Systems You Left after One Bad Experience

Retreater

Adventurer
I wonder if I'm unique in that I don't stick with games that don't work. I suppose this is because I have many other games to try.

I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast different game systems we've tried and left. It could be something you played once and decided it wasn't right for you. Or maybe you played a few games and one really bad experience made you put up the books for good.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault
We were excited to play the "new Descent" with Star Wars flavor. I bought the expensive starter set, learned the rules, and called up my group to play. We started the first mission, which was a slaughter in the favor of the Imperial player. The group, realizing how poorly designed the opening mission was refused to play the game again. I reboxed it while it was still fresh, and luckily got a good price at resale for it.

Kill Team
Assembled, painted and read up on the rules. Finally found a guy willing to play with me, and it ended up being a completely one-sided rout, showing how badly written the rules are.

Age of Sigmar
It's on me. My fiancee and I played using the quick play rules available in the starter set. Because point values weren't given, the two armies were completely lop-sided. One side destroyed another without losing a single figure.

Numenera
A nano with literally one usable power and one skill? Damage mechanics that unfairly punish other classes? No wonder this lasted one session.

Hollow Earth Expedition
Once players learned you could one-shot anything with a called shot to the head with minimal penalties, this game got tiring quickly.

Warhammer FRP 3e
Made two random characters. One was a ratcatcher who couldn't beat a goblin in combat. The other was a slayer dwarf who could kill a dragon single-handedly. Follow the mantra. Box it up, resell it quickly.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Most game systems don't get as far as a single session. A few get played extensively because the mechanics do the job better than any other I've tried with the same game conceits. There are a few I can recall running/playing a single session of:

  • Vampire the Masquerade: the system did not support the presented play expectations. I didn't want to keep applying force as the GM to make the play experience match expectations. Easier to emulate the universe in Hero (GURPS became easier after it published a source book for it). Shelved.
  • Chill 1st ed: the system was stupendously lethal and really couldn't support campaign play (which is what the GM was pitching). I think it actually went 2 session each with 75%+ PC death. Shelved.
  • Morrow Project: Session 1, a PC partially exposed in a APC was killed by a thrown rock inflicting hydrostatic shock. We already had Aftermath and went back to that. Shelved.
  • MERP went maybe 3? sessions where I inflicted a TPK in each session because I could not stop rolling 96+ on the openly rolled dice -- except when the NPCs tried to use non-lethal capture tactics and I had trouble rolling as high as 10. Shelved.
  • Rifts: One PC had a glitterboy. Another was a mundane hippie. Power level imbalance was too much. Fixing char gen looked harder than emulating the universe in Hero. Sold.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Generally speaking, if the game mechanics are so bad that they would make me want to quit after the first session, then it's unlikely that the game will make it to the table in the first place. If it's really that bad, then I'll reject it while reading the book. If it's good enough to warrant a first session, then I'm inclined to give it a few more sessions to figure things out.

The one exception was a playtest, during the very first game I tried to seriously write. The math was not sound, the bookkeeping was obnoxious, and I was blind to everything until I'd seen it in play.
 
Robotech. The game was unplayable as the rules were written and you would think a 5yo wrote the books the editing was so horrible.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
Numenera
A nano with literally one usable power and one skill? Damage mechanics that unfairly punish other classes? No wonder this lasted one session.
Sad to see this one - I really enjoyed Numenera, but I was a kickstarter backer and played through all the playtests, so when the core material came out, there was plenty of old material to keep and discard the more limited things you see in the final release.

As for my own one-session games, pretty much anything with ridiculously 'swingy' luck incorporated - like Savage Worlds and Warhammer FRP 1 (2 was a bit better, and 4 is pretty decent as well).
 

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
We were excited to play the "new Descent" with Star Wars flavor. I bought the expensive starter set, learned the rules, and called up my group to play. We started the first mission, which was a slaughter in the favor of the Imperial player. The group, realizing how poorly designed the opening mission was refused to play the game again. I reboxed it while it was still fresh, and luckily got a good price at resale for it.
Well that just seems like a missed opportunity due to misplaced expectations, which is surprising since you suggest having some familiarity with "Descent". The two games play nearly the same, but I felt the Star Wars version had improved on a number of things, and not just thematically. The campaign structure is far more flexible allowing for more variety and greater repeatability. And while every expansion provides a new campaign or mini-campaign, each miniature expansion also offers a new mission that could be used in any of them. Personally, I don't want anyone to dismiss this game based only on your comments about a limited perspective/experience (no offense), so I'm just going to offer another perspective for balance. :)

One thing to keep in mind is that the Imperial player is not a GM. He/she is, in fact, another player who is actively opposing the others who are playing together as a team. And since they're not challenging a programmed or static environment, the experience can vary depending on the skill of the players involved on both sides. The Imperial player gains XP and power ups to improve abilities and options as the campaign progresses, just like the Rebel players do and regardless of the outcome of their last mission. The Imperial player enjoys more resources and abilities, obviously, but they are usually more expendable and thematically unique from the Rebel-perspective.

The Imperial player may also have the advantage of being more familiar with the rules, but that is not the fault of the game design. Players who want to be more skilled at the game should want to familiarize with the rules on their own, and strive for some level of mastery. Plus, they need to be able to work as a team. So a bunch of lone-wolf types trying to gain accomplish everything on their own is less likely to achieve good results. If the Imperial player loses, he only has himself to blame. ;)

More importantly, the campaign doesn't end whenever one side wins or loses. It progresses with the winner selecting the next mission. There may be some other rewards, but all the players earn something regardless if they win or lose. If the Rebel players expect to win just because they are the "heroes", that is something that must be earned. They must learn to play better and that's not likely going to happen the first time they sit down to play. Maybe that is a flaw in the design that might not seem so appealing to everyone. In fact, we now see more app-driven games replacing similar adversarial roles in favor of more cooperative play styles.

Anyway, its a shame you didn't give it a really good chance, especially since the app came out and created a fully co-op game mode without the need for an Imperial player. Your group may still not have liked it, but I do feel the experience would have gotten better if you had been able to see how the campaign evolves and the players improved. Of course, it is no longer being reprinted now. I am glad I have most of the expansions and figures I want, but my intention is to finish the collection before its too late. And maybe someday I'll get to play through some of the other campaigns and expansions I haven't gotten around to yet. ;)
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Cosigned on both of those. As much as I love Tolkien, the rules just got in the way and it ended up feeling like just a weird, complicated D&D, rather than the world of Middle-Earth.

By the time Rifts came along, I was already souring on the Palladium system. It didn’t take much from that to push me over the edge.

For me, the most recent game that comes to mind is the Agon RPG. Character creation was the best part of it – we got to create these interesting Hellenistic heroes and communally tell stories of how they met and their legends. Then, once we actually started to play the game, we were all nearly killed by a desert, all our characters left as wretched weaklings. Hardly epic or fun.

  • MERP went maybe 3? sessions where I inflicted a TPK in each session because I could not stop rolling 96+ on the openly rolled dice -- except when the NPCs tried to use non-lethal capture tactics and I had trouble rolling as high as 10. Shelved.
  • Rifts: One PC had a glitterboy. Another was a mundane hippie. Power level imbalance was too much. Fixing char gen looked harder than emulating the universe in Hero. Sold.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Dogs in the Vineyard. I found the drawn out and extremely metagame conflict resolution squashed any and all dramatic tension from play.
 

Gradine

Archivist
FATE Accelerated. Ran as a one-shot at work; thought the system would be open and fun, ended up with players trying to come up with increasingly ludicrous reasons to apply their favored approach, an ultimately annoying metagame that the rules seemed to encourage. I might still try FATE itself at some point, but I'm a hard pass on FAE.
 
I wonder if I'm unique in that I don't stick with games that don't work.
It's not unusual to not stick with a game that doesn't work - unless the game that doesn't work is D&D, then you don't just stick with it, you defend it zealously and re-define what a game is even supposed to be so that the way it doesn't work is exactly the way everything /should/ work, and it's all other games that have problems!


I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast different game systems we've tried and left. It could be something you played once and decided it wasn't right for you. Or maybe you played a few games and one really bad experience made you put up the books for good.
Well, I've played exactly none of those, and only heard of two.

I've rarely just tried a game and given up on it immediately. Games have their own feel, their own purpose and design goals, and are trying to model often quite different stories, so if one doesn't seem to work right away, it might just be that it's operating on a different level than what you're used to. Many games that I have abandoned haven't been because they were bad in any sense, but just because they didn't set themselves apart enough to really hold interest (games I like would probably fall in the same category for others - taste has a lot to do with it).

That said:

Space Opera: I really tried, but ultimately it seemed unplayable as written. Never could actually get a group through character generation & start playing.

GURPS: Actually played it quite a while, but it was ultimately just /some/ of the positives offered by Hero, with a lot of extra negatives thrown in, in the name of some sort of realism.

Rolemaster: OMG. I routinely embrace overly-complex games, but, just no. Of course, I tried it early on when it was the separate "_____ Law" boxed sets, it could've improved, I suppose.

Aftermath!: Like d20 Modern Gamma World crossed with Rolemaster - overly complex & depressing, gave up in chargen.

…hm … now that I think of it, I've not felt the need to outright-reject any of the more modern game's I've tried, the really appalling stuff seems to have been in the 80s. Maybe I was just too judgmental as a kid. ;)
 
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Retreater

Adventurer
Well that just seems like a missed opportunity due to misplaced expectations, which is surprising since you suggest having some familiarity with "Descent". The two games play nearly the same, but I felt the Star Wars version had improved on a number of things, and not just thematically. The campaign structure is far more flexible allowing for more variety and greater repeatability. And while every expansion provides a new campaign or mini-campaign, each miniature expansion also offers a new mission that could be used in any of them. Personally, I don't want anyone to dismiss this game based only on your comments about a limited perspective/experience (no offense), so I'm just going to offer another perspective for balance. :)

One thing to keep in mind is that the Imperial player is not a GM. He/she is, in fact, another player who is actively opposing the others who are playing together as a team. And since they're not challenging a programmed or static environment, the experience can vary depending on the skill of the players involved on both sides. The Imperial player gains XP and power ups to improve abilities and options as the campaign progresses, just like the Rebel players do and regardless of the outcome of their last mission. The Imperial player enjoys more resources and abilities, obviously, but they are usually more expendable and thematically unique from the Rebel-perspective.

The Imperial player may also have the advantage of being more familiar with the rules, but that is not the fault of the game design. Players who want to be more skilled at the game should want to familiarize with the rules on their own, and strive for some level of mastery. Plus, they need to be able to work as a team. So a bunch of lone-wolf types trying to gain accomplish everything on their own is less likely to achieve good results. If the Imperial player loses, he only has himself to blame. ;)

More importantly, the campaign doesn't end whenever one side wins or loses. It progresses with the winner selecting the next mission. There may be some other rewards, but all the players earn something regardless if they win or lose. If the Rebel players expect to win just because they are the "heroes", that is something that must be earned. They must learn to play better and that's not likely going to happen the first time they sit down to play. Maybe that is a flaw in the design that might not seem so appealing to everyone. In fact, we now see more app-driven games replacing similar adversarial roles in favor of more cooperative play styles.

Anyway, its a shame you didn't give it a really good chance, especially since the app came out and created a fully co-op game mode without the need for an Imperial player. Your group may still not have liked it, but I do feel the experience would have gotten better if you had been able to see how the campaign evolves and the players improved. Of course, it is no longer being reprinted now. I am glad I have most of the expansions and figures I want, but my intention is to finish the collection before its too late. And maybe someday I'll get to play through some of the other campaigns and expansions I haven't gotten around to yet. ;)
All of this is true. I would have liked it to have worked out for the group, but they refused to play it again since the first mission in the book was one that basically set up 4 players to fail against 1 other player, creating the expectation of impossible odds for the duration of the game experience.

At least I can hope that another gaming group bought my used copy and got to enjoy their time with the game. :)
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Dogs in the Vineyard. I found the drawn out and extremely metagame conflict resolution squashed any and all dramatic tension from play.
Out of curiosity, had you read the rulebook beforehand, or were you taken mostly off-guard by the mechanics?
 
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DMMike

Game Masticator
It's not unusual to not stick with a game that doesn't work - unless the game that doesn't work is D&D, then you don't just stick with it, you defend it zealously and re-define what a game is even supposed to be so that the way it doesn't work is exactly the way everything /should/ work, and it's all other games that have problems!
This happened to me when I made the mistake of starting a game of Modos RPG that would be "similar" to D&D...

Player: Can I play a ranger?

Me: You can play whatever you want.

Player: But it's not in the book. How do I know what spells I get?

Me: Just spend a skill point on a spell to learn it.

Player: Can I fight with two swords and get extra attacks?

Me: You get three actions per round at first level, and it's up to you how many of those are attacks.

Player: Where's my armor class?

Me: Add ten to your physical bonus. Add parry skill if you have it. You can call that number your AC if you want. You'll have to use an action to defend yourself, though.

Player: You mean my AC doesn't work all the time? I have to use an action?

Me: Well, you don't need to use an action, since your armor reduces damage even when you're not defending.

Player: I think I'm going to go play D&D instead...
Lesson learned: don't mention D&D if you're not running D&D!
 

pogre

Adventurer
WFRP 3e was a one shot for our group. It was fiddly and lost a lot of the flavor of WFRP for us. We returned to 2e. Hopefully 4e will work when I run it this summer.

Vampire - the dice pools just turned my group off. We largely avoided all of the WhiteWolf games as a result.

Nobilis - I have owned Nobilis numerous times, but my group refuses to play it after our first try.

OP mentioned Age of Sigmar - there have been dozens of miniature games we played once and discarded.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Rifts and Palladium both where way too complicated and while fun to read the complexity and power imbalance made them terrible to run
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Out of curiosity, had you read the rulebook beforehand, or were you taken mostly off-guard by the mechanics?
I had not read the book, but I wasn't "taken off guard" either. I'd heard some about it before play, and had what I thought was a good briefing from the GM. I had an idea of what I was doing, and wasn't put off by the idea. But in actual play, it just didn't do it for me.
 

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