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I recently experienced the problem mentioned here, with myself being one of the enthusiasts pushing other party members around. It wasn't intentional, it's just that the structure of the game lends itself to giving each other lots of advice.

I'm interested in Arkham Horror, but want to know whether people have experienced the same problem with it. If you have experienced the problem, how? If not, and you think it's related to game mechanics, how so?

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Not strictly Arkham Horror related, but I have never been tempted to play (the very popular cooperative game) Pandemic after my first time - spending an hour having the person most familiar with the game tell every other player what to do, in order for the group to stand the best chance of winning, just wasn't my idea of fun :-/ I think a co-op game works better if it enforces some level of autonomy for each of the individual players, myself. –  thesunneversets Dec 29 '10 at 4:14
    
@thesun -- I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who had the same Pandemic experience –  LittleBobbyTables Jan 15 '11 at 12:45
    
Update: I just played Space Hulk: Death Angel (boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71721/…) with my wife for the first time, and it seems not to have this problem (my expert analysis after one game). The Instinct features on event cards help, as do the relatively fast gameplay and simple rules. –  Andrew Vandever Nov 21 '11 at 20:06
    
@thesunneversets One of my friends and I play pandemic a lot. Once when we played with a new player we noticed we were giving too much advice. Now when we play we put only 4 epidemic cards in the deck and try to give almost no advice. It has worked quite well. (we also never play with the hidden hand rule as it needlessly complicates planning future actions, but using it could also potentially help this problem) –  Matt Nov 13 '12 at 14:27
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

That's just the nature of the beast, from what I have seen.

I was frankly shocked that Arkham Horror got so many votes in that question -- there's no way in this lifetime or the next that my wife, any of her friends, or any of my friends' wives would play that game more than once, partly for the reason you've listed.

I have found that Arkham Horror plays the best when everyone knows the game equally well, or very close to equal. It's hard to measure, but everyone at a minimum should understand all the core rules, and there's probably going to be one or two people who have memorized the contents of each deck, and have read up on strategies for certain characters to help with decision-making.

For new players, I would do two things:

  1. Try to go over as many of the rules and concepts as possible before starting. I know that's a lot to ask, but if people don't understand the overall goal, the game can be extremely intimidating. Try to explain what's in each deck so people have an idea of where to go for things.
  2. Ask new players up front if they want to be coached and advised, or if they want to just feel things out for themselves. Some people take advise better than others, and some just want to learn by doing.

The first time I ever played, we played a six player game where only one of the guys had played with any regularity, so he acted as the GM for the session (managing the state of the game, reading the cards, moving monsters, enforcing rules, etc.). However, the rules weren't thoroughly explained beforehand, so we just stumbled around the first four or five turns trying to figure out what to do.

I would have loved to have been given advice instead of stupidly stumbling through a portal with no way of closing it after returning. The whole "what the heck are we even trying to do here?" feeling from just stumbling around left a bad impression on me about the game for a long time afterwards.

We ended up sending out a PDF copy of the rules to everyone to read as "homework" so we could be better prepared next time we played.

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I disagree with forcing everyone to read the rule book -- only one person really needs to understand the rules completely to keep the game running. Everyone else just needs to understand basic concepts. –  David Fullerton Dec 20 '10 at 20:17
    
@David Fullerton -- "forcing" is a strong word -- we all agreed reading the rulebook was a good idea. Your mileage may vary, but I guess we'll just disagree. –  LittleBobbyTables Dec 21 '10 at 3:53
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I've successfully played Arkham Horror several times with non-gamers (and myself being the kind who tends to push others around). My tips:

  1. Think of yourself as the GM. You'll be the one who keeps the game moving, and your primary job is making sure everyone is having fun. As much as possible, give your character the supporting jobs and let them play the game.

  2. Simplify the game for them by focusing on the concepts, not the rules. My super-simple explanation of the game to get someone started:

    We win the game by sealing gates. You need 5 clue tokens to seal a gate, but sealing a gate is dangerous so make sure you're ready. You'll need 4+ stamina/sanity, and a weapon or two. You can get weapons in a bunch of ways, but the easiest way is to go get some cash.

    Yes, this is a gross over-simplification, but it gives them a roadmap for their character and a sense of progression, instead of random wandering around.

  3. Let them play selfishly, even if it's not an optimal strategy. Nothing ruins a new player's fun like having to give up a Tommy Gun because someone else could use it more effectively. Each turn, they should have something to do to try and make their character more awesome: get an item, get a monster or gate trophy so they can trade it in, etc.

  4. Give options, not orders: "You could go to the Newspaper and try to get some money, or you could go kill this monster, or go over here and help someone else" etc. If they make what seems like a bad choice, oh well, the game can still be fun even if you lose.

  5. Don't be afraid to bend the rules in the first game. An early monster or rumor draw can really make a game impossible. I'll often quietly redraw in those cases if I'm playing with inexperienced players to give them a chance.

Overall, Arkham has been a great cooperative game for everyone I've played it with.

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Point #1 is well made. In fact I've played the game before where few people knew how to play and the games owner sat out and "ran" the game, ensuring everything was kept track of and done in order, and offering everyone advice. Everyone picked it up quite quickly and had a good time. –  jdigaetano Dec 21 '10 at 0:05
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