John-Michael Gariepy

Game Night, Part 3: The Quest for Vengeance

This article was originally posted at Guilt-Free-Games.com.

In a far away land, in the distant future, one man musters the courage to gather an unlikely band of adventurers to battle the ancient powers of sloth and inertia. This winter, Prepare yourself for Game Night! An action-packed media sensation where cowards perish and the fierce break all the rules.

Chapter III: The Quest for Vengeance, is the third installment in the Action Packed, Rock’em and Sock’em, Game Night Series. The previous installments of this world-wide premier are located here and here.

All right! You’ve got some games, a place to play and friends! They’re itching to play the latest game you picked up, and you’ve made a schedule that makes everyone happy. All you have to do is get together and play!

Well, that’s the last article everybody! Thanks for reading Game Night, and have a good time.

What do you mean the article series isn’t over. As I’m typing this sentence there is nothing but blank space after it. What? You say you see a full article? Clearly, we’re at odds. You got what you wanted: you got a game group together. Now all you have to do is have fun while….

Oh.

I guess I do have a few more things to say.

Part H: Preparation

Look, I enjoy taking risks as much of the next guy. I can be a Taoist and let The Way Things Happen guide me. If I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t be much of a writer. Every word would be examined and accounted for, which is fine if you’re writing a toaster manual, but not good if you’re explaining to someone why toaster manuals exist.

Yes, but what does this knob labeled ‘lighter’ and ‘darker’ do?

Waiting until your friends appear before you open the box isn’t adventurous, though. It’s putting an injured rattlesnake into your pants pocket so you can bring it to the vet. You’re opening yourself to disaster. Here’s a list of things that could go wrong:

You could be missing some of the pieces.

Well, aren’t you the cat’s meow, unwrapping your new game in front of everybody only to find out that it’s missing the little hourglass… and you have no idea how much time that hourglass was set for. This is common enough with big publishers, but the small publishers assemble each box by hand. Some games have over one hundred tiny pieces (Hello, Fantasy Flight). If you were packing, do you think you’d get the contents of every game perfect every time? That’s a definite no-no too, Daffy.

This is often mitigatory. So you’re missing a player sheet or the game doesn’t have five 10-sided dice in it. You can always download the sheet, and print it, or steal the dice from another game you own, or go to your local gaming store and purchase a replacement. No big whoop. Unless your friends have come over and are wearing their “#1 Cthulu Cultist” T-Shirts and you just opened your new copy of Win, Lose or Be Devoured and it’s missing the Grand Poomba Stick, and you have to use an egg beater as a replacement. Big whoop. Big whoop, indeed.

The Rules are More Confusing than you First Imagined

There’s a story among the Guilt Free Games staff about Munchkin Quest. One day, we wrapped up a game testing session, when someone pulled out their new copy of Munchkin Quest. We had an hour left, and figured, “What the heck! We’ve all played the card game Munchkin ad nauseum. How much more complicated can the board game be?”

Quite a bit. We were greeted with a normal sized rulebook that would have been acceptable for any other game, but we didn’t really have the time to peruse it properly. The game became a dungeon of mass confusion. Players returned to the rules again and again, scanning only for the rule that solved their immediate problem.

In the end, we built a prejudice against Munchkin Quest. If you ask anyone who played that night, they’ll agree that they didn’t give the game a fair shake. The group had a bad experience with Munchkin Quest and would rather play something else than revisit that game.

It doesn’t matter how simple a game is when it’s explained to you. Even an introductory game like Ticket To Ride has confusing concepts (If I had a ten-dollar bill for every time I had to explain that, no, players only get to do one thing each turn in that game, I could have bought a couple expansions by now. Sometimes, it’s the thing that makes the game easy that makes it so complicated). I don’t know about you, but my experience with humanity has taught me that humans argue their strongest stances when no one knows what they’re talking about. Take the role of false authority: Be the only person who knows the rules.

The Game plays differently than you expected

But they’re both just bags with letter tiles in them!

Nobody wants to start playing a game that they are beginning to expect is the exact type of game they don’t enjoy. People are different from each other, and that what makes life fun. Sometimes, though, a game designer’s idea of what is fun can be an abysmal romp through banality. After you open your new game and read the rules, do a few test runs to make sure that the game you will expose your friends to isn’t their idea of sleep depriving waterboarding. Bananagrams is a different game than Scrabble Apple. I can drop Bananagrams in front of a drunk frat boy, a history nerd and the cyclops, Polyphemus and expect them to have a good time. Scrabble Apple, though, is more for word nerds. There’s no way I would have known that unless I tested the game out first.

Putting everything together takes more time than you thought it would.

I’m an idiot that doesn’t practice what I preach. I got Twilight Struggle for Christmas last year and have been itching to play it. I’ve invited numerous people over to play TS and each time gave myself forty minutes of preparation. Unfortunately, the rules to Twilight Struggle are a difficult to interpret. I have yet to play a single game of Twilight Struggle.

I’ve always wondered… since coffee is made from beans, does that make it a vegetable?

It’s not that the game is over complicated. Whenever I look at the parts and pieces, it looks like type of games I play on a weekly basis. But there’s something mind-boring about that rule book. Every time I try teaching myself the rules, I turn into Hillary Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. All I want to do is start calling people up and talking about how environmentally unfriendly the mall is.

Don’t be a John-Michael. Don’t assume you will understand the rules to a game in a predesignated time. Take the time to read the rules before you invite people over.

It’s Over!

Congratulations on finishing the Game Night articles. By now, you must be asking yourself “Is that all? Do I know everything there is to know about making my own game night?” Yes. Yes, you do. Go and start a game group now, for the love of Pete, and stop putting so much faith in articles you read on the internet.

But there are a few subjects that weren’t mentioned in these articles about your newly established game night. So expect a couple of addendums in the future. After all, when the Continental Congress got together to write the Constitution, they were wise enough to understand that… What? What do you mean some of our readers aren’t from the United States? For the love of… listen, it’s a common story, I think the Australians will understand… No, I’m not anti-globalizationizing, I just think that I can share the American experience… Yes, I know that Peruvians are Americans too, I just…Could you please stop singing Arrogant Worms songs and just read the addendums when they arrive, okay?


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3 thoughts on “Game Night, Part 3: The Quest for Vengeance

  1. Pingback: Game Night – Take 2! « John-Michael Gariepy

  2. Its funny you mention that particular Ticket to Ride rule. For the longest time we were playing it wrong since we thought that you could do one of each of the actions on your turn, not just one altogether. Oops.

    • John-Michael Gariepy on said:

      Ha! I’ve had this experience with many play groups. I find it hilarious how difficult it is for people to wrap their heads around “on your turn, you do one of these things”. I guess that’s not how humans operate in real life: We are always seeking to do as many things as we can at the same time. What sounds simple is complicated, because we’re used to the complication…

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