Over the past two months, I have gotten to play more Sequence than in the rest of my life combined. I was able to visit my mother for Christmas where I play games that are a little more approachable than my usual heavy Euro fare. I also got to spend some time with a friend who loves heavy games, but we opted for a night of drinks and Sequence instead of jumping into another game of Ankh. These experiences made me realize that, while I whole-heartedly enjoy playing Sequence, the design of the game makes me mad.
For those unfamiliar with Sequence, it is a game from the early 80s, designed by Doug Reuter, played with two standard decks of cards and a custom board, displaying every single card except for the Jacks, which are special wild cards. Essentially, each turn you play a card from your hand of seven cards and place a token on one of the two spaces indicated by the card. Then you draw a card. Your goal is to fill the grid with your tokens, eventually setting up a ‘Sequence,’ by getting 5 in a row. Do this twice (or once in a 3-player game) and you win.
Now, Sequence manages to do a lot of things right. It’s quick and easy to teach and play. It uses two standard decks of cards, which most people have sitting around. Your choices feel like they matter, but it still feels like you are playing a game of chance. But for some reason, unknown to me, the game designer added an asinine rule, titled Loss of Card. If you finish your turn and forget to draw a card, and then the next player finishes their turn and does draw a card, you are *never* allowed to draw back up to the standard hand limit.
Having a conversation while you play the game? Get recked. Are you hosting friends and distracted by grabbing drinks and making sure people are having a good time? There go your cards. This rule makes me angry. It makes me hesitate when I play Sequence with someone who I haven’t played with before, because now I need to clarify that I refuse to play by this rule. I’m not even a forgetful person–I am pretty good at remembering to draw my cards! The rule just makes the experience less fun. It punishes people for engaging with each other outside of the game. It adds nothing to the game.
I am usually pretty against house ruling games. Generally, I believe the designers have done their work and play tested the game well. They wrote their rules for a reason. I would rather play games with the rules as written, at least until I have a good chunk of experience under my belt. But the 80s were a different time when it comes to game design. I have no doubt that Doug Reuter’s work on this game was greatly dissimilar to Uwe Rosenberg or Erik Lang or Alexander Pfister. The process was different, and nobody got a chance to say “Doug, this idea is bad.”