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I\'m sorry, but I just detest the very *concept* of this game. For one, it\'s just a Crazy Eights knockoff at its very core. For two, the whole gimmick relies on double-secret rules and trial-and-error.
Pardon my anger here, but what is the Goddamned point of playing a *card game* if nobody knows the actual rules? That\'s not fun, that\'s fumbling in the dark and getting slapped in the face for the slightest mistake, not even knowing what you\'ve done wrong?!
And don\'t come to me going \"It makes you think!\" or something like that. This isn\'t fun, this isn\'t funny, this is just designed to piss people off.
I will never be caught dead playing this.
I wrote a large proportion of the Mao card game articles on TV Tropes and so I\'d like to address your point, although I think you might not ever see it because I don\'t think TV Tropes notifies anyone when a reply has been added. (Heck, I wouldn\'t even have seen this discussion if I hadn\'t actively looked for it).
I was first introduced to Mao by a friend about 15 years ago; they had secured an empty common room specifically for an evening of playing the game. And I fell in love with it pretty much immediately.
The very idea of a game where you can change the rules is something that had just never occurred to me, and I was thrilled by the potential of such a mutable, ever-changing game. Every session is different, every personality brings something unique to the game, and after a while it blows up into hilarious insanity as rules layer upon rules and everyone struggles to keep track of what the game has turned into.
But I\'ve also seen people in that exact same situation who just didn\'t take to it at all. Being British, they were polite and didn\'t say anything, but it was clear that they found it frustrating and didn\'t want to play. And I realized that not everyone saw the game the way I did, which was really my motivation in these pages to try to introduce the game in a newbie-friendly fashion; to emphasize the parts that I love before getting to the parts that turn people off.
But, I do think that people who think this way all missed the point of the game, and I think you have too. You ask what the point is of playing a card game if nobody knows the rules. The thing is... that is the point.
It\'s not even a particularly strange game mechanic to figure out rules or hidden information as you play. The classic puzzle game Mastermind works in a similar way, for example. Logic and inference, along with trial and error, are precisely one of the challenges of Mao. If all the rules had been explained to me before I played, I would have been deprived of exactly the unique challenge that the game offers, and we might as well have just played a dull game of Crazy Eights.
That\'s the real reason people aren\'t told the rules before they play. It isn\'t supposed to be a hazing, although I can easily see how people would take it that way.
The penalties in Mao aren\'t meant to be a slap in the face or a \"ha ha, you\'re doing it wrong\". New players are expected to do it wrong; how could they not? Penalties provide a means by which players can measure their success and improvement at the game (since they\'ll receive fewer penalties the more they figure things out), which is a gratification that again, I wouldn\'t wish to deprive anyone of.
And remember, the penalties aren\'t there for newbies; they\'re for everyone. This is another uniquely Mao feature that other games don\'t have; the penalty system is democratic. Anyone can enforce it and no-one is safe from it, not even experienced players (who can easily slip up, or be flummoxed by new rules when they arise).
Anyway, that\'s my perspective on the game. I hope it helps answer some of your questions.
Maybe it\'s the way my brain\'s wired; I don\'t like the lack of a known base to build off of. If I\'ve got a good, solid, known set of rules, I have a lot more fun because I know what\'s going on. And I would very quickly get annoyed and ranty should I play this game. A few hands in, I\'d be screaming and throwing cards across the room. Give me solid, known ground rules, please.
Hell, if there were an abbreviated rulesheet, available to all, that just gives the basics and a line about there being more, unstated rules there, I\'d be far, far more receptive. That way, in my thinking, it\'s maximum fun, minimum bull.
Concerning the penalties: yeah, they\'re democratic, but newbies wouldn\'t know to administer one correctly. Screw a penalty call up and you get it right back with a \"bad call\" additional penalty card. At least half the time that\'s how a neophyte would have to find out about where they went wrong. I\'m not a big fan of penalizing first offenses in games.
Now, my ranty BS aside, I thank you for your extremely thoughtful reply and dropping me a line to notify me of such. I\'ll return the favor.
No worries. :) I guess it does come down to personal choice, since I do agree that Mao players have to *want* to put themselves through that penalty-prone trial-and-error process, or they won\'t have a good time :)
It's hard enough playing chess, where you have to keep track of every piece having differnet rules.. How would anyone short of a savant play this game?
"Would", I'm not sure, but "why" would be "it's hilarious."
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