April 15, 2011
A Crushing Defeat - Ubongo Card Game (and why RR regins supreme)
Played Matt last night two player in the new Ubongo card game and got absolutely crushed, losing all 6 rounds by an ever increasing margin of victory. This is almost certainly the worst I've lost at a pure skill game in many years. I was competitive really in only one of the 6 rounds. The way the game works is that each player gets 9 cards with a 3x2 pattern of symbols on each. They must arrange 7 (no benefit at all for doing more) of their cards into a single group such that wherever two cards join, exactly two symbols must match (and no symbols must mismatch).
Anyway, though, the game doesn't work at all as a game, but might be amusing to play as a solitaire puzzle for some. The better player will basically always win but more significantly the worse player(s) will never finish a board as the moment one player finishes the round ends. I still think Ricochet Robot is by far the best of the competitive puzzle games, both because some of the puzzles are quite interesting but also because the timer gives the lesser players a chance to also find at least a solution, and maybe the best one. They are also always shown at the end of the round the best solution found, which helps to teach them to be better next time very naturally. Even when the game was first released and I was playing some naturals who were far better than me, I still really enjoyed playing as well as I could and seeing the solutions they found. Unfortunately, while many more competitive puzzle games have been released since, almost all of them really fall down in some area of play as far as making the game work for both strong and weak players in the same game. Like even in the regular Ubongos, once you solve a puzzle you have nothing to do - in RR you have a solution but maybe can find a better one and for the super-simple ones you can just abort the timer once everyone finds the path.
I wish I played RR much more often but not that many people like it despite its advantages. Did get to play half a game on Wednesday though after finishing a game of High Frontier, which is a game that deserves its own post really - I enjoyed it but am amazed anyone was willing to publish it given its nature - in our game two of the four players dropped out halfway through to start the RR game. This almost never happens and yet I thought was completely understandable in this game for them to do - in a hopeless position after an hour or whatever of play with the game only like 40% over. And their troubles were despite a very strong rules explanation - the game is just too confusing and too unforgiving of small mistakes or misunderstandings.
Posted by aarondf at April 15, 2011 01:47 PM
Something I find interesting about Ricochet Robots is how much player performance varies from one day to the next. In theory, one might think you are doing the same thing over and over, your chance of winning a round against the same group of players should be the same every time you play. But I see people (including me) who get zero or nearly zero wins on one day, and can win or come close on another day. Somehow, I think, it's possible to be more or less "in the groove".
Posted by: David desJardins at April 17, 2011 03:49 PM
Hmm, interesting. However, I haven't noticed that myself in either me or other good players, at least in a significant way.
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