Over the last nine months we’ve been running regular Boarding School events. At these events, we spend most of our time introducing people to games they’ve never played before. In my role as a reviewer, I often have to learn games and then teach them to my own gaming group. And while I’m no Messiah at the board gaming table, I think I’ve picked up more than a few tips to share with you all.
DO be inviting
One of the first things you need to do is be inviting to people. Especially if they’re new to the group or if you’re teaching a game in a public setting. Ask their name. Let them know yours. Ask if they’ve ever played or heard about this game before. Simple acts such as these will make people feel more positive being at your table. What you want to do is create an environment where players are feeling comfortable and safe enough to learn the game, and not be worried about whether they’re going to be accepted by the group.
DON’T get frustrated
Look. It’s easy to do. You think you’ve explained a rule clearly and efficiently and by god you’ve explained the same rule ten times to ten different people and they’re still not getting it. But you need to accept the players at your table have different experiences with gaming. Some may have never seen the type of game in front of them before, so they don’t have the previous knowledge. Sometimes, there’s so much to keep a track of the players might keep forgetting a small rule. How many of us out there get every rule to every game we play right the first time? I know I don’t. Before I review a game I read the rulebook, have a game, read some FAQs online, watch some videos on it, read some more FAQs/threads, play a game (likely with my phone ready to access the FAQ) and then play a few more games. And I have thousands of hours of gaming under my belt.
DO tell players all the rules
It’s tempting to just tell players a few small rules and then keep informing them as they go along. I find players often get frustrated because they didn’t know something and this would have effected their decision elsewhere. So tell them the rules, letting them know it’s okay if they don’t remember everything. Depending on the complexity it might be best to then go over the key rules again once you’ve finished talking about everything.
Why it’s good to tell all players all the rules, what tends to happen is as they play things will start to click. They’ll start to make sense. It makes the guesswork more educated.
DON’T tell people what moves to make
No one likes a table captain. And teaching a game you’ve got to be careful not to cross over the line. Give people their options, and a few reasons why some moves might be better for them over others at this point of the game. But let players explore. Come to their own conclusions. This allows for more enjoyment from people, and they might even find a strategy or two you hadn’t thought of.
DO use the most basic rules
If you’ve got expansions for a game or they come with simplified rules/scenarios like Burgle Bros. or Pandmeic, use those first. Personally I’m an expansion guy. I like more diversity in my games, more opportunities for strategies, and I’m big on character/role powers. But all of those have to come second to knowing the rules. Play a quick game in the most basic state possible. Then tell people about all the extra stuff you can add and ask if they want to try any of it in the next game. Once players have the hang of the basics you’ll usually find they’re keen to play with all the cool extras.
DON’T expect to win
When I’m teaching a game in a public setting, I usually don’t play (because I’m running from table to table). But when I’m teaching a new game to my game group I often don’t expect to win. If we’re playing a cooperative game, people are still trying to understand the rules so may not be focused on the optimal strategy. If we’re playing a competitive game, I’ll hold back some moves or just before someone makes a move which will leave them wide open I’ll stop them and explain what my next move will be. It’s not fun to get thrashed when you’re learning the game. And to be honest if you’re the sort of person who enjoys flogging players who don’t even know what they’re doing you probably need to have a hard look at yourself (and see a therapist). If you track your stats like I do, just make the first time you’re teaching someone a game an invalid play so it doesn’t mess with your win/loss ratio.
These are just few tips to get you on your way. Feel free to message me or post on our social media sites if you have specific questions and I’ll be sure to answer your questions.
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