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Subject: Advice for learning complex wargames rss

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Aaron Percival
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I'm relatively new to the hobby; I started with a few titles in the Axis and Allies series, but only over the last couple of years have I ventured into other games. If you look at my modest collection, you'll find small to medium scale and complexity games, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I've also played a few other games of similar complexity. I'm fairly comfortable learning and playing these games. Now, I'd like to take a step toward the more advanced.

I'm not looking for suggestions on games, per se. I have had the most success purchasing and playing games that have historical appeal to me. That being said, I have a copy of Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, which I'd love to get out of the box; I find WWI and WWII to be favourable subjects for me. A few examples of games that I'm currently pondering in awe are Afrika (second edition), 1914: Twilight in the East, and 1914: Offensive à outrance (perhaps as a pre-order for the future).

That's the preamble. My questions is, the more complex games obviously take more time to learn, learn well, and enjoy. Can anyone share tips, tricks, methodologies, et cetera for learning how to play complex wargames? Obviously, the best advice might be to find an experience player and be taught face-to-face. However, my experience is the more complex a game, the more niche and difficult it is to find players; at least that's my experience in my local area. So, I am asking for advice when local help isn't immediately available; advise for learning a game on one's own.

Thanks!
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When I'm learning a complex game I get a photocopy of the rulebook (I don't like to mark the original) and use a highlighter and pen to highlight, annotate and emphasise key rules. The process of highlighting is a form of 'repetition' (it helps to get the rule 'stuck' in my mind).

I'll typically read through the rulebook once (highlighting as I go), then 'skim' through it again paying attention to the highlighted/annotated section.

Then I'll try to set up the game (or a small scenario or situation) and 'run through' a turn with close reference to the rules (if I have an opponent and they're happy to run through with me, all the better). For more complex games, I'll refer to the rules constantly (and this is why I love a good rulebook index!!!)

I'll also search for any play-aids and have those on hand, or if not, make them up myself (usually key rule summaries or sequence-of-play aids).
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Brian Morris
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Take the rules and put them on your bedside table. Every night read them for 10 minutes or so. That's the way I learn new games. Game rules bore me to tears so I can't sit down and read a rulebook for an hour at a stretch. However by just reading them for a few minutes every night in a week or so I have a good starting handle on the game.
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Hunga Dunga
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This might be helpful...

Wargames??? YES YOU CAN!
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Greg S
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It all depends on your style of playing, how much time you have on your hands, and how interested you are in the subject.

For example, you can take a complex game and set up the examples of play from the rulesbook and play them out repeatedly until you have digested it.

If you have a great interest in the subject matter, you can also just dive in to the intro or smallest scenario and play through, following the sequence of play religiously until you feel comfortable. When you have questions, take a break and read the rules section carefully.

I've always found that even with the most complex games, simply diving in, taking your time, and following the SOP does the trick. I know the games you are seeking to play, and I can say without a doubt that the rules systems will become second-nature to you more quickly than you'd expect.

Also, the more interest you have in the subject matter, the more inclined you'll be to play it repeatedly until you feel you know the rules like the back of your hand, with the odd reference to the rulesbook when you hit a procedure you are not sure of.

Just take your time, and enjoy yourself!
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Steven Mitchell
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Read through the rules once. Absorb what you can, but don't sweat it. Play a few turns of a game — intro scenario, if available — referencing the rules whenever you can't remember something. Once you've completed those few turns, read through the rules again.

The reason I suggest this method is because you're not going to really have a good sense of what you really picked up on until you've played the game and tried to apply the rules. Having applied the rules, you'll much more easily catch those points where you misplayed something, or completely overlooked some exception or another.

I think the key is to just barge ahead, not being afraid of making mistakes, but taking each opportunity to learn from those mistakes.

It also helps to have a face-to-face partner. If he's experienced in the game, he'll really be able to teach you. If he's learning along with you, chances are he picked up on things you missed, and vice versa. You help each other quite nicely that way.
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michael connor
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One thing you'll find as you get more into this hobby(assuming you do) is that most wargames are more less just spins on the same thing. They use the same or very simiar design principles, systems, mechanics, segments/phase/turns, units, etc. The differentiations between wargames isn't really that much. After a while, when you pick up a new game, you really need only give it the rules light read-over and a scan of the components, and your mind can basically fill in the rest. It's the first stages that are the hardest and most challenging. Most of us began gaming in our late childhoods, so by now, basic wargame mechanics are almost in our DNA; even the most 'complex' games will become simple after a passage of time and experience.
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Jeremy Fridy
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mrbeankc wrote:
Take the rules and put them on your bedside table. Every night read them for 10 minutes or so. That's the way I learn new games. Game rules bore me to tears so I can't sit down and read a rulebook for an hour at a stretch. However by just reading them for a few minutes every night in a week or so I have a good starting handle on the game.


Good advice. Though the best is playing it out with a friend who is willing to get some rules wrong. Even better is learning from someone who already knows the game. I swear the rules for 3rd Reich were written with learning it from a mentor in mind...
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Wendell
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Good advice above. I tend to like to push pieces around on the map as I go thru rules, even just a partial turn or something helps.

Also, don't sweat it if you get something wrong.
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David Morneau
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no advice here, just writing to say that I'm contemplating learning Rise and Decline of the Third Reich too and am struggling as well.

maybe we should start a support group...
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Chadgr
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Hungadunga wrote:
This might be helpful...

Wargames??? YES YOU CAN!


Just want to say this was one of best put together geeklists I've ever seen on the site. Can't believe I haven't come across it before. Thanks.
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wifwendell wrote:
Good advice above. I tend to like to push pieces around on the map as I go thru rules, even just a partial turn or something helps.

Also, don't sweat it if you get something wrong.


Definitely my preferred method. Wargames are systems so seeing the map, chits, and charts before you often helps make the relationships come together in your head!
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Jeb
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Read the rules once then:

1)Find someone who knows the game and play them.

Or

2)Find a forgiving friend and play the shortest scenario. Switch sides and play again if you can.

Then read the rules again.

That should do it.
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For those struggling with Third Reich, there's an older PC version that might help. From what I've read, it's reasonably OK.
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Kev.
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Amnese wrote:
When I'm learning a complex game I get a photocopy of the rulebook (I don't like to mark the original) and use a highlighter and pen to highlight, annotate and emphasise key rules. The process of highlighting is a form of 'repetition' (it helps to get the rule 'stuck' in my mind).

I'll typically read through the rulebook once (highlighting as I go), then 'skim' through it again paying attention to the highlighted/annotated section.

Then I'll try to set up the game (or a small scenario or situation) and 'run through' a turn with close reference to the rules (if I have an opponent and they're happy to run through with me, all the better). For more complex games, I'll refer to the rules constantly (and this is why I love a good rulebook index!!!)

I'll also search for any play-aids and have those on hand, or if not, make them up myself (usually key rule summaries or sequence-of-play aids).

What he said...
Or without reading further on the thread, adopt the attitude of monastic devotion, enjoy the pain, revel in the mistakes or STOP NOW.
Once you set up that special title something painstakingly and lovingly for 5-7 hours (where most experts take 2...) and mess up after 12 turns you can quit and say "dam it its all too hard" Or you can buckle on your big boy pants and learn from the mistake.

By that I mean, do your homework first, eat bits of the game in moderation, take your time on the first few turns to get it right.

Ponder, pause and post questions here. Read AARs, watch video reviews, read rules summaries, etc etc.

Then try again. If it is still not fun, it just might not be for you. Sell it and find a new title.
Good luck, have fun, revel in it.
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Moshe Callen
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How I learn to play a wargame
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Joe Thompson
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Small scenarios are the secret here. Generally they are sharper, requiring good play for a few turns. I often come away from them thinking something like "it's just not possible to win as the Soviets!", which shows I'm not ready for the campaign game; and gives me something concrete to puzzle over when I next read through the rules.

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Michael Barlow
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I find taking your own notes (not just highlighting) makes for the best understanding of the rules.

Often it helps to skip around. Do Movement first. Get it? Good. Now, Combat. Hmm... having trouble with that one. Skip it for now... Reinforcements. Makes sense. Etc. You may find that there's only a few bits in the rules that's really troubling you.
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Kenneth Lury
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I am in a similar situation being a solo player who wants to play more complex games, but finds them very daunting.
For example, I recently purchase Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit 3. I read the rulebook and immediately gave up. Then by chance I found a local game store that had a Monday night ASL group. I went and watched for a couple of hours. Amazingly, after one reading of a seemingly unreadable rulebook, I understood much of what was going on. When I got home, I re read the rule book which seemed fairly easy to understand.

For other games, I have used many of the methods mentioned above: highlight the rule book. Make my own condensed rulebook. Just putting out the counters and trying to do something.

I have found several things that work for me:

Reading the charts and player aids is really helpful as they tell you what it is possible to do and what key concepts are essential to the game.

Going through the errata if any and annotating the rulebook in pencil.

Sometimes just punching out and trying to sort out the counters is helpful in that it forces you to mentally organize something completely foreign. this requires studying the counters, looking at the rulebook for what the symbols and numbers mean and so forth.


The last thing I should say is something else I learned from watching the ASL players. They appeared to be experienced players and they were continually consulting the rulebook and discussing what and how rules should be applied. Realizing that this is not easy or intuitive on any level makes it less frightening. AND REMEMBER-it is only a game and should be enjoyed. I do find the time figuring out how to play to be enjoyable and usually feel I have gotten my money's worth of entertainment by the time I figure out how to play. The actual gameplay is a bonus.
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JOE LIBRANDI
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Even learning a relatively easy game can be a chore if the rulebook is unclear or full of special cases, exceptions, omissions, and ambiguities.

I'm a longtime wargamer who has learned and played hundreds of games of varying complexity, and I'm currently having trouble learning a moderately complex game (WW2 BtB) even after reading, re-reading, re-re-reading, and highlighting the rules.
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Greg S
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whac3 wrote:


Of course, having a pint or two as shown in your avatar never hurts....
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Keith Rose
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The other thing to remember is that its YOUR game & you are supposed to enjoy it. Get playing it - and if this means playing a simple version (ie: I think I'll ignore Zones of control for now) just do it, you can introduce elements of the game rules as you gain a better understanding. Of course many games do this with simple & advanced rules anyway, but don't be afraid to experiment. Afrika 2 is a good example of well written rules, but don't be afraid to leave out the supply part to get a feel for it(though don't leave it out for long, as its a big part of the game!)
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Chadgr
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whac3 wrote:


Another well done list. I agree about a pint in your avatar being helpful too.
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I have found its like programming. The only way I learn is by doing. Reading rules wont help me much. I skim em but not much more.

Just setup the game and start playing. Go through the sequence of play. Expect to get something wrong every single time you do it for the first time, but who cares right? Just plough through, even getting a few turns completely wrong is a learning experience.

I also agree about a pint in the avatar

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It has all been said by now. My experience, FWIW, is that you learn a game by playing it, and not in any other way.

You may think you have to read the rules first. It seems to make sense, and it's usually what I do. But really, you can often get by with just skimming the rules then turning to the setup instructions and sequence of play.

Then set up a game and start playing it. Solo is fine.

Setup can be hard, because you have no idea what you're doing yet. Doesn't matter; just read the instructions and make sure you're setting up legally. If common sense tells you to place a piece here or there, go with it; otherwise just put the pieces anywhere. In a game with discretionary setup, you won't know how to do it until after you learn the game--and right now you're just starting to learn the game.

Start playing, trying to get the sequence of play down pat. When that starts to feel fluid, you're getting it.

During play, look up rules as you need to. You'll find yourself getting interested in this or that as it comes up in the game. That's when you'll want to pause and read a whole section of rules, because now you can apply those rules to what you're doing in the game. It'll all become very clear that way.

Finally, if you try what I've described above--or any other method--and it's not working that well for you, do it your way instead. You have to find your own learning style. Nobody can really tell you the best way to learn a wargame, because the best way for you is whatever you find most effective.

Just launch into it and start learning, and as long as you stick with it, you'll succeed. And once you've learned one game, the next one will be much easier.
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