AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

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AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Builder_Chris on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 05:26

So I'm the organizer of a gaming group in the Denver metro area that exclusively plays Axis & Allies. I'm having some trouble with our "Player Participation" affecting the time it takes to play a single game of AAR and also with it affecting players wanting to return to game with us again.

Right now our group hosts 2 game days each month. The game day that I run, we play AAR in a "tournament style" game. We play by the LHTR2.0, the Operations Manual (OM) that comes with the game and we use a set of "House Rules" that mimic the tournament rules that are used at the Gen Con and Origins conventions.

We play four (4) hour games, with no more than four (4) players to a game. But we've modified the rules concerning our games "End Time" by making it that after three and a half (3.5) hours of game play, we look to see what part of the round we are in to determine when the game will end. All of games End Times are designed so that they will finish at the end of the USA's turn and not necessarily after exactly four (4) hours.

My problem is this...
We have "veteran players" (dudes that have been playing A&A since it was made) and we have a slow but steady increase in new players (newbieís) all the time.

Every newbie that has gamed with us to date, with the exception of one player, has not returned to play with us again. I've been picking the brains of those players to find out why they are not returning, and I've been working real hard at watching all the games and how players "participate" and I've come to this conclusion.

The veteran players, in their attempt to "help" the new players, are giving the newbieís so much "advice" during the games that the newbieís are not able to think for them selves. This was made real obvious to me on the last game day we had. Our games, just like a tournament game should be able to have at least five (5) rounds played in four (4) hours. We only played three (3) rounds in four and a half (4.5) hours! The amount of table talk was crazy!

We had both teams at the table with a vet and a newbie. One team, the vet "advised" so much that the newbie told me after words he almost left during the game because he said he felt he was only there to roll the dice! On the other team the newbie wanted tons of detailed advice so all of the table talk with that team was the opposite. The newbie had to table talk a lot just to get more info from the vet.

I've been trying to come up with some ways to reduce table talk while still encouraging teams to help each other but cant seem to come up with any real good ideas.

Some members have been talking about offering "time outs" to teams or individually to players. I think this might work, but only if we played with a "timed round".

Any ideas about how to manage player participation with regards to game time, table talk and team advising would be a great help.

Thanks.
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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Yoper on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 09:22

I wouldn't use a tournament format at your gatherings.

The rushed feeling of the games is going to turn off most new players. You can have veterans play under the tournament format for practice if they are looking to go to Origins or Gen Con Indy, but just play a more relaxed game for bringing new people.

The churn of new players is a concern for us GMs of the different tournaments, but I accept it since the players have to understand the circumstances that they are playing under. It is tough on new players who show up having only played with a few friends back home. They are thrown in with the "Sharks" and rarely return.

What you might do is have a more flexible format of timed and untimed games at your meetings with a tournament format thrown in once every two or three months. That way you are working with the new guys to bring them up to speed at most of the gatherings, but you are also giving the veterans a chance to practice and then play under the tournament structure on a regular basis.

If you continue to do it they way you have stated, you will just burn up all the newbies and rarely get anyone to come back.

Craig A. Yope
WBC A&A Tournament GM
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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Builder_Chris on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 16:11

Thanks for the advice,

Your suggestions that we have a combination of timed games and untimed games at our meetings with a tournament format thrown in once every two or three months to help with the new players not getting turned off by the rushed feeling of playing timed games and to give veteran players the practice they want for tournament play sounds like a better idea than running just tournament style games every month. But while considering how to mix things up like that itís raised some more questions.

Iíve been playing A&A on and off since its first release, and since the AAR has been released Iíve been playing at least one FTF game every month, and with the help of the TripleA game Iíve been playing at least one game a week for a good year or more now online. I used to have a group of about six dudes that got together every month but time has taken its toll on that group so for the last year prior to me taking over organization of this group a few months ago, my old group consisted of FTF games between me and the same player.

I believe Iíve played a fare number of AAR games, and maybe Iím still not as skilled at it as other gamers you might know but it seems to me that this game canít be played in less than 4 hours unless you play with a victory condition of eight ( 8 ) cities. Iíve played several ten (10) and twelve (12) city victory games and have learned that those games can sometimes never have an ending. Heck, none of the nine (9) city victory games that we have played have ever been won before a games end time.

The game day that I host is set up so that we have one hour of set up, about four hours of game time and about one hour of clean up. We start at 4pm and are cleaned up and out of the facility by 10pm. The place we game is at my church, itís free, big and close. I could probably have the place for more than six hours at a time; I could probably have it for 24 hours straight if I wanted to. These game days are focused on us being a gaming group that socializes about A&A. We meet, we game, we eat pizza, we discuss WW2 and A&A strategies and than we leave.

The organizer before me used to host his game days at coffee shops and other types of ďpublicĒ places but most of those places would get fed up after the second or third game day because the group would be there six to eight hours at a time and they would start asking for money to rent the space so he would find a new place. Their games rarely had a victory condition set, and it was not uncommon to suddenly end a game because some one had to leave or just got tired of playing and wanted to leave. These game days were focused on being a social group that played A&A. they met, they talked life they sluggishly played the game while they talked life or A&A Strategy, they ate and talked while they played and than when someone had to or wanted to leave, they cleaned up and left.

The other game day we host is held at a game store and is played from noon till 8pm, from open to close on a Sunday. They play a variant of AAR called ďCentral PowersĒ and Iím not sure what they set their victory conditions at but I know their games regularly end when they have to leave at closing time and its always s hard to say who was the winner. That place works well because they have a game room set up for it so there is no issue with how long they can be there. The best I can tell, because Iíve never gone to one of those game days, is that it is also a game day that is focused on being a gaming group that socializes about A&A, but I think they like to have tons of table talk.

We have a member list of 28 players right now. My game day has an average turn out of 5 players. The previous organizers game days averaged 3 players and our Central Powers Game day has an average turn out of 2 players.

Surveying our players that have attended so far, most of them say they cant come to a game day that lasts more than 6 hours, so thatís why I have mine lasting six hours. Most players also say they want to have a clear winner at the end of every game and they donít want to suddenly end a game because someone has to or wants to leave, especially in the middle of a turn, so that is why I adopted the tournament style of victory conditions; 9 VC Ėor-- scoring VP with bonus points for VCís at a games End Time.


So here are my questionsÖ
How long do you believe ďuntimedĒ games should last?
What should the victory conditions of an ďuntimedĒ game be?
How do you suggest ending an untimed game so that players donít feel they got cheated out of a turn and feeling like they got shorted on a chance to win?

And after all of that, it still does not answer the most important question that is proving to be the biggest deterrent to players saying why they are not returning for a second game, and that is; how do we keep table talk to a minimum while still encouraging team play? How do we persuade veteran players to offer their advice while not offering too much advice, and how do you convince newbieís that they can ask for advice with out asking for too much advice so that games donít last eight hours?

Shy of making every game a two player game (which I cant stand the thought of) so no one has a teammate to ask or give advice to, I cant figure out a way to balance the game days to encourage team play while minimizing table talk and yet still have the games finish in a reasonable amount of time with a clear winner and still keep our Meetupís so they donít last more than 6 hours.

I believe that the rushed feel of a timed game is proving to be less of an issue for a player to return than the problem of new players feeling over advised by veteran players. Iíve had one complaint from a player about the length of time that a game is restricted to, but Iíve had several players tell me they wont return again because they felt like they did not have a chance to play their own game because they got hooked up with a veteran player who dominated their every thought or that intimidated them to the point that they felt that they had to ask for tons of advice before making a single move because they did not want to be the reason that the veteran player lost the game.

I would say we are a semi competitive group, so unless Iím missing something, I donít see how having untimed, non tournament style games will reduce the problem of ďPlayer ParticipationĒ or too much table talk. I can see how holding untimed games might promote the interest of new players because they might not feel pressured to perform before the game ended, but other than that, I donít see how it will help with the overall stability of the group.

Hope I didnít ramble on too much.
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Some Ideas

Post by SwampHQ on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 19:39

Builder_Chris wrote:
We play four (4) hour games, with no more than four (4) players to a game. But we've modified the rules concerning our games "End Time" by making it that after three and a half (3.5) hours of game play, we look to see what part of the round we are in to determine when the game will end. All of games End Times are designed so that they will finish at the end of the USA's turn and not necessarily after exactly four (4) hours.
Chris, it might not sound like it, but that is the way we do it in tourneys as well. 99% of all games end on US's turn...

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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by SwampHQ on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 19:44

Builder_Chris wrote:
My problem is this...
We have "veteran players" (dudes that have been playing A&A since it was made) and we have a slow but steady increase in new players (newbieís) all the time.

Every newbie that has gamed with us to date, with the exception of one player, has not returned to play with us again. I've been picking the brains of those players to find out why they are not returning, and I've been working real hard at watching all the games and how players "participate" and I've come to this conclusion.

The veteran players, in their attempt to "help" the new players, are giving the newbieís so much "advice" during the games that the newbieís are not able to think for them selves. This was made real obvious to me on the last game day we had. Our games, just like a tournament game should be able to have at least five (5) rounds played in four (4) hours. We only played three (3) rounds in four and a half (4.5) hours! The amount of table talk was crazy!

We had both teams at the table with a vet and a newbie. One team, the vet "advised" so much that the newbie told me after words he almost left during the game because he said he felt he was only there to roll the dice! On the other team the newbie wanted tons of detailed advice so all of the table talk with that team was the opposite. The newbie had to table talk a lot just to get more info from the vet.

Chris, on this one; my big suggestion is to not take it so serious. Or at least your vets so to speak. Your vets need to really lighten up and again, my suggestion as Craig mentions, play for fun, have the guys that are willing to play while teaching is the best thing to have. If a player is truly a vet of the game and as good as they say they are, they can give suggestions and point out mistakes and should be able to win with ease...this would only tell me these guys like most around the globe only know how to beat up on would-be-players and when it comes to playing vs. the big boys, would get schooled. Just like many others have over the years at GEN CON and Origins...

Peace,
GS

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Here's my $.02

Post by SwampHQ on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 19:54

Builder_Chris wrote:Thanks for the advice,


So here are my questionsÖHow long do you believe ďuntimedĒ games should last?
This is a good one, to be honest, not sure for AAR. The longest game I believe we have played ran about 6 hours. Past that, very few people have time to play...
Builder_Chris wrote:
What should the victory conditions of an ďuntimedĒ game be?
I would say make it a VC condition. If it isn't met, the other side loses. Are you bidding in these Games?
Builder_Chris wrote:
How do you suggest ending an untimed game so that players donít feel they got cheated out of a turn and feeling like they got shorted on a chance to win?
Again, just let them play. Let them figure out how to determine a winner. This is part of the learning curve.
Builder_Chris wrote:
And after all of that, it still does not answer the most important question that is proving to be the biggest deterrent to players saying why they are not returning for a second game, and that is; how do we keep table talk to a minimum while still encouraging team play? How do we persuade veteran players to offer their advice while not offering too much advice, and how do you convince newbieís that they can ask for advice with out asking for too much advice so that games donít last eight hours?
That again my friend sounds like you have a bunch of jabroni's that are afraid to lose. Man, make it causual and leave it at that...

The most important thing to remember is it is a game. You are suppose to have fun and enjoy it...if guys are being dorks about it, tell them to get a life...

I can tell you from experience, my small gaming group of AA players consisted of Mike Davis and Jeff Auer. You can check out their names on the Swamp. A few years ago, a new guy came into the mix that really wanted to learn who to play, Kelly Thye. During our games, we randomly choose side, two on two, and can sit there and openly discuss what is happening in the game with Kelly, ask him to make decisions, even tell him what the other guys will probably do and what not to do and still have a competitive fun game and hopefully Kelly is learning the game and having fun as well. And between the two sides, we have both won are share of games. Now, Kelly keeps coming back for more so I can only assume that he is having fun...

Hope this helps...

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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by SwampHQ on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 20:04

By the way Chris, cool avatar! Sea Bees.... Laughing

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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Yoper on Mon 08 Sep 2008, 21:16

Newbies should be playing just to play and get experience. I wouldn't be throwing them into games with veteran players.

You seem to be favoring Greg's way of doing things, which is to have two-player teams. Fine, but if that is how you are going to do it, then let the players come up with their own teams.

I wouldn't go putting together players of different skill levels, that don't know each other, and then expect games to move along smoothly. Heck, I have seen many a team that know each other quite well, fall apart under the pressure of a tournament game and then the game slows right down to a crawl. You can't expect people who don't know each other to not have problems when it comes to communicating their different ideas to one another. And this is going to slow down the game.

The tournament that I run is one-on-one, so that is a difference right there. No arguing with a teammate, but then again, you have no one to catch your mistakes.

I would say that you should just let the new guys play on the side until the have had their fill, whatever that is. Later on, when they are more comfortable, then they can jump into the fray against the more experienced players.

The main thing about the table talk issue is fixed (in my mind) by having the players choose their own partners and then sticking with them. The unwanted advice issue really only comes about when someone is stuck with some overbearing teammate that they don't know and didn't choose.

Craig
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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Builder_Chris on Tue 09 Sep 2008, 01:36

Wow! Thanks for all the great advice. Itís all helping me a lot. Iíve come to the conclusion that youíre right about needing to make our game days a little more laid back, and Iím already reworking some of the ways Iíve been structuring things to reflect that.

SwampHQ wrote...
Are you bidding in these Games?
Yup we are using the bid just like in tournament rules, but even some of the veteran players are not catching onto the significance of the bid. Iíve been considering not using the bid because so few players seem to understand it.

I think for the next game day Iím just going to focus on ďplaying all games A&AĒ and see what games people bring and just what becomes of it.

Iíll update everyone on how things went after September 20th, our next game day.

Thanks again.
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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by SwampHQ on Tue 09 Sep 2008, 08:43

Builder_Chris wrote:Wow! Thanks for all the great advice. Itís all helping me a lot. Iíve come to the conclusion that youíre right about needing to make our game days a little more laid back, and Iím already reworking some of the ways Iíve been structuring things to reflect that.

SwampHQ wrote...
Are you bidding in these Games?
Yup we are using the bid just like in tournament rules, but even some of the veteran players are not catching onto the significance of the bid. Iíve been considering not using the bid because so few players seem to understand it.
Understand it? What is there not to understand. Kind of brings my thought of how good these guys really are to light.

The one major thing bidding does is to determine who plays what side by removing the randomness of a dice roll. If they are just choosing sides, again, another sign of the vet bulling mentality. Though in AAR, depending on what type of game played depends on whether or not one side has an advantage...

As for bidding, it is easy, when the bidding starts, whomever starts the bidding determines what side the bid will be for. So, if I want to play the Allies and start the bidding, I will bid (say 3IPC's) to play the Allies. This means my opponent, if they want to play the Allies as well, must counter bid or take the 3 IPC's to play the AXIS. They can either accept or counter. This continues until someone accepts the bid. Once accpeted, the amount of IPC's is spent on units to be placed in territories/sea zones were units are located by like units.

Hope this helps. I guess because we have been doing this for so long, it is second hand...

Peace,
GS

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Re: AAR player participation....help...ideas please.

Post by Builder_Chris on Tue 09 Sep 2008, 11:59

I agree with you, whatís not to understand about the bid? It makes perfect sense to me. Than again, Iím finding that Iím the only dude that cant seem to get this game out of my head between game days so Iím always looking into how to improve my game; another reason Iím gearing back the game day that I host to be more of a laid back time instead of a ďtournament styleĒ of game time.

So, I understand how the bid works and the pros and cons of HOW to bid based off of the type and length of game, and how to use the bid to purchase and set units, but every time I play I have to explain the bid. And every time I explain it I get this ďdeer in the headlights lookĒ from everyone. I kept thinking that I just was explaining it wrong, but knowing Iím not thatís why Iíve been considering eliminating the bid.

Unless you think I should keep the bid in our games, Iím planning on just eliminating that. What Iím planning to do for the next 5 or 6 months is just having people play the game(s) using the rules that come with each game and not ďmodifyingĒ anything.

Thanks again for all the great advice so far and Iíll let you all know how things pan out over the next several game days.
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