Jousting and Grand Melée Rules
A4. Full colour, glossy paper. 46 pages, 21 pages actual rules, £20.00
I'm not impressed.
The first read-through left me completely baffled and bewildered; these are probably the worst written rules I've ever come across.
Not because of the mechanics, but because of the way they are presented.
Reading these books are NOT for the more faint-hearted lovers of the Queen's English. The authors seem to have completely failed to get someone without dyslexia to proof-read the text, and the reader is sometimes left wondering if they used one of those computer applications that translate the spoken word into text, instead of typing it in themselves. On several occations, almost homophonic words have been left in place for the proper term, even in large headlines ('Forward' for 'Foreword', 'or' for 'are'), and repeatedly very long sentences contain seemingly meaningless or misplaced words, making an attempt to grasp the mechanics of the game a rather painful experience.
As if the mere form of the text was not enough to confuse anyone daring enough to read it, the jousting rules over and over refer to components that are simply not contained within the book. Well, they are in the game component section, but a completely different term is used for them here (Shield Cards = Skill Cards, Personality Cards = Lord Cards). Until one realizes this, much time is spent browsing the component section, and going 'WTF do they MEAN?!'.
Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours transforming the jousting rules into a systematic form, going through each and every sentence in the chapter, writing everything in table form, so I can easily look up the conditions during a jousting run, and see what rules come into the equation. I shouldn't have to do that after paying £20 + postage...
This boiled down to 2½ pages (if including the one-page Attain Hit Table).
Well, so much for the FORM of the rules. Now for the actual mechanics.
THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS MADE ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT I HAVE UNDERSTOOD THE MEANING OF THE RULES; THIS IS BY NO MEANS GUARANTEED, ALTHOUGH I HAVE MADE A THOROUGH ANALYSIS OF EACH SENTENCE WITH ANY CONTENT SEEMINGLY OF RELEVANCE TO THE GAME. Should you, in any way, feel that some of my points are wrong, please quote the rule in question and point out to me, what I have missed.
The authors very thoroughly have included a lot of factors and possible outcomes of a jousting run. Lot's of rules for scoring points for all kinds of little details, such as, whose horse runs fastest during the attain (actual clash), the actual hit, who is showing most skill, etc.
What really kind of ruins this whole setup for me is:
- Almost every single point scored during a run depends on a single roll of 2d6. It decides how fast your horse goes (and thus whether you reach or overshoot the Attain Area), and how/where you hit your opponent (and whether or not you unseat him and/or split your lance, or make a foul).
- Your Lord/Personality Card and your Skill/Shield Cards are only used to score 'skill points' (comparing their combined score to that of your opponent's; higher score wins and difference is scored). Your (skill!) cards have NO influence on how well you hit your opponent, that is decided solely by the 2d6 roll you make.
So, we have here a game with a set number of fields along the jousting tilt, a set number of fields at the middle of the tilt where you can make an attain, and one dice roll deciding both how far you go, and where you hit your opponent + 1 or 2 cards (played totally independently of the dice roll).
You can actually calculate which combined results will result in an attain, lesser attain, and/or no attain, and it would be possible to completely skip the miniatures and the tilt, making up a master table showing every possible outcome of the 2 players' dice rolls, because the only thing that affects the outcome of a jousting run is how the results of the 2 2d6 dice rolls relate; the (skill!) cards do not influence the result, but are merely used to define a few more points scored. You could just as well in turn draw 3 or 4 cards each from a normal card deck, counting the wins, letting the winner score the difference. Well, the only difference is, that your Lord/Personality Card (with a bonus or penaly) stays with you all through the tournament, so perhaps you should draw a card beforehand that you could decide to use instead of drawing from the deck, once per 3 runs...
So, per run, one dice roll, 1 or 2 cards played - and LOTS of calculations/book-keeping.
So, is this 'a game of skill and daring' as stated by one of the authors in the 'Opening Foreward' (geez!!)?
- Well, there's not much skill in rolling 2 dice (unless you're REALLY clumsy)
- The only things you control in the game is in which sequence you play your 3 randomly drawn Skill/Shiels Cards (and, as you have no idea what cards your opponent drew, it matters a horse's ass), and in which of the 3 runs you want to apply the bonus/penalty of your Lord/Personality Card (I suggest you always play your cards to even out the bonuses/penalties - you'll win some and lose some, but won't lose big, unless your opponent has drawn all maximum bonus cards, in which case you wouldn't win any points, anyway).
Need I write more...?
Do we get 'realistic outcomes, that are directly influenced by how you play your shield cards, and how the personality that you are controlling interacts in the game; by clever use of the personality cards'?
- If the author is talking about the final outcome of the tourney, well, yes, I guess you can say that it is realistic in that we find a winner. And as the shield and personality cards are scoring points, how you played them mattered. But clever use? After the first run of the tourney, all players will know the personality card of all other players, and there might be some guessing, what skill card a player augments with his personality card, and some bluffing may occur.
- If the author is talking of the outcomes of the jousting runs, the cards play absolutely NO deciding role, they only give a few extra points to the one or the other. You have NOTHING to say about the aim of your lance, NO INFLUENCE on your horse's speed, and NO WAY to decide to make fair or foul hits (fouls are just a result on the Attain Hit Table).
Crossed Lances (Jousting) is purely a game of chance - a game of Ludo requires more skill, and even some knowledge of probabilities; in Crossed Lances you don't even get to play the odds in any way - the dice roll decides everything regarding the joust, and the so-called 'skill' cards just adds points on the side without influencing anything regarding the lance (I keep pointing that out because I think it shouts 'stupid and utterly obsolete mechanic').
Had this game been published in 1980, it would have felt innovative. Today, with the trend towards ever simpler, faster flowing games, it feels a bit 'last century'.
I may have to re-invent the game; I don't think I'll be able to persuade many gamers to play this regularly.
I hope the rules for the Grand Melée, the Foot Melée, and Archery are a tiny bit more interesting - I'll be going over those, soonish, and I'll post my thoughts hereabouts...