both on the first play, and on the 10th, but I expect different things out of the first play and the 10th.

For the first play, it's mostly going to be a question of game mechanics: I want to be able to learn to play, and dig into the game. The game also needs to offer some interesting decisions to make, and give me a sense that the strategy has some depth.

For the tenth play, I'm expecting to have had the opportunity to explore that depth of strategy, and know what I'm doing in that sense, but I still want to feel there's more to learn, or at least refine.
 
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Randy Cox wrote:
With very, very few exceptions, it would take years and years for me to play a particular game 10 times.


Hmmm, good point. As I am just starting my game-collection (I have a small 30) it's not a problem for me to play it 10 times or more. But in a few years this could indeed pose a big problem. And that's without taking kids into account...
 
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1) My answer is #1 if it is a game I expect to play with my wife. It better be easy and pretty damn good the first play.

2) My answer is #2 if it is a game I expect to play with other gamers. It's fine for a game to be difficult or not that fun the first play.
 
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