Friday, 13 July 2007


After writing about great experiences, it is time to show the other side of the coin. I have also had some unpleasant experiences when playing boardgames. Here are some of them, and lessons learnt.

Know your audience before teaching them a game. Different people have different levels of tolerance for complexity in games. I once played a game of The Settlers of Catan with my Taiwanese friends. It was getting a little late, and it was slightly more complex than some of them could stomach. So the game dragged on as people started losing interest and losing focus. The game was much longer than it should be, and only ended when I realised that Ingrid was only one step away from winning. She didn't see it, so I quickly pointed it out to her and she won the next turn. Another similar experience was with Tigris & Euphrates. This is quite a deep game. I taught 3 others who have never played before, and I came in dead last! I am not good at this game. Stella, who was tied in 2nd place, told me, "I have no idea how I beat you. ". Wrong audience for this game. And I guess I should learn some strategy and do's and don'ts of the game (not just the rules) before I teach others, especially since this is a deeper game. Another example is Power Grid, but it was not so bad. At least some of the new players had some idea what they were doing by the end of the game. But I think Power Grid needs players who are more towards the hobbyist side than casual player side.

Power Grid. This is the Germany map.

There is another unpleasant experience when a few friends and I played Category 5 at Witch House. I took a wrong game, which was not the basic Catogory 5, but an advanced version, with more complex rules. I didn't know the difference. The cards were quite similar. When we started playing, another customer noticed the mistake and came to instruct us on the right way to play, without being invited. In the end, we politely asked her to just let us play our way, even if it was the wrong way.

Teaching games is an important skill, especially when trying to introduce new friends to the boardgame hobby. The priority should be making sure people have fun, and learn the game. Learning games should not be played very competitively. Strategy hints and tips should be provided appropriately to new players. Michelle and I were once taught the game of Adel Verpflichtet (Hoity Toity) (a Spiel des Jahres award winner, no less) by two strangers. They went through the rules quickly, but did not give us any hints or tips. So we had no idea what is a good move and what is a bad move. We more or less randomly decided what to do. The two strangers played competitively, leaving both of us far far behind. I did not enjoy that game. Maybe this is "learning things the hard way", and I did learn a little about what I did wrong and could have done better in the next game. But this experience left a bad taste in my mouth and scarred me from wanting to try this game again.

Some of my games of Citadels can be quite painful, especially when played with many players (the game can be played by up to 8 players). Sometimes some players can take a long time to make a decision. Sometimes some people are just distracted. In Citadels, everyone secretly picks a character card, and then the characters are called out in a fixed order, and players take their turns accordingly to this order. However, not all characters get picked by players every round, so sometimes when a character is called and noone answers, we just move on to the next character. Sometimes some players are not focused and don't realise it when their chosen character is called. They'd suddenly realise it and declare it, and we'd have to undo a number of turns to get back to his/her turn. Major pain. Lesson learnt: Don't play Citadels with too many people.

Some games are just bad. In my humble opinion only. A guy who looks like the Taiwanese singer Richie Ren (任贤齐) taught Michelle and I Fluxx at Witch House. He quite liked the game. Unfortunately for me it is too random, too silly, too much luck-dependent, and there is no long term planning at all that can be done. Too bad. Richie seemed to be a nice guy.

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