Saturday, May 16, 2009

Learning how to play - Process

I've played an enormous amount of cellphone poker over the last 2 days. It's made me think about some broad phases of skill acquisition when I play games. For me, it breaks into:
  • Process (what do I do and when do I do it?)
  • Tactics (what are the best options for me?)
  • Understanding (the point at which the game becomes fun)
Process is simply getting comfortable with what happens when. When is it your turn? What are your options on your turn? What further decisions do taking those options open up for you?

There are a lot of games that I think I'd enjoy where I'm simply not comfortable with the process: poker, D&D4E, Capes, The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries.

The thing that makes me comfortable with process is repetition. And that's where having poker on my cellphone comes in handy. Normally I might play three games of Texas Hold 'em a year. In between times, all of those skills simply get lost. Any insights I've made, fade away. In the last 48 hours, I've played at least 3 games a day (probably more), and in the course of doing that I've become way more comfortable with checking, calculating outs and pot odds, and bluffing.

Games where the human element isn't so important (and I think I include D&D4E in that - despite loving the way it plays and its apparent tactical depth), are really amenable to these rapid cycles of practice and learning.

... huh. I just taught myself something. Taking that idea of process (which has also been talked about here, with the idea of how do you introduce someone to a game), I think I'm going to add an 'introductory' round to Bad Family - an opportunity for players to get used to narration and introducing complications, without introducing the rules.

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