Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ghost Stories, Is It Bad To Be Hard?

I have a love-hate relationship with Ghost Stories.  On the one hand, its a good game.  On the other hand, IT IS SO HARD.  I bought the game years ago in cardboard and it took me many, many plays to win my first game on the easiest level.  But it doesn't get a lot of plays.

In February, I bought the iPad implementation.  I figured it would be a good game for the iPad.  Its got the draw back / feature of most pure cooperatives: its essentially a solitaire game.  I thought maybe playing it more often would allow me to win some games.  Not so much.

Above: me getting crushed.  Below: a snapshot of my leader board.  Notice, mostly me getting crushed.

A week or so after I got the game, I won 2 games in 20 attempts, on the easiest level of the game.  I basically gave up after that.  I decided that the game was just too hard.

Then, I read an interview with Ghost Stories' creator, Antoine Bauza, on Little Metal Dog Show.  The interviewer actually asks Mr. Bauza early on why he made Ghost Stories so hard and the answer is basically, yea we didn't want it to be so easy like some other cooperatives.  Then he reached out through the computer and smacked me in the face:

But to tell you the truth, the game is not so hard and when you know it well you cannot lose at all in easy mode and almost never lose in normal or nightmare mode.

What?  Are you kidding me?  I'm losing 90% of my easy games!  Am I doing this wrong?

So, I went to the internet -- specifically BGG's strategy forum for the game.  Wow.  I was seriously doing this wrong.

Since then, I've won 8 games in 14 tries and I seem to be getting better: 6-2 in my last 8 games.  I may even be ready to move up to whatever level is above beginner.

I think this may say more about me then the game.  I tend to like games that I can jump into quickly with some competence and enjoy.  My last instinct is to research strategies online.  I'm usually the opposite of a min-maxer.  I like my games with flavor more then ideal efficiency engines.

The other thing about Ghost Stories is that it really introduces the concept of "hard" to board games.  Normally, the difficulty of a board game is defined by your opponents, not the game itself.  And here Mr. Bauza is correct, most cooperative/solitaire games are not this hard.

And you know what?  Now that I'm competent (at easy), I'm addicted.  So maybe this hard thing is good.

1 comment:

  1. My hause rule is:

    no Taois should die (in other words: when the first Taoist dies the game is over).

    I dont play with the Cemetery tile, instead I use the Guardhouse tile from the expansion.
    Till now I play only the Initiation level difficulty.

    If you dont have the Guardhouse expansion then you may could change my single Hause rule to this:

    At the same time up to three Taoists may die during the game, however, as soon as you defeat the Incarnation (RED) card, all of your Taoists must be alive (brought back from the Cemetery tile) or you loose the game.

    The game is much more tense and exciting. It is also more suitable for more players as there is no player elimination.

    I hope somebody will try is this way.

    I have played Death Angel (DA) also and if you comapre GS (without this hause rule) with DA, GS is smipler and less difficult, as only one player may survive, and the other can die by using Qi tiles on the Sorcerer's Hut for excitising most dangerous ghosts. In DA you dont have this option, and even though you may loose all but the last one of your marines, they die much more quckly.