A Game Learning Game is a Good Game
At the time of writing this, I am in Dorset, in a huge a lovely house, with very cold weather out there, 5 friends and some 25 games. I will be here for, at least, another two days. More if it snows. Who says snow doesn’t have its uses!
I am writing this as my friend Dale is trying to teach Kingsley and Neal how to play Eminent Domains, from Tasty Minstrel Games. It looks really sweet!
I arrived at the table when the game was already going. The table looks very busy, with tons of really cool looking cards on the table, some totally awesome fight tokens and some coloured wooden tokens.
For the last 20 minutes, Dale has struggled to explain how the game plays. This is a combination of a lack of patience, the complexity of the rules, the depth of the game, and, most importantly the frustration from everyone who just want to get on with it and not having to learn a lot of rules.
It is actually quite a fun sight to behold!
Flicking through the rules, I see that Tasty Minstrel have added a “Learning Game” mode so the first game is less complex and designed to help people familiarise with the game, the cards, technologies, etc. And this is a terrific idea.
The game my friends are playing is not the learning one. They have gone for the full blown version with all singing and dancing technologies. I have no doubt that is adding to their frustration.
However, Tasty Minstrel’s tactic is absolutely fantastic, and one I wish more companies took on board.
From my point of view, the long term success of a game is measured with how well it manages to capture your imagination when you just open the game (I hate it when I spend my money in a game, open it and feel like it wasn’t worth the money, even if it is a great game), how many times you play the game and how much you’re left with a “I want to play that again soon” feeling when you put it away.
To achieve that feeling, a combination of things have to be in place. A good set of components with good graphic work, layouts, quality components, etc. A good set of rules to help you get into it, a good game (sometimes even a bad one… that explains Monopoly!) and a good bunch of friends to play with.
As games are becoming more and more complex, learning them is also becoming more and more complicated. The time that takes the player to get to grip with the rules and thus with the game, is a crucial element of wether a game will be replayed time and time again, specially with new people.
Seriously. Do you want to spend some one hour explaining the game to new players every time you get someone new at the table? No, I didn’t think so either.
This is where having the learning game set of rules come into their own. A simplified gameplay with less pieces and maybe “one of each” of the elements that make the game makes things easier for everyone. There are games that take hours to play, and just as many hours to learn.
So hear this, game publishing companies: if your game is going to take long to play, provide with a “learning game” version of your game. It might take longer to play for you and it is extra work, but in the long run it will help people spend longer playing and enjoy your game more.