Game play stages

In my view, the trajectory of game play goes through four principal stages:

1. Learning
2. Competence
3. Expert
4. Moving on

The Learning stage is typified by players fathoming out the game rules and basic strategies.  In most gaming groups only one or two players will read the rulebook, so the Learning stage will usually involve a combination of trial and error and teaching.  Depending on the complexity of the game, this stage will take from one to as many as a dozen plays.  In groups in which players rotate a lot, teaching the game may last months, and some players may never move out of the Learning stage, because they are consistently teaching new players.

At some point most players will become competent with the game mechanics and basic strategies.  During this stage, a proportion of players will improve their technique and develop more successful strategies that take into account the strategies used by other players.  Many players will go from the Competence stage to Moving on, as new games take their fancy.

A small proportion of players become Expert, with an advanced knowledge and deep understanding of the game (if it is the type of game that permits this level of play).  Typically Expert players will be able to tailor their strategies to those of other players and will have a range of optimum plays easily at their disposal that mean they can readily win against competent players and can only be seriously challenged by other experts.

Moving on occurs, as you might expect, when the game has been played so much that it has grown relatively stale, and new games have more appeal.  The game might still get occasional nostalgic play, but not the concentration of previous stages.

These four stages are likely to be run through by different players at different rates and times, but there is likely to be some polarisation within playing groups, simply because the players play together.

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