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Subject: 10 reasons why I'll never play Starcraft again rss

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Filip W.
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I've got a friend whose motto in life is: "Always try everything twice before rejecting it - you might have done it wrong the first time". So I've tried Starcraft a number of times when it came out and now a final time with the expansion and I can, with utter conviction, say that I hate it. Here's why:

1. Too steep learning curve
I don't mind a game with a steep learning curve. I like Caylus although I had quite a lot of trouble with optimizing my moves during the first few games. I love Race for the Galaxy. But in Starcraft I've noticed that you need to know a ton of units (and their names and what they look like), a ton of cards and a ton of strategies merely to survive. Or as a friend of mine, who likes the game and has played it a number of times, says about it: "We played with two beginners and won before setup was completed". How much fun is that?

Let me give you an example from my last and hopefully final game of Starcraft: I was at my local gaming group when a player (let's call him "The Owner") came up with his copy of Starcraft + expansions begging for everyone to play. As we'd just finished a game and were, counting The Owner, six players we agreed. I was reluctant to do it as I didn't really like the game but I did have it ranked as a "5" here on BBG: Slightly boring, might be convinced to play.

So we set up for a 3 vs 3 game (good, I like team wargames) and The Owner dumped his base world right next to my own base world, placing his transport in a position to attack me the first time. I've played before. I'm aware of this and my team mates even went through this with me. And I placed my orders considering this. But not considering enough. Apparently I should have placed an attack order at the bottom. Really intuitive, right? Let the enemy get a foothold, let him build a base and then attack, right? I was pushed out of the game before it had even started. Not my idea of "fun", especially since The Owner gives me one of those "oh, didn't you know that, you poor, poor idiot?" speeches.

Oh, and if you're going to say that I should have read the rules - I did. Reading through the rules twice before I played the first time worked for Twilight Imperium. I can't see why it shouldn't work for Starcraft as well.

2. Too slow / has too much downtime
I don't mind downtime, I play EuroFront for heaven's sake. But I do very much mind non-significant downtime. I'm not going to talk about Analysis Paralysis (although Starcraft is a prime candidate for just that) but the major problem of a totally sequential game where most actions won't impact you. If two out of six players are fighting chances are you're not one of them. And if each combat takes a couple of minutes (more, much more with inexperienced players) that's a couple of minutes when the game is locked and everyone else is waiting for something they have no interest in. I spent more time this last game sitting and talking about other games (and yes, planning Eurofront strategy) than playing. That's simply ridiculous.

3. It's not a war / building game
I loved Starcraft (the computer game) when it came out and played it at all hours. I loved the feeling of expanding your territory, defending against impossible odds and, finally, when you were strong enough, sending your army out for the ultimate battle. Then I tried multiplayer and hated it. See, Starcraft, for me, is a game of building and fighting. Mulitplayer Starcraft is a game of reaction and speed-clicking. No matter how good your strategies are, if you're playing against someone who's faster than you with the mouse and able to direct workers/troops into action and thus utilize them to their fullest while your troops stand around waiting while you're off doing something else, you're going to lose.

The same with Starcraft the Boardgame. It's not a game of expansion and conquest, it's a game of order placement. No matter how good your build strategy is, no matter how great the combat cards in your hand are, if you don't outthink your opponent in the placement of orders you're going to lose. So order placement is the key of Starcraft. Everything else is just icing on the cake and most of the icing has nothing to do with the main mechanism - you could remove the combat cards, research and/or resources and still have a game that plays almost identically to what you've got now. That, for me, is a design failure.

4. The decisions aren't significant
This is tightly tied in with the above point. As the order placement decides the game everything else is secondary. Thus you get ten minutes in which you make your four (the number of orders you place) significant decisions followed by forty minutes in which every decision is either made by someone else or insignificant - it doesn't matter what troops you produce as the combat resolution process is pretty much random. It doesn't make sense to produce a worse type of troop when you can build a superior - why make Zerglings when you can build a Mutalisk? Only in the event of you having a single mineral to spare AND build capacity to spare AND nothing better to build with it would you build a Zergling. That makes the entire Zergling unit meaningless.

Compare this to Twilight Imperium, which is a pretty similar game and still a bit of a clunker, and you'll see that every decision there is significant, from the distribution of order token to the placement of your forces, and this is the reason why I can spend 4+ hours on TI3 but not on Starcraft.

5. It's too modeled on the computer game
I'm guessing that if Starcraft wasn't a franchise we'd see a number of items removed from the game. For example, workers aren't significant - they play a very minor role in the game. Most of the units aren't significant, aren't really used and only add to the clutter and learning curve. Many of the techs aren't significant and aren't used. And yet, as those units exist in the computer game they exist in the board game even though a board game must be more streamlined than a computer game in order to be playable. As it stands, there's a huge amount of bookkeeping for the players to do, huge numbers of nearly identical units to learn the abilities of and nearly identical cards to remember. And that's something that's as far from fun, in my book, as you can get.

6. The Combat Cards
I'm not going to describe the combat cards, there are plenty of comprehensive reviews that go in depth about this mechanic. Suffice to say that if you research new and more powerful combat cards it dilutes your deck and lessens your chances to draw a combat card that will match the troops you've got. That, to me, is a big drawback - when I spend resources and time on reserach I expect my forces to be better than they were before, not more random. This is also the reason why you can't field a mix of forces - build too many different forces and purchase too many different techs for them and you'll end up with cards that you are never able to use.

Add to this the frustrations that if you don't have the correct combat card and your opponent does the most meager unit will destroy your powerhouse and you've got, at least for me, a clear deal breaker.

7. Information clutter
I don't mind some flavor in my games. In fact, as I love games with a strong story element you can say that I love flavor. But here the flavor goes on to make the game unplayable. I'm talking about the sheer number of different units, most of them looking somewhat like each other. You'll need to be a Starcraft nerd in order to even know what unit you're holding. The same goes with all the different icons - too much clutter, not enough overview. Throw in an expansion or two and you've got clutter mania. In my last game I was unable to tell the thirty (forty five??) different units apart in order to see what unit did what. And as the units morphed into each other, providing the owner had this tech or that precondition, I was at a total loss to tell even my own twelve or fifteen units apart and had no chance to follow what the hell my opponents did.

The same goes for the rules. There are too many variations, exemptions, flow changes etc. etc. There's no way, unless you've played a large number of games, to know how things work. Why should I spend 10 hours in complete boredom in order to start learn everything when I can pick up a game with an intuitive information flow and start enjoying myself from the first minute?

8. It requires too much space
Playing with six people we put two large tables together (think larger dining room tables) and there still wasn't enough space to place everything in a way that was comfortable for everyone. It also meant that we had to constantly ask each other "do you have this or that mod on your base", "where does this Z-axis link go", "what are those forces there" etc. Not only did it slow the game down but it telegraphed your moves to everyone else. That's a big no-no to me and very frustrating to boot.

9. It's too long / It's not for casual players
I don't mind long games (see the part about EuroFront above) but a game where I spend most of my time waiting should be much, much shorter than this - if I'm spending my time being bored I don't want to spend hours upon hours of it. My last game I threw in the towel after two hours (we'd gone through one and a half turns) and my remaining area was taken over by one of my allies. The remaining four players (out of six, one other newb had been knocked out of the fray in the second turn even though he was getting a steady stream of advice from one of the experienced players - not The Owner) played until four in the morning. That might have appealed to me as a teen but now I've got a family and a job, both of which I prioritize above gaming.

10. It doesn't feel like Starcraft
When I first saw Starcraft and fondled the pieces I was completely blown away. It was so true to the game, so true to the world, the essence of Starcraft distilled into plastic and cardboard. But once I started playing that feeling went down the drains. There wasn't enough connection between what the miniatures looked like and what they could do. There was no feeling of desperation as you throw your horde of Mutalisks against that Battlecruiser, in fact there's no possiblity of throwing a horde of Mutalisks against

My second time I figured I'd really get into character, play as a Protoss would. That went down the drains too as those who didn't, not caring about alliances and Starcraft canon, rolled over those who did. This third time I said screw it, I'll just treat it as any other game and forget that it's Starcraft. And you know what? That removed the last shred of fun, leaving an empty husk of a game not worthy of my time.

Conclusion
All in all I believe that Starcraft is a game that should never have been made. Or if made, should have been playtested and refined for at least another two years in order for FF to release something playable. As it stands now this is a game for the computer game geeks who were totally enamored with the Starcraft mythos and who might overlook the board games glaring flaws. It is also aimed at those who remember how much fun they had playing Starcraft in their youth might buy it for the looks, play it once and never again (I'm in this category). Everyone else who's in their right mind should stay far, far away.

And that's why I now rate Starcraft the Boardgame a solid "2".

EDIT: Considering smoothnes and playability of Christian T. Petersen's and Corey Konieczka's other designs, I'd love to see the franchise contract and what requirements Blizzard had for Starcraft.
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Daniel Corban
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filwi wrote:
with the expansion

Here is your mistake. If the base game is already overwhelming you with the different units and orders, the expansion is only going to make it worse.
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Filip W.
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dcorban wrote:
filwi wrote:
with the expansion

Here is your mistake. If the base game is already overwhelming you with the different units and orders, the expansion is only going to make it worse.


True, but it wasn't my choice.
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Heresy! This game is obviously worth a 3.
Seriously, I was expecting an improvement over Nexus Ops and it was a terrible let down.
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Jon Day
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Thanks for your post.
Not liking a game is a good reason not to play it. To argue that it should never have been made is simply ridiculous.
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Filip W.
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jond wrote:
Thanks for your post.
Not liking a game is a good reason not to play it. To argue that it should never have been made is simply ridiculous.

True, it is a franchise that's very popular and bound to attract fans. I stand corrected.

But I still think that, as a board game, it is severely lacking. But then again, what is a "2" but a "10" in decimal?
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Daniel Corban
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filwi wrote:
1. Too steep learning curve
2. Too slow / has too much downtime
3. It's not a war / building game
4. The decisions aren't significant
5. It's too modeled on the computer game
6. The Combat Cards
7. Information clutter
8. It requires too much space
9. It's too long / It's not for casual players
10. It doesn't feel like Starcraft


1) There is a learning curve. If playing against experienced gamers, you either have to ask for advice or just accept that you are going to do poorly. After a few turns, you will realize "yes, I should have put my mobilize order on my own planet".

2) I haven't found downtime to be a problem in my 5-6 player games. It sounds like it may have seemed particularly bad for you since you were "losing" from the start and were playing in a public place with distractions. No offense, but if you were chatting about off-topic stuff, maybe you were part of the problem?

3) No, it is not a war game. It is a short-term tactical resource acquisition game. Grab what you can, when you can, and don't hesitate to back down and attack somewhere else if a significant threat opposes you.

4) The orders are the meat of the game. However, I will point out that if you aren't aware of why you would build Zerglings instead of Mutalisks, then you are missing a huge part of the game. I suggest that you have one of the experienced players give you a tutorial (instead of the apparent mocking you received earlier).

5) Even after only a handful of plays, I see a purpose for every unit. I agree that some the tech cards seem to have more depth than I have reached, but the more I play, the most tech cards seem viable.

6) Research orders fill your hand with combat cards, mitigating extreme card draws. My recent tactic is to make my first order of every turn a research order (when possible)!

7) The units of every faction can be boiled down to: ground, flying, support. Once this is understood, you can better choose which type of unit to produce. I agree that the three different races, each with unique units can overwhelm new players. I suggest sticking with the same race for a few games to learn the ropes. I also don't suggest the Protoss to someone who is easily confused by this game.

8) It can take a lot of space. The expansion may exacerbate this. You will need the main area for the planets, a nearby area for players to line up skirmishes, and a smaller area for each player. It helps if players have an off-table area (like a box) to place their figures when not in use, as these unnecessarily take up space.

9) The game usually lasts five, maybe six turns. Sometimes less. I find that a full game with newer players takes three or four hours. This is without the (totally unneeded, in my opinion) expansion.

10) The only boardgame I have ever played that really felt like the related computer game is Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. Compromises have to be made, otherwise you may as well just play the computer game.
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Mikael Ölmestig
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I think this is a great negative review. I do like the game, but I can see most of your points.
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Mikael Ölmestig
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filwi wrote:
But I still think that, as a board game, it is severely lacking. But then again, what is a "2" but a "10" in decimal?

In binary it is.
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Marc Mistiaen
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filwi wrote:
True, it is a franchise that's very popular and bound to attract fans. I stand corrected.

You see, that's your problem. I value negative reviews as much as the next guy, but you're being obnoxious. There are many people who are attracted to this game not because of the franchise but because they think it is a great game. You're implicitely calling them idiots. And that is a recurring theme in your review.
You keep speaking in absolute, with constructions like "There is no way that...", "You msut be a ... to..." or even "This should never have been made".
Also – and this may not be apparant to someone who does not know the game –, while I understand some of your points, several of your claims are ridiculous and probably result from your point #1, that is that you don't get the game. Another thing is to have out of place expectations: length, size, relation to the computer game (you contradtict yourself with this one).
I know several people who don't know, were only marginaly interested in or even don't give a damn about the computer game and enjoy this one. This is one of my most played games, so call me fanboy if it makes you feel better, but it also means I have a group to play with, and these are diverse people of the sort I just mentioned. Because you don't like the game does not make them any of the things you imply or downright say in your review.
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Erlend Flaten
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I usually do not reply to reviews, but this one just smelled of frustration and some misconceptions born from the frustration.
Although I can see the frustrations and futility that comes from being bullied by an experienced player.

I agree with Daniel Corban.
Some extra comments to some of the numbers

1. This is a game where skill is a very significant factor. A beginner will loose to a veteran (sometimes quite fast).

2. When other people are fighting, you can think about what to produce and which orders you have to put down in which order to get the desired result If people do not think while others execute their orders, it will take a lot of time.

3. The order placement is the backbone of the strategy. Having a good build strategy is only one part. like having the blueprints for a house without the property to put it.

6. You have to have different units, or you will loose because you have only a certain amount of combat cards for each unit type, but yeah if you research everything it will bog you down.

7 Probably the expansion that made you overwhelmed

9. It is not a gateway game and will go slower if people do not think ahead on what they are going to do.
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Joel Schuster
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Totally agree with the review. This game doesnt work for me either. Could not have summed up the reasons any better.
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Stephen Shaw
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This review really makes me want to play Starcraft -- it sounds like there's an immense amount of strategic depth to explore!
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Andrey Velkov
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filwi wrote:
I was pushed out of the game before it had even started. Not my idea of "fun", especially since The Owner gives me one of those "oh, didn't you know that, you poor, poor idiot?" speeches.


Lets call this "Owner" an "IDIOT" which would be a compliment.
I have seen this plenty of times when the Experienced player shows the game and then wipes out everyone smirking and giving such speeches and then this game and sometimes this player is never heard from again.

I think in another gaming company you might have liked it better. But this game is not for anyone. After 5-6 plays it wasn't for me either.

Next time when you play a new game with an "owner" you could warn him that if he wants to have his game played again there are certain behaviours to be avoided.
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Rich Moore
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I think any new player is going to have to get past some of the hurdles mentioned in the review...all the more challenging if they aren't familiar with Starcraft or the units (the Starcraft nerds). I would say that the few times I've played I have enjoyed it, but all of us were new to the game, so mistakes were made by all.

This is a game that rewards experience...you won't necessarily be able to jump right in and win your first game if you have less familiarity with how the game plays (orders, different unit abilities, tech options, etc). Playing with more experienced players can be rewarding, though, if one is willing to lose, but learn while doing. Of course the problem is that if while learning you lose interest, there may be no coming back.

One of my first board game experiences was with the Merchant of Venus. I was a newbie playing with one other newbie and some very experienced players. I was more than a newbie...it was really my first board game outside of Life and Monopoly (I was really into CCG at the time). I was blown away by the complexity and felt like I had lost after the first 20 min. The game lasted 2+hrs. I retreated from board games and didn't return for another couple of years.
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stephen
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I would never suggest a full 6 players game of Starcraft with newbies to the game and eliminating the newbies in the first couple of turns is not exactly going to endear the game to them. Some people have no idea how to accomodate new or inexperienced players and should be banned from doing so. If your ego really needs massaging to the extent that you have to lord over other boardgame players then you should really get out more.

I dont think Starcraft is especially difficult to play and I find turns come round pretty quickly, but it does have its pitfalls and there are inherent structural problems in its design, like potentially rapid player elimination. But these problems (or design features) are issues with Ameritrash style games, not just Starcraft.
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1. Your example shows: You have been owned cause you can't deal with those tokens. What the heck is a stack?

2. Placing those orders takes lots of time in your group. While others excecute their orders, you think about anything but your next order.

3. You don't like it cause it's not a wargame - it's all about these order tokens.
(Aside - you completely missed what the video-game is about)

4. It's all about these damn tokens - AGAIN!!!

5. Guess what - you can win a game of SC with only building lings and devourers...(aside - you know the vg all the time and can't tell those units apart?)

6. You don't like one third of these f***ing orders. You never use it - funny thing is, you can't compete in battle anyway!

7. You think there is to much of anything. There are even too many rules - there must be way to make a game last 3-5 hours with less rules and lots more tension!

8. Ok, this one's fair.

9. Again, this just takes way to long. And it's not a gateway game. How can that be?

10. This doesn't feel like having lots of stuff to do, planing your tactics, outplaying your opponent...Additionaly, you want more troups. Why can't I throw some 20 Mutas at my opponent?

In conclusion: This game sucks cause I don't like the tokens, but it's all about them. I don't like the cards but I don't use the options to get them. It takes way to long, but it's not gateway. It has to much of anything, but not enough minitures.


Hm, any chance you missed the point?
Yes, I rate it a 10, partly because I LOVED the vg. But I wouldn't rate it that high if it wasn't a good game. Sure, you can dislike the game - I can see why's that too. But your argumentation is just crappy. I can imagine this would have worked out better for you if tried it with another group.
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Chris Cisne
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robot Easy there GasDriven, it's not like he's given a negative review of you.
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Richard Skinner
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GasDrivenHolothurian wrote:
8. Ok, this one's fair.

Great unintentional comic timing mid-rant. I laughed out loud.
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James Reynolds
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dcorban wrote:
3) No, it is not a war game. It is a short-term tactical resource acquisition game. Grab what you can, when you can, and don't hesitate to back down and attack somewhere else if a significant threat opposes you.


I think this is a huge problem with Starcraft, people just don't realise what they're playing! The number of times you watch people mass up troops and just camp their home planet (or 2) you really begin to wonder if they understand it at all.

You need to be aggressive and you need to be taking every single point from your enemy you can at all times.

Hell I've won a game in the opening turn due to a daring rush that wasn't prepared for and I've also stopped entire invasion forces by manipulating the order stack...

... As for the down time ... You really need to learn to streamline! We tend to do multiple theatres of conflict at a time if the order stacks allow it. You just need to be more confident about your multitasking for the game to stay quick.
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There is a great cheat sheet in the file section that breaks down all the cards (attack and defense + support cards) for each faction on a single sheet. I have found this invaluable in elviating brain burn and making combat much more controlled and a calculated risk. It also helps player plan what technology to buy instead of constantly flipping through their technology deck.

As for the orders, yes they are the core of the game and yes if you are inexperienced you can get totally screwed. We found early games to go fast as there were many 'screwed' orders placed which increased the number of event cards that were being drawn.

I can see your point on what you don't like about the game, I just see that with experience and a 'easier going attitude' with your game group how that might change.

To mitigate some things we never allow for unbalanced universe set ups. We never let someone barricade them selves in or turn the board into a bowling alley. Also, we never play for player elimination. Mutilation yes, knocking someone out, no. I know, not apart of the rules right? But my group is pretty nice. We have already spent all that competitive dueshbaggery on table top games in our youth.

I would reccomend trying again but with one of the broodwar scenarios. They are all quite good and fun provide alternative goals for victory.

I wish that FFG would provide more of these as you would find with descent and doom and have them hosted on their website.

AGoT is the parent/ancester game to Starcraft with a card driven combat system and order tokens. Though what I like about AGoT is that all the order tokens are revealed at once and then each type as a mass is resolved. You might be surprised by picking up that gem. There is an online clone of the game that you might be good to try first.

BTW, you must have done something right in your negative review since it has spawned alot of interesting debate!
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Barry Kendall
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Andrey's point about the asinine Owner is well taken. What kind of moron runs a game store, presents customers with a pricey well-known game to try, then plays cutthroat against brand-new players? A moron who will eventually go out of business.

Your first problem is that you need to find some gentlemen to play with. Or good sports. Maybe even a friendly game enthusiast, one who's as interested in showing new players a good time as in having one him-or herself. At least, somebody with the hospitality and good manners to teach you, rather than exploit you.

If you find such a person, give SC another try (or two, as your friend suggested), because I'd argue that you haven't actually "played" it yet.

Your criticism about the meaninglessness of decisions is ironic, considering that immediately before, you commented on the importance of planning things out. Isn't that a decision process?

This suggests that your reaction to SC is at least in part due to the fact that it's not the kind of system/design approach you prefer. You may be right in concluding that it's just not a game for you. This is not the same as declaring that it's a "bad game" or should not have been designed.

If you've read this far, I'll disclose one more thing. I've not played SC: the computer game. Nor have I played the boardgame. I've read a lot about it, I find it attractive, I had a chance to buy one, sealed, for $50 at a HMGS con flea market, but I passed. I'm simply getting too old (mid-'50s) to have the time remaining to play every promising game that comes along, when there are so many other good ones in the collection (plus, shelf space has become a problem).

My point is, I have no axe to grind either way. I have the sense that you liked the computer game, and that you'd like to like the game--it is pretty, isn't it?--but it isn't the kind of system you had expected, and you haven't had a fair chance to really PLAY the game-as-designed because you've been run over by boorish experienced players.

I'd be interested to hear whether you get another chance at it with someone willing to teach you--from reading the rules, I can see how personal, verbal instruction would help.
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mike christiansen
United States
Beaverton
Oregon
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Its interesting that you mention the play time of the game... when we play w/ 3-4 players the game last less then 2 hrs. The kids in my group joke that it takes longer to set up than play. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the game. i would suggest if you ever want to truly appreciate SC you need to play it with a smaller group. then move on to the big games.
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Nate Merchant
United States
New York
New York
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Bravo, Filip! Many of the same reasons I felt the game was a warmed-over piece of zerg poo. When gamers say that it is one of their most popular games, I really have to wonder if they play other strategy games. SC:tbg utterly fails by comparison.

And the defenses of the fanboys amount to nothing more than "you need more experience", "it's a deep and subtle game", and "downtime? there's no downtime!" The first is true for any strategy game, the second is patently false, and the third stretches the concept of "downtime." So, to be fair, let's expand that criticism: there is more downtime in the game than the game can hold. There just isn't enough depth to justify the downtime. The "OMG so kewl" orders mechanic is JUST a mechanic, it doesn't justify the downtime or the fiddliness. I'll never cease to be amazed at how FFG partisans can coo over individual elements of a game as though they themselves made the game. "Dude! Order mechanics!" "Dude, neato plastic figs!" "Dude, I can't even count the draw decks!"
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Robert Kuster
Canada
Calgary
Alberta
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That's too bad, your loss, we love the game. I don't think I have ever heard anyone in our group mention any of the negative points you list here apart from that some are not too sure about the card driven combat system at first but once they play through a few rounds they start to like it. The brood wars expansion is a must IMO and makes the game tons better.
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