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Subject: Deciding you dislike a game just from reading the rules? rss

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Carol Carpenter
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Every once in a while, I see a comment where someone gets a game, looks at the rules, and decides he/she wouldn't like it and wants to trade/sell it. I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?
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When this has happened to me, it is generally because I cannot see the point of various rules. There is a wargame I have that has a needlessly complicated system for resolving combat. The rest of the game is pretty decent, but that one part, which I noticed when initially reading the rules, made me decide I didn't like it.

I still tried to play it at least once, at which point it became apparent that my intuition was correct, and I hated the game.

The times, upon reading the rules, it becomes clear that I don't have the time, energy, or desire to spend with any given game. That doesn't necessarily mean I dislike the game, just that I don't really want to learn to play it.
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I got a copy of Cheater because it came in the same box as Slide 5. The rules make it look pointless and random.

The specific thing that made me decide never ever to play it is the rule for rolling dice. You roll two dice which have an effect only if you roll doubles. So the fact that it used two dice - rather than one - makes no difference at all. (The probability of rolling doubles with two dice is the same as the probability of rolling a specific number with one die. So they could have just said to roll one die and do the special thing if you roll 6.)
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Paul DeStefano
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If the rules are too fiddly or complex, sure, I know I'll hate the game.
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Scott Russell
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It's not often, but if it's clear that there are few or no decisions to be made, it's not my kind of game.
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Steven
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For me, it's not a matter of knowing I'll hate the game. If a game's rules are too complex or opaque, I sometimes don't want to put in the effort of learning them, especially when there are easier-to-learn games that I still haven't played.

Le Havre and Steam are two recent examples. I'm sure they're great, but understanding them seems like work, not fun.

I'll sometimes also read rules and realize that, as fun as the game may be, it's not for my gaming group (which basically consists of me and my fiancee). The rules for Dungeon Twister make it seem like a really, really fun game. Unfortunately, my fiancee hates deduction games -- she refuses to play Mr. Jack again -- so I knew it wasn't for us.
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starspangledgirl wrote:
I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?

Badly written rules, rules I can't understand, or just rules that are boring or define a game that's clearly not going to be fun.
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C Lloyd
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Aldaron wrote:
starspangledgirl wrote:
I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?

Badly written rules, rules I can't understand, of just rules that are boring or define a game that's clearly not going to be fun.

I'll echo these sentiments. In fact, I'll almost never even buy a game without first reading through the rule book.
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Nathan Trimmer
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celiborn wrote:
For me, it's not a matter of knowing I'll hate the game. If a game's rules are too complex or opaque, I sometimes don't want to put in the effort of learning them, especially when there are easier-to-learn games that I still haven't played.


I completely agree with Steve. This is exactly the reason that my wife and I still have yet to play Neuland. I spent hours pouring over the English rules and the 'English to English' translation. The portions covering paying for movement still don't entirely make sense. So, at the end of the day, I'd rather pull out a favorite like Agricola or Kingsburg and actually have some fun.

-Nate
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Andy Beaton
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If I'm playing a quick game at a con, I want something I can learn in 10 minutes of explanation. But if I'm playing with friends, I'm happy to put countless hours in on the complex and opaque rules that the best wargames seem to have. The effort is almost always amply rewarded.
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Andrew W.
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For me, I know the audience with which I play. One of the regulars will gladly give anything a go with enthusiasm, nothing can intimidate him, and he often surpasses my desire to learn rules of games.

One of the other regulars, he will without fail shut down after 5 minutes of exposition or 10 minutes of demonstration. He's bright and clever, but can lack discipline. If the rulebook is thicker than a comic book, I know I'll have no chance of ever getting the game on the table so long as he is playing.

And I can see why it happens. I certainly weigh the time I spend learning the rules vs how much I enjoy a game. Games for us are a chance to decompress from the week. If learning the rules is a stressful investment, the game has already failed our purpose, and may not reach the step of actually playing.

I know other people will play games to provide themselves a challenge. We are not that type very often.
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Jim Cote
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It happens to me all the time, mostly because the game just doesn't sound very fun. I don't think you need to play the game to have a prety good feeling for that. I've been wrong before, but not often enough to justify buying every game that I am considering.
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W Nash
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starspangledgirl wrote:
Every once in a while, I see a comment where someone gets a game, looks at the rules, and decides he/she wouldn't like it and wants to trade/sell it. I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?


I have done this. I try to make sure we play each game once or twice before deciding, but sometimes, the fact that we won't play it is right there in the rules.

I have no problem figuring out games with fiddley rules. (That can be a fun challenge all it's own.) But I can usually tell ahead of time if our players will like a game; and I'm getting to the point where I can look at a game and know it will never make it to the table more than once. I've begun to get those games out of my collection to make room for games that will be fun to play.

MadK
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CHAPEL
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starspangledgirl wrote:
Every once in a while, I see a comment where someone gets a game, looks at the rules, and decides he/she wouldn't like it and wants to trade/sell it. I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?


I've played and rated over 600 games, and I've come to know what works for "me" and what doesn't. So by just reading the rules, I think I can make a fair assumption that a game isn't going to click with my tastes.
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J.L. Robert
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MWChapel wrote:
starspangledgirl wrote:
Every once in a while, I see a comment where someone gets a game, looks at the rules, and decides he/she wouldn't like it and wants to trade/sell it. I'm curious to hear from others what in the rules would make you decide that?


I've played and rated over 600 games, and I've come to know what works for "me" and what doesn't. So by just reading the rules, I think I can make a fair assumption that a game isn't going to click with my tastes.


I'm with him. With as many games as I've played over the years, I can fairly accurately assess how much I'll enjoy a game by even just a cursory look over the rules.
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Jeff Mays
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Like others have mentioned, I think for me it boils down to knowing my gaming group. We don't get many opportunities to play games, so a game must be easy to teach (as at least one member of our group will not read rules - ever) and a good rulebook, even for a complex game, can help.

A game night can quickly get bogged down by a poorly written rulebook (or one you constantly need to reference). Thankfully, you can generally find rules online before purchasing and I can't imagine buying a game without first reading the rules (burnt before and can't afford to buy games blindly).

Rules can't necessarily tell you if you'll like a game, but I think they can go really, really far at telling you if you won't like a game.
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Mystery McMysteryface
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Well, because I have a non-gaming spouse and limited funds I will read reviews, comments, session reports, watch videos before considering a game purchase.

Once the game still fits our criteria and budget I will read and digest the rules. If the rules make sense to me and enhance what I already know about the game AND make the game seem FUN, then I will seriously consider purchasing it.

I have read rules for simple games that I couldn't get through and knew that I couldn't/wouldn't invest that much time in understanding and then teaching the game to my husband.

Also, some games seem like a lot of busywork and not a whole lot of fun; I usually pass on those too.

I want a small, well-played and replayable game collection with good variety (within the confines of our family's gaming criteria). The rules are important in this!
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William Crispin
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I find that I maybe wrong about how the game plays by reading the rules, but I can usually spot things that I know I will not like and then weed out some games up front.
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fishhaid
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Perfect example of what everyone has posted earlier - that being played lots of games, rules hard to make sense of, no one in my group that it will appeal to, and hard to ever image it making it to the table - was The Scepter of Zavandor. I've read the rules over and I'm not only having a hard time figuring out the point (meaning how to win) but another issue not mentioned is finding out the theme doesn't quite match my expectations. I bought it thinking it was going to be about wizards, when it's really more of an economic game. That was the same problem I had with Cave Troll. I was under the impression that it was a dungeon crawl game, which I love, but it's more of an area control game, which I hate (read: stink at).

I can make a comparison to a game that I'll never trade even though everything that has been said before holds true, the theme is something I love and it's exactly what I expected. Up Front - the rules are hard to make sense of, nobody in my group is interested in learning how to play and because of that, I have no idea how it's going to make it to the table - but because I love card play, wargames and the theme, I can envision no circumstance that I'd ever trade it.
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Travis Worthington
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I have been asked why I don't publish the rules for my self published game - for me the answer is that the rules don't give a good idea of how the game plays.

Just reading the rules might dissuade you from getting the game but looking at the reviews that both explain the rules and show how they play out are much more convincing.

In this case the game is quick, and the rules are short so its not neccesarily a big hurdle.
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J C Lawrence
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Games express a core logical problem and ask their players to competitively solve that problem. Is the problem interesting or not? This is often easily determined through the rules.
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Dave Eisen
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Indeed. I am surprised that this whole question is controversial. It is generally very easy to tell whether or not I would like a game from reading the rules. It is more difficult to tell whether the game has long-term staying power from this, but judging whether it is the kind of game that I would find interesting: easy to determine.
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Chris Ferejohn
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celiborn wrote:

Le Havre and Steam are two recent examples. I'm sure they're great, but understanding them seems like work, not fun.


Guh? Le Havre has 2 rules. On your turn either a) take some goods or b) use a building. There's a little bit of management and feeding, but you rate Agricola a 9, and it's certainly way less complicated to learn than that. It is quite a bit longer I'll grant so, so if that's an issue, I can see avoiding it, but the rules are pretty darn simple.

I mean, I can see looking at Die Macher and saying "yeah, forget that"...
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Jonathan Challis
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clearclaw wrote:
Games express a core logical problem and ask their players to competitively solve that problem. Is the problem interesting or not? This is often easily determined through the rules.


This is my feeling too. Theme (what or how integral) is irrelevant to me, and components are just a nice to have - for me a game lives or dies by the mechanics, and I've played enough games to get a fairly good grasp by reading through. For me, it's actually simplicity that will tend to put me off rather than complexity (I want the problem difficulty enhanced by multiple layered conversion rates if you want the game theory answer) but the principle is the same.

I won't often fall in love with a game from just the rules - that takes playing to explore the nuances, but I can usually rule it out if it's not suitable.

Like anyone I'm fallible, and despite being good at this approach probably get it wrong 10% of the time, but to be honest life is too short to wade through the 90% that I intuited correctly to save those 10%. That's time better spent on the games I've ascertained I'm 90% likely to like instead.
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Jonathan Challis
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cferejohn wrote:
celiborn wrote:

Le Havre and Steam are two recent examples. I'm sure they're great, but understanding them seems like work, not fun.


Guh? Le Havre has 2 rules. On your turn either a) take some goods or b) use a building. There's a little bit of management and feeding, but you rate Agricola a 9, and it's certainly way less complicated to learn than that. It is quite a bit longer I'll grant so, so if that's an issue, I can see avoiding it, but the rules are pretty darn simple.


Yes, I looked at that comment and thought the same. The rules are only a few sides of A4, and 3 of those are a board layout and a component list.

Le Havre is a tough, tight game, and a longish one. I like it, but I can think of lots of reasons some players and groups wouldn't find it fun, but rules complexity isn't one of them.

As to Agricola vs Le Havre, there are definitely an order of magnitude more decision points and rules (/rules interactions)in Agricola. Le Havre has tougher calls, and it's about fine tuning an economic optimisation engine rather than exploiting opportunity and combos like Agricola, but ruleswise it's simpler.
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