Friday, May 13, 2005

When Smart People Play Dumb

I do it too. At least, I like to think so, because I can't otherwise understand how such an intelligent person such as myself just can't beat my brother at 9 Men's Morris, a pathetically simple game. I also expect never to win at wargames, such as Battle Cry, mostly because I am too impatient to care.

My wife is getting her PhD; she can often beat me at Puerto Rico and Scrabble, and just as often lose. She can read deep difficult English sentences in philosophy and literature that make my head swim. I can read difficult rules and technical manuals that make her head swim. Playing dumb ... or lack of interest? (I refer you to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.)

I played T&E with someone who played dumb last game. No matter how many times I explained the game - top to bottom, bottom to top, how to score points, how to score points more efficiently, how to take treasures, how to "get your leaders into a kingdom", and that this is not "your kingdom", she refused to understand.

I think T&E is a showpiece for this type of problem. It is not really that hard:

- If you place a leader into a kingdom with another leader of the same color, you cause an internal conflict. Internal conflict strength is the number of red tiles surrounding your leader plus red tiles from your hand. Loser removes his leader. Winner gains 1 red point.

- If you place a tile that merges two kingdoms, the tile placed scores no points. If there are now two leaders of the same color in the new kingdom, there is an external conflict. There may be up to four external conflicts. Strength is all tiles of the color of your leader from the previous kingdom plus tiles of that color from your hand. Loser removes leader and all tiles of that color from the previous kingdom (exception: red). Winner gains 1 point of that color for all removed items. After resolving one conflict, the kingdom may be separated, and the remaining conflicts may no longer exist. Otherwise, resolve the next conflict.

- After resolving all conflicts, if any, if a green leader is in a kingdom with more than one treasure he takes all but one.

- If you place 4 tiles that form a square, you can flip them to form a monument that shares at least one color with the flipped tiles. At the end of any player's turn, if he has one or more leaders in the kingdom that match one of the colors of the monument, he gains 1 point of that color. This may happen multiple times for multiple leaders and/or monuments. Check at the end of each player's turn.

That's the rules, give or take some minor items. Certainly no harder than Dvonn or Backgammon. But the phenomenon of not understanding this game is just amazing.

"How do I get my leader into that kingdom?" "How do I get all those points?" "How can I get the treasure?" Of course, that's not the question, the question is not "How does one get a treasure?" but "How can I get that treasure?" Sort of like, "How can I do that checkmate thingie?" I try to answer the first question, and then I try to give some help for the second question, but ... but, the answer is: experience. Try it and see. Just please don't throw your hands up and say you can't figure this game out because you can't figure out how to get that treasure.



Iain said...

I don't mean to sound harsh, but you might need to shoulder some of the blame here.

It could be that your teaching was confusing.

I am sure Rachel would get it if she just read the rules.

I had a similar mental block with trick-taking games, until relatively recently. My friend taught me the game, but did not teach me the real concepts, and confused me with constant confusing advice. He must have beaten me at German Whist 20 times on the trot, until I decided enough was enough and refused to play any more.

Yehuda said...

Oh, I'll accept it. I love blame.

(BTW, I deleted the reference to this being Rachel that I was trying to play with, and then you went and noted it in the comment. Urp.)