Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

BGG» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: Learning to Teach Your Own Game rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Matt Knaack
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
So, I've been working on a game for about five months now: [WIP] Privatized. It's getting quite polished: the roommates, friends, and partner all love it (of course they do, they're supportive); my local design group has very valuable advice on it (and don't totally tear it apart); strangers at my first con said they would BUY IT (GASP!). I'm starting to feel confident in my first serious design and it feels great!

But as I show Privatized to more and more people, I realize that I'm stuck inside my own head when trying to explain it. My descriptions and guidance as I introduce the game are sloppy at best. Even so, people pick up the game pretty quickly and enjoy themselves, noting many positives as it wraps up.

Does anyone have any advice on what I should do to get better at this? My local design group gave me the acronym WORQ (Winning conditions and Who the player represents, Order of turn and what happens during each turn, Rules, and Questions) to explain games better. I've also joined the Envoy group through Double Exposure but haven't found the time to get certified and demo a game at my local game shop. I feel like having some guidance on how to teach games I know could be pretty useful but I'm also afraid I could be using my free time more wisely in this regard...

Help!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darren Broad

SA
msg tools
designer
That sounds like a good order to do things.

Have you written your rules out yet? That may help to clarify things in your mind to make it easier to explain.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Lennert
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Starting with the main idea is good. Give players some context for interpreting the rest of the rules. This should probably include the initial goal, which is not necessarily the same as the victory condition. (In Dominion, the victory condition is to have the most points at the end of the game, but the initial goal is to improve your deck.)

A common mistake I notice when people try to teach board games is getting caught up explaining the nuances without covering the basics. Things like "you have a personal deck of cards" or "you have buildings that generate resources every turn" or "you're going to pick assets to auction off to the other players" that are so simple and foundational that you take them for granted, and forget that new players don't know them yet.

What is the game about?
What do I have?
What can I do?
What do I want?

Once I know that we take turns buying cards from a central supply and that whatever cards I buy stay in front of me and periodically produce income, then I can probably loosely follow along no matter how disorganized the rest of your explanation is. But if you skip over that and launch directly into an explanation of how different colors of card work in different phases and you can use the market to convert between three different resources at a fluctuating exchange rate based on the phase of the moon, I'm not going to be able to digest any of that information because I can't fit it into a cohesive mental model.


Practice teaching a specific game can help a lot. Pay attention to what questions your players ask, or what mistakes they make during the game, so that you can reword your explanation in the future to preempt those issues. When you realize halfway through the game that you never mentioned a rule that's about to become super important, figure out how to bring it up earlier next time. On the other hand, if your explanation seems to drag at a specific point, see if you can postpone some of the details that players don't need to worry about until further into the game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matthew Proper-Lee
United States
Levittown
NY
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: You've been CakedMicrobadge: Always room for 1 more gameMicrobadge: DiscordianMicrobadge: PAX East attendeeMicrobadge: Boardgame Pusher
I fumble on this myself here and there despite teaching games a lot if I'm really fatigued after teaching a lot of games over a convention weekend, but generally, I find the best blueprint to use is similar to what your friends told you.

1: Give a 30 second overview of the basic theme and the ultimate goal (how to win the game).

2: Give an overview of a game turn, not to detailed so you don't overwhelm people. Point out important general elements here that people need to be aware of.

3: Break down the turns in more detail using general descriptions where you can. Again, avoid specifics if you can. Depending on the game, going through an example turn can be helpful. Try to use as many common words as possible when describing things, and relate any important phrases with common words so that people can intuit what they are looking at to minimize questions and confusion.

4: Emphasize that you won't be playing the game with them (unless you need one more body to play) and that anyone who has questions should call you over. If I'm playing, I also often say "I score zero. I don't count." I find that showing you are being neutral if playing the game helps make players feel more comfortable and less intimidated to ask questions if they are confused.

I'm interested in seeing the other responses from others too.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Knaack
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dazzab wrote:
Have you written your rules out yet? That may help to clarify things in your mind to make it easier to explain.
The rules are written but could use some more organization. I'm going off this set of guidelines (from DeLano) to help me in that regard. but I feel like I'm tweaking them every couple playtests so I'm waiting to get them seriously refined until major changes slow down (like popcorn at the end of the microwave session).
Antistone wrote:
What is the game about?
What do I have?
What can I do?
What do I want?
The simpler the better, then. This makes sense. So, in addition to observer and designer, I also act as the rulebook. Any frequent questions or comments from players should mold the actual rulebook as it is finalized... This sounds like a good way to look at all of this. Thanks, folks!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls