Memory-Proof Rules

The odds of correctly plugging in a USB connector without peeking are 50/50. Therefore it will take you three tries to plug it in. Even when I peek, I still get it wrong oftentimes.

The same thing happens to me with game rules. It may be a blind spot, where no matter how many times the question comes up, I can’t assimilate the answer. The rule for characters going insane or unconscious in Arkham Horror is one case of this: remind me what counts as an item they can lose? With expansions, it becomes even more of a quirky corner case that rarely comes up as players opt to take a madness or injury, since they’re less directly debilitating than losing hard-won goodies.

Other times, a rule can go one of two ways, and my brain always picks the wrong way to remember it. Even when the information is written out right in front of me on a card, I get lost in the heat of figuring out to do and can consistently misread something until I throw it on the table and someone else points out that’s not how it works. I very consistently hamstrung myself in a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse a couple weekends ago because I misread Haka’s base power as doing 1 damage, rather than 2; and considering that’s his core shtick, it was a big goof on my part and very annoying to have pointed out after three or four turns of playing it wrong.

This week, playing Call of Cthulhu with Toby, I think I misread Fine Dining about seven times: “Sacrifice a character to choose a character with printed cost 2 or higher. That character gains (C)(C)(A)(A) and Invulnerability until the end of the phase.” About half of the times I looked at that card — and I had to keep looking, because I knew my brain was flip-flopping between two possible interpretations — I thought the sacrificed character had to cost 2 or greater, rather than the character benefiting from the icon boost. I think I threw that one on the table to play incorrectly only once, but I glanced at the text to double-check no fewer than a dozen times, easily.

This kind of brain fart comes with learning any game, particularly those with extremely fine grained rules and wording. Add on the hyper-modularity of games with pre-constructed decks, and it seems like I’ll be training myself to read every word and consider its meaning — and kicking myself when I forget to do so — for a long time yet.

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