[this is guest post by Michał Oracz]
– Let’s play something. I’ve got some new titles…
– Ok, let me see what you’ve got… How about this one? Is it good?
– Um, it’s not very good. I’ve bought it some time ago, played a few times, it’s not working very well.
– Let’s try it, I’ve heard that it’s fine, lot of people praise it!
– Well, fine
– Do you have a manual?
– It’s ok, I’ll explain it to you. It’s easy, but quite strange… Well, Setup: In first two rows you place your pawns. You’ve gor black and I’ve got white. Those small should be in the second row, I guess, others in the first one. Goal: You have to take all of my pawns. You take them always when your pawn enters the square occupied by mine. Every pawn moves differently. Those small for example moves by one square only.
– Any direction?
– And this one?
– This is a Rook. It moves side to side, forward, backwards and diagonal. It can’t stop until it hit on another pawn, then you take it.
– Ok, And this one?
– This is a King, it moves by one square only and you cannot take it.
– Oh, it’s imba.
– I think so too. But this one is even better, you cannot take it too, but it moves as it wants, like a Rook but it can stop wherever it wants.
– All right…
And this one is a Knight. It moves in a sort of stupid hook way: Two squares forward and one to the right. All right, Let’s play. You start. Everyone move one pawn…
Do you know what game is it?
On the box it is written “Chess”.
But it was explained by the one who knows the rules because he “played it several times”.
I take part in conventions, I am walking around the tables and watch the games. Dozens even hundreds. Sometimes I see games which I know quite good. Sometimes I play games too. I see how we play and I am terrified.
We start… The game isn’t working at all. Hmm it’s crappy. What an idiot designed it.
The game isn’t working. Or maybe we just don’t play it properly. No… The game sucks and we have no time for rubbish. Let’s take another one, we will rate this one, maybe… 1? No, it’s not so bad, it’s just not polished up. I’ll rate it 3. Next one.
I’m not better.
Many times we have played popular games, and they didn’t work at all. After playing we were looking at each other and we just put it away with disgust.
“Last Night on Earth”. The nonsense. We have found out a perfect winning method in half an hour.
“Arkham Horror. It’s not working. And it’s boring.
“Shadows Over Camelot”. We have broke it. There is winning strategy. We have found it in an hour.
“Heroes of Normandie”. It’s not working. It’s unbalanced.
And so on.
But I’m more careful than my friends. I’m not talking around that this game is crappy, that they should avoid this game, that I’ve played it and it was bad. I’m not going to rate it 1, 2 or 3 and maybe if I’m graceful 4 or 5 out of 10. Why?
Because I know that we might have played wrong.
I’m conscious that I had no chance to experience this game well enough to rate it. I might have not like it, I have a right. But rate it? Unfortunately, I have right too. Generally, I have right to write and say whatever I want. Right is right, who forbid me? Maybe it is some inner honesty.
The author and testers played it thousands of times. I played it only four times. Every publisher organizes groups of testers – fresh players who tests rules, if they are clear. There are good players who play everything “for 30 years” so they will test every possible tactic and if the game is playable. Players who are specialized in statistics and optimization, they are looking for holes and winning strategies.
Am I a genius? Can I find all of defects in four games? Defects which have been omitted by the author and all the testers?
Of course. I am a genius. We like to think of us as a geniuses. .
On the other hand, I believe that if those are popular games the problem is somewhere else. I have some inner red light: Those games cannot be completely meaningless, be ease to break, or unbalanced. I believe that we were thinking it after those few games because we have played it wrong. Or even after dose of games, because we have played it wrong.
Indeed, we may play this game wrongly for our whole life – If the game works anyway it is ok. Every day a player is informed that he understood rules of his favorite game wrongly. And if it’s not working and we still play wrongly? And we play and we still think that this game is bad?
Situation with less popular games is even worse. With our attitude those games have no chances. Those games cannot defend themselves. There is no inner red light.
Meanwhile there is another question. Why have we played wrong? Maybe it is something wrong with the game?
It is not games fault that we are playing them wrong. It is because of complicated manual. When we play wrong it might be because we do not read them properly. We have to much information, we don’t have enough time for other things, we do not try to understand those games. We rate them very fast.
Do we have to read every manual and learn how to play every game like in school? We cannot have C, we have to have highest grade so we would be able to rate this game.
Of course not.
There is no obligation, we have paid for this game we can do whatever we want with this game. We can just have a look and play and if we do not like it we can throw it out. We do not live in poor country, we do not have to study every game we play, just because we have paid for it. We can afford it. The game has only few seconds to attract us if not: rate 1. All right it might be 3, dust on the shelf or trashcan… And the next one!
And maybe it is because of really bad games? Crappy games? Badly tested and published too fast? Are there game like this? Do you know any games like this? Is there a plague of game like this? Maybe there are game like this which teaches us how not to trust theit authors, testers and publishers? There is attitude that f the game is not working there is no sense in reading the manual because we wouldn’t find resolution there.
Mybe if the game isn’t working it’s because a fool designer it and another fool published it. In the group of foolish testers there was something missing – me. The experienced player who can spot every hole and mistake after few games? Who knows.
PS. I hope that fans of those games, we enumerated in this text, and the fact that they were example to this problem wouldn’t feel offended. Those games are excellent and we all know it.
What is the winning strategy in Shadows of Camelot?