How to Teach Games Goodly

How would you go about teaching something like Root in 10 minutes? I could do with some tips!

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Never played it! (It’s owned by the person who does long teaches).

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I could do with some Root teaching tips as well.

So far I’ve managed to convince my partner to play a couple of games with me…
Then I had one boardgame night–what feels like decades ago–for which I had proposed Root. One guy, who knew it, said he wouldn’t play if there had to be a teach because it cost half the night. Since one person who was invited didn’t know the game… there was no game of Root and we played something else.

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My girlfriend is very competitive, and not very familiar with modern boardgames. Playing half a game (or a full quick game) open-handed is the best way for her - it’s not a real game so there’s no “winner” and she can concentrate on the rules, and it’s exciting when the explanations finish and she can have a go with a real hidden deck.

This also helps if one person is familiar with the strategies for winning in a game and would smash a new player: they can say “so here it’s best to do X” during the open-hand teach. I’m a big believer in running a dummy round before starting for real.

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Another question, this thread covers teaching a game you know.

What mostly happens in our house is that we open a new box together and learn to play at the table with no prior knowledge. How do you handle that?

In our case, either one of us learns the rules in advance, or we watch a rules video (Watch it Played, Gaming Rules, etc.) together.

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I really dislike ‘all learning a game together’. It takes much longer than one person learning and then teaching others. Particularly if you add in punching and organising at the same time.

That being said your @Captbnut’s situation is different. I could imagine it being a jolly time to spend as a family where time feels different.

Also the one friend who doesn’t learn rules and buys games I will charitably describe as having a different taste to me. Consequently it’s an experience that invariably leads to a game I won’t enjoy being played. So make of that what you will…

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For me that’s for a special occasion: we’ve been at the games convention all day, one of us has just bought something, and we want to try it out right now. Which is really much more a social thing than a game thing.

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It depends on how much effort the one person puts into learning the game and putting themselves at the point where they feel they can teach it well. I’ve written a few teaching scripts/outlines to help me teach a game. These take a while to create.

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This is true but if you’re with a (small) group who are excited about exploring a new game then sometimes the time it takes to punch/organise, read rules together can be worth it. There’s nothing quite like someone reading out a rule, unsure of what they’re saying, and then the whole table going “ohh, that’s clever”, whereas if one person is teaching it then it’s a less organic experience.

I have a couple of groups that I play games with. One of them is larger and has more casual players, and I make sure to learn the game beforehand and have it organised to go whenever possible*. The other is happy to unbox a game together and learn as we go, it’s part of the fun! It’s not something I’d recommend for anything that’s too heavy but we usually have a good time.

* I did not build Colt Express beforehand because building a tiny 3d train is whimsical fun. Building the pieces together was probably a better time than playing the actual game.

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Exactly.

When we were all at uni and much richer in time than money, it might make sense to discover a game together. These days I want to be prepared. The only person I ever consider doing a learning together experience with is my partner and with him it’s more of a “start on equal footing” thing.

A couple years ago we had a big game night with friends, and the host really wanted to finally play Junta which he had played once before years earlier but he didn’t know the rules anymore and so he began reading and teaching as we set it up. We played a couple turns with rules still unclear and at some point his wife said “Enough.” and we played something else everyone knew.

I’m thinking of taking notes for games I don’t play all that often but really want to get to the table (see above, Root).

In most cases, I try to read the rules, play a two-handed game, play a game with my long-suffering partner, play the solo-mode if it exists and then play one more of any of these, before I try to bring it to a larger audience. But even then sometimes I am having a hard time. BGG has rules summary documents for a lot of games, I guess these would be helpful as a start with.

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Root must be up there with the hardest teach because it’s essentially 4 teaches that everyone has to listen to. The 2 turn playthrough is very good though.

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I’ve never managed to convince anyone to learn the game using the teaching turns. They always want go know all the rules upfront!

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In ours, a first timer’s game of Root will be focused solely on playing solitairish, which allows them to internalised their own mini game before paying attention to other people’s mini games.

It makes it easier for experienced players since there wont be any shenanigans from the newbies but I dont mind that

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My regular game group includes a couple of competitive gamers who want to know everything up front; one person who is happy to listen to the rules and not worry too much about how well they’re going to do; one person who would like to just start playing and learn the rules as they go; and two people who cannot internalise rules explanations whatsoever. This can make it challenging to teach new games although I continue to try :slight_smile:
If you try to give me a rules explanation I’m also pretty bad at learning from a teach, so I can’t complain.

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If the group is such that we know in advance what we’re going to play, I often link a good rules explanation video (and the rulebook), so that people who prefer that can read/watch in advance.

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Back when people met up with large groups of friends and/or strangers in person, I was one of the default rules teachers at my big monthly game group for any game I knew because I had a reputation there for being good at it.

I usually just try to do as much big picture as possible then slowly focus it in. For the most complex games (I play a lot of heavy euros and the like), this sometimes would mean multiple levels of focusing in. A setup similar to others have described for thematic world building and end game goal “Here’s who we are and what we’re generally doing in this world and what we’re trying to accomplish to win.” Then there might be an introduction to the various systems of the game and how they fit together “Over here is a ton of different ways to gain resources. I’ll come back to all the different action spaces and explain the icons in detail in a minute, but this is generally where you’ll go to get stuff and how you’ll do it. Now this over here is where you go to hand in basic resources to create more advanced resources, again, we’ll come back to the details later. And over here is where you spend those advanced resources on upgrades for your individual player boards” or you know whatever for the game in question. Once all the different systems and how they interact with each other are in place, then I go back over each one with a quick reminder of how it fits into the big picture and give the more details on what to do there and the iconography and whatever else is necessary to know about it, pointing out any player aides and board reminders available that pertain to it specifically.

My particular style is highly prone to the interrupter with “What about this rule? You haven’t mentioned this tiny detail yet!” Well, no, I haven’t, because the new people won’t understand that tiny detail yet because they don’t know the three high level things that detail interacts with yet. I’ll get there! Because of that I would tell others who know the rules that I find it is best to have one person explaining the rules. If that is me, if I get something WRONG, interrupt me and correct me. Absolutely. If you think I forgot something, please don’t interrupt. Just wait. I’ll check in later to ask if I forgot anything (usually at the end of each detailed section because then people get it) so just hold that thought because I will probably get there. That is most often directed at my husband who just can’t help himself, so it’s fine.

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Recently I’ve found it useful when I have a new game to learn/teach to draft in a little help from my brother/friend/wife to play through a learning game with just a couple of us to thrash out the rules that would trip up a tutorial - especially if it’s a particularly long/complicated one. If that’s not possible (particularly now with social restrictions in place) playing solo works too, but I can tweak and refine the actual structure of a tutorial better with the practice of teaching one person and seeing where they follow easily, where it’s harder to follow, where I trip up/miss rules/have to double back etc.
During gameplay we can also see what rules we’re unsure about and where we need to refer back to the rulebook - to adjust and emphasise the explanations on these areas more.

(I still learn the game as well as possible before even this practice game, but having a game where you both understand it’s going to be a longer one with more stoppages for rule checks helps for teaching a bigger group for a full game)

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If I can give my 50 cents, teaching a game and discovering all together at the same time depend very much on who is doing it. Hardcore gamers, even though they are easier to teach to, because they often go: “Oh, that’s like such and such”, they can be more challenging with their questions, and in a mixed group of gamers and casuals, they can monopolize the attention and make everybody else feel a bit like, what was that?
On the other hand for discovering a game together, I have had mixed experiences. After having watched videos from Battle for Rokugan, or Love Letter, on the teach I did find some difficulties from making mistakes interpreting some rules, and for example, with Love Letter I did put off my OH from it.
Also, it is tricky to consider what will be easy or difficult to teach. I remember struggling to teach Welcome To to a group of friends that are casual gamers, when it had been really easy to teach at home to my partner and eldest daughter.
And finally, I would beware of the cheeky teach. I have had a couple of occasions where I have been taught games, and then sort of taken advantage of. Kind of like not being given all the info so then later they could get advantage from. I would be very wary of ever doing that intentionally. Kind of like on my game of Western Legends, where I was never told that you could arrest somebody that I dueled instead, and it costed me some points. I wouldn’t have won the game, but still I felt cheated.

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Yes, I think as a demonstrator I usually end up on the other side of that - sometimes I’ll deliberately play open, or I’ll say during the game “I’m doing this because it sets me up for that”, which lets me show off stuff the players may not have thought of yet but is important to the game.

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