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Subject: Games with a gentle but long learning curve? rss

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Andrew
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What are games with a learning curve that's gentle (easy to pick up, veterans don't have too much of an advantage over newbies) yet lengthy (you continue to discover more about the game many plays in)?
 
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Derry Salewski
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fateswanderer wrote:
What are games with a learning curve that's gentle (easy to pick up, veterans don't have too much of an advantage over newbies) yet lengthy (you continue to discover more about the game many plays in)?


Does that contradict itself a little bit? If there is always more to learn, and it's going to take quite a while, shouldn't a veteran be pretty far ahead?

I guess I'm just wondering about the veterans vs new players aspect. It seems like you'd need a mechanic that was fairly chance based, or heavily handicappable in order to achieve that dynamic.

Or a scoring mechanic that doesn't let a leader get too far ahead in the first place, so there is an illusion of 'keeping up' while still learning. Endeavor seems like it might fall into that category a little bit. Once the basic ideas are down, it's pretty easy to feel like you're doing a good job, and learning new moves, even if you're going to lose to a better player.

Customizable games probably fit this idea too, (and probably that's a big part of why they're so popular) I could take an easy magic card deck, give it to someone who was just learning, and play something fun but not overly powerful myself and give something like fifty fifty odds while we're both having fun for a while. I imagine many mini/card games would be like that.

I think I kinda get what you're asking for, even if the terminology seemed confusing!
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Ben Stanley
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Yeah. The equalizing elements of most games that new player can contend against old players are usually some form of luck or randomness and unique mechanics that are designed to solve a runaway leader problem.

The thing is, in many cases, games that have enough depth to leave things to be discovered over time usually minimize luck so they tend to be a bit more brutal with a steeper learning curve. I myself would rather play a minimal to no luck game that rewards smart and cunning play than a game that's too random or luck based. Killer Bunnies is usually my go-to example where even if you got the most carrots, you can still lose to someone that got just one since the winning carrot is randomly selected. It's more of a party or social game where nobody cares much about who wins, it's the journey that's supposed to be fun. For me, it wasn't. On the other end of the spectrum are games like Age of Steam and the 18xx series where the game is cold and heartless. Make a miscalculation in either and it could cost you the game really early and you'd never know it until the end if you're new to the game. Those games reward those that take the time to analyze the game, their actions, their opponents actions and remember what effect it had should a similar beginning game take place with the same players.

I think the best you're going to do is with many of what others would call an easy to medium strength gateway game. I'd stay away from any game with an auction element. Beginning players can often get spanked due to lack of knowledgeable bid valuations.
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Mark Ramsey
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Ra Comes to mind, but the only thing that really evens the playing field is the random component of tile-drawing. I do find that most games are usually won by the veteran player, but it is often close enough that everyone has a good time. Brian is right that an auction component can be confusing for new players, but I find that it isn't the auction that trips up new players in Ra, but more when to invoke Ra.

As a counter example that I would say strongly backs up Brian's assertion, I give you Modern Art. This is one of my favourite games (another Knizia classic by the way) and newbies have absolutely no chance of winning against veteran players. It is pure auction, and if you blink, you'll miss something critical and lose the game.
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Matt Davis
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Go, played with the proper handicap.
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Fred Meyer
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Memoir '44 for sure. I learned it quickly the other day, have played it a bunch online in the past few days, and am still learning a bit more about the gameplay and tactics each battle. You can try it out online for free at the Days of Wonder site. Click the News tab and sign up for the beta testing.
 
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Gadi Oron
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Why not play some cooperative games?

Some coops are quite challenging but newbies can be assisted by the veterans.
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Andrew
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Thanks for the replies - the criteria were very abstract!

scifiantihero wrote:
Does that contradict itself a little bit? If there is always more to learn, and it's going to take quite a while, shouldn't a veteran be pretty far ahead?


In theory there's no contradiction, but in practice (due to the way game genres work out, as Brian describes) there aren't many games that fit the bill, which is why I'm asking!

I figure that there are some games out there where understanding each of many tricks gives you a small but not thoroughly decisive advantage.

I think the elements Derry mentions are important: chance (common in light games), handicapping (available in customisable games), or catchup mechanisms (common in middle-weight Euros); and auctions are not so good.

Ben, I know you're a fan of Parade - how is it with 3+ players?

coolpapa wrote:
Go, played with the proper handicap.

I'm working my way through a Go text at the moment - that's one deep game!
 
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Robert Stuart
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fateswanderer wrote:
...veterans don't have too much of an advantage over newbies) yet... you continue to discover more about the game many plays in)?


It seems to me that these are mutually exclusive.
 
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Robert Stuart
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coolpapa wrote:
Go, played with the proper handicap.


You hit it right on the button.
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coolpapa wrote:
Go, played with the proper handicap.


QFT.

...Though, you can just about fill the whole board with handicap stones and a strong enough player will beat a brand new one.
 
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Ryan Jenkinson
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Maybe you'd like games that have 'introductory scenarios' where you only need to know a certain section of the rules, get to play a game, then learn a few more rules, play a slightly more advanced game, and so on.

Dungeon Twister 2: Prison and Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 come to mind that use this "tutorial" mechanism with gradually advanced rules.
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Frank Feldmann SoFrankly
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I would say Acquire, because I have played it over 10 times, and I still can't figure out how to win!

(I am normally not this obtuse, BTW, I am a decent chess player and win my share of other games. But this game, which I LOVE, just eludes me!)
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Steven Wyman
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Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
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David Jackman
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Blue Moon fits this to a bill. Early on, sound tactical play of the cards you are given can very reliably get you wins.

However, as your knowledge of the decks increase, you start to know key cards in your own deck and your opponents deck and plan for them. It almost plays like a different game as each player becomes more familiar with the decks.

Also, learning the decks isnt that hard. With only 30 card decks, and very strong themes in each deck mechanically.
 
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p55carroll
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bob_santafe wrote:
coolpapa wrote:
Go, played with the proper handicap.

You hit it right on the button.

I disagree. In my experience, Go has a very steep learning curve, not a gentle one. You can learn the rules in a few minutes and start playing. And yeah, if you're able to play a handicapped game with an experienced player (especially a friendly one who wants to help you learn), the learning can be reasonably pleasant.

But there's still a steep learning curve before you really get the hang of the game and know what you're doing. You might be tearing your hair out, wondering, "Why am I losing everything, game after game?" And then, after sticking with it for ten or twenty games, you finally start to catch on. Then it all comes together and makes sense.

Beyond that point, maybe the learning curve does get gentle; I don't know. I haven't applied myself to getting much beyond that point.
 
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Ben Stanley
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fateswanderer wrote:
Ben, I know you're a fan of Parade - how is it with 3+ players?

Parade is truly brilliant and best at two players, but it does scale well and is still fun at all player counts from 3-6.

My favorite games for 3 are probably:
The Bottle Imp
Nyse
Innovation
König von Siam

The only one of those that meets your original criterion (long, gentle learning curve), though, is Nyse, one of my own published designs.

Along with that, another couple of gentle long learning curve games that shine with 3 or 4 players are Catan, Alhambra, and I would say Chicago Express, though others would say that one isn't gentle at all (it really is, though).
 
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p55carroll
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fateswanderer wrote:
scifiantihero wrote:
Does that contradict itself a little bit? If there is always more to learn, and it's going to take quite a while, shouldn't a veteran be pretty far ahead?

In theory there's no contradiction, but in practice ... there aren't many games that fit the bill ...

If there's not a contradiction per se, it seems to me there's a problem with the question. So I'll ask which of these two kinds of games you'd prefer:

1. A game with a long, gentle learning curve where the continued learning is meaningful and useful--and where veteran players do have a big advantage over novices, or

2. A game with a long, gentle learning curve where the continued learning is fairly trivial and useless--and thus veteran players do not gain a big advantage over novices. (For example, a game with lots of expansions that add theme, color, and variety but require no more skill to play than the base game.)

I'd say there could be games of both kinds (though no specific examples come to mind at the moment). But if the learning curve involves picking up useful, potentially game-winning skills, methods, or strategy/tactics, then veterans will surely always have an advantage over novices.

Of course, as others have mentioned, there are ways to make a game fun for novices to play with experts. Backgammon is such a game--sometimes a novice will get lucky and beat a master player. And Go can be handicapped to allow for the difference in skill levels.
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Andrew
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
If there's not a contradiction per se, it seems to me there's a problem with the question. So I'll ask which of these two kinds of games you'd prefer:

1. A game with a long, gentle learning curve where the continued learning is meaningful and useful--and where veteran players do have a big advantage over novices, or

2. A game with a long, gentle learning curve where the continued learning is fairly trivial and useless--and thus veteran players do not gain a big advantage over novices. (For example, a game with lots of expansions that add theme, color, and variety but require no more skill to play than the base game.)


In this case I'm after games in the second category, though "fairly trivial and useless" overstates it a bit. Rather than asking for 1000 game veterans being unable to reliably beat newbies, it's that someone with say 10 more games wins a bit more, and has room to improve.

One possibility is that the continued learning may be slow: playing a 10 games more would give a concrete but not overwhelming advantage, but you can become very good after 1000.

Another is that the continued learning leads to incremental (small but definite) "points" differences that may be outweighed during a single game.

My (flawed and incomplete) understanding of Go matches Patrick's: it has a long learning curve (perhaps it's the deepest game ever), which people skip up via study and coaching. After a player knows how to secure territory, attack, defend, and differentiate good shapes from bad, this curve may be gentle and the handicap valuable. However, a newbie who hasn't reached that stage will be slaughtered by someone who has. (That said, I'm trying to get past that point and this may be my own paranoia.)
 
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Richard Clarke
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Busen Memo has a gentle set of curves that you might find to your satisfaction.
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bob_santafe wrote:
fateswanderer wrote:
...veterans don't have too much of an advantage over newbies) yet... you continue to discover more about the game many plays in)?


It seems to me that these are mutually exclusive.


To me too.
Chess
1) is easy to learn. A 5 years old can learn the rules.
2) You learn a bit every time you play.

and (2) means that a veteran players will have a great advantage on a newbie..


 
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Andrew Lloyd
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I'd say go for a game that has plenty of expansions. that way as you get better and better, can can add in expansions to increase the depth and complexity. Some random suggestion are:

Fresco
Alhambra: Big Box
Race for the Galaxy
Catan
Carcassonne
Agricola
Power Grid
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fateswanderer wrote:
One possibility is that the continued learning may be slow: playing a 10 games more would give a concrete but not overwhelming advantage, but you can become very good after 1000.

I've got to agree with Derry and Patrick. If 10 games provide a concrete advantage, a player with 1000 games has 100 concrete advantages over a newbie. How could he not dominate?

You can't really have it both ways. Games with long learning curves imply that veteran players will have a big edge. If veterans can't gain a big edge, there must not be much of value to be learned.
 
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Andrew
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Sphere wrote:
fateswanderer wrote:
One possibility is that the continued learning may be slow: playing a 10 games more would give a concrete but not overwhelming advantage, but you can become very good after 1000.

I've got to agree with Derry and Patrick. If 10 games provide a concrete advantage, a player with 1000 games has 100 concrete advantages over a newbie. How could he not dominate?


That's not what I'm asking, though my use of the word "veteran" was a mistake.

10 plays more gives you a minor advantage, and there's more to learn.
 
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