As a group it is safe to say we are rather veteran gamers, which is more about years at the gaming table and not just a statement because some of us have decidedly grey hair, nor that we have acquired enough games to fill numerous shelves.
So, we should know we need to read rules carefully – or so you would think.
Sadly, experience often manifests itself as a level of bravado, or outright arrogance, which can lead to skimming rules with an expectation we’ll figure it out as we go.
Newsflash! Game designers are usually smarter than we are, or at least more innovative in creating rules, so we don’t always ‘figure things out’ all that well.
Now admittedly, some of us are lousy rule readers. We just learn a game better by watching others, or playing the game and learning as we go. That’s fine, but, find a good rule reader in your group, or spend some time watching ‘how-to-play’ videos. It will make game play on new games easier.
There are a couple of key reasons to get the rules right off the start.
The first is that if you begin play with the wrong rule, it can be a bit of a chore to correct once you do realize the error and go back to the rulebook for some help.
It can also be that the game is still playable with a flawed rule being used, and that is fine at your own table, but get together at a game convention with others playing ‘by-the-book’ and an argument can be the result – remember about gamer arrogance, some of us don’t like admitting we are wrong.
Of course getting a rule wrong can also detract from a game, and first impressions can be lasting. You can have a lower opinion of a game because you were playing it wrong.
And therein lies another nugget of advice. If a game isn’t as ‘good’ as you had expected, or something about it seems clunky or broken, maybe check the rules to see if you missed something. Usually, a game doesn’t have a really glaring issue in terms of play because over development testers will have identified bad rules and they will have been fixed before publishing the game.
So, why the advice years into writing reviews?
Well our little group is in the midst of playing Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, and frankly the game was killing us with ridiculous ease.
We were aware the game would be challenging after playing through Season 1 some time ago, but this edition was bludgeoning us so easily that it was way down the fun meter for us – and that was strange given we have loved Pandemic in its various forms.
And then, there it was, right on the board in fact, one of the stickers we had added a couple of game sessions earlier, noting that we open a certain box – remember as a legacy game it evolves as you play through.
Veteran as we might be, we had missed it, and believe me when I say it was a rule change which would have most certainly aided the players in trying to work through the Pandemic. It would have alleviated some of the feeling of hopelessness which was marring enjoyment of the game.
It is one thing to miss a rule in a general game, you re-read things, get it right, and play again.
You don’t get to restart a legacy game. The board has changed, the rules evolve, there is no going back.
It was a nasty little miss on our part, and it hammered home the importance of getting the rules right, even more important with a legacy-style game.
We are back on course sort of. We tweaked things a bit using the missed rule. It may not be enough. The game is a bear and is mauling us like we’re tired salmon caught going up stream, but it was at least an old lesson reaffirmed.