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Subject: Glory To Rome >> Why The Steep Learning Curve? rss

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Ed Carter
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The core game manages 5 different card states (role, person, material, money, building) with six different action types (two ways to gather materials, 2 ways to build, plus hiring people to increase your actions and selling materials for victory points) and a role based phase order which may well trip you up if you're not familiar with Puerto Rico or San Juan.



On top of that you have forty different building powers which have been designed to create an a-stable equilibrium where no single card is a 'Must Build', many of the combinations are extremely powerful.

The nature of the massively multi-functional cards means that on your very first turn you are presented with deep, strategic choices influencing the entire character of the game but until you have a good working understanding of the core game mechanism and some insight into how the various building powers are capable of changing this, you're really not at all equiped to make these decisions.

BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD.

One of our design aims is to give games what we call 'Evo starts'--that is have the first few moves provide a simple, almost mechanical introduction to the game so that by the time the action starts to heat up new players already have a good sense for what's going on.

We tried several options to make this work in GtR such as filling your starting hand with 'wreckage' which couldn't be made into buildings and making Patron / Merchant roles impossible until you've completed your first building, but they really weren't working. Worse, as we got more experienced playing the game we started to really enjoy the tough decisions that the first few moves provide. I have especially fond memories of the 6 minute game when I discovered the Road, Catacomb combination.

In the end, when Eric (paeanblack) started turning up anywhere we said Glory To Rome might get played and a couple of new players followed Carl and Erek home from a play-test we ran at Danger Planet in Waltham and proceeded to play GtR solid until 11:00 AM the following morning we decided we'd live without the 'Evo-start' we were looking for.

That said, some might consider it irresponsible to publish a game not knowing whether it was even possible to learn it from the rules, so we were as much relieved and gratified to hear that Phil(spielfreak) was enjoying a copy he'd picked up at our launch at UG-X(alt) in Providence without us actually teaching him the game!


 
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Ed Carter
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Glory To Rome >> Teaching Suggestions
I actually started writing about the 'Steep Learning Curve' in order to share some suggestions on how to teach the game which will be going into the next version of the rulebook--guess I got a little carried away...

If you're learning from the rules:

At UG-X(ii) last week we tried out a 'training wheels' game, which allowed players to thoroughly learn the core game mechanics without getting bogged down in the 'which building' strategic decisions.

The changes are:

1) Shuffle the cards and then put half the deck to one side--cards running out is one of the game end criteria and so this will keep the game length under control.

2) If you're playing with four or five players, only allow three sites of each color type

3) Ignore all building special functions--upon completion buildings provide only their influence (victory points, plus space to hire people, and hide stuff)

Play the game through once to get a feel for how it flows--and how the merchant role influences scoring. Make sure you play each role at least once early in the game so that you see how they each fit together.

If you are teaching new players:

Try to limit to no more than two new players at once--you will need time to talk them through the first few moves of the game.

Give a full explanation of the game concepts before you begin, covering at least the various functions of the cards and the sections of the camp as well as the site / foundation / materials / influence cycle of building buildings. Our experience is that this is NOT a game where "Let's just start" get's good results.

Start off playing with your hands face up so that the new players can see the full game mechanics. Again, try to play all six roles early in the game so that they can see what each function does.

We'd love to hear other thoughts on this topic--we're planning to expand both the main rulebook and the appendix to 32 pages for our next edition run so we'll have space for a reasonable sized 'how to learn' section
 
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I learned from the rules also. The rules were well written (I didn't see any errors larger than a typo), but the first game or two was still quite boggling. The large array of strategic choices is indeed daunting. And as a new player, you have no idea what roles you should begin the game with. And though I was familiar with Puerto Rico and San Juan, the mechanisms in Glory to Rome have a definite uniqueness to them, so you don't really have a "leg up" to get started with.

Contrast this to many German games where individual elements are quite recognizably brought over from other games. It was easy to get in to Palazzo, for example: it's like Alhambra plus Venture, with a little bit of Traumfabrik. Very familiar feeling (but still fresh and new).

Glory to Rome is fresh and new, and also almost... alien.

It's a great game once you start to get the hang of it, though.
 
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Gregor McNish
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GtR (IV ed) is a new favourite, so I've taught it to about 10 new people (gamers) recently, with no real problems. I've emphasised the strength of the cards, cause that can surprise people expecting a nice balanced euro. I haven't needed to bother with the training game.

Certainly strategy is opaque for a little while, but that's what you learn by playing. Most people have really liked it so far.
 
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Fraser
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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Speaking as one of the people Gregor taught, I think a training game is a little over the top. A walk/talk through was enough and then we started. It took a few rounds to fully comprehend what was going on, so play three or four rounds and restart the game may be an option. That said we kept going on our first game and it was enjoyable.

I'm pretty sure Gregor hadn't actually played before the game we played, so I would say it went very well.

I commented on it here
 
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