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Subject: Explaining game rules to new players, whats the best way? rss

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Sean Humphreys
United Kingdom
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I'm having a games night soon with a few mates as I've recently bought zombicide: Black plague and was wondering what the best way of explaining the rules was.
I've come across this problem multiple times in the past were I explain the rules all at once which seems to be too much for people to take in at once, I've also tried to explain the rules as we go along procedurally, I was wondering if anyone has a good technique of explaining game rules which works consistently. Many thanks.
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Christian Heckmann
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With "Zombicide" this shouldn't be that much of a problem due to its cooperative nature. Just describe a few key concepts, walk them through the general flow of the game and then let 'em learn it as it goes along. In a competitive game, things can be a lot trickier. Usually I start with explaining how to win (and possibly how to end) the game, before outlining how the game will usually play out, explaining how a single turn works (if a game is "turn based") and finally mentioning all of the little nooks and crannies that might come up. But anyhow, teaching a game is kind of a form of art in itself and there is no surefire method to do it.
 
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Pete
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Make one copy of the rules for each player. Run through the rules in your own words, preferably in the order presented in the rulebook so they can follow along and so that you don't miss things. Answer questions they may have.

Pete (uses that method for most games and finds it is better than any alternative)
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Bart R.
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The key is to not try and explain it all in one go. Just give a top-down view of what the goal of the game is and the main ways to reach a goal. Then play a sample turn - watch it being played just makes everything stick a lot better.
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marc lecours
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Lorthania wrote:
The key is to not try and explain it all in one go. Just give a top-down view of what the goal of the game is and the main ways to reach a goal. Then play a sample turn - watch it being played just makes everything stick a lot better.


I used to explain all the rules. But players mentally zone out nowadays. Best is to teach by playing.
1. Give the victory conditions and the end of game trigger.
2. Give an overview in 4 minutes or less.
3. Start playing a turn. Tell everyone that after a certain amount of time there will be a restart. Whenever something comes up give the options (without giving the details) and then have the player choose one. While playing this option explain the details of it.
4. By the time everyone has had a turn or two, you will have covered 90% of the rules.

People learn better by seeing and DOING than by listening.

BUT make sure that you know all the rules perfectly well. You should NEVER refer back to the rulebook. That takes too long and makes the others lose confidence in your ability to teach the rules correctly. So before teaching a game, I read the rules, play the game solo, then read the rules again.

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Starla Lester
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plezercruz wrote:
Make one copy of the rules for each player. Run through the rules in your own words, preferably in the order presented in the rulebook so they can follow along and so that you don't miss things. Answer questions they may have.

Pete (uses that method for most games and finds it is better than any alternative)


Pete, that's kind of brilliant! Expensive if one plays a lot of games, though. And if the extra copies of rules don't fit in the box when you are done playing, what do you do with them?
 
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Adrian Hague
United Kingdom
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I've got over 10 years-worth of game 'splainin' under my belt. Here is how I do it:

1) Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em
2) Tell 'em
3) Tell 'em what you've told 'em.

Start the explanation with how to win the game (victory conditions), and how the game ends (this give the players the first thing they need to understand the game, a frame-of-reference).

Then move onto the turn structure. Again, this will give the players a structure on which to add further concepts, and it will prevent them merely having a 'soup' of game mechanics in their head.

Explain each part of the turn structure in order (beginning with an overview of the sequence of play). If possible tie-in each game action with how it relates to the victory conditions. After explaining each game phase, summarise it (tell 'em what you told 'em).

After all that is done, arrange a second session where they actually get to play the game (!).

Forgot to add: where possible, demonstrate actions explained, pointing out what areas of the board and game pieces are used.
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Kent Reuber
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I make game summaries that go through the various parts of the game including turn order and scoring. In addition to verbal teaching, I give each player a copy of the summary so that they can refer to it during play.

Printing out separate copies of the rules is easier, but less compact. I find that I can usually create summaries that have page counts of about 1/4 the number of rulebook pages.
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Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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The trick is not in telling them the rules, but in telling what they need to know to play and win. There's a subtle difference.

I begin with the thematic setting, then tell people to mostly ignore it because in most cases playing according to the theme has disastrous results. Sometimes it serves as a useful mnemonic though, so whenever necessary I bring it up again. I explain the goal, give a broad overview of how to get there. Then I zoom in on the various routes and mechanisms in somewhat more detail. Sometimes a few rules are explained in detail, and sometimes they are not. Occasionally I show a tricky mechanism in action. This procedure lays down the framework of the game. After that, I explain how a turn is structured, leaving out or filling in details as needed.

Then I begin the game, quickly highlighting my options again with references to the framework laid down earlier. Each of the players now gets a reminder what they can do, and where in the whole they'll be acting should they pick a certain action. I do this for the first and second turn; and after that people seem to be able to manage on their own. I don't play their game for them unless they request assistance, which I will give while making sure the other players understand the question and its answer.

In practice it works well. Games which take more than 10 to 15 minutes of explanation time will be accompanied by a warning that it will be a while before the game can start; or that I will leave out some options because they usually aren't that important in the early game to begin with. But I won't play these games with people who aren't used to more involved rulesets to begin with (or they must have shown themselves super motivated), so longer explanations are never an issue.
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Matt Kruczek
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The key thing here is do you know how your mates prefer to learn things? Would they like it to be explained first? Or jump right in and learn by doing? Do they like to know what they are aiming for? Putting it simply, do they like to listen, watch or do?

Having been taught Zombicide badly recently I can tell you what to definitively avoid...

DO NOT explain every single possible event or interaction ahead of time. At the start people need to know how to move, search, fight and open doors. Reloading, moving away from Zombies and dual-wielding can all easily wait until needed.

DO NOT constantly interrupt the explanation to mention how a rule differs in each of the expansions, or to show off all the miniatures, or how rare that particular promo piece is.

DO NOT play the game for them. Unless it would be game-ruiningly catastrophic, let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.

DO NOT use this as an opportunity to try out a number of house rules that you've been considering.

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Geoffrey Burrell
United States
Cedar Rapids
Iowa
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I do a walkthrough until people get up to speed then proceed with the game as normal.
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Paul Evans
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Similar to some above. My approach amounts to a top-down-and-then-bottom-up approach.

I start almost every explanation with the following introduction, "The aim of this game is to win. You win by ..... You achieve this by....", etc.

For me the general path is:
1) Introduce theme and role.
2) Discuss victory conditions.
3) Discuss how to get to the victory conditions.
4) Discuss the mechanics
5) Do a worked example/open round
6) Ask for questions
7) Talk through how the above work towards victory
8) Touch on basic tactics and strategies.
9) Emphasise any classic "you didn't tell me this before"

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Pete
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Ryuu wrote:
plezercruz wrote:
Make one copy of the rules for each player. Run through the rules in your own words, preferably in the order presented in the rulebook so they can follow along and so that you don't miss things. Answer questions they may have.

Pete (uses that method for most games and finds it is better than any alternative)


Pete, that's kind of brilliant! Expensive if one plays a lot of games, though. And if the extra copies of rules don't fit in the box when you are done playing, what do you do with them?
Well, I don't print the rules in color, so it's not so pricey. And usually they fit in the box, but not always. I just chuck them if they don't. Since I play with the same guys all the time, once they've learned, I don't need them any more.

Pete (has a copier and a laser printer in his basement so it's not usually a problem)
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Adrian Hague
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One important point I forgot to add: for a first game do not talk about tactics or strategy. It won't be easy as you may want to share your enthusiasm and appreciation for the strategies involved, but try to stick with just the rules as-is. During a first game, the aim is to get the rules down pat, tactics/ strategy can come later. Introducing more too soon will only serve to confuse players.
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Sean Malone
Ireland
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I always find the best way is to give a brief overview of the rules, then run through a few turns slowly and simply. Immersion is the best way to learn rules I always found. Your first few turns may not be tactically sound but you'll catch onto the rules much quicker.
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Alexandre Santos
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Tip : I often ask new players to help with the setup (specially in games which have personal boards and pieces), explaining them what each bit is as they set it up, so it's easier to memorize.
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Carl Frodge
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Explain the theme.
Explain each player's role in the game.
Explain the rules.
Explain what a player can do on their turn.
Ask if anyone has questions.
Answer those questions.
 
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T. Ips
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Find out who you are teaching to - Do they get impatient or zone out, or do they get frustrated if they weren't properly prepared before the game. Also note that it helps immensely if you know the rules by heart before trying to explain them.

In general i try to do the following:

-Broad explanation of theme and what you are doing

-Win condition and how to acheive that

-Major game mechanics and how to play the game generally - preferably
with examples where you include them and give them the pieces

-Exceptions and other questions.

 
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ackmondual
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Have the board set up so they can visually reference what you're explaining.

Go through the motions if need be. For example, set up the figures, and because someone shot a firearm, you put 1 noise token on there.

Explain why you're doing stuff.... themewise, not get eaten by zombies, but the objectives for the scenario you're playing.

Explain how to go about doing that stuff.... turn order, how zombies spawn, how zombies work.


With a fully-co-op game like, you can especially "explain as you go".
 
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