A Life on the Ocean Wave

Played my first game of Dystopian Wars last night, obliterating a British starter fleet for the loss of only a few Japanese frigates. It was an entertaining enough game, and one I’ll add to my list of things to review when I’ve got it on the table for another game or three.

I am getting increasingly wily in my old age though, and managed to play the game before I bought nine fleets for it (which is what usually happens). So far I’ve just got the rulebook. I was trying to decide on a fleet, and wasn’t particularly liking the look of the whole of any of them. I’d sort of half-decided on the Japanese and was able to borrow some and use them last night to see how they fared on the tabletop (thanks Paul!). They seem to suit me well enough, and looking at the stats with a fresh and improved understanding I think they are as good as any for my style of play. The American fleet looks pretty good on paper too, but I’m not so keen on their models, so I think the Japanese will do nicely.

It’s funny how much harder it was (and always is) to read the rules when I had to come at them cold than it was once I’d got a vague idea. One play was enough to give me a grasp of the basics and then I could just fill in the blanks and hone the details. When I worked for the Driving Standards Agency (who administer the UK driving test) they were very against people learning with their friends or parents, and then refining this with a proper instructor. Why then does this process work so much better as a mechanism for learning games? Is it just because picking up someone’s bad habits isn’t (usually) life-threatening on the tabletop?

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10 Responses to A Life on the Ocean Wave

  1. Stunty says:

    I have a Jap starter set and carrier if your interested.

  2. Andy Frazer says:

    It’s the old problem, that practical experience is worth more than theoretical experience.

    Actually playing the game with someone (even better if they know the rules well) is like “learning on the job”, where corrections can be corrected using examples. Meanwhile reading the rulebook gives you an overview of how the game works, but also allows for your own interpretation of rules to creep in.

    We suffer from this problem a lot at BoW. Reviewing rules and fluff books with no time to play a game (and often no minis or current FAQ), leads to interpretation, which leads to arguments with those who “know the rules” and are “aghast” by our lack of encyclopedic knowledge of “their” game.

    There’s nothing injects dispair into the BoW Studio more than a new shiny, 300+ page, hardback rulebook.

    I’ve currently got 8 games on the books, all looking for reviews… which is why I’m up at 5:30am to get to work… well… I suppose I could be working in a Uranium mine!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Learning from a Master is, and always has been, the best method for learning pretty much anything. This is the ego-polishing bit of being an Early Adopter – you get to be the Master 🙂

      Reviewing stuff is a time consuming process to do well, and you guys have all the technical camera shenanigans to eat your time too. When you get a short and clearly explained set of rules it certainly makes life for the reviewer easier. Without going into detail (I’ll do that elsewhere), I used to write a lot of reviews in a semi-professional capacity, and many of them were for RPGs. Now they really are a pain to do well. You’ve got it easy down the Uranium mine!

  3. Glad to see you enjoyed it Jake. Like you I’ve settled on the Japs because they suit me quite nicely too. I think more than any game I’ve played recently though I think the differences between the factions only really becomes apparent after you’ve played the game. I also think the rules in places could be clearer than they are as well.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      For most rules, I’m pretty good at seeing how things will work on the tabletop from the stats and skills in the army list, though the lack of a clear deciphering of this in the DW rulebook is far from helpful.

      • Yep like you normally I can sit down and figure out what faction does what and although I might not be spot on, I’ll normally be pretty darn close. DW is the first game in a long time where I was struggling to work out how it’d play. Which is strange because I don’t think its a complex game at all.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        It doesn’t seem very complex, though I was having trouble deciphering it because of the way the rules are laid out: no glossary, no labelled diagram to explain the army list entries, and so on. The information is all there, though it’s not arranged in a manner I find at all convenient.

        As an aside, how you arrange rulebooks is a dark art in itself. You can’t please everyone, that’s for sure. Put simply, the optimal arrangement for a n00b is different from the optimal arrangement for a veteran. Even neophytes vary: the veteran gamer who is new to your game needs a different sort of guidance from the player who has just started in the miniatures hobby and has never played anything. It’s tricky to strike a balance, and this may be the best rulebook ever when you know how to play the game well. It’s certainly not optimised for learning though.

  4. Hey Jake, could you contact me on my Frontline Gamer email please? thefrontlinegamerblog@gmail.com cheers.

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