Thursday, February 4, 2010

Prussia Defies Us Again

A few weeks ago, Mike and I got Prussia's Defiant Stand back to the table. This is one we'd played before and wanted to give another go. I'm going to give a short report here as Mike's covered the “session report” section.

I didn't go back to read our prior reports before playing. All I did was re-read the rulebook and head in “cold.” We played the same sides as before – I took the Prussians, Mike had the Austrians and Allies.

Mike has detailed the flow of our battle. I managed to get Freddy killed (again) and seemed to be falling down a slippery slope as time was running out on me.

In the end, though, I've got to admit that my conclusion is no different than last time – great game, horrific rulebook.

The insidious part of it is the rulebook seems fine when you're reading it to get ready to play. It's during play, however, where the shortcomings appear. Questions are either not answered, or answers are very difficult to find. I really have a hard time believing this game was blind-playtested. If so, many of the issues we ran into would have been discovered.

I like this game. A lot. It's just when you're only able to play it twice a year or so, it's hard to remember all the questions you laboriously worked out (or guessed at) the last time. This game is no more complex than Columbia's block games, yet their rulebooks are shorter and more complete. I admit I'm a bit biased because I love the subject matter, so I'm predisposed to liking this game. Yet I don't own it. Why? The rulebook. It's simply too much work to play as things currently stand.

So, what to do? First start would be to create a glossary. Terms (such as “engaged”) are used but not defined. Many rules are currently worded rather vaguely, but a definition might indirectly tighten their meaning. Then I'd just rewrite each section of the rules using the glossary as a guide. I'd start with combat. Then supply. That will catch the bulk of the issues we ran across. From there, rewrite as you see fit. Figure out how it's supposed to work, then document that.

Many times I've threatened to rewrite rulebooks. (Panzer Grenadier being a good example.) This is the game that needs it most, though. I need to put my money where my mouth is. First resolution of the new year: get a glossary and the combat section of the rulebook rewritten before the end of Summer. (if you knew my writing schedule at work, you'd realize how optimistic this is...)

All this being said, if you like block games, I recommend it. Just go in knowing you're going to swear at that rulebook at least a handful of times during your first game. If you're new to block games and are curious whether you'll like them or not, stay away from this one. I can't recommend it as a starter block game at all. The rulebook experience will likely keep you from trying other block games, “just in case.”