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Teaching a game to someone?

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End of Time Games
End of Time Games's picture
Joined: 04/16/2009

What is the simplest way to teach a game to someone? Do you read the rule book to them? Do you learn the game well, then explain it from memory pointing to game parts?

truekid games
truekid games's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
i have done the

i have done the read-the-rulebook-out-loud thing, it -works-, but is not great. I try to read a rulebook and condense the concepts in my head as much as possible, and then teach based on that (and demonstrating with the components). really, my preference is to have played the game once or twice, then i can knock out a MUCH better explanation.

ReneWiersma's picture
Joined: 08/08/2008
Pleeeeaaaase, don't teach by

Pleeeeaaaase, don't teach by reading the rulebook aloud, that's a sure way to lose your audience. Best is to familiarize yourself with the game beforehand, then explain the game using the rulebook as a reference. If it's a good rulebook you can use the structure as used in the rulebook, but condense the information.

Also, SHOW don't TELL. Use a lot of examples, it is much easier to grasp concepts that way. Also be sure to explain the goal of the game and how to win at the start of the game. People don't just want to know what you can do, but also why they should do certain things. However, don't throw strategy advise in there, that's a Very Bad Thing. It distracts from the rules, and part of the fun of a game is figuring out a good strategy. If you want you could give a few pointers while playing, but not during rule explanation.

You could choose to leave out some finer points of the rules and explain them when they come up during play, such as certain rare exceptions which might occur later in the game.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
This is how i do it

I demo games at several conventions each year and it’s important to know the game. Otherwise they might as well read the rules themselves.

Unless the game is ultra simple and i can explain the full rules in 3 minutes or less I do the following.

Give an overview of the game starting with the objective and go over what the players will do.

For example when I teach Gangster I might start like “The object is to become the King of Chicago by controlling the different districts in town. You’ll do this by driving around and dropping off your thugs, picking up opponents thugs, in your trunk, and dropping them off in districts you’re not interested in or Lake Michigan if you want to get rid of them.” The trunk almost always gets a laugh.

From there I go over the board details and the other game materials so everyone knows what they are for. Finally I explain the players turn and scoring.

If a game is very complex and the explanation would otherwise take a real long time I don’t try to cover everything. Instead I teach enough to get them started and then cover the details before they need them in the game.

End of Time Games
End of Time Games's picture
Joined: 04/16/2009
Thanks! I was tring out a

I was tring out a game that had been sitting in my house for a long time without being played, and I was going to learn it then teach it to my girlfriend. The rule book was so bad, it gave me nightmares last night. I decided after forcing myself through the rule book that: That first, this game doesn't even look like a fun game to me, so I'm not going to bother with it. Second, the way the rules were writen, you almost couldn't memoritze most of the rules. You would have to constantly be reading the rule book forwards and backwards throughout the game. I had to laugh at one of the descriptions "Then throw the dice".

MarkKreitler's picture
Joined: 11/12/2008
The designer's responsibility

This touches on an important topic relevant to design: how do we, as designers, streamline our rules and mechanics to make games that are easy to pick up but difficult to master? I'd love to hear from fellow BGDFers who have developed design guidelines to help achieve this goal.

For instance, lately, I've decided if I can't explain the object of my game in a single, concise sentence, I need to streamline it.

I'm experimenting with a similar rule for explaining any key mechanics of the game. When exceptions and details make a single-sentence explanation impossible, player aids should explain the details. This allows the main rules to state the simple version of the mechanic and allows the players to consult the aids for clarification during play.

TCGs are a great example of this kind of design:
1) The object is often simple (e.g., 'reduce your opponent to 0 hit points').

2) The base mechanics are usually simple (e.g., 'You stat with a pool of 10 action points. You can play cards or use cards already in play as long as you can pay the action point cost.').

3) The cards themselves are the player aids (e.g., 'Each card shows you the cost to play it, the cost to use it, and, in some cases, the amount of action points it generates while in play or when used. Most cards have a special ability, so read them carefully before you use them.)

Obviously, not all games can be boiled down this way, and some players love labyrinthine rules. However, I often wonder if Age of Renaissance (for example) has such a following because of its design or in spite of it.

So...does anyone out there have some useful streamlining guidelines?

Joined: 10/22/2008
Quote:"streamline our rules

"streamline our rules and mechanics to make games that are easy to pick up but difficult to master? "

Games will always have one core mechanic.

-You will interact with the game via these cards.

From that core mechanic, you give a player core rules.

-You gain and lose cards.
-You lose the game if you run out of cards.
-You win if you go X rounds.

From those core rules, you give exceptions to the rules:

-You gain cards but only if you have a hand less than 8 cards.
-You lose cards every round unless you do X.
-You win if you go X rounds unless you draw this "win" card.

You feed this information to the player so he can interact with the environment the game creates. If you exceed the level of information that's relevant at the time, a player will dismiss it as unimportant -- a person will naturally switch from a learning stance to a strategy-building stance when confronted with a new environment (the game). Its part of the decision-making process.

You don't need to reveal every mechanic in the game or even hint at strategies. Stick with getting the core mechanic across to the player as concise as possible and he'll find out actions/reactions IN the game. When the outcome needs to be known, then let the rules be referenced.


End of Time Games
End of Time Games's picture
Joined: 04/16/2009
Yes, that nightmarish game.

Yes, that nightmarish game. It is vary rare that I do something that I regret. Things that come to mind is spending $80 on that game and getting nailed with a frivilous speeding ticket.

I won't say what the game is because it's vary obsure and I don't need to save anyone here from buying it because they will probably not hear about it. I also won't publically scrutinize this game.....or discose what game it is on here. I do want to mention a few things though sinse it was so poorely made it gave me nightmares.

The look of the package is no better or worse than a basic protype. But, he sells it as a self published game for $80. Everything is vary simple, not visually apealing at all to me. The cards are made of stacks of cardstock squars. There are your generice pawns with dice. It comes in a cardboard box. No print or labels or graphics, just a blank box. The rules are no better than something you would type up in MS Word. It's terrable.

I resent language like "throw the dice" and "move your piece". It sounds like the designer is saying "this is your generic board game. The premice is much greater than that though.......I don't know if I should go that far. I suspect the designer may not have a taste for or may still be liveing in the times of "monopoly and snakes and ladders", because it's style is your basic role and move run of the mill board game. No thrills. It sais plainly "throw the dice and move and draw the little card and read it allowd. I think that is so borring. It uses a point system. The rules say that if you land on such and such with a dice throw of X (a long sequence of numbers) then you get so many points. I found that particular point seemingly imposible to remember without haveing that page of the rules in front of me. Even worse, there wer like 10 or 15 other rule points like that. Making it so you would pretty much have to be skimming the rule book all through the game.

I not only found the game boring, I don't know how I could ever get someone els to play it with me or teach it to them. It looks like a proto of a family game from 30- years ago.

I can't can't complain too much. I purchased this game knowing full well what came inside and what the quality was. I am seriously questioning my motives for buying this game. A friend of a friend created it and we were suposed to get together (haven't heard from him yet) and extchange notes about game design. My game was suposed to be a similar premise or subject, but nothing near so boring and plain. I think if I actually end up getting together with him I would try and genly give him some constructive critism.

Now, what can I do with this piece of crap? No refunds. Maybe I can use it to remember what I should never do in a game. Us the board as rain cover? Use the box for my own proto? Use the pawns and dice? Use the cards to start fires? Put it on e-bay?

TheMob's picture
Joined: 08/04/2008
I try to explain some of the

I try to explain some of the basics (like "this is the goal, these are the teams, these cards are the stuff you use")

Then we can play one test round to try out the mechanics.

Then give some more information about rules.

After that it's "explain as we go".

(of course if there would be a youtube video showing how to play... that would be cool ;))

End of Time Games
End of Time Games's picture
Joined: 04/16/2009
(of course if there would be

(of course if there would be a youtube video showing how to play... that would be cool ;))[/quote]
There kind of are. Videos like this?

I think there are others that explain how to play games. I saw one once for Carcassonne.

clearclaw's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Teachiing script.

I recently wrote up the script I generally use when teaching my game, Corner Lot. It isn't verbatim, I make it up as I go along, but that's pretty much the pattern I use. You may find it useful to compare the script to Corner Lot's rules to see how one sequences and builds off the other.

It is worth noting that this script breaks several of my rules for teaching a game. In particular in a couple places it tells players why they may want to do something (eg that high cards are worth a lot more than face value) and it tells them what to expect from the game (eg that most of the money is in the bonuses). I strongly dislike those two aspects of the teaching pattern and in normal cases I would never have any such elements in teaching the rules (I believe in leaving the players to figure it out), but I include them in my script as most of the people I teach the game to ask for them.

Joined: 07/31/2008
Board Games With Scott

Check out this guy's website. He does some great, fun reviews of popular games. I really enjoy his style of showing others how to play games.

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