Friday, November 28, 2014


Last night I tested Camp Nightmare again and while we had a good time our score wasn't the best (12) and we spent much of the game on the verge of hitting 0 and losing.  We did have somewhat poor luck on the draw of the cards but most of the issues were because we didn't stick to a particular standard strategy.  The game flips back and forth between Night and Day and the players have some control over that process.  Each time you switch you lose resources and all of your cards in play get destroyed so the standard strategy is to stay in the current time as long as possible.  We didn't do that as well as we could have and it ended up nearly causing us all to starve to death in the wilderness.

Nowhere in the game does it say that you should use this strategy.  Moreover, expert players may well swap back and forth rapidly under certain circumstances in order to maximize their score.  However, new players definitely will be best off staying in the current time as much as they can.  The question I am asking myself today is if I should try to communicate that to people somehow and if so how I should do it.  The tricky bit is that I don't want to make them think that they *must* stick to Day as long as legally possible, just that they should do so unless they have a extremely compelling reason to go to Night.  I am not sure that I can communicate that effectively because conveying what an extremely compelling reason might be to someone who has never played before is difficult.

Other games don't provide such instruction.  In Hanabi you learn not to give people every piece of information about their hand by trying and failing.  In Pandemic you figure out that you can't clean up every single disease cube by trying and failing.  In Sentinels of the Multiverse you learn that you can't win if you are playing Absolute Zero by watching him stand there and be useless.  In every case I can think of good games just let people fail and figure it out for themselves.  Most times people learn games by sitting at a table where more experienced players show them the ropes anyway so aside from those first few adopters it probably wouldn't matter what the instructions say about strategy.

This is probably for the best anyhow.  The most fun part of a board game is the moment of inspiration where you finally figure out how to push past your previous best or finally see a strategy that you missed every time before that.  Watching your score slowly climb upward over many playthroughs as you figure out how things work is fun!  Given that, perhaps by trying to help people to skip past the most problematic of newbie mistakes I am actually robbing them of their best moments.

It is hard to watch people play and struggle when I can see all the angles myself.  I suppose I need to get past that and just accept that such struggle and eventual victory is actually the best part.

1 comment:

  1. You do call it camp *Night*mare. Possibly the night-time disasters should just be way worse than the daytime that you've got the cards all sorted.