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Subject: Board Game Class? rss

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Mike Frantz
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I am going to be teaching a class about Board games through the local community college next week. The class is modeled after Ben Baldanza's "Beyond Monopoly" that he spoke about on Geekspeak and has written about on the teachbg yahoo group. It's essentially an introduction to teh variety of games that are available, if you just knew where to look. The class will be 3 hours long and I hope to follow an agenda of Game/Talk/Game/Talk/Game. The talking is going to be centered around what German/Designer games are, where they come from, how to get them, descriptions of designers, awards, etc.. I will also have 10 or so games set up around the room and I'll spend a short time describing them to show the great variety of games that are available.

The games I'm planning to play are Through the Desert (I will have this set up before they come in with starting camels already placed) and For Sale. I'm struggling with the third. The game needs to take less than an hour to teach and play. I would like it to be interesting on the first play, and it needs to be different from Ttd and For Sale (so High Society is out since it's another auction game, and Ingenious might be too similar to TtD). I'd rather not do a card game since that just doesn't seem to be exciting enough, but I suppose I could be convinced otherwise. While the class is targeted at adults (Games aren't just for kids anymore!), I believe a family of 4 is coming with two boys ages 11 and 12, so keep that in mind. Here are some games I've considered:

Carcassonne (and flavor) - great gateway game...except if you have too many people, then the downtime can be a pretty big issue.

Manhattan - might be too confrontational and it's also hard to find these days. The games I teach need to be readily available to buy.

Manila - I've never played this, but it's gorgeous, different, and supposedly quite fun. But is it going to take too long? Is it too hard the first play? The fact it can handle 4-5 players is good, as I expect at least 4 to attend (maybe more...which is another issue entirely).

Pick Picnic - This has been a great success for me as a filler/closer, but is it too simplistic as an introductory game. Are they going to get done and think, eh..that was a no-brainer, or are Ttd and For Sale enough to show the depth of many of the games.

China - Is this too dry to start with? I love Web of Power, but I haven't played China yet. I assume it's similar enough that at least I will like it. How about newbies?


I'm open to suggestions (they are encouraged), and I'm prefectly willing to go buy something if I don't have it already (also encouraged ).

Thanks for your help.
Mike
 
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Scott Nicholson
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You should think about the different facets that these games represent. It seems you are missing a game with any of the social activities - trading, negotiating, voting, something where people have to talk to each other instead of just interacting with a board. Perhaps Bohnanza or another trading game?
 
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Mike Frantz
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Hmmm...that's a good point. Bohnanza is possible, but to play to completion (with rules explanation) would likely go beyond an hour with all newbies. Maybe just play through the deck once or something like that...

You don't think the interaction of For Sale is enough (it's not exactly a "stare at the board" kind of game)? Trading is actually a fairly uncommon mechanic, from what I've seen (Settlers, Bohn, Oltremare, Traders of Gen,....I'm sure I'm missing some, but that's what comes to mind)

Thanks for the input. Bohnanza is definitely something to consider.

By the way...your website will definitely be going on the "Game Resources" handout I'm anxiously awaiting the Die Macher episode....

Mike

 
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Scott Nicholson
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How about a shortened version of I'm the Boss? That gets everyone talking. I haven't played Mall of Horror, but it's like the lifeboat game, in that people negotiate.

Something that gets people actually conversing about the game beyond an auction...that's an element that's not in many American-style games.
 
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Marshall P.
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Mike, I wouldn't use games that you yourself are not intimiately familiar with (like Manilla, china) or that are hard to find (like Manhattan). I'd pass up Bohnanza because it can be real hit or miss with newbies. I've seen it totally bomb.

A negotiation game would be nice but they are hard to find in the weight range and time frame that you have. Some others to consider are Rumis (you cannot miss with this one), Blokus, TransAmerica, Ticket to Ride, Clans, Coloretto (except it's a card game). I've actually had great success with Samurai and newbies. Let us know how it goes.
 
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Mike Frantz
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Maybe Quo Vadis? That's supposed to be a short negotiation game....I haven't played it myself as I'm not terribly keen on dealmaking/negotiation games...

 
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Ryan O'Rourke
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Why not just use Settlers of Catan and have it setup to the basic game?
 
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Mike Frantz
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Two reasons, Ryan.

1) With poor rolls, or reluctant traders, the game can take forever (2 hours is not unheard of).

2) With some bad luck (and absolutely no way to mitigate it, especially with a forced setup) a player can fall behind with zero chance to catch up...and they could do nothing about it.

But mostly becuase it would take too long.
 
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Mike Frantz
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Hmmm....maybe I'll do a Blokus and Rumis combo. If I only have 4 I'll have them play blokus and if I get more, the second group can play Rumis (and I already own both...).

That should work well. Soooooo easy to teach.

Mike
 
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J. Green
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I like For Sale and Through the Desert as great introductory games. For a third choice, you might pick something with a little resource management and or role selection, such as San Juan or Citadels (going to 5-6 buildings instead of 8). I would also bring Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and Travel Blokus.

Good Luck!
 
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Marshall P.
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Having taken one of these classes from Ben Baldanza I'd say you have to remember who your target audience is. The people in the class will be "normal" people. That means not fantasy or LotRs freaks and not amenable to sitting through a bunch of exceptions to rules. For those reasons I wouldn't bring Citadels or the Confrontation (two fine games to introduce to people who are already gamers).

You also have to remember that you are forcing strangers to play games against each other and they don't have the same "unwritten gamer code of conduct and expectations" that we have. Therefore, a game like Citadels where one person actively tartets another and forces them to lose their turn can put the players in a socially awkward state. Stick with forms of interaction other than direct confrontation. This is also why going with negotiation games is a risk. You don't know what kind of personalities you're going to get. We had a real $%!@# in one of our classes and I'm glad I didn't have to offer her wood for sheep.

One more thing. Do NOT underestimate analysis paralysis in non gamers. They're often under the impression they have to make the best move everytime and they're not as trained to sense how long they are taking for their move (they don't have a well developed internal chess clock like some gamers). Also, they simply don't want to look stupid in front of strangers.
 
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chuckles2000 wrote:
Two reasons, Ryan.

1) With poor rolls, or reluctant traders, the game can take forever (2 hours is not unheard of).

2) With some bad luck (and absolutely no way to mitigate it, especially with a forced setup) a player can fall behind with zero chance to catch up...and they could do nothing about it.

But mostly becuase it would take too long.


You might want to try Settlers of Cannan. Yeah it is Biblical but it is just a pasted on theme that is hardly noticable. What makes it better than Catan for your situtation is that the numbers/resources are MUCH more generous. Almost everybody can get a number of well producing settlements and I've never seen the Bad-Luck of my roles aren't being roled play as much as I do in Catan. I don't think we have ever had a player fall that far behind.

I've found that Cannan is better among non-gamers who will enjoy a Setllers type game, but is a little easier/friendlier than the original Catan, while Catan is a better for Gamers because it is bit more cut throat as the area is much more limited.

In Cannan you can completely ignore the "2" and "12" spots if you wish while in Catan someone is going to be forced to build on them if they want to get anywhere.
 
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Mike Frantz
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I think Marshall has hit the nail on the head regarding games I want to avoid. Trading games can oftentimes take absolutely forever as there is some incentive to continue to look for more trades. Playing Settlers or Bohnanza to win means exploring many, many trade options (bohnanza especially) which can drag. Citadels is right out...frankly this is one of the few designer games I actively dislike and have a hard time understanding the appeal at all.

I will try to be stressing quick play by highlighting how the first time(s) you play a game should be thought of as a learning experience, but I know how that goes over, especially with non-gamers who can be extremely sensitive to "looking stupid." However I also don't want to play all luck fest/chaotic games as that doesn't highlight the strategic elements that most of us find intriguing and that certainly differentiate these games from the typical mainstream stuff. I'm thinking I might give them a choice at the end for the third game...Blokus as an extremely clever abstract, or Pickomino as a dice-rolling filler, or Pick Picnic as a chaotic, fast game. I can split the group up if they want different things and these are all very easy to teach and quick to play.
 
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Jimbo Carroll
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I think Settlers of Catan has become the classic gateway game, but seeing your objections to it I definitely have some other mentionables
Ticket to Ride you only have three choices of your actions, simple for anyone to pick up- though it may go a little long for total newbies

Himalaya a great looking game with some of the feel of Web of Power but no ap due to the card choices

Top Race or Detroit Grand Prix racing games always seem to get people's competitve juices going and definitely make a great family game

Monsters Menace America perhaps a bit simple for the adults but it sounds like the boys would get right into it and it also has great visual appeal

Frank's Zoo an easy to learn card game and Frank and Doris games always have family friendly artwork
 
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jeremy cobert
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how about wits & wagers. its quick, fun and can have up to 21 players.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/20100
 
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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Wits and Wagers is a good idea, as it's very accessible to non-gamers, as a concept of a trivia game, without having all the normal trappings of a trivia game. But that's not exactly why I pressed 'reply.'

I would advise you to not worry about covering various genres and mechanics (especially at first), as your audience has no appreciation for such things. Instead, I would concentrate purely on games that you know will be a success. Blokus, Rumis, Ticket to Ride, etc. It's very important that their first experience is positive, as it will color every single experience afterward...
 
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Mike Frantz
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Derk,

You make a good point..the categories we use to differentiate things are certainly not a terribly useful system for newbies. I was mostly trying to make sure that the three games I introduce "felt" differently...for example High Society and For Sale are kinda similar in play, theme, and looks, so I didn't both of those. Same thing with TtD and TransAmerica... (Ok, in this game instead of placing two camels each turn, you place two track sections)...

However it's all moot at this point. None of the people who expressed interest ended up signing up. So I went from worrying about too many people, to not having the class at all. OH well. I will be soliciting ideas for promotion soon in preparation for trying one more time.

Thanks for all the help.

Mike
 
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Ed Collins
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Mike,

I WAS going to go to that class, I couldnt because somthing else came up. I was surprised to see that you are the one "teaching" the class, I talked to you about a year ago about getting together to game (I live in East Wenatchee) but for some reason or other it never panned out. I wish I would have made it to your class now!

so tell me how it went, how many people showed up?

~ Ed
 
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Ed Collins
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oops, I just read your last post I see that it answered my last question. are you still having a weekly gamenight?

~ Ed
 
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