As I alluded to last week, I spent a good amount of time this past week attempting to learn OCS. It was difficult to find more than 45 minutes or so to really dig into it, but I gave it my best. It didn't help that our older car threatened to die completely on us last Thursday. We took the opportunity to trade it in for a new Scion xB. Needless to say, I was a tad distracted by that for a good chunk of the weekend.
Anyway, here's some of the techniques I used to attempt to learn this game.
- Punch out all the counters for the scenario we'd be playing and set them up.
- What on earth do all these colors on the counters mean? Time to study the counter symbology. (OCS uses four different colors of numbers and backgrounds in their unit ratings to indicate a variety of things. All important, of course.)
- Find the terrain legend. (What is it doing on map A, anyway? What do you mean it's not on a separate reference card?) Examine the lay of the land to find choke points. The scenario is played on one full map, and the hexes are five miles each. However, since the turns represent half a week, a unit can cover a LOT of ground in one turn, particularly if it's on a primary road. I still am having trouble wrapping my brain around the scale.
- Okay, I'm playing the Italians, what forces do I have? What are the objectives of the scenario? What's the supply situation?
That was one night's worth. Probably an hour or so of just orienting myself to the physical components of the game.
Then, I started reading. I didn't read the rules in order, but skipped around reading a major section at a time – I covered air power a couple times. Had trouble getting that to stick in my brain.
Monday night, the day before we were supposed to play, I set up the scenario again, and starting mocking out plans – nothing really concrete, just an idea of how the game would flow. The British have a LOT to do in two short turns, but it definitely seemed plausible. I didn't work through any mock combats, though. Just reread the detailed examples in the rulebook.
I arrived at Keith's place earlier tonight feeling like I was about to explode my head. He had the scenario set up (as he always does – he's a great host) and after a bit of chat we got right down to things.
Keith had rather bad luck in this game, but we were simply using it for a learning experience. We only played one of the two turns in the scenario, but we learned more in those 90-105 minutes than the entire previous week. There's absolutely nothing that can top simply sitting down with the game and working through the situations to see what happens. You really get a feel for the big picture that you can't get pushing counters at home, or playing the games solo.
I do feel I prepared as well as I could have, however. There's just too much in the rulebooks to remember it all your first time out.
I'd go into a lot of the lessons we learned, but that really doesn't matter, as there's probably no more than one or two of you out there that cares about trace supply and when it's checked – it's the process of learning a big game that's important here. Given how things laid out, here's how I'd approach it next time (and this assumes my opponent is learning the game as well):
- Familiarize yourself with the physical components first. Only refer to the rules when you want a definition for something on the counters or map.
- Read through the rules, front to back. Don't worry if you don't "get" something.
- Mentally walk through the sequence of play for a typical turn. This is particularly important in games where supply takes a major role. Learn when supply comes into play.
- Scan the table of contents. Reread sections where you don't think you have good grasp of what's going on.
- Pick a scenario (assuming there's more than one) and set it up. Look at the victory conditions and think about what each side needs to do.
- Play a dry run. This is what Keith and I did earlier tonight. Play through with the intent of going after the victory conditions but don't try to optimize. Don't worry if three stacks of units suddenly disappear because you didn't understand the supply rules properly.
- Write down questions as you play.
- Reread the rules as soon as possible to try to catch things you didn't get the first time. This is where I go next. I'm sure I'll run across a lot of things that we missed or did wrong. I'll log them all, and we'll give it another go.
We're trying a larger scenario next time, and we'll only plan on doing one turn a night. Two if we're lucky. It's nine turns, and we meet every other week, so we should be done in, oh, late September or so.
For the other half of my "big game" fix, 18FL arrived today. Can't wait to get this on the table. John Tamplin (Deep Thought Games) does a fantastic job on his kits. His work is highly recommended.