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Subject: Worst Structured Rulebook to come out of FF rss

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Davis Talhone
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I consider myself an avid gamer and by that I mean I've played and generally mastered many games considered fairly deep/ difficult (Descent, Runebound and so on) BUT I don't know if I've ever encountered a rulebook as difficult to follow as Fantasy Flight's Britannia.

I literally read the thing four times through in the course of a week, nearly gave up on the game because of it, then last night decided to grab a friend, set everything up, and follow along with the book. This really didn't make matters much better. We ended up quitting before the second round was completed.

Has anyone else encountered the same difficulty? It seems like the book explains things over and over, but never explains anything properly. Like combat for example, I'm still unclear on this. Here was the situation:

I was the Romans and hence had my 16 Infantry tiles in the English channel. Since Turn one is a Major Invasion for Rome right off the bat, I assume my duty was to move, battle, move, battle, correct?

Well I brought my infantries inland and initiated several battles with the enemy armies located on the spaces. Now according to the rules, all combat rolls are considered simultaneous, regardless of who actually rolls first.

I rolled a combination of 8 (had two Infantry tiles on a space with only one enemy), which if I'm reading this right would have eliminated the enemy's infantry. My friend rolled to counter and rolled a 6, which should have been enough to eliminate one of my Infantry.

Is this indeed what happened? Were we to pull one of my Infantry and his only one from the space on the board right then & there?

Boy I would love a simplified version of the rules. I honestly never saw anything as sloppy as this book.

Thanks for any help, anyone!
 
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David Gibbs
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Hm... I don't remember the rules being that bad. Then again, I've read and understood the rules to far worse. (Starfleet Battles, Squad Leader, a number of other classic SPI, AH, etc wargames where you'd have rule 3.5.1.2a and so on.)

Ok... for combat... you don't sum the dice. You said, "I rolled a combination of of 8". That would in fact kill the one enemy soldier (since Romans kill on a 4 or better, and any two dice that sum to 8 must contain at least one 4 or better), unless the enemy was in difficult terrain, in which case, it would be eliminated only on a 6,2 roll.

Let's look at a slightly more complex example:

3 Romans are attacking 2 defends in normal terrain.

Let's say the Romans roll: 1, 3, 5.
Let's say the defenders roll: 4,5.

The Romans kill one defender (the roll of a 5).
The defends kill no Romans (they need a 6 to kill).

If instead:

Romans Roll: 4, 5,6
Defenders roll: 1,6.

Romans kill 2 defenders (they would kill 3, but only 2 are there).
The defends kill one Roman (they rolled one 6, even though their total was smaller than in the previous example).

And, yes, you would immediately remove those units from the board, right then & there.

Does this help?
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Davis Talhone
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Absolutely! Thank you for taking the time to reply. My war gaming history is pretty much limited to Risk and Stratego so this perhaps explains why I'm especially block-headed when it comes to reasoning out Britannia.

I am going to give it a try again this weekend with your tips at the ready. Apparently I was starting off on the wrong foot by adding up dice roll totals. I will stop back again to let you know how the session went.

Thanks again!
Davis
 
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David Gibbs
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No problem. If you have further questions, I can try to answer them.

Brittania is quite a good game -- but it is not a short, nor a light, game. It does have a bunch of fiddly detail rules -- scoring is a series of exceptions and special cases, for example -- but there is, also, a reason for this. It is, in many ways, a simulation -- it is trying to simulate the behaviour over a historical period, one of waves of invasion.

It is, also, far and away best when played with 4 people.
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Davis Talhone
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I have heard that actually (best with 4), but am having a terrible time convincing 3 others to give it a go (especially considering I have such a limited grasp of it myself).

You just said something that completely expresses what I was trying to say about the rulebook in general. Every single paragraph ends with something like this:

"Exceptions to this rule take place if you are the Picts or the Romano-British in which case consult pages 12 & 13.

If, however, you overule the first exception, there are three scenarios to consider (explained on pages 15 & 16).

Remember though that if you're the Irish or the Scots, this situation will happen twice as often but you have the ability to nullify it as explained on pages 17 & 18.

Romans are immune to this situation entirely if they have a fort but remember not to count the leader when scoring that round..." And so on and so forth.

Like I said, every time i've read the rules, I ended up going "huh?!"

I have a feeling the original rules were written in much simpler terms but years of players encountering unique scenarios forced the authors into explaining every possible exception and unique player scenario as well as how to remedy it. And while I certainly appreciate this effort, the average beginner feels buried before their initial round.

But anyway, thanks again- I really do appreciate it. I had 3 players initially but became so bogged down in the rulebook that we ended up playing some other games so that my girlfriend and I could practice on the 2-player scenarios. We aren't fairing much better! But your clarification of the battle dynamic is a great start.

I'm going to hit up Youtube to see about finding video of a game in action. I think that'll really clarify a lot of the small details giving me trouble.

Davis
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Brian Morris
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Britannia is my all time favorite game. I've been playing it for 20 years now. So trust me when I say don't play it with 3 players. It's not just best with 4 players it's just about mandatory you play it with 4. The rules for 3 players are there so if you really really want to play with 3 you can but it was always designed to play with 4.
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Richard Young
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At the risk of sounding negative, I was struck by the one example you used to illustrate your problems with the rules in your very first post. You made a better point later in that there are some special cases you have to be aware of but they are quite well explained where applicable. As other contributers have said, there are far worse rule-books.

What I mean is, if you missed the most basic aspect of how combat works in this game, you may be in for a hard time with the rest of it (submission, raiding, invasion turns, boats etc.). The combat routines in this game are about as simple as middle-weight war games get. The overall game is challenging to play and takes several playings, ideally as each of the four different colours, to begin to understand the big picture.

But it is a great game and I hope you stick with it. There is lots of good advice here on the Geek, and having a read through some of the session reports should help as well. Good luck and stick with it!
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Daniel Cristofani
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The Arkham Horror rulebook was much, much worse. This one, though complicated, actually covers pretty much all cases. The Arkham Horror rulebook is just as long and complicated, but also full of holes and ambiguities.

One thing that might help is that you don't have to memorize all the special rules about the Picts and the Scots and the whatever--all that stuff is noted on the scoring cards, usually with a reference to the rulebook by page number.
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Lewis Pulsipher
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FFG rewrote the rules in "Sequence of Play" format, and then did not playtest them significantly if at all. "Sequence of play" tries to present the rules as you would play them (for people who are, um, unwise enough to try to learn a game as they play it for the first time, which I think would be a disaster with Britannia), and the exceptions can get strung out in other places. My original 2006 rules were in "reference" format, which makes things easier to find and keeps the rules for a particular topic together.

However, there are still many exceptions and special cases, compared with Risk or Stratego. Those games are vaguely related to history, Britannia is a game that you can learn history from, and that requires some of the untidiness of history to slip into it. As Richard says, if the basic combat rules seemed difficult to understand, the game as a whole may have too many rules for your taste.

The original 2006 rules are on my Web site pulsiphergames.com, plus a variety of other material related to the game. And no, it really isn't for three players.

Lew (designer)
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Caleb
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Yeah, I have to say, FFG's rules-writing has always been lousy. It seems they concentrate far more on producing a visually-stunning rulebook (full color, lots of artwork and sidebars and stuff), but virtually no time in making sure the rules are understandable by someone who has never played. This speaks to a complete lack of blind playtesting. I'd put money on the fact that no FFG game ever gets blind playtested.

In any case, however, the rules are certainly clear enough that you don't sum the dice in combat. So I'd suggest trying Lew's original rules (or even the rules to the 1986 Britannia to get the flow down). Or try Universal Head's summary in the files section.
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Paul Schulzetenberg
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cannoneer wrote:
Yeah, I have to say, FFG's rules-writing has always been lousy. It seems they concentrate far more on producing a visually-stunning rulebook (full color, lots of artwork and sidebars and stuff), but virtually no time in making sure the rules are understandable by someone who has never played. This speaks to a complete lack of blind playtesting. I'd put money on the fact that no FFG game ever gets blind playtested.


As somebody who has done blind playtesting for FFG, I'll take any money that you would have bet.
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David Gibbs
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myths wrote:

But anyway, thanks again- I really do appreciate it. I had 3 players initially but became so bogged down in the rulebook that we ended up playing some other games so that my girlfriend and I could practice on the 2-player scenarios. We aren't fairing much better! But your clarification of the battle dynamic is a great start.



Yes, this is definitely a game to learn before you teach. So, spending the time getting an understanding, before bringing in a group (of 4 total) to play is a really good idea.
 
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Caleb
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Unitoch wrote:
cannoneer wrote:
Yeah, I have to say, FFG's rules-writing has always been lousy. It seems they concentrate far more on producing a visually-stunning rulebook (full color, lots of artwork and sidebars and stuff), but virtually no time in making sure the rules are understandable by someone who has never played. This speaks to a complete lack of blind playtesting. I'd put money on the fact that no FFG game ever gets blind playtested.


As somebody who has done blind playtesting for FFG, I'll take any money that you would have bet.


Real blind testing? As in, no input from anyone who has played the game before? Just learning from the rules and playing? If that is true, and if you ever blind test for them in the future, please pay more attention to the atrocious rulebooks.
 
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Davis Talhone
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I'm not giving up on Britannia as the game seems so rich and interesting across the board. Lew, thanks for the link, I'm going to print your 2006 rules and begin again.

I will also reserve any such judgments until playing properly with 4 players as it seems quite clear that is the definitive means of enjoying the experience.

Thanks again, this community just amazes me more and more each day!
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Jason Rider
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Interestingly enough, I was just about to publish my review of Britannia and happened upon this thread. Myths is certainly not alone on his confusion over the rulebook. Tom Vasel and I agreed that it was worded and structured quite oddly. Here's what he said in his critique:

"I was a bit intimidated by the twenty-four page rulebook and read it slowly over a couple of days - a bit at a time. But really, I could have grasped things earlier, because the core rules aren't very detailed at all."

If I can offer any advice, it is to use Lew's 2006 rules. They are much more linear! In fact before publishing my review, I will amend it to include a direct link to these rules so that other players can benefit.

Stick with it though and you'll find it is surprisingly intuitive and great fun.
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Paul Schulzetenberg
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cannoneer wrote:
Real blind testing? As in, no input from anyone who has played the game before? Just learning from the rules and playing? If that is true, and if you ever blind test for them in the future, please pay more attention to the atrocious rulebooks.


Yes. Absolutely 100% pure make-your-own-prototype blind testing. And, for the record, I find FFG's rulebooks to be good. Britannia's is admittedly scattered and rough, but I have no difficulty with most of their rule sets.
 
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Unitoch wrote:
cannoneer wrote:
Real blind testing? As in, no input from anyone who has played the game before? Just learning from the rules and playing? If that is true, and if you ever blind test for them in the future, please pay more attention to the atrocious rulebooks.


Yes. Absolutely 100% pure make-your-own-prototype blind testing. And, for the record, I find FFG's rulebooks to be good. Britannia's is admittedly scattered and rough, but I have no difficulty with most of their rule sets.


Well, maybe they're an acquired taste

I found the rules to War of the Ring, Britannia, Confrontation Deluxe, Twilight Imperium II and III, and Lord of the Rings (Knizia) to be poorly organized, dramatically over-wordy, and completely impossible to look things up in. And I was a Play-Tester for War of the Ring, and am intimately familiar with AH Britannia!

I do think their small-format (Silver Line) game rules are OK. My biggest beef with those is the fact that the text is their use of 3 point font in order to fit 600 different languages into the rules.
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