The Waving Flag: DBMM Report Card Results – Part 3

Thursday 20 August 2009

DBMM Report Card Results – Part 3

This is the third part of of my look at the results from a recent online survey into player’s attitudes to DBMM.

Playing The Game
Four questions in the survey were designed to assess how the rules where used during a game:
  • Needing the rulebook – 62% of players needed to refer to the rulebook during a game.  In contrast 25% did not.
  • Using the standard play sheet – 41% of players regularly used the standard play sheet during games.  45% did not.
  • Referring to the rulebook – 42% of players agreed they had difficulty consulting the rulebook during a game. 40% did not.
  • Using the Commentary – 39% of player found the Commentary useful during games.  14% did not.
What is most striking is the relatively small number of neutral responses to the first three questions above: 13, 13 and 18% respectively.  Unlike the distribution of responses in Parts 1 & 2 the distribution differs a touch from that you’d expect with almost a double humped, “polarised” or possibly even bimodal distribution.  It’s tempting to suggest that there are two distinct groups of players.

One question offered sixteen potential problem areas.  Looking at the data there’s two or three distinct groupings of interest.  The first consists of the least frequent (problem areas experienced during a game):

Average Problems No Problems
Overlaps 3.55 ± 0.98 14% 57%
Setting up 3.34 ± 1.13 32% 57%
Turning to face 3.18 ± 1.02 31% 42%

The next consists of the four most frequent (problem areas experienced during a game):

Average Problems No Problems
Superior grading 2.49 ± 1.26 62% 26%
Threat zones 2.75 ± 1.12 50% 37%
Spontaneous advance 2.74 ± 1.14 48% 31%
Extra move to line up 2.79 ± 1.16 45% 31%

The final group consists of four aspects that scored close to average but contained large percentage that experienced problems:

Average Problems No Problems
Irregular PIP costs 3.03 ± 1.17 41% 38%
Bound specific CFs 3.05 ± 1.36 39% 39%
Baggage 2.97 ± 1.20 38% 38%
Rear support factors 3.13 ± 1.22 35% 42%

Placing rear support in this last group is a close call (it could actually go in the middle group) but the fact that over a third of respondents had experienced a problem swayed me.

The last two groups are a mix of concepts and mechanisms:  all would benefit from clarification in version 1.1 but I doubt that the concepts will be fully addressed.

Relationships & Correlations
I was curious to see if there was a “double whammy” relationship between the frequency of rulebook use and the difficulty in consulting it:

Difficulty with rules Frequency Count
1 (Strongly agree) 4.29 ± 0.76 7
2 4.16 ± 1.09 43
3 (Neutral) 3.36 ± 0.85 22
4 3.20 ± 1.22 40
5 (Strongly disagree) 2.00 ± 0.82 7

There’s a nice correlation here.  Players who very rarely referred to the rulebook (score of 1 - 2 for frequency) did not find it difficult to consult the rulebook during a game (score of 4 - 5 for difficulty). The reverse holds true too.  This looks to me like the rule book is letting down those that need it the most.

Next I looked at two or three possible relationships to see if there’s an obvious explanation for the “polarised” distribution of the responses in the two questions about the rulebook.  Only two are worth reporting in detail.

Taking the overall rating first:

Overall Count Regular use of rules Difficult to use
1 (Excellent) 32 2.41 ± 1.13 4.03 ± 0.69
2 53 3.79 ± 0.95 2.74 ± 1.02
3 (Neutral) 13 4.00 ± 0.91 2.46 ± 0.78
4 6 4.67 ± 0.52 2.17 ± 0.98
5 (Poor) 13 4.62 ± 0.65 2.31 ± 0.63
All 119 3.57 ± 1.21 2.97 ± 1.09

What’s striking is that the trends aren’t as smooth as those shown in Parts one and two.  I suppose this is to be expected as the distributions aren’t similar.  It is, however clear that the group who rated DBMM as excellent made by far the least use of the rulebook during games and found it easy to consult when they did.

Taking complexity next:

Complexity Count Regular use of rules Difficult to use
2 21 2.29 ± 1.10 3.90 ± 0.89
3 (Neutral) 31 3.10 ± 1.04 3.19 ± 1.08
4 52 4.15 ± 0.87 2.63 ± 0.97
5 (V difficult) 15 4.33 ± 0.82 2.40 ± 0.83
All 119 3.57 ± 1.21 2.97 ± 1.09

Again the trends aren’t smooth but there are some clear differences. Both sets of answers can be split in two, one above the “All” average and the other below.
  • Group 1 - those that rated DBMM as difficult or very difficult used the rule book regularly during games and found it difficult to consult when they did.
  • Group 2 - those who rated DBMM as easy or neutral made less use of the rulebook during games and found it easier to consult when they did.  
I think this correlation could account for the “polarisation” but I wouldn’t say it was proof and, more importantly, I don’t have the tools or the time to do the analysis required.  However, it’s reasonable to suggest that those who find DBMM complex have to regularly consult the rulebook during a game and find it more difficult when they do.

Summary & Conclusions
  • 45% of players didn’t use the standard play sheet during games whilst 39% of respondents found the Commentary useful during games.
  • Players encountered significant problems with 50% of the areas listed (with 35 – 62% negative responses) with superior gradings and threat zones as the most frequently chosen. 
  • The majority of players (62%) regularly referred to the DBMM rule book during a game.  42% found it difficult to do so whilst 41% did not.
  • During a game players can be placed into two groups: those that rate DBMM as complex, use the rule book a lot and find it hard, and those that don’t. 
The survey has identified at least 8 specific areas that cause a lot of players problems and are obvious targets for clarification.  It will be interesting to see what version 1.1 brings.

For most players the rule book is a constant companion.  Frequent use of the rule book is linked to lower overall ratings.  Improving the rule book such that it isn’t required so often should significantly improve the the game.  This should also help new players become proficient more quickly.

As an side, the split based on rule book use may go some way towards explaining the recurrent, but ultimately sterile, DBMMlist debates about the need to change the rule book.  I doubt if players in opposing camps really appreciate the other’s point of view.

Finally, the Commentary is in regular use and it has clearly been a success. Congratulations to those involved.  However, I do not think the need for a Commentary reflects well on the core rule book.
Coming next: issues and wishes

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