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Subject: Deliberate practice in solo gaming? rss

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Dave Matthew
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Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

I've been playing recently with Mage Knight and all I can say is that I'm not yet improving. My plays are currently underwhelming and I know with constant play I will finally "get it". For me, the thing with Mage Knight is that it is fun whether I win or lose but it would have been better if the win percentage is higher (bragging rights)

So my question is, do you approach a game, especially heavy ones deliberately? Like you make constant notes of where to improve the next time you play? If you can provide an example and how you approached it with the aim of getting better that would be great.
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Alex
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Say for games like Navajo Wars or KDM I'll just learn the rules, play the game, and just see what works or doesn't, make a mental note of it, come up with ideas and try em out next time.

What I don't like doing is reading strategy guides or getting online help about games. Kinda takes the fun out of a game for me a bit. Only board game I have that really applies to is KDM because you really could play for dozens of hours and be focusing your efforts in the wrong places.
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Kristabelle Du Bast
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I do that with the solo variation of Valley of the Kings. Currently just beaten difficulty 5 and for me it is an ongoing brainburn to analyse the best strategy which I feel changes with difficulty.
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Bruce Gazdecki
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No, that would make it seem too much like work.
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Whisky Fan
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Absolutely.
I keep making notes (tactical ideas, observations and also small-rules-reminders) after a game so I get more efficient/better next time.

My aim is to beat a game on its highest possible difficulty level, starting with the easiest one.

This is an extremely important part of the whole hobby, for me, I really love to „work out“ good / new strategies and seeing how I learn to master a game.
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Siân
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runaway_meeple wrote:

So my question is, do you approach a game, especially heavy ones deliberately? Like you make constant notes of where to improve the next time you play? If you can provide an example and how you approached it with the aim of getting better that would be great.

Oh yes! Once I have understood how the rules work, which can mean making lots of notes on index cards, bits of paper, and sometimes post-its, I then like to work out strategy. For complex games this can involve lots more notes, tables, and even graphs!

For games with different dice I might try and work out some simple probabilities. I did this with rallyman, but it didn’t help! shake I had fun, but still got pretty terrible times! Writing this reminds me that I would like to revisit this game and do a more systematic study...

For games where different characters have different abilities/ powers (elder sign, dungeon roll, sentinels of the multiverse...), I like to make tables of how the different characters perform.

To be honest I enjoy the note making as much as playing, and a lot of my games have various scraps of paper carefully considered research notes in them!
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Dave Matthew
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ACBez wrote:
What I don't like doing is reading strategy guides or getting online help about games. Kinda takes the fun out of a game for me a bit. Only board game I have that really applies to is KDM because you really could play for dozens of hours and be focusing your efforts in the wrong places.
I used to do this on video games but not on board games, I also like the surprise of discovering the strategy on my own. Ah KDM, I wonder how that playswhistle
Bruiser419 wrote:
No, that would make it seem too much like work.
Maybe, but doing this to a couple of games doesn’t seem like work to me.
shockaday wrote:
To be honest I enjoy the note making as much as playing, and a lot of my games have various scraps of paper carefully considered research notes in them!
Haven't tried really taking notes on paper but I do it sometimes on the laptop.
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Kristabelle Du Bast
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runaway_meeple wrote:
ACBez wrote:
What I don't like doing is reading strategy guides or getting online help about games. Kinda takes the fun out of a game for me a bit. Only board game I have that really applies to is KDM because you really could play for dozens of hours and be focusing your efforts in the wrong places.
I used to do this on video games but not on board games, I also like the surprise of discovering the strategy on my own. Ah KDM, I wonder how that playswhistle
Bruiser419 wrote:
No, that would make it seem too much like work.
Maybe, but doing this to a couple of games doesn’t seem like work to me.
shockaday wrote:
To be honest I enjoy the note making as much as playing, and a lot of my games have various scraps of paper carefully considered research notes in them!
Haven't tried really taking notes on paper but I do it sometimes on the laptop.
I'm starting to make notes when I record plays, easy to find them then!
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Dave B.
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I usually don't go overboard taking notes, analyzing decision trees, or coming up with elaborate play sequences to reuse. I prefer games where you have to think on your feet, and might make a mental note of good/bad choices in various situations. I do find it useful to compute the occasional probability distribution for dice rolls, though, to weed out sucker bets.

I'll probably have to resort to more deliberate analysis if I want to kick the bot's ass in Race For the Galaxy, though...
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Jay Jasper
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It really depends on the game: I don’t much bother with very luck dependent games, but do keep a few notes regarding strategy or rules to exploit. And like a couple of others here, I like to discover strategies on my own. I often hesitate to post a particularly juicy game on SGoYT because of the few ‘helpful’ people that just have to give strategy tips without waiting to be asked. And I tend to avoid the game forums for the same reason. I enjoy the process of discovery.
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Dave Matthew
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DonkeyJay wrote:
I often hesitate to post a particularly juicy game on SGoYT because of the few ‘helpful’ people that just have to give strategy tips without waiting to be asked. And I tend to avoid the game forums for the same reason.

Well with Mage Knight I was reading session reports the other day and I found out that it is common to plunder a village and I don't do that in my play. After that it won't be easier though still a lot of things to overcome.
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Kyle
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I play games multiplayer solo frequently, and while many of them are games where there's little to no chance of me playing them with other people, several of them actually do get played with others from time to time.

For some of those that get played both ways, I've made a deliberate effort to not play them solo very often, or in a few select cases at all. That way I avoid figuring out too many strategies or other tricks that might not be obvious on first plays, but would give an unfair advantage to anyone that knew them when playing against someone that didn't. It's better and easier when a game presents multiple viable paths to victory, but when there are are only a couple paths that actually work, it's much more enjoyable for me to just not know that path clearly, than it is deliberately play at a sub-optimal level and/or to crush someone that doesn't play the game very often.
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Colin Taylor
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Despite being an Analyst by profession, I don't really approach playing game the way I do my work. I prefer to play much looser, winging it almost, then learn through that, rather than making notes. In fact, I don't think I've ever done that.

Colin
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Chris
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I generally am perfectly fine losing games solo as for me, it's all about the time alone to enjoy a creative product that is immersive in some way. That is not to say I don't try to win and then try harder next time, but games are where I go get away from the American preoccupation with bigger better faster success.
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Kristabelle Du Bast
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Narrative games I don't get too hung up on losing constantly and will also take a different approach by houseruling. For example I was finding Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom quite tricky with two characters but really enjoying the setting and stories. Last half dozen games I have reduced the difficulty by using the one player choices instead of the two. Having great fun and think I've managed to up my gameplay and will go back to the correct difficulty soon.
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Val
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There were for me occasions when a solo play was a ‘deliberate’ and pre-determined strategy. I found that there was pull to go off track, back to my default preferences...so, it was good to challenge that and see how it worked. I’ve down this with at least 4 or 5 of the games I’ve owned, especially WHEN I hit a wall in scoring.
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Anatoly
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runaway_meeple wrote:

So my question is, do you approach a game, especially heavy ones deliberately? Like you make constant notes of where to improve the next time you play? If you can provide an example and how you approached it with the aim of getting better that would be great.

Never. This would destroy the game for me.

Taking the game so seriously as to keeping records and notes on strategy goes against everything that playtime means for me. It is a time to relax, no worry about win/lose, by how much, or what anyone else would think. I get enough of that at work. This is the same reason I don't log plays: That feels like filling out timesheets at work!

Secondly (And mostly), this would shorten the lifetime of the game for me. Doing such analysis would destroy any semblance of unpredictability or "magic" of it. Do this enough and it will come apart as no longer a special thing, but a cardboard mechanism that follows standard design tropes. A formula. An equation. Once I understand all the mechanisms, all the gotchas, all the flaws and strengths: What is there left to explore? It will become repetitive and boring. It becomes a grind. Play any game enough and eventually you will reach this level of mastery, but why speed up the process by documenting and analyzing it further?

Good example of this is Arkham Horror. This game is all about the unpredictability of the unknown. It is this theme that makes the game. But if you strip this, the game itself is nothing special: On the forum I found statistics on frequencies of gates opening for all the places on the map. I deeply regretted looking that up: Yes, I won SUBSTANTIALLY more games, but with knowing what to expect these victories became much more mechanical, boring and I felt that I was almost cheating. Yes, I would have eventually discovered that some spots open gates more often than others, but it would of taken me years instead of five seconds looking up on the forum or months of analysing my own plays.

By far the worst of analysis destroying the game for me was Book of Learning for Magic Realm. I read it because it was recommended as the most user-friendly way to learn the rules for that game. Yes, it was, but what I found is that this book also explained EVERYTHING down to detailed strategies and guides on every single character and what they should be aiming for and doing. It explained it so much, that I didn't feel there was any point in playing the game anymore. Pity, because I would have really enjoyed exploring that world with all the depths that were revealed bare.
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Dob Razil
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Math teacher here. I don't want to get into analyzing games, at least not too deeply. That would kill the fun.
I have two thoughts about that :
- if a game needs to be strongly analyzed to be successfully played, that's a no thanks for me, which puts a lot of euros out of my list,
- if a game does not apply to analysis (too random or convoluted), theme has to really shine to make it worth.

Concerning MK, one way to progress through the game is to control the tiles stack.
If you don't succeed to win, try a game with the first numbered tiles to form your stack, and put them by increasing order in your stack. That will give you the easiest configuration.
Once successful, take the same tiles (the lowest numbered ones), but shuffle them.
If still successful, begin to include higher numbered tiles, having them put after the lower numbered in the stack, so that they don't appear too fast.
Finally, you'll be able to play by only shuffling and randomly drawing.

Even if I'm rather used to win in MK, having often increased the cities levels for a challenge, it sometimes happen that the first tiles appearing are so difficult to cross that I have the worst difficulties progressing satisfyingly.
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Dave Matthew
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Lotana wrote:

Secondly (And mostly), this would shorten the lifetime of the game for me. Doing such analysis would destroy any semblance of unpredictability or "magic" of it. Do this enough and it will come apart as no longer a special thing, but a cardboard mechanism that follows standard design tropes. A formula. An equation. Once I understand all the mechanisms, all the gotchas, all the flaws and strengths: What is there left to explore? It will become repetitive and boring. It becomes a grind. Play any game enough and eventually you will reach this level of mastery, but why speed up the process by documenting and analyzing it further?

I think the same way too, it wouldn't be fun without some element of surprise. Sometimes, I feel like participating a 100-play challenge and do it as fast I can but then it got me thinking, what for, what's the hurry.



 
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Siân
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Another thought about deliberating and making notes about games:

I do this, and partly it’s just how my brain works. If I didn’t, there is no way I could remember how to play, and that really wouldn’t be fun for me. I also enjoy using post-its or tokens to remind me to do stuff, because otherwise I forget, and not occasionally, but frequently. It’s something I have to do to play, so I choose to do it in a way that is enjoyable for me. Fortunately I enjoy learning. Also, for games where I have made notes, I still forget stuff, but after playing games repeatedly (and using my notes), I can get to a level where I play competently. And believe me, despite my study, and repeated plays, there is still often an element of surprise and on the hoof scrabbling that I have to do!

It has been a pleasure to see the variety of approaches in the thread, and reminds me how diverse we all are

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Royce Reiss
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While I am a retired analyst, I do not approach board games to that level of study. I am more likely to spend my analytic time on pregame analysis, what are the likely hood of events (probability); terrain analysis if applicable, implications of event cards, etc. For some games I might try out different approaches as an exercise to see what happens but not to the extent of keeping notes. That is more likely to happen with longer wargames that have fewer total plays but more time per play.
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David Kennedy
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Lotana wrote:
Secondly (And mostly), this would shorten the lifetime of the game for me. Doing such analysis would destroy any semblance of unpredictability or "magic" of it. Do this enough and it will come apart as no longer a special thing, but a cardboard mechanism that follows standard design tropes. A formula. An equation. Once I understand all the mechanisms, all the gotchas, all the flaws and strengths: What is there left to explore? It will become repetitive and boring. It becomes a grind. Play any game enough and eventually you will reach this level of mastery, but why speed up the process by documenting and analyzing it further?
Or you can speed up the process of figuring out if the game is any good. Case in point -- Cruel Necessity. The game receives high praise. However, once you realize the various game mechanics -- Political Tracks, Off-Map Battles, Achievement Cards -- are all, by design, pointless. Essentially, there is only a single path to possible victory. All the various game mechanics are designed to distract you. There is no integration of the various design elements. The game is pure chaos. Essentially, the game is theme draped over mechanics. You learn nothing of the decisions facing the forces of Parliment. There is no narrative coherence. I figured this out by analyzing the game.

Many people crack it out once a year. Take for a spin. They are playing without any skill. They just try this or that. They have no actual agency. Works for them. Not for me. I want to know if the game is worth my time. Analysis is how I figure that out.
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Amun Rah
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Not intentional practice, but sometimes set goals for games: Beat X score or difficulty.

You will improve more if instead of playing you review yourself, say video your game and the next session instead of playing watch yourself play and then try to make a better move than the old you.
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