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Subject: RFTG: "You win some...you lose some...and some just aren't fun to play" rss

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Don Brandt
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I finally had a chance to play a game of Race for the Galaxy this evening with my normal gaming group. A little background first. I bought this some time back based on the reviews I read here on BGG. I had the opportunity to play this at Gamefest South last year and gave it a "meh" after the first play, but kept a positive attitude knowing there was a learning curve to this game. I played about half a game with my 10 year old son a couple months back and didn't finish because I couldn't hold his attention (or keep from overwhelming him). He might be a little young for this one, so no negatives there. So....now to the present. I know this game has a little learning curve getting comfortable with the "iconology", so I've been eager to give this one another serious spin. I play board games weekly with a couple engineers at work and this Tuesday got slotted for Race for the Galaxy. There has been a series of Dominion games going on recently, so I told them about this game and how it's all played with cards as well. I also let them know if was a very different game that BGG had ranked highly. The guys I play with have become experienced board gamers over the last year or two. We started on TTR, Settlers, For Sale, Ra, etc. Then we moved on to Dominion, Imperial, Princes Of Florence, Steam, Brass, Planet Steam, Power Grid, Factory Manager, and other heavier Euros, so these guys are seasoned and have seen a good cross-section of what's out there. We play after work, so the day of the game, each person stopped by my office and we discussed the general mechanics of the Race for the Galaxy game. I also passed out a card or two that comes with the game that summarizes how things go and gives a good description on the icons used in the game. So when 4 o'clock rolled around , everyone was primed and we were ready to play the game.

As to be expected, there was quite a bit of explaining to get the game going. In general, the rules are very straightforward, everyone picks a role that all players will be doing this round and simultaneously reveals them. The roles are executed in a certain order. If you chose the role that is currently being done by everyone, you also get a special action such as an extra card or a cheaper purchase. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the rules in this particular discussion, but they are not too complicated on the surface. Anyways, so we were off to a slow start but everyone was beginning to get the hang of it. As we continued playing, it became clearer and clearer (and painfully clearer) that we were spending more and more (and painfully more) time deciphering what a particular card did. Let me say, I think the iconology used is a very compact and a concise way of showing what a particular card does for you, however it takes quite some effort to thoroughly understand many of the cards. This began to drain (and drain) the fun we were expecting and turning the game into more like work. We pressed on however, determined to catch the wave that makes this game so highly ranked.

As the game began to develop and the number of cards laid down in front of each person increased, the game's difficulty was scaled up as far as what all needed to be kept up with. Statements like "what role is it again?", "did you already go, whose turn it?", "how does this card work again?", "didn't you already consume with that card?", etc. Our heads began to hurt and some of the guys were really beginning to dislike the game and the start of some heckling began. We were able to finish the game. It took us around 2 hours, which probably isn't too bad for a 4 player game where 3 people had never played. Scores were generally in the 30s and 40s range for my friends. I was able to get in the 60s, however, I really didn't have a strategy besides buying cards I could afford and trying to have an equal amount of producers and consumers.

After the game the grumbling continued and the other three players let me know that this one would never hit the table again. I will say that I didn't think the game was all that bad, however I did notice that it was quite a bit of WORK to play, there was too much fiddiness, and that my mind was left mushy afterword. Let me say that I play many games that leave my mind a mush and enjoy quite a few of them. However, this one just really wasn't that fun for the amount of work (a bad kind of work) needed to play it. I really had high expectations for this game, but in the end it wasn't one that I enjoyed. I give this one a 4, and I generally don't play anything under a 7 because there is just too many good games out there to play. The negative reinforcement I received from my game group has got me moving this game on to greener pastures. Anyone want to trade with me? On to another game! As they say, "you win some, you lose some, and some just aren't fun to play".
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Christopher Giroir
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Sad to hear you didn't enjoy it.

We've gotten very used to the game which helps a lot (we all liked it after first couple of plays). My group also used to play a LOT of Puerto Rico and I think that helped with learning RftG and also wanting a faster game with some similar mechanics.

Our games go by REALLY fast. Not only do we know the game now but the simultaneous play along with "bluffing" a settle (meaning holding a card face down to say "I'm ready to settle" whether or not you are really going to play the card) can make the phases go by very fast by eliminating the "Everyone all set?" questions etc.

Anyway back to your review, I was hoping the going over the cards prior to the game would help out a bit with the learning curve and I'm sad to see it didn't catch on since it's one of my favorites.

Does your group enjoy Puerto Rice of San Juan at all?
 
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Chun Ping
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RftG is a game that takes a few games before you'll be fully be familiar with the cards and basic strategy. Another 10 game is probably needed before you can set up a decent produce/consume engine. But barring that, from my experience, even for newbie, the first game is very fasinating for them.

I have a hunch that you may not have used the preset hand provided with the base game and the first expansion? they are actually a HUGE factor when learning the game. Basically, the 5 preset hand is a crafted out strategy towards the basic path to victory in this game. There's one that follow a pure military path, another that goes with pure brown worlds, another that goes for a more balanced mix and so on.

If you did not try playing with the preset hands, i would advice you to give this game another chance, this time by playing with the preset hands. In fact, when i teach newbies this game, i let them rotate and play all the 4 preset hands that comes with the base game. Instantly, just from the 4 initial cards, they start to grasp the synergy required in the different strategies.

RtfG is really a very good game that's worthy of its reputation. When you have time, do try it out and may be u'll start to see the beauty of it. Heck, even if you dont enjoy it with the preset hand, you can confidently say that you have tried all the suggestion and this game is really not for you

hope you can discover the fun in racing for the galaxy!
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Randall Bart
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cpf86 wrote:
In fact, when i teach newbies this game, i let them rotate and play all the 4 preset hands that comes with the base game. Instantly, just from the 4 initial cards, they start to grasp the synergy required in the different strategies.

Good idea. When I learned, they gave me set starting hands until I won a game (my fourth game I think). Now people are less likely to give noobs a starting hand even once. People felt an obligation to spread the game two years ago; patience with noobs is much shorter now.
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Gabe Alvaro
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Sounds like you tried too hard.
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Mendon Dornbrook
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I'm surprised that your group had difficulty with RftG, especially after having played games like Power Grid and Brass, no less. While the learning curve is steep, the only time I was unable to overcome it was when I realized that one of the players I was teaching was a little drunk.
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Serge Levert
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Utterly, totally standard reaction to one play. That just isn't enough for human brains to grok this game. Nothing to see here, move along. :)

The effort for persevering through the "work" of the first few plays is later returned one thousand-fold.
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Pasta Batman
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entranced wrote:
Utterly, totally standard reaction to one play. That just isn't enough for human brains to grok this game. Nothing to see here, move along.

It's not as if he misrepresented his experience with the game. On the contrary, he made it very clear this was based on one play. And there is something to see here - someone who may indeed have made the correct call on the decision to persevere with this game.

entranced wrote:
The effort for persevering through the "work" of the first few plays is later returned one thousand-fold.

Maybe that was true for you, but hardly a universal. I played RftG a dozen times before I realized what an utterly empty exercise it is for me.

edit: grammar
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Yeah, I hear ya. I had a similar experience at first with my gaming group. Looking back, here's what I would do differently:

1. Tell your friends that it's a group solitaire game. Sort of. At first.
2. Remove all complicated or goofy cards with complex explanations and icons that would make the ancient Egyptians proud, etc.
3. Read/provide a simplified version of the rules (there are some posted here).
4. Play the game solitaire this way: play all phases, go through the deck only once. Keep track of your highest scores.
5. Invite some friends to watch you play. Answer their questions.
6. Have them try playing solitaire themselves.
7. When they're comfortable with the game, introduce the idea that RftG can be played as a competitive solitaire.
8. Introduce choosing phases.
9. Gradually introduce the more complex cards.

Nowadays, it's a favorite with the group and I'm lucky to finish 3rd out of 4 or 5.
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ErikPeter Walker
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Too bad, it's a great game. It's a lot easier to learn from someone who already knows how to play.

My first game took about forty minutes, tops. Two hours is just nuts.
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Corin A. Friesen
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Way to go! This game is CRAP. Glad someone else doesn't like this. I rate it a 2. Nice art, though.

Seriously, after getting used to the cards, you find out more about Race's failings...
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mark francis
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Yes,Race can be a hard game to teach,especially when you are not experienced with it yourself.And it becomes exponentially more difficult if you are teaching a group of new players!
My first game was a real slog too...90 mins -2 player,but there is a lot to take in initially.
Whenever I teach Race it is always 2 player or with another experienced player.In this way time can be taken to explain the icons,phase order and game mechanics. The starting hands are also useful to help direct their initial play and to have new players focus on a smaller percentage of cards, thus not overwhelming them too much with the vast possibilities in the game too soon.
If a new player feels they have some control over the outcome of their first few games,this will go a long way in enjoying Race.
It is a shame your mates feel this way...Persevere!Play it again!You may be richly rewarded!
 
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Stefano Tonini
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I still don't understand the initial difficulty a lot of people find in decifering the cards.

In my opinion a combination of 4 shapes, 4 colours, and less than 10 "do this" signs, is simple... don't know, maybe I have a pictographic oriented mind .

Played twice with two different expert (at games in general, not at RftG) opponents and had to explain the game both times. It took less than 45 minutes each time including explanation; the included rule and card summary is also very clear and usefull.
All three of us found the same defect in the game: too litle player interaction (FOR OUR TASTE: others can find it acceptable or even likable), but the learing curve is not that step, in our opinion.

Shard
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Chad Kwok
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All this review taught me is that Rio Grande should have included a much better tutorial method in the game box, like a DVD with people playing it. The number of potential customers this game has lost due to its imposing learning curve is alot higher than it should be.
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JW
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To the OP, the frustration clearly shines through in your review. I can understand that frustration, and I've certainly felt it myself a lot of times before, especially when teaching the game to someone new but who obviously isn't interested. I guess this is a game where you need to clearly set the expectations before trying to teach the game.

It certainly seems difficult that the game will ever reach the table with your group again, but if you can pull one of them along, then it would be easier for 2 players to slog through the game (rather than all 4), and discover the game that way.
 
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I just don't understand why people find it necessary to bash things they clearly don't understand. "Its Crap" really? Please...yawn.

It may not be for you. I don't find games like chess or go fun at all for various reasons, furthermore I dont have the will to learn how to play them properly. Rftg is a gem but you get out of it what you put into it.
If you don't enjoy it, well.. go play badminton or something. Its ok, really.

I have been able to teach race in about 45 min, and that includes a 'training' game using only explore, settle, and develop.
Playing like this actually still involves interesting choices, which does the game alot of credit. And once learned, my friends beg me to play it with them and remind me to bring it where I go.
A game of race that lasts 2 hours would be an interest killer for sure. Its really a game you should get really comfortable with before you teach others. Or at the very least, learn the 2 player game with someone just as interested as you are, before bringing it to a table of four.
Peace
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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Winterstrike wrote:
The number of potential customers this game has lost due to its imposing learning curve is alot higher than it should be.


Or perhaps, in a more positive way, one could say that the number of actual customers this game has gained despite its imposing learning curve is a lot higher than it should be :-)
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Sean Todd
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I'm glad there's room in the universe of games for some that appeal highly to narrower bands of gamers. I don't think that RftG's icon system is flawed or even that its rulebook is poorly written. Race is not going to appeal to everyone, it may appeal to a smaller population than San Juan, Glory to Rome, or other games its compared to. But I think most of the commonly suggested improvements to make RftG more accessible would have made it a worse game for me. I would rather the database of games contain games that are 10's for some and 1's for others than be full of games that are 6's for nearly everyone.
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Les Marshall
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TWO HOURS!

RftG isn't a great game but, it's a diverting filler that took our group about two or three games to get the hang of.

In two hours you should be able to play this game mulitple times.

Try it with more experienced people. You might like it better.
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Hugues Paradis
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I know i'm in the same situation. I tried to show Race to more experienced gamers. I made a few mistake, everyone hated the game and i'm quite sad about it.

I did not have the patience to teach it properly, here is how I would do it:

- use a new player.
- 2 new player only (total of 3 player)
- play the first game with preset hand.
- play the first game with open hand so they can ask about cards

I had too many player, too many expansion. I made everything that could go wrong wrong.
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Serge Levert
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pastabatman wrote:
entranced wrote:
Utterly, totally standard reaction to one play. That just isn't enough for human brains to grok this game. Nothing to see here, move along. :)

It's not as if he misrepresented his experience with the game. On the contrary, he made it very clear this was based on one play. And there is something to see here - someone who may indeed have made the correct call on the decision to persevere with this game.

I apologize if i came across as snarky, it wasn't at all my intent, tho it does sound that way in hindsight. The only point i wanted to make is that nobody likes Race after one play.
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Todd France
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entranced wrote:
The only point I wanted to make is that nobody likes Race after one play.

Though some are fascinated by it. For me I remember the feeling like it was a tantalizing fruit just too high to reach, and if I could only find a step-stool, I'd appreciate the elegance of the game.

But it also strikes me that this may be one of the only games I can think of where reading the rules before playing is probably a detriment to the game. The rules become intuitively clear through game play, but trying to understand the gameplay of RftG through the rules strikes me as an excedingly frustrating effort.
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Mark Delano
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entranced wrote:
I apologize if i came across as snarky, it wasn't at all my intent, tho it does sound that way in hindsight. The only point i wanted to make is that nobody likes Race after one play.


Not entirely true, I quite liked the game after one play. If you are dealing with experienced gamers who are very familiar with Puerto Rico and San Juan you can cut the explanation by about two thirds. They should be able to quickly understand the flow of the game even if some of the cards are still confusing without clarification.
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Christopher Giroir
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frunkee wrote:
entranced wrote:
I apologize if i came across as snarky, it wasn't at all my intent, tho it does sound that way in hindsight. The only point i wanted to make is that nobody likes Race after one play.


Not entirely true, I quite liked the game after one play. If you are dealing with experienced gamers who are very familiar with Puerto Rico and San Juan you can cut the explanation by about two thirds. They should be able to quickly understand the flow of the game even if some of the cards are still confusing without clarification.


Exactly what happened to me. I heavily enjoy Puerto Rico (Almost can't say no to a game) but at the same point wanted something lighter as far as setup and gameplay. Friends introduced me to race and I immediately loved it 1/2way through the explanation!
 
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Todd France
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frunkee wrote:
If you are dealing with experienced gamers who are very familiar with Puerto Rico and San Juan you can cut the explanation by about two thirds.

Ahh... Step-stool.
 
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