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Meetup Report and the Learning Game

April 2nd, 2012 by Troy Goodfellow · 2 Comments · Blogs, Board Games

On Saturday, I met with readers and listeners and friends to play board games and drink beer. There was Pandemic, Seven Wonders, Resistance and Risk Legacy (thanks to Ron for picking that up and entrusting it to my care.)

It was a good group, as always, a couple of newcomers (always welcome) and we reached a few conclusions.

First, we need to do this more often so I am looking at June. No more five months between game/chat sessions.

Second, we need more time, because with so many people and lots of new games we want to play, four hours isn’t nearly enough.

Third, that might mean a change of location, which would be too bad because the Tequila Bookworm is pretty good for this sort of thing – just not sure how long we are allowed to hoard their upstairs.

In any case, there was fun and good humor for the most part.

Both Resistance and Risk Legacy were new games, though the latter, of course, is still pretty familiar once you get past the set-up and refreshing yourself on the rules you’d forgotten since you last played Risk when you were 13.

Resistance is a card game that was introduced to us as sort of a card version of Battlestar Gallactica – a resistance group is undertaking missions, there are spies in their midst and they need to work out who they can trust in order to carry out increasingly larger missions.

It was not a difficult game to teach, since the fundamentals are pretty clear, though I’m not sure that adding the expansion pack in our second game was a wise idea. Still, there was some immediate confusion over pretty basic things like victory conditions, order of play, the voting system.

This was probably because the guy who brought the game was trying to teach seven people at once, all of whom thought they knew something about game design. I think that learning large-N player games are probably best when there is another assertive teacher there to help guide and keep things moving. With Risk Legacy, too, there was some added confusion since while many of us had heard of the game, the only people who had actually played it were busy at the other end of the room yet again failing to save the world from a virus. Half-remembered Risk rules collided with “Wait, what did that paragraph say?” and we ended up forgetting one major step altogether.

I love shared discovery, but there is a limit.

People who do more of this than I do probably have a system for teaching new games to large groups of people. I learn most of my new games over Skype, being guided through a digital representation of the game. (I have not yet seen Stone Age for real unboxed.)

In some ways, it reminds me of the difficulty of computer game tutorial design. You have an all knowing guide that has to get you moving forward in the game at the right pace for a potential audience of thousands or tens of thousands. You know those tutorials in strategy games that are too slow and take forever to answer the one question you have about the interface or the combat or the numbers and you want to scream? That’s the equivalent of a table of boardgamers interrupting the game teacher with questions he/she is not ready to explain yet because there is some important stuff you need to learn first.

In any case, I think I like Resistance, but we only played it twice and both games ended very quickly – one for the spies, one for the good guys. Jon suggested that a third playthrough now that everyone knew everything would be a good idea, but there were other games to play.

It was a good Saturday afternoon, leading into a pleasant Saturday evening and then one of the most relaxing Sundays I’ve had in a while in spite of the rain. Which leads to the first conclusion:

We need to do this more often. Thanks to everyone that came out.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Greg S

    snakes and latte’s can get very busy on weekends but I think they just expanded to take over the neighboring shop, maybe we could reserve space there? It looked like someond did a game launch or tournament there a few months ago. They have many games on hand and their staff are very good at teaching games. It’s a cool business model to check out sometime especially for people from out of town. Might be worth a try, at least once.

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