I bought and played Pandemic yesterday

edited July 2009 in Story Games
I bought and played Pandemic yesterday, but this post isn't really about Pandemic. It's about the bought and played yesterday. I did both. On the same day. The other player and I both read the rules. During play we made one small mistake. We still had a blast (and won't make the mistake next time).

I have never done this with an RPG. I have downloaded and played on the same day free games online, but commercial games? Never.

Imagine how many fewer games would sit unplayed on my shelf if they were at least some like Pandemic.

Comments

  • You probably know this already, but I feel stupid not mentioning how my game Zombie Cinema was specifically designed with these performance parameters in mind. Other games that can do it are Breaking the Ice, Under the Bed, 1001 Nights, It Was a Mutual Decision, Shock: (though only just), Bacchanal, Geiger Counter, Contenders, Engle Matrix games, It's Complicated, Primitive, Urchin and probably a bunch that I've ignored for some reason. In fact, I have so many of games for these performance parameters that nowadays I'm looking for games that not only perform, but also do something better than the median of that bunch.

    More of an issue with rpgs, at least for me, is that I need time to focus and orient myself to the idea of playing something. I'd just much prefer hanging out to playing something if I don't have a plan of some sort for play. Luckily I've gotten pretty good at both dodging play (I just throw a Zombie Cinema box at the teenagers and run if I don't feel like playing with them) and having ideas prepared.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenIn fact, I have so many of games for these performance parameters that nowadays I'm looking for games that not only perform, but also do something better than the median of that bunch.
    Of those, I am familiar enough to speak of Breaking the Ice, Shock:, and Bacchanal. Of which, the only one that might meet what I'm looking for is Bacchanal. We opened Pandemic, interacted with each other non-stop (including going over the rules and setting up the board), and then played less than thirty minutes later. No one off in the corner alone studying the rules. No one doing any kind of lonely prep.

    That's what I'm looking for.

    Yes, Breaking the Ice and Shock: are within my acceptable length for rules (a length that gets shorter and shorter as time goes on), but they are still long enough that I'm not going to open the book for the first time with my partner next to me and thirty minutes later we'll be up and running, both of us familiar with the rules. Which is why they sit on my shelf for a fair bit of time between purchase and play (or did, I don't do that any longer).

    Games that have done this for me include: Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, Shadows, and Microcosm.

    I suspect that a commercial game that might do this for me is: Sweet Agatha (but that's just a guess). If there's others, I would like to know about them.
  • Lots of group-specific factors, of course, but you can add Montsegur 1244 to the list of possibilities. My game Fiasco will also fit in this set of parameters pretty handily, I think. I hope. That was my plan.
  • I'm pretty surprised A Penny For My Thoughts hasn't been mentioned, yet. The rules pretty much explain how to play as you go, and I'm pretty sure that it could be bought and played in the manner you're describing.
  • edited July 2009
    Capes Lite has a similar script-to-play format. I agree with Penny for My Thoughts (which I recently discussed briefly on pulpgamer's Out of Character podcast and am about to run this weekend.)

    Edit: Here's the link. It's at about 14:00.

    Also, I agree re: IAWA. It's pretty damn close, and short enough that reading it out loud together is not an unfeasible idea. ---v
  • I was going to say Fiasco too. If IAWA was presented just a little differently I think it could meet this criteria as well.
  • Ah, yes. Sweet Agatha almost fits the bill here. There's 15 minutes of downtime for the non-reading player at the start, though. Or not, actually, if you make one player read the booklet and the other read the rules in the meantime. Should work.
  • What is Capes Lite, and where is it available (if at all)? I've got an interest in Capes, but sometimes the rules seem like a maze to me - and I'd imagine it'd be worse for my players, then.

    I'd be interested in this thing, if anyone's got more info or a link or somesuch. Thanks in advance.
  • Read the rules? Bah! Serial Homicide Unit features the creepy-yet-informative voice of Russell Collins describing the rules of the game step-by-step as you play. No reading required.

    You can listen to a free demo if you want a preview of the coolness.
  • Posted By: HiQKidWhat is Capes Lite, and where is it available (if at all)? I've got an interest in Capes, but sometimes the rules seem like a maze to me - and I'd imagine it'd be worse for my players, then.
    Google "capes lite" and ya find: this link.
  • This is definitely a growing niche that some folks have worked at filling. Aside from those mentioned, I think you could include John Harper's recent microgames as well (Ghost/Echo, Lady Blackbird, Danger Patrol), as long as you bring some of the necessary background/context with you.

    IMO, the main issues here are:

    1. Explanatory writing (which is hard to do really well and involves playtesting the text [playtexting?], not just the rules)
    2. Audience (having the text convey the necessary background knowledge), and
    3. Necessary Commitment (which is a design choice, right? how many pages of background do you need to read first, how many hours to play, etc.)
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonAside from those mentioned, I think you could include John Harper's recent microgames as well (Ghost/Echo, Lady Blackbird, Danger Patrol), as long as you bring some of the necessary background/context with you.
    We kind of tried Ghost/Echo, but there was an awkward combination of too much and too little going on for us (as in a busy game with not enough words to help us understand it). But we might try it again in the future. Definitely those three games fit in with the kinds of texts I'm thinking about (Danger Patrol less so, I think).
    Posted By: Jonathan Walton
    1. Explanatory writing (which is hard to do really well and involves playtesting the text [playtexting?], not just the rules)
    2. Audience (having the text convey the necessary background knowledge), and
    3. Necessary Commitment (which is a design choice, right? how many pages of background do you need to read first, how many hours to play, etc.)
    That number one is a killer. There are lots of short rulesets, but I haven't seen any written the way Pandemic is written, with an eye towards playing out of the box in under half an hour. A Penny for my Thoughts (haven't yet seen the final version) has a ruleset that could be picked up and played in like ten minutes if it was written in a way that does so. But my question would then be, are the rules written such that that is what will happen? Or are they written so that I can read them alone and then talk to people about the game at a later date?

    Serial Homicide Unit has me very curious though (now). I'll have to check that out.
  • I have, to rousing success, picked up and played on the same day both 3:16 and Lacuna. So you can go ahead and add those to the list as well.
  • Dirty Secrets could almost work this way if the first section were laid out a little differently and if the second section weren't so damn useful.

    Spione would qualify as well if the activity were in the front of the book and the rest of the book not so centrally informative to the game's experience. However, if you were already a spy fiction nut the game activity is quite clear and playable right from the text.

    Jesse
  • Seems like Christopher is most interested in games you can play while reading them for the first time, not texts you have to read an hour or so before playing the game.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: whiteknife3:16
    3:16 is a great game. And I have no doubt that if I bought it at noon I could be playing it around supper time as the only one who read it in the group. But it is not a game that me and my friends can open up at 18h00 and start playing at 18h30 with all of us having an almost complete understanding of the rules (because we all read them together). It is a great game where one person sits alone for a few hours and then explains to the others how to play.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonSeems like Christopher is most interested in gamesyou can play while reading them for the first time, not texts you have to read an hour or so before playing the game.
    You know, that's probably a much better way of saying what I want to say. I don't have to play them while reading them for the first time [EDIT: But a game designed to be read together as a group as you begin the game would probably accomplish exactly what I'd like], I mean, we weren't reading the rules to Pandemic while we played. But the time between open the game for the first time and play: should not be spent alone (as in, no one off reading by themselves or if they do, it's gotta be brief (unless everyone is reading alone), because otherwise the other players will get bored and they'll start up a game of something else instead) and shouldn't take more than half an hour.

    Actually, this just made me think of something, we didn't totally grasp the rules by the time we started playing. We went back to them more than once for clarification as to what we should do in certain situations because we couldn't remember the details. That was totally cool by us, we were happy to do that. And I would be happy to refer to the rules during play in other games as well (heck, I do it every time I post when playing KKKKK).
  • The physical objects that make up Pandemic lend themselves to ease of learning and use. Imagine if the rule set were, "Get out a map of the world. Agree on a city to use as your CDC. Using a deck of playing cards and the list of cities in the back, pull nine cities. The first three will get three disease markers on the map (you can use whatever you have handy, as long as there are four discernable types of marker)...'

    Also, Pandemic's a pretty simple game. I'm the designated rule reader in my circle. There's been more than a few times where we've opened a new game, I've looked at the rules, and said, "Uhhh, unless you want to just hang around while I spend an hour digesting these, let's play something else."

    That said, I wouldn't mind if there were a lot more stuff like pictures or flowcharts for procedures in RPGs. That neat flowchart for IAWA conflicts that someone made? (Apologies to the person, I'm bad with names.) That should be in the next edition. Every game that has "first this, than that" or "if A, do B, but if C, do E" should have squares and arrows and stuff, not just examples of play.
  • About half the Norwegian Style games, particularly Fuck Youth and the poems.
  • First up, A Penny for my Thoughts does, I think, exactly what I'm looking for. I took a look at it yesterday in the shop, and it seems that Chapter Two is exactly that, a chapter meant to get you up and running in under thirty minutes without any alone time.
    Posted By: Joe BeasonThe physical objects that make up Pandemic lend themselves to ease of learning and use. Imagine if the rule set were, "Get out a map of the world. Agree on a city to use as your CDC. Using a deck of playing cards and the list of cities in the back, pull nine cities. The first three will get three disease markers on the map (you can use whatever you have handy, as long as there are four discernable types of marker)...'
    Uh, I'm not sure exactly what your point is here. Yes, Pandemic could have been made more complex, it wasn't. RPGs can also range in complexity. I'm not saying I don't want any complex RPGs on the market. If commercial board games have room for Pandemic and Squad Leader, I'm sure commercial RPGs have room for A Penny for my Thoughts and Burning Empires.

    Unless your point is RPGs can learn a lot from board games, in which case, I agree.
  • Posted By: MatthijsAbout half the Norwegian Style games, particularly Fuck Youth and the poems.
    Matthijs, I went to the lulu site, but I feel I know very little about what to expect from this. I know there are 17 games, but I don't feel I really grasp what I would be getting myself into with this.

    Also, is there a pdf?
  • edited July 2009
    You can see several complete games at norwegianstyle.wordpress.com. No pdf yet.
  • edited July 2009
    Hi again, sorry for the overly brief comments - I was posting from my iPhone.

    Quick pick-up-and-play has been a focus in the tiny Norwegian game design community for the last 2-3 years. One year, there was a pledge taken by several game designers to create games that would be easy to run and play with no preparation - the "Spill Nå" pledge. You can see some of them in raw form here, although I definitely recommend the edited versions you find in the Norwegian Style book.

    In "Fuck Youth", I tried to make reading the text a part of the game experience. Not in such a way that the text would be part of the game fiction (which is what PFYT does), but reading the rules aloud is part of setup. Someone reads some info and instructions, the group performs the instructions, someone reads a bit more, etc.
  • Posted By: Joe BeasonThe physical objects that make up Pandemic lend themselves to ease of learning and use. Imagine if the rule set were, "Get out a map of the world. Agree on a city to use as your CDC. Using a deck of playing cards and the list of cities in the back, pull nine cities. The first three will get three disease markers on the map (you can use whatever you have handy, as long as there are four discernable types of marker)...'
    I don't know whether this is part of what you were saying there, but this makes me think that there might be something in the fact that each rule can be tied in the memory to a specific object. Wouldn't neccesarily require game specific objects, but I think they help, as they won't be associated to other games (as the mentioned deck of cards might).

    What I mean there is that when learning/explaining the game, you can easily go 'These cards mean this, you draw one when this happens, these tokens represent this, this token represents you, each circle on the board does this...'
    Now while you could introduce masses of boards and tokens and cards to an RPG (and I would like to try a game like that, if not neccesarily buy one), I think you could approximate the effect by representing all of the rules distinctly on the character sheet. So if there's something you can do once a game, put a clearly defined checkbox on the sheet. If there's a roll you can make, put the target or method or whatever on the sheet, even if it's a fixed number, and either associate it with similar rolls, or if there are no similar rolls give it it's own section.
    If there's a GM, you could even consider giving them a GM sheet, or at least a one page summary.
    At that point, you can look at the sheet and 'see' what you can do, and hopefully remember it better as it is lots of small bits of information tied to specific things.

    Make sense? Really so damn obvious I made myself look foolish actually mentioning it? ;)
  • I think the InSpectres startup edition might be considered for this category.
  • edited July 2009
    It seems to me that the things that get in the way of this happening are
    1. Worlds
    2. Character descriptions that rely on lots of interaction with the rules, ie. abilities with numbers tied to them.
    So much of the bulk of bulky RPGs are taken up with what amounts to a geography text for an imaginary world, or with ways to describe the character in the players head in terms of the rules of the game.
    Pandemic and Penny for my Thoughts get around this by assuming
    1. Our world
    2. by limiting the points of contact between the character descriptions and the rules. Pandemic characters have 1 ability. Penny characters have zero.

    3:16 doesn't assume our world, but also doesn't rely on a detailed, pre-fabricated world for atmosphere. It relies on a brief description of history and the creative energies of the GM to bring the worlds to life to the extent that they are needed. It also simplifies character creation by limiting the points at which the character interacts with the rules (2 abilities, 2 weapons). Players fill in the gaps with their characterizations without needing to write down a lot to remember what the character is like.
  • Posted By: MatthijsHi again, sorry for the overly brief comments - I was posting from my iPhone.
    Thanks, I was wondering, I mean, who doesn't shill when invited to? From what you've said I'm definitely curious.
  • Posted By: MortalityNow while you could introduce masses of boards and tokens and cards to an RPG
    Ugh, masses makes me think of Arkham Horror, pretty much the anti-Pandemic.
    Posted By: MortalityMake sense? Really so damn obvious I made myself look foolish actually mentioning it? ;)
    Have you taken a look at Lady Blackbird? If I understand what you are saying, LB does exactly that.
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