Friday, June 20, 2014

Failing Better

Today, in half an hour, I'm hosting my first "boardgames at lunch" event at my work. My office, like most in the federal government, is a large, sprawling organization of about 60. Most of us go about our days with our heads down, doing our work diligently, and then clocking out and going home. Some of us go whole weeks without barely speaking a word to each other.

Me, I just got Avalon, Coup, and Panic on Wall Street in the mail, and I really wanted to play them. Not wanting to go to the Landing tonight I decided, as I sometimes do, to bring the party to me rather than going to the party. And so I booked the office's conference room and sent out a company-wide email inviting everyone to come join me.

I'm a little nervous. There are a few people in the office I don't care much for. What if they show? Worse yet, what if no one shows? What if my e-invite gets ignored and trashed, like most invites I myself get throughout the week? Even worse still, what if people show, and it sucks?

I got a little panicked about it. Then I remembered something I read the other day from comedian Jeff Garlin (not an exact quote):

"The trick to stand-up isn’t so much about learning how to be funny. It’s about learning how to fail. The most you can hope for is to eventually fail better." 

He may be just talking about stand-up comedy. But he could just as well be talking about tabletop gaming. Not necessarily in the playing of the games themselves, but in doing this thing that I do, where I start new groups and organize new events and teach new games. It's not about walking out of there and thinking "That was SUCCESSFUL!" The best I can hope for is to have a good time and meet some new friends. That's not exactly "failing better," but when I stop framing these things in terms of success or failure, I do feel a bit better about it.

So, with that, here goes nothing!



an hour later....


Only three people showed up, though the office head and his second in command both came by to express their support for my initiative. I was also featured in the director's "Shout Out of the Week." So that was cool. Next week I'll put the email out a couple of days in advance instead of the morning of. It is possible (though unlikely) that some people already had plans and simply couldn't come because of that.

With only four total players, I busted out Coup. I really wanted to play Avalon, but with only four players, that wasn't going to happen. That left Panic on Wall Street or Coup. Panic sounds like it's best with at least five or six (or, better, 7-10), so Coup it was. I think it was the right choice. We played several games, though only one of them was played correctly. We had a great time together, and all three of the participants want to do this again next week, which I fully intend on doing.

Coup, for those of you who don't know, is a card game of hidden roles. One of my co-workers described it as "Bullshit, with a sci-fi theme." That is a crude, though not inaccurate description. You have two character cards. Each character has a special action. On your turn, you perform an action. The kicker, though, is no one sees your cards, so you could pretend to have a card you don't have and take an action you can't normally take. If you're called out on it, you lose that card. If you're called out on it and you do actually have the right character, you reveal that character, and the person who called you out loses one of their cards. Lose both cards and you're out of the game. Last person standing wins. There's a little bit more to it than that, but that's the general idea in a paragraph.

This was the first time I played Coup. Though there are only a few rules, those few rules are important, and missing even one can create an unacceptable amount of shenanigans. Here are the things we tripped up on during the first few games. I offer these so other new players can avoid the mistakes we made. If any of you Coup players out there know of any other newb traps (or, heaven forbid, I'm wrong in one of my rules interpretations) please let me know!

  • Influence and Coins are two DIFFERENT things. Influence is, basically, your cards. You NEVER get more Influence. 
  • When someone calls you out and you reveal the correct card, that card goes back into the deck and you draw another. Put another way, if you have two Influence, you have two unrevealed cards. 
  • When you lose Influence and you have to reveal a card, you no longer get to use the abilities of that card. You still keep the card in front of you to remind everyone that a) you're down a card and b) all players can see what's not in the deck any longer.
  • If you attempt an action you couldn't possibly do and no one calls you out on it, it's always legal. For example, if you assassinate someone but all three assassin cards are out of the game, if your victim doesn't call you out on it, then it's still a valid, legal assassination. 


All in all, I had a great time, and so did everyone else. I'll call that a pretty good failure!

1 comment:

  1. As an expert on failing it is awesome. I improve each time I fail. Good luck and have a blast with your fellow gamers.

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