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Subject: (Don't Go Back to) Rocketville rss

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Dave Lartigue
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(Reposted from my weblog: http://slithytoves.sytes.net/~dave/wordpress/?p=1299 )

Last night Mike, Wayne, Craig, and I played the newest game from Avalon Hill, Rocketville. It was designed by Richard Garfield, who also invented both Magic: the Gathering and Robo-Rally, two games I really like. Garfield's pedigree, plus the retro-futuristic stylings of the game had me intrigued.

Here's what the ad copy says about the game:

Quote:
In the retro-future Hometown USA known as Rocketville, there's no greater honor or privilege than holding the office of Mayor - the goal of this fast-paced game of luck and strategy. Traveling from district to district via rocket, players campaign for votes - making promises, garnering endorsements, and recruiting robotic assistance - in a mad dash to win the popular vote and the game.


Here's what Dave says about the game:

Quote:
It sucks.


I think the game described above might be really fun. Rocketville is not that game. Let's look at that description piece by piece:

"Traveling from district to district via rocket, players campaign for votes" -- That is, there's a rocket-shaped pawn that is moved one space each turn to a neighboring square.

"making promises" -- Making promises means performing a simple blind bid. That is, each player picks a card from their hand that has a number on it and all the cards are revealed at once. The highest number wins. That's all there is to it. The "strategy" mentioned consists mostly of knowing which numbers high and which are low. And this is the same way campaigning is done in all of the districts, so the game is simply a series of thirty-six blind bids.

"garnering endorsements" -- There's a stack of, like, 20 celebrity endorsers. Some are good, some are bad. One of your cards is always a "Campaign Planning" card which you can play instead of a number card to get a number card from the deck. If you're the only person who plays a "Campaign Planning" card in a vote, you get control of the endorser in play, for good or ill. Did I say "endorser" singular? I did! Because each game you just pull one of them out at random, and it's the only one you use. So if you can imagine playing this game twenty times, you have this single random element that might shake things up a little. The one that was in our game had little to no effect on the game.

"recruiting robotic assistance" -- On some districts, if you win the vote you get a robot card. These cards contain extra goals through the game ("Be the one with the fewest yellow districts." "Control District X." etc.) There's nothing better than receiving a goal for the game halfway through it, when it may be too late to reach it, especially when the game is so random that you have very little control over what happens anyway. I had four of these things at the end of the game and scored points from none of them.

But I don't want to make it sound like the game is nothing but monotonous randomness -- it's also poorly designed.

 


Here's the back of the box, which shows you the components (you can click to zap it with an enlarg-o-beam). How many poor design choices can you spot? I'll give you a moment.

Okay, ready? Here are the ones we discovered in playing:

* There are four district types: blue, green, yellow, and brown. The six districts have background colors of either blue, green, or yellow. There are cards that are better if used in the appropriate district. Look at the card with the "42" on it. Is it obvious to you which districts that is best used on?

* To the left of the board is the "Campaign Planning" card. Each player always has one of these, and it's used in place of playing a number card in order to get more number cards. As a number, it counts as zero -- it's always lower than the actual number cards. So if a player knows everyone else is doing Campaign Planning, he can take the district with a low card. How might he know? Well, the back of the card is the same as the backs of the number cards, but the front of it also looks like the back of a card. Several times we had to point out to each other that our Campaign Planning cards were showing.

* Pastel shades of colors that aren't too different from each other = extra fun for colorblind players! Although there are ways of telling what's what on the cards (You depend on the kindness of normal-eyed strangers for your score marker) it's still going to be way more trouble than it's worth.

In short, this is a dull, un-fun game that's somehow made even worse by poor graphic design. It's awful that not only is this allegedly designed by such a luminary as Richard Garfield, but that it's published under the Avalon Hill banner, a company known for high-powered strategy games. We played through the whole thing wondering if there was something we were overlooking, but no, it was just a series of blind bids and some random goal cards. It's a shame that so much promise is wasted on this thing.

I'd say that maybe this would work better as a game for kids, but I don't think even kids would find it very interesting. There are far better things to play out there.

I'd really advise people to steer clear of Rocketville. It's an election in which there are no winners.
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Dave Lartigue
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nextinline wrote:

You said it's an election game (which sound right from your description of game play) so, from your knowledge (and I'm confessing ignorance about such matters), is this the first type of 'election' game Richard Garfield has done?
Can you see any educational value in it for children?


Not at all. There is nothing in the game modeling an election whatosever. It's strictly playing a numbered card from your hand and then revealing the cards, highest card wins. When I first heard just the description I thought it might be a light 'Die Macher' but there's nothing like that going on at all.
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Jim Cote
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The good news is that even if you hate the game, you can still enjoy the ad for it on BGG bringing your browser to its kneees. arrrh
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Wade Ramsey
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Ouch. I was only passingly interested in the game as a potential for kids, but...ouch.

Well written, articulate, specific. Nice review.
 
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Chris Bailey
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I played this once and thought "Eh...it could be fun with the family."
I played it a second time and was bored to tears. I'm never playing that game again. gulp
 
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Dan Scott
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Great review, and I'm glad that this game is getting panned. I want the ad to stop running! (I'm a supporter who typically likes the banners, but they're turned off ATM)

Notes specific to the thread, I like the way that you wrote the review - especially 'what Dave says'...
 
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Brad Miller
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I agree with Dave...

However, I thought that whenever anyone was the sole player playing a Campaign Planning card, a NEW Endorser card got turned over. Not that it mattered much, as the card distributions meant that winning or losing was pretty much completely random, and endorsers wouldn't change that...
 
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Rob
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I enjoyed the review title - nice REM reference.
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MK
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For all the effort that went into advertising the game, you'd think there would be an actual game to buy.

Apparently not.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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kimapesan wrote:
For all the effort that went into advertising the game, you'd think there would be an actual game to buy.

Apparently not.


No, if the game were good, only a small advertising campaign would bloom through player references.
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howl hollow howl
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It seems to me that the game is getting excessive backlash due to it being designed by Richard Garfield AND being produced by H/A-H AND having flashy graphical work with some human factor issues AND having an annoying ad. In my opinion, it is a decent area influence game that lacks any new elements to make it stand out among its peers in the genre.

My main beef with it is the use of cards. You need decent cards to have a shot at winning, and there is plenty of skill in using the best hands correctly. I prefer playing straight-up card games with multiple hands that play quickly to a 30-45 minute board game consisting of a single "hand".

- d
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The game sucks, but not as much as I expected. We had fun playing it once because we were able to make fun of how much it sucked--that's the good news. With the colors and the confusion created thereby I will not give it another chance. I'm just happy I didn't buy the game.
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Brian Newman
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Some modifications occur to me that might make the game salvageable, like:
- Put numbered tokens 1-6 on the next 6 squares to be up for the taking. Program your next 6 cards for those areas. Resolve each one in order. Then program another set of 6.
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Robert Wesley
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Here's the "Official" 'GROGnads' VARIANT for this: apply generous amounts of "lighter fluid" upon it, from a distance you drop a lit match upon this, then stand back and enjoy the "familial warmth" from it now! Oh man, NOW do you 'others' finally SEE just how "doubly-worse" it ALL can then 'become'!?! hmmmm?
[i][b]b{"ha HA!"
laugh
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Ian Allen
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Quote:
It seems to me that the game is getting excessive backlash due to it being designed by Richard Garfield AND being produced by H/A-H AND having flashy graphical work with some human factor issues AND having an annoying ad. In my opinion, it is a decent area influence game that lacks any new elements to make it stand out among its peers in the genre.


Pardon us for hoping that the designer of Robo Rally and MTG would only put his name on something that was as clever and cool as those two previous titles.

As for Avalon Hill/Hasborg - they have great components but what they dish out to us these days is very hit or miss.

As for the poor color choice - that continues to amaze me every time I see it.

As for the add - its not nearly as bad as the first banner ad they tried that was written incorrectly and popped out on every accidental mouseover. Now that was rough. What was it for ..Nexus Ops or Monsters Menace America or something like that.

Quote:
My main beef with it is the use of cards. You need decent cards to have a shot at winning, and there is plenty of skill in using the best hands correctly.


There may be a small amount of skill in using your cards correctly, but that is offset by the huge luck factor in whether you actually get any playable cards or just a hand full of crap and lose every auction.

I played this once, won it, and thought - my god there is a game that needs something more. I won't play it again - sure maybe somebody could add some interesting twists with house rules, but i've got over 400 games in my collection, nearly all of which are better than this, so why bother. I am very disappointed - the theme sounded very cool.
 
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Ian Allen
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Ok - on second thought, that ad is pretty annoying - but at least its not in the middle of the page to where you mouse over it frequently.

If that ad is generating income, im glad for it - its the only good thing to come out of the Rocketville project.
 
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howl hollow howl
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glookose wrote:

I played this once, won it, and thought - my god there is a game that needs something more. I won't play it again - sure maybe somebody could add some interesting twists with house rules, but i've got over 400 games in my collection, nearly all of which are better than this, so why bother. I am very disappointed - the theme sounded very cool.


With a collection that size, Rocketville would probably only get played once a year unless it was an absolute favorite. Playing it only once won't be enough to show who is the most skilled player. This was the point of my card game analogy. I think Rocketville would be fine for a family with a much more modest game collection, in that it would get more plays.
 
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Mattias Fall
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Dave,

I hadn´t considered this game, but I enjoyed your review very much. I would probably not have read it if it didn´t have 14 thumbs up, so keep recommending good reviews everyone. I guess this also shows I like reviews that confirm my impression of a game, so that I don´t have to reconsider
 
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Eric Dodd
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What was the next line of that song?

Something like:
"...don't waste another day."

Seems appropriate.

It's good to find out about a game before the hype has reached this end of the world. Thumbs up.
 
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Jesse Miller
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and waste another year...
 
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Dave wrote:
I think Rocketville would be fine for a family with a much more modest game collection, in that it would get more plays.

Wouldn't that family be better off in buying a game that doesn't suck? If the game isn't fun, why would a family with a modest collection bring Rocketville to the table instead of different game they own?
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pronoblem baalberith
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spearjr wrote:
Wouldn't that family be better off in buying a game that doesn't suck? If the game isn't fun, why would a family with a modest collection bring Rocketville to the table instead of different game they own?


My thoughts exactly. "would be fine for a family with a much more modest game collection" translate too: lousy games get played more when there are not many other options.
 
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howl hollow howl
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pronoblem wrote:
spearjr wrote:
Wouldn't that family be better off in buying a game that doesn't suck? If the game isn't fun, why would a family with a modest collection bring Rocketville to the table instead of different game they own?


My thoughts exactly. "would be fine for a family with a much more modest game collection" translate too: lousy games get played more when there are not many other options.


The context of my statement wasn't about whether the game was fun or not. It was referring to the claim of luck overwhelming skill.
 
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howl hollow howl
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And, for the record, I'm a proponent of "fun" for family gaming, and I think Rocketville is as dull as many other popular Euros (e.g., Ticket to Ride, Carcassone). Some examples of games that have a similar weight to Rocketville but are more "fun" are Monkeys on the Moon and Dragonland.
 
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Gavin Westermeyer
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By putting Rocketville in the same catagory as Ticket to Ride and carcasonne, you are implying that it is a brilliant, fun strategic game which is extremely addictive and will probably hit the table at least 3 times a week for the first few months and at least once a week thereafter.
Hmmm. This contradicts the previous comments which imply that this game is pure rubbish to be avoided at all costs. Confusing to say the least.
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