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Kenneth Lury
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Birds of Prey Review
I have had Birds of Prey for almost 3 months. I have played a total of 3 moves via PBEM.
I have had 2 very long telephone conversations with the designer. I have had numerous email exchanges with another expert who was trying to teach me the game.

With the above in mind here is my review:

Components: the player aids are laminated and very well done. They are not self-explanatory, but once someone explains how they work (the rules do not) they are pretty easy to follow. The nomographs are very busy and confusing at first as they contain lots of data for different uses. once you get the hang of them they are pretty easy, but prone to making small errors.

The ACC (aircraft control cards) are also laminated and very good in quality. These are not at all self explanatory and even after many long attempts at understanding them, I still do not have a good handle.

The ADC(aircraft data cards) are excellent and most portions of them are self explanatory.

The map is paper and fine for its purpose.

The fold up miniature aircraft are o.k. The colored altitude boxes are a nice touch as are the aircraft “pitch” bases. These are not really necessary and although some folks really like them, I find them an annoying clutter.

The Tutorial is nearly useless.
The rulebook is o.k. as a reference, but does not teach the game.
Scenario book is fine, but in my case unlikely to be used.

Mechanics: This simulation purportedly models jet aircraft flight and fight according to realistic physics. The nomographs which are like paper based slide rule calculators take the difficult physics concepts and math out of the game, yielding appropriate results for aircraft state and performance.

The aircraft control cards contain the PHAD which is for me a very difficult concept to grasp. This is the heart of the system and “helps” you maneuver the plane in 3 dimensions while keeping track of where your opponents are. What makes a difficult concept even more difficult is that the tutorial and the online community make errors while trying to help and of course that confuses me more.
The 2d and 3d movement aid charts are somewhat confusing, but manageable and allow a fair amount of flexibility in maneuvering your aircraft under a given set of conditions.

Also notable are many crew“tasks” including methods of getting a fix on your opponent, using ecm, shooting weapons, checking “G” effects and the resulting effect of multitasking overload. You get a limited number of activity points per crew per turn so you cannot do everything you might want.

The mechanics for actual battle I know nothing about, not having succeeded in getting that far.

Game Play:
To quote my wife, “someone would really have to want to play this game to go though everything required”. Each turn requires many steps and each step has potential for error, major and minor.
I think I have the most rudimentary grasp of how the game plays and frankly, for me, it is not worth the effort. Perhaps if I really understood how the game works, I might find it enjoyable, but I have given this game more time than any other and still do not get it. I like a challenge, but only one that has the potential for success. I do not see my understanding improving and I think I have invested more than enough time and effort to yield more satisfying results.

Solo Play
This is critical for me. None of the scenarios are designed for solo play. One must buy the expansion to get some. No thanks. Not throwing good money after bad.

Conclusion and Comparison

I really wanted to learn and play this game. The components are great and obviously a lot of thought and background work went into making this as realistic a simulation as possible. I applaud the efforts of the design team. However, I have come to realize that the game is not aimed at lay people, but at people already familiar with flying jet aircraft. Well, that certainly limits the audience and eliminates me from that audience. I am stubborn, but must admit defeat.

At this point I must compare Birds of Prey with Whistling Death, another game about fighting with aircraft. The time periods are different and the planes are different. Nonetheless, both game are simulations of aerial combat up close and personal.
Whistling Death took some effort to learn, but everything was logically explained in the rulebook and the online support was truly great. When I asked questions I received lucid answers. Game play is smooth and fun in Whistling Death. There is no prerequisite experience required. I am currently playing someone local , but we are using PBEM because of conflicting schedules –Perfect ! We check each other’s moves and graciously offer corrections. There are 15 solo scenarios in Whistling Death compared to Zero in Birds of Prey.

I will also compare to Fields of Fire, a solo tactical infantry game that has come under some fierce criticism (including some from me) for the poor rules.
There is a major difference. The Fields of Fire rules are learnable with some effort and there is a great game in there if you can get past the rules. I have a feeling that even if I could learn Birds of Prey, I would find it not worth it.


Rating: Concept 10/10
Components 8/10
Execution 1/10 I guess this would go way up if you already know how to fly
Or if a good integrated rulebook/tutorial were introduced. I know it is promised, but that does not help now.

I will likely trade or give away Birds of Prey to a good home, preferably to someone who already knows how to fly.


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Chris Buhl
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I realize this is not likely to be helpful, since you're in NC. But, just in case, I'll post it.

In a couple of weeks there's a demo event in Eastern Mass (check this thread http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/551597/birds-of-prey-gam...), where I'm going to hopefully learn how to play face to face. It sounds as if a couple of experienced playerw will be there to help. If they train me up really well, maybe we could do a phone call about what we learn?

If this game had a vassal module, I think it would help considerably, although I don't know enough about the game to get how (or it) a module would work. At least then, experienced players could walk folks through, if they were willing to invest the time.

Thanks for the review, in any case. You've at least got me interested in Whistling Death.
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Ethan McKinney
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radsailor wrote:
The fold up miniature aircraft are o.k. The colored altitude boxes are a nice touch as are the aircraft “pitch” bases. These are not really necessary and although some folks really like them, I find them an annoying clutter.


Obviously, I have a different view of the game, but I'm certainly not going to tell you that you're "wrong" because you don't like it.

Your comment about the tilt blocks I have to take issue with--as you say, you haven't played Birds of Prey, so you don't have a basis to evaluate them. They are a tremendous help because you don't have to ask every other player about every other plane every turn to try to figure out how they are oriented. Instead, you can simply glance across the table and see an aircraft's pitch, roll, and heading in an instant.

I've even used the tilt blocks in a Fighting Wings (Whistling Death's system) variant. It makes that game much easier to play.

The altitude stacking tiles add to the utility of the tilt block by allowing you to look across the table and see the altitude of an aircraft without having to ask about it. (Yes, you have to "count up" the tiles, but it's still less intrusive than asking all of the time. If you're only playing PBEM and you have all of the altitude information in front of you, this won't matter, but if you're playing face-to-face, it does.)

Finally, using the tilt blocks makes understanding the PHAD (where you track pitch, heading, and roll) much easier to understand because you're translating the marks onto the PHAD to an aircraft "miniature. You can just look at your plane and see its orientation. That helps a lot in understanding the PHAD, which is a conceptual hurdle.

Translating the PHAD marks to an orientation for an aircraft box miniature doesn't require the conceptual understanding. You just need to follow step-by-step procedures.

(Edited to add last two paragraphs.)
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Jon Bryon
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radsailor wrote:

Solo Play
This is critical for me. None of the scenarios are designed for solo play. One must buy the expansion to get some. No thanks. Not throwing good money after bad.


I don't have my copy to hand, but doesn't the game come with what is effectively a solo scenario of MiGs vs. B-29s?


radsailor wrote:

However, I have come to realize that the game is not aimed at lay people, but at people already familiar with flying jet aircraft. Well, that certainly limits the audience and eliminates me from that audience. I am stubborn, but must admit defeat.

...

I will likely trade or give away Birds of Prey to a good home, preferably to someone who already knows how to fly.


Even though my review of BoP differs radically from Kenneth's, I too will not quibble with his view of the game - it's his valid opinion, after all. However, I will take issue with the above statement that the game is aimed at people already familiar with flying, since I see no evidence of this in the rules/tutorial and I know people (including me) who have *no* aviation experience have learnt it to a level where it can be very enjoyably played. I mention this in case any others with no aviation experience are put off by such a statement; the game may not be for you, but not necessarily so.

The challenge of the PHAD is that it is a way of representing three dimensional data in two dimensions. If you have difficulty visualising 3D orientations in 2D, then proceed with care. Although I have no aviation experience, I did find the PHAD fairly intuitive because, a) I was trained as a geologist/geophysicist, where representing 3D orientations in 2D is a necessary skill, and b) I think the rules do adequately explain the concept.
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Kenneth Lury
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I was told directly by one of the people involved in development that I really should not be trying to learn this if I had no flight experience.
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Kenneth Lury
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also, sadly I am not a trained geophysicist.
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Kenneth Lury
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Also, most of the problems I had with the PHAD came from the tutorial and other people confusing me.
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jonbryon wrote:

Even though my review of BoP differs radically from Kenneth's, I too will not quibble with his view of the game - it's his valid opinion, after all. However, I will take issue with the above statement that the game is aimed at people already familiar with flying, since I see no evidence of this in the rules/tutorial and I know people (including me) who have *no* aviation experience have learnt it to a level where it can be very enjoyably played. I mention this in case any others with no aviation experience are put off by such a statement; the game may not be for you, but not necessarily so.

I agree with this statement. No avation experience here, too.

I have BoP for six days and read both the tutorial and the rulebook (and performed some basic flight operations). I disagree with you statement that the tutorial book is useless, because, even though it contains errors and inconsistencies, I got the basic idea. The rulebook is perfectly clear about all the steps and even describes which lines you have to draw, so no problem for me there either.

I think your comparison to Whistling Death is not totally valid, because the examples in the rulebook also contain errors (which confused me a lot). Also, all the steps in WD are error-prone too (I play it for a year now, and even now my moves get corrected almost every other move...).

This is not intended to be a personal attack. In my opinion you are free to like/dislike this game however much you want. However, I don't want potential players to be offset by this review.
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Mike Windsor
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Quote:
I have BoP for six days and read both the tutorial and the rulebook (and performed some basic flight operations). I disagree with you statement that the tutorial book is useless, because, even though it contains errors and inconsistencies, I got the basic idea. The rulebook is perfectly clear about all the steps and even describes which lines you have to draw, so no problem for me there either.


My recollection is that the tutorial was highly touted to make the game more accessible. I also recall (although I don't want to bother to go look up the specifics) that there was a premium charged that pushed the game well-above $100 for a full color tutorial. It doesn't exactly leave a great taste to learn that the tutorial was "buggy".
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Keiron
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radsailor wrote:


Solo Play
This is critical for me. None of the scenarios are designed for solo play. One must buy the expansion to get some...

... There are 15 solo scenarios in Whistling Death compared to Zero in Birds of Prey...



Isn't there like 6 gun/missile training exercises in the tutorial booklet that are all solo scenarios (albeit not strictly scenarios per se)?
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Colin Hunter
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I'll just mention while I disagree somewhat with your criticism, I do really think the rule books in this game are its biggest downfall. As you rightly point out, whistling death is far easier to learn, partly because it has a comprehensive single rule book (partly though I think because it is slightly less complex). I detest having two separate rule books neither of which are particularly well laid out, it was a mistake to publish the game like that. However it is a very interesting game and you most certainly don't need flight experience to play.
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Chad Marlett
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These are the types of reviews the game is going to keep getting until Ad Astra fixes the tutorial. The tutorial as shipped is useless.

I playtested a tutorial that worked a year ago and offered my feedback. Nothing ever came of it. I would publish it here myself, but it also contained some minor errors that need to be corrected.



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Ethan McKinney
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ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
I do really think the rule books in this game are its biggest downfall.


The rule book-rule book (not the tutorial) is, personally, my fault.

All I can offer in my defense for a few parts of it is that they existed only as formulas when I got them ...
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Kenneth Ellis
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"I was told directly by one of the people involved in development that I really should not be trying to learn this if I had no flight experience."

I suppose this was me in the training game.

Which, interestingly enough, was nowhere near the comment I made:

"If you don't have a background in the study of ACM, this game is going to give you moments of feeling like you are trying to learn greek. Nothing that you have ever learned on the subject will translate, because nothing in the hobby has ever attempted to get this close to the heart of what it's trying to emulate. You can play flight simulators for years and not receive half as much understanding as the experience of a single PBEM game can provide. And you can have played every air wargame ever written and collectively they don't impart a tenth of what is provided here.

This is not to say it is not accessible. Clearly, given the simple fact that you have played two turns total and the only real hurdle left is "3-away" isn't showing you to be that far off from being effective. At the same time, once the bicycle factor is overcome, you will be free to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the jet-age dogfight (but didn't want the 4-6 year service agreement), so long as you're open to having all of the preconceived notions about air combat you've gotten from movies, tv, and books killed.

So relax. Put away everything you think you know about airplanes and combat and let's set things right."

It appears, Mr. Lury, that you are most willing to misrepresent patient commentary in a fashion that provides you with further ammunition, instead of finding the measure of solace that it was presented in. That's fine- you can take these things as you will.

You are also welcome to look in the mirror concerning the "hard time" that you received in your attempt at learning Birds of Prey. Let's see what you had at you disposal in the Cheap Trick game:

The game's Developer.
The game's replacement rulebook and tutorial author.
A third member of the development staff.

All on hand to help you learn to play the game, at your beck and call. What did you produce?

1. 3 Turns in four weeks, in a 1 v 1. You have been on deck to produce a turn for a week and a half.
2. An inexperienced effort at some form of second party "tutorial".

"I do not see my understanding improving and I think I have invested more than enough time and effort to yield more satisfying results."

As I put forward to you in the response to the start of Turn 3, I directed that you do three things:

1. Actually try and produce more turns, and ask for help if you had trouble.
2. Spend the mental energy of "translating" things in terms you think would be useful to others on actually LEARNING the game first. Something that quite honestly, to invoke your stated background, would amount to me trying to write a manual on the operation of an MRI station after reviewing a GE sales brochure on the Signa HDxt.
3. Relax, and get over your personal mental blocks.

You did none of this. Instead, you produced one turn, didn't ask questions, did not produce a fourth turn when prompted- in fact, you didn't say another word.

But that's fine. You are welcome to your opinion. The "exhaustive" attempt at learning the game was not, and that's my opinion on the subject.

You are welcome to continue the scenario at your leisure, or scrap it at your pleasure. The decision is yours.

And for the record, you were involved in a _solo_ scenario.
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Chad Marlett
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I understand that everyone involved in the creation of this game takes criticism of it personally, but it would seem that time spent defending the game could be better used -

FIXING THE TUTORIAL!

Is someone associated with Ad Astra ever going to do this, or wait to charge for it in BoP 1.5/2.0?
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Kenneth Ellis
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Chad-

"I playtested a tutorial that worked a year ago and offered my feedback."

To whom- Ken Burnside? I received nothing. If you still have what you gave him, please forward it to me.

"Nothing ever came of it."

Don't bet your house on that.
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Kenneth Ellis
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"I understand that everyone involved in the creation of this game takes criticism of it personally,"

No. Criticism of the system can go wherever it may; people are welcome to like it, they're welcome to hate it, whichever they feel comfortable in doing. Mr. Lury is welcome to derive any opinion of Birds of Prey he likes based on the legitimacy of the attempt that he feels he has made. It is no skin off my back.

It's entirely another when you take my words of encouragement and misrepresent them publicly. That I take offense to.

"but it would seem that time spent defending the game could be better used -

FIXING THE TUTORIAL!
"

And what, prey tell, is the basis of your opinion that nothing is taking place; the fact that nothing has been released?

Considering that this is a hobby for every member of the staff, real life and those concerns factor first, and is the primary determinant as to the production of a revised tutorial/rulebook document.

"Is someone associated with Ad Astra ever going to do this, or wait to charge for it in BoP 1.5/2.0?"

2.0 is the major thrust, and goes into full swing with the competition of the second expansion. Enough is changing to streamline certain Phases (along with at least one being considered for removal entirely) and Effects actions to require the rewrite receives the full focus. That is to say that the operations learned for the original release are null and void- things are simply being tightened.

The intent was not, and is not (for my part, as the guy lifting the lion's share of the load) to force any sort of purchase for the revised materials. Ad Astra's position is an "update kit", of which would also include some other materials to make any involved cost more palatable. At this point, the replacement books have a greater scope than the originals ever had, and "some" recuperation of the paper and shipping seems reasonable. Your opinion on that may vary.
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Kenneth Lury
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You sent me a correction to my move that made absolutely no sense to me. I have been waiting quite a while for you to answer the questions I asked you. You never responded.
That is lame. However, it typifies your supercilious attitude to those not members of the cognoscenti.
Why try to make another move when I did not understand the previous move.

If you would like to get into a pissing contest, piss away. Otherwise get a life and don't give up your day job.
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Kenneth Ellis
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"You sent me a correction to my move that made absolutely no sense to me. I have been waiting quite a while for you to answer the questions I asked you. You never responded."

I did not respond, because in your very own last message stated the following:

"So, using this new start position and start state, I will try another maneuver. The errors with numbers are mostly due to sloppiness on my part. The major problem is the orientation of the a/c on the PHAD. I do somewhat get the rolling changes, but anthing moving the nose is a problem."

To use your next line, "that is lame". You state you'll give it another shot, and that part of the difficulty may be your own and don't say another word.

As to the one question you ended with, as to whether or not the horizon is aircraft or Earth relative, you'd been directed to the answer prior (in description and imagery) it's aircraft relative. Christ, we'd worked through it ten lines higher in that very email with your toy airplane over the PHAD.

"However, it typifies your supercilious attitude to those not members of the cognoscenti."

Now that right there is a god-damned riot; the only issue I took toward your questions during the short duration of instruction was the PBEM formatting/carat issue based on a simple misunderstanding and we were moving on. Beyond that, and the aforementioned "last question", at what point did I tell you to stop attempting to learn BoP?

At what place in the conversation did I lose my temper, or position you in any way, shape, or form beneath anyone? If directing your focus to the task at hand is aggrandizement, excuse me for stating the obvious: you can't teach people how to run if you are incapable of walking.

As it were, the only ego stroke made during the session was yours:

"I will keep working on this as it cannot be as difficult as I perceive it. I have taught myself basic celestial navigation as a hobby. In my real life job i have had to learn radiation physics, ultrasound physics, magnetic resonance imaging physics and the physics of radionuclides so I probably have the capacity to learn BOP."

Restated: "I can't get this; it therefore must be stupid, because I'm not" .

You fail at self-effacing.

"Why try to make another move when I did not understand the previous move."

Why say you will press on with the new information when you won't? There wasn't anything in your question that hadn't already been covered and one more attempt would have given another opportunity to gain experience to help better frame the answer.

"If you would like to get into a pissing contest, piss away."

You'd been pissing and moaning long enough; it was high time someone else got their turn.

"Otherwise get a life and don't give up your day job."

You would be wise to get over yours.
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elbmc1969 wrote:
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
I do really think the rule books in this game are its biggest downfall.


The rule book-rule book (not the tutorial) is, personally, my fault.

All I can offer in my defense for a few parts of it is that they existed only as formulas when I got them ...
Dude, its not your fault, even if it was, I wouldn't blame you, writing a rule book to BoP I'm sure was a daunting task. I'm just saying, when there is a good comprehensive rule book, which I'm sure will happen, I'll play the game again. I really like BoP, I think conceptually it is a superb game and it is interesting to play, the rule could be better, but you are dealing with an extremely complex game, Ultimately all of this stuff is a team effort, please know, I couldn't do better, but I do hope one day, they put out a good comprehensive rule book with nice paragraph numbering.
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Mike Windsor
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The extended tutorial for a complex game is a great idea. Developers need to understand that some people are going to have to learn their games without the benefit of a teacher, and a tutorial is a good solution. Unfortunately, the BoP tutorial was buggy -- no other way to put it. Having paid a premium for a "premium" tutorial, there's no amount of sales pitch that is going to make me feel very good about having to purchase a fixed tutorial, no matter how new and improved it is. That's equivalent to buying a new car that doesn't run properly, and have the manufacturer tell you that you really just need to buy the newer model. That my be the hard fact of life, but it doesn't make me feel any better about it.
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Chris Buhl
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ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
elbmc1969 wrote:
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
I do really think the rule books in this game are its biggest downfall.


The rule book-rule book (not the tutorial) is, personally, my fault.

All I can offer in my defense for a few parts of it is that they existed only as formulas when I got them ...
Dude, its not your fault, even if it was, I wouldn't blame you, writing a rule book to BoP I'm sure was a daunting task. I'm just saying, when there is a good comprehensive rule book, which I'm sure will happen, I'll play the game again. I really like BoP, I think conceptually it is a superb game and it is interesting to play, the rule could be better, but you are dealing with an extremely complex game, Ultimately all of this stuff is a team effort, please know, I couldn't do better, but I do hope one day, they put out a good comprehensive rule book with nice paragraph numbering.


Hm, notice how saying "Sorry, my bad" cools things right down, and keeps the conversation on a practical (i.e. potentially helpful / useful) level? We all know it's not really anybody's fault. Clearly plenty of folks have muddled through the rulebook and figured it out - the game's average rating is over 8, even with some 1,2 and 3 scores. Clearly there's extensive support available, even if sometimes flawed. It was nice to hear an update about the work that's going on to revise the game, too. Personally, despite my incredible laziness about trying to learn the thing, I remain excited about this game.
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Carmela Jimenez
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returning to first post: my impresions are similar to Mr. Lury regarding tutorial and rulebook utility.

When I read the tutorial I'm thinking that the concepts will be explained in depth in the rulebook, and when I read the rulebook I belive that I miss something that I should learn or know from the tutorial book, or was it on the side bars.

I own birds of prey for a year, and read it twice,but never did a flight, except those that are indicated as examples in the tutorial.

Whistling death was easier to learn, and it's only difficulty comes remenbering all the exceptions that are to the rules, you know, inverted flight, how damage affect the flight and that kind of things.
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absolutlunatic wrote:
at what point did I tell you to stop attempting to learn BoP?


When you published the rules included in the game, apparently.

Quote:
At what place in the conversation did I lose my temper, or position you in any way, shape, or form beneath anyone?


I have no idea the details of the conversation the two of you had, but you're doing it right now in this thread.

Quote:
"I will keep working on this as it cannot be as difficult as I perceive it. I have taught myself basic celestial navigation as a hobby. In my real life job i have had to learn radiation physics, ultrasound physics, magnetic resonance imaging physics and the physics of radionuclides so I probably have the capacity to learn BOP."

Restated: "I can't get this; it therefore must be stupid, because I'm not" .

You fail at self-effacing.


You fail at reading comprehension. The very first sentence of his quote disproves your restatement.

He's right, it's probably not as difficult as he perceives it to be. Or it wouldn't be, with a good set of rules to learn from, and perhaps a more patient teacher. If the attitude you're displaying here was part of his learning process with you, I can further understand his difficulties.

I understand you'll be charging extra for the real rules at some point in the future?

Quote:
You'd been pissing and moaning long enough; it was high time someone else got their turn.


And what did you do with your turn? I mean other than reducing this to a flame war, chasing off potential customers (myself included), inciting other negative threads here based on this one, and putting forth an incredibly negative image of yourself and your products?

Quote:
"Otherwise get a life and don't give up your day job."

You would be wise to get over yours.


This makes absolutely no sense in context. I know you're angry, but reply after reading.

Get over what? His life? His day job?

Less anger. More thought.
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