Game Night, And Thoughts On Rule Books

We had a game night tonight at our house, and it was probably the biggest turnout we’ve had for such an event. It was nice hanging out with people we’d not really gotten to hang out with for a while.

After the food was all fooded, tables were cleared, and people started getting out games

I saw one of my Kickstarted games was being investigated, so after investigating how many were playing, how many players the game could take, and whether or not someone who had expressed interest int hat game would like to go and play it this time, I joined in. It was Survival!, one I’d actually played before, but I did need to refresh my memory.

There has been major societal breakdown following a pandemic. You need to escape Center City (conveniently in the center of the board), go and scout out some settlements in the surrounding area (1-3, depending on how long you want the game to go on for), return to Center City to retrieve your family, and then head to the settlement that’s your final destination. But the settlement won’t just accept a bunch of hungry people who’ll just drain resources, you have to prove of some value to them. So you have to collect some resources on your way: a certain amount of food, fuel, firepower, survivors (folk?), and medical supplies (I can’t easily turn that into an “f” word).

Accumulating these things is not always easy, and getting from one place to another isn’t easy. There are several places where raiders will attack you, and many things depend on successful dice rolls. Your odds of success can be increased by bonuses you pick up on the way, or by expending some of your hard-earned resources to slightly improve the results of your roll. you’re never really out of the game, but you can experience setbacks. And sometimes the luck of the cards and the luck of the dice, just aren’t going your way.

Four of us played, I think we all got the hang of it pretty fast (for me, again, and I did remember a big mistake we made when we played it before). All four of us had the end in sight, when the game was won by one of our guests.

After that game was over and put away, I watched most of a game of the Batman edition of Love Letter. The Joker is the princess.

After that was over, the last of our guests went. Three of us stayed up to try my newest addition, Bomb Squad.

Learning a new game is easiest when you have someone around who’s played it already, or if it’s similar enough to a game you’ve already played, that you can kind of skip ahead. When it’s brand new to all of you, you read through a bunch of the manual, decide to start playing, and then just keep referring back to the rulebook.

That is what we ended up doing with Bomb Squad. We very quickly decided that we would skip using the timer this time through. This was a good move, then we could keep finding out, “how does this bit work?” for all the little bits of game we needed to learn. So while we took more like 45 minutes on the game, where the longest bomb timer on the training mission was 16 minutes, we could take the time to figure out what exactly we were supposed to do, what the rules were in context (because in abstract is harder to keep straight), and make it easier on ourselves the next time.

The slower pace and the constant looking-things-up meant it was extra tricky to keep straight what cards we had in our hands. The thing is with this game, you can’t see what’s in your hand, you have to get clues from other players. This takes some getting used to, it’s all too easy to take a card and look at it. If this happens, you must discard that card. A couple of cards were discarded this way. I hope it’s easier to keep a grasp of what’s in your hand straight, when the turns are coming thick and fast.

I’m glad we got to give this game a go (improperly was entirely acceptable for trying to get the rules straight). Also glad we did it when the kids were in bed, you rather need to concentrate. Hope we get to play it again while we still have a memory of what we’re supposed to be doing.

I quite like complicated games, and the drawback to complicated games is, while they tend to end up being pretty straightforward once you know what you’re doing, is that the learning curve is pretty steep. I kind of want to go through some of these rulebooks and create an “if none of you knows what you’re doing” version.

“Factors X, Y, and Z determine your final score. To get those, you need to do things A, B, and C.
To set up, put these pieces there like this.
Before the turns start, you do things 1 and 2. Thing 1 requires no strategy, with Thing 2 you should think about things 4, 5, and 6, but don’t worry about that too much, you’ll have a better grasp of why once you’ve played it through once.
Once your turn starts, you can do one of Alpha, Beta or Gamma. Your first couple of turns, it’s not worth doing much other than Gamma, unless you’re really lucky and start with the resources to do Alpha.”

and so on. If you know you don’t need to worry about Event cards until later in the game, you shouldn’t be worrying about them during setup.

A basic “what you need to know for each stage” with references to the full rulebook if you need more detail, might make some of these games less daunting. Or perhaps the research process would make it easier to explain.

I don’t think I have time for a project like this, but I do like the sound of the end result.

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