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Subject: PLEASE don't be scared aware by the "symbols" in this game rss

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Eric Bridge
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I asked for this game for X-Mas, but I was worried because of how many threads I had read about "so many symbols to keep track of".

I'm now here to say "DON'T believe it." If you can play Monopoly, you can play this game. There are not that many symbols, and once you have played half a game they should all be very easy to understand. The graphics also help to match up with the special ability. I do NOT like complex games, especially if they are long, and neither does my wife. Now practically every night after dinner my wife is saying "Race?" We can play a 2-player game in 20-30 minutes.

Symbols include such "difficult concepts" as this:

A diamond card is a "development". A development is placed in the "Develop" phase.

A circle card is a "world". A world card is placed (settled) during the Settle phase.

A hexagon symbol represents how many points that card will be worth at the end of the game if it is on the table. It can also mean to take a Victory Point chip when you take a certain action.

An eyeball means you get to "look" at more cards. (Doesn't this make sense?)

A symbol showing a card in a hand means either draw or keep one card.

A + sign means get more of whatever you are doing than you normally would. (Is this really that hard?)

A - symbol means that you get less than you otherwise would, or that something you have to pay cards for will cost less than it otherwise would.

If a world's circle is filled in with a color, that means that you get to put a card on that world in the "produce" phase.

If a world's circle has a color on its outer edge, you put a card facedown on top of it immediately, but NOT during the produce phase (unless another card tells you to break this rule).

If a world's number inside the circle is red, it is a military world and is placed by you having enough military (red numbers) on the table, rather than discarding cards to place it as you do other worlds.

Have I missed anything? I mean really, is this really that hard? It takes me longer to explain Monopoly and all its various parts than it does this great game. Seven Wonders and Dominion seem complicated compared to this game, at least to me.

Anyway, I just wanted to put this out there for those who are hesitant. Give it a chance, because this is NOT a hard game to learn. Winning? Well, that's another matter ...

Thanks for listening.
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David
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I 95% agree with you that the symbols are easy to understand. There are a few that are a little funky, though those are the ones that are explained in text on the card.

I think the game is not that hard but it is a lot of little things to keep up with and get your head around. To see the potential you need to play several times close enough together so that you remember all that you learned. Adding expansions should be done gently and not rushed so that you are comfortable with the expansion (the full game is quite heavy - though still easily playable in 30 minutes).

Race is a 10 game for me, for all the reasons you state.
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David Stahler Jr.
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Amen!
 
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From my observations and comments from some new players, it really isn't that more difficult than typical stuff, like recognizing traffic signs (stop signs are red and octoganal, Yield signs are yellow and triangular, highway signs are green and rectangular) or building signs (like elevators, restrooms, stairs, fire extinguisher, etc.). I've taught this to non-gamers and even they picked up stuff like someone should've drawn a 2nd card due to the bonus on Terrforming Robots, after III-ing and getting the III bonus. Also stuff like how a green good can be consumed on a generic IV power instead of Research Labs to leave behind a brown good for IV$-ing later.
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As has been mentioned a few threads back, very eloquently by Tom himself, it is the game complexity that is challenging to understand, especially the multi-phase activity of the various cards. Contrast to San Juan, for example, where it is text based but each card (except Library) only activates in one phase.

And even a game like Dominion, which is mainly text based, after a while the card art or even just the name itself acts as an "icon" to tell you what the card does. BTW plenty of people can't seem to understand what "+1 Card" means anyway, so I'm pretty sure the iconography isn't to blame.
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theright555J wrote:
As has been mentioned a few threads back, very eloquently by Tom himself, it is the game complexity that is challenging to understand, especially the multi-phase activity of the various cards. Contrast to San Juan, for example, where it is text based but each card (except Library) only activates in one phase.

And even a game like Dominion, which is mainly text based, after a while the card art or even just the name itself acts as an "icon" to tell you what the card does. BTW plenty of people can't seem to understand what "+1 Card" means anyway, so I'm pretty sure the iconography isn't to blame.
Seriously? wow I've heard and seen peeopl get confused about +1 action b/c the rulebook states it's really an "action point"... after you complete the current action. It's not "drop everything and play another action card if you have it" as some people mess it up to be.
 
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ebridge wrote:
I asked for this game for X-Mas, but I was worried because of how many threads I had read about "so many symbols to keep track of".

I'm now here to say "DON'T believe it." If you can play Monopoly, you can play this game. There are not that many symbols, and once you have played half a game they should all be very easy to understand.


It is really hard to take your post seriously when you start off with something as patently false as "If you can play Monopoly, you can play this game". You may feel that certain people overstate how tough the icons are, but your statement is not only false, it also seems to indirectly state that anyone who can't get the icons right away must be somewhat slow. After all, its as easy as Monopoly.

I have been playing CCGs for over half my life, and board games for the last 3 years or so. I also own San Juan and have played it at least twenty times. Even with all this, I had a hard time remembering all the icons, and it definitely took me more than one learning game to understand them all at a look. I have only played four games of Race so far, and I wouldn't feel comfortable playing without a reference card.

Remember that it is much easier to remember everything when you are playing almost every night, as you seem to be with your wife. Some of us only game two or three nights a month, and the weeks between games can definitely fog your memory.

I don't feel the icons are that difficult to grasp, but there are a lot of them, and I don't expect non-gamers to pick this up in five minutes like they would with Monopoly.
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Eric Bridge
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Well, you are certainly welcome to express a different opinion, but it is clear that we will not agree. I am not prone to exaggerating. I am totally serious in my Monopoly comparison, because Monopoly has not only multiple different properties - it also has houses and hotels, special rules for going to jail and getting out of jail, rules for rolling doubles, rules for passing Go, dozens of unique Chance and Community Chest cards, Mortgage rules, rules for the Power Companies, etc. It also has all the money, house and hotel taokens to keep track of - whereas RFTG just have VP chips and cards. Monopoly has a lot more rules than RFTG, which in my mind means a more difficult game to LEARN. I also do not believe that Monopoly can be learned in 5 minutes, as you assert. But I do agree that once you have learned Monopoly's rules it is easier to PLAY well.

Based on the games that you play, I am rather surprpised that these symbols (of which there are so few) confused you so much. I had memorized all of the icons half way through the first game, and I don't consider myself some sort of genius. I basically wrote this in the hopes that no one will refuse to play/try the game just because of the negative comments, like your own, that they read here. The difference in Monopoly and RFTG is in winning, not in learning. My 10 year old can beat me at Monopoly once he learns how to play, just by sheer luck. He cannot do this in RFTG, because even though he may know what the goal is, he doesn't understand the easiest/shortest path to get to that goal.

But if I was giving the impression that this is a great family game - it is not. It is a strategy game that requires a great amount of planning and thought. But unless someone has memory problems I still do not believe it is difficult to learn (especially when each player has a card in front of them explaining everything).
 
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I have to admit it does take more than 5 minutes, but it's still pretty quick.
 
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I don't know how you can keep professing that there are so few symbols in the game. There is a reason the game comes with four giant reference cards, it's because they are required for players to learn the game. Monopoly may have more rules than Race, I would have to pull out the rules for each to compare, but lets not confuse number of rules for difficulty. Monopoly is an incredibly simple family game with concepts that any child can get. Please attempt to teach a few five year old kids how to play Race and let me know how it turns out.

Also, I don't see why anyone would refuse to try the game simply because of the icons, and I don't consider my opinion of the game negative. Race is a very good game and I would recommend it to any gamer, just not for families and non-gamers. It is great that you memorized all the symbols in half a game, but you have to realize that this will not be the norm, everyone is different. I have thousands of MtG cards memorized, so it would appear that simple "bad memory" is not the reason it took me a few games, perhaps certain people are just naturally better with iconography than others. My friend that bought the game seemed to have just as much trouble remembering what each icon stood for as I did in the beginning, but of course that is a small sample size.

I don't agree with people who make a huge fuss about the icons and it wouldn't stop me from learning/playing a game or recommending it, but for others it could be a deal-breaker, and by underselling the amount of icons and their complexity, you aren't doing anyone any favors.
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He already stated that he thinks that this is not a familly game. So by suggesting that he should teach it to a 5 year old implies that you two are misunderstanding each other.

I think it is good that someone encourages players to try the game and tells them to not be scared.
I teached this game to my girlfriend who normaly doesn't like to play games and she got it after the first play.
And race has now become the one game we play with each other.

What we learn from this? Everyone is different. And some people might learn race faster then others. Some maybe don't learn it at all.

Let's encourage people to play this awesome game instead of arguing about this!
Because it would be a pitty if some people don't even try it because of the difficulty that is mentioned every now and then.

It seems neccesarry when one sees the amount of threads asking "should i introduce thid to my gf/wife"
If i had read this threads before I bought this game I maybe still wont be playing anything with my girlfriend. Or some crap
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TheFlatline wrote:
countcb wrote:
He already stated that he thinks that this is not a familly game. So by suggesting that he should teach it to a 5 year old implies that you two are misunderstanding each other.


I disagree here. He's contradicting himself if he says on one hand that Monopoloy is harder to teach than Race for the Galaxy, but that it's not suitable to be a family game. Part of "teaching" a game is teaching the proper way to play to win.

And here's where I get frustrated with RftG. I feel like I have to play until I have the deck more or less committed to memory before strategies start forming. In fact, most of the strategy discussion on this game basically has boiled down to "once you memorize the deck things start opening up."

Note that they *start* opening up after you've committed brute memorization through repeated plays. If I have to *play* a game 30 times to start to really "learn" how to play it, that's a point against the game. I'm fine with depth but if you're essentially n00b status for a dozen or two plays of the game and then you start to progress up the learning curve, that's unreasonable to ask all players.

Anyway, the rulebook for RftG is atrocious. The iconography isn't particularly intuitive without knowledge of how the game plays, and the game relies on knowledge of the iconography. The overall feeling once you get past that hump is "wow... they made that way more complicated than they needed to." At least, that's what I said when it finally "clicked" for me, and similar statements have been made by everyone else I taught the game to.

That brings me to my final point. If you *want* to play RftG, it works infinitely better if you're *taught* it by someone who knows how to play. Even if that means going to one of the (fantastic) youtube videos floating around on here. Trying to learn the game cold from the instructions is painful, and should be looked upon as a fine example of a poorly written instruction manual.


I have to agree with that last part especially. I would imagine that having someone who has played the game teach it to new players would help tremendously. I had already played San Juan many times, so at least I had a rough feel for the type of game that Race is, but playing my first games versus my buddy who was also new at it we had to refer to the manual and reference cards quite a bit.

Just to be very clear though, I encourage people to try this game, as it is one of the best card games around.
 
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Randall Bart
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The Monopoly RftG comparisons are ludicrous. In Monopoly, when I draw a card I immediately display it. If I have any questions about this card, I can ask a more knowledgeable player. In RftG I am expected to make decisions about this card before I show it to anyone. If you are going to say RftG is easier to learn than Monopoly, you must play with all your cards face up.
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Eric Bridge
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I said it is easier to learn than Monopoly, not easier to play or to do well at. The person who showed me how to play RFTG went over the symbols in 5 minutes, and the phases in another 5 minutes, and we just started playing. I did not have to learn to play from reading the rulebook, so I cannot comment on that. It may well be that the rulebook stinks. I wasn't commenting on the rulebook.

Now personally I still believe that Monopoly has more rules, more things to keep track of, and will take longer before you have learned all the quirky rules. This is all I have ever asserted. I also said that once you know the rules Monopoly is easier to play and to win at. I do confess amazement that so many gamers believe RFTG to be so difficult to learn. We will just have to disagree I guess. I just feel that disheartening commentary like I have read about this game has discouraged others from purchasing it, because they assume the game is hard. It stopped me from buying it for two years. The only reason I own it now is because I asked for it for X-Mas, because I was too scared to spend my own money on something that would be so "hard". Now I realize that I could have been enjoying the game with the rest of you two years ago, if I had not listened to all the nay-sayers.

In short, the lesson here is "Just try it for yourself and see what you think."
 
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Evan Stegman
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ebridge wrote:
I asked for this game for X-Mas, but I was worried because of how many threads I had read about "so many symbols to keep track of".

I'm now here to say "DON'T believe it." If you can play Monopoly, you can play this game. ...


You named a dozen different symbols some of which have more than one interpretion.

That is one heck of a lot more complex than monopoly.

And you left out another dozen or so:

Card with an X through it.

Card with a number in it (as oppposed to +#)

Empty slashed circle.

X2 with a circle slash.

Card with a grey circle outlining it.

Mutlicolored card.

A 'colon' between cards.

Circles with multicolored rings around them.

Card with a greater than sign in it.

Multiple mulitcolored cards.

White circle with half red, half black ring around it surrounded by a four color circle.

A die and a card with a question mark.

And looking at the symbols in isolation is misleading because not only does someone new to the game have to learn a couple of dozen symbols, they also have to learn the ins and outs of how they combine.

This is what a crib sheet for the symbols looks like for just the base game:



You really don't think a non-gamer should think THAT'S not more complicated than Monopoly?

And that's just the base game. Start adding in expansions and it gets more complicated.

Complicated enought that there 398 rules question threads in the base game forums (many asked by experienced gamers). Monopoly has less than 1/10th of that (24 threads).

Add to that they simultaneously have to learn how the phases work, how the roles work, etc., and it is understandably overwhelming to many non-gamers.
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jobes2007 wrote:
I know that when my girlfriend learned the game she could tell you what every action meant, but not exactly how it worked, if that makes sense. Like, she knew theoretically what every symbol was but not how they tied together.


I think that's the tricky part. Most games with icons only treat the icons as atomic units, usually substitution for a particular word or action. For example, a stop sign is a command to "stop the car".

However, Race uses icons as *syntax*. Even the same icon in a different phase has an entirely different game effect.

Nonetheless, OP's post makes an excellent "vocabulary list" for anyone self-teaching themselves Race for the Galaxy!
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I've successfully taught my 7-year-old son to play RFTG. If he can handle it, most people should be able to handle it. It is harder than Monopoly, yes, but perfectly playable with a patient teacher.
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mjacobsca wrote:
I've successfully taught my 7-year-old son to play RFTG. If he can handle it, most people should be able to handle it. It is harder than Monopoly, yes, but perfectly playable with a patient teacher.


As always...the teacher makes the difference!
 
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abersen wrote:
As always...the teacher makes the difference!

I think the better phrase may in fact be: "As always...the learner makes the difference!"

We know that people learn in very different ways. For some, the grammar associated with the RftG symbology makes it an effective language for expressing game concepts. For others, it is just a massive set of individual symbols that all need memorization. This isn't about gamers vs. non-gamers, or smart vs. dumb, it is often about how different people think.

So honestly, when folks have reports of grandmas and childrens picking up RftG quickly, and then hardcore gamers who can't handle it, it shouldn't be that surprising. The approach taken for RftG works very well for some people, and is difficult for others. Text-based description likewise works for some and is overwhelming for others. Race is a good enough game that I personally think most players will find the effort to learn it worthwhile, regardless of whether they will find it easy to comprehend at first or not. So my suggestion to any wanting to teach it to a friend or loved one is to just give it a try, and be ready to go slowly at first. Let them ask questions as they think of them, and take the time to answer them well
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