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Subject: The challenge of teaching games rss

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Pawel W
Canada
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I have a lot of friends interested in board games. However, these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules. I am usually tasked with explaining all the rules.

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?


Well, part of this will fall on your group. If they are giving you a hard time and being unreasonable, they need to be more receptive to what you are trying to do for them.

From your end, you can try rehearsing the lesson to smooth out any potential rough spots. You can watch some videos here and download player aids to help with this. Make sure you really understand the game and try to anticipate rough spots. Don't just regurgitate the rulebook. Find a pacing that works for you and that you think will make the game go down easier.

But, again, you are trying to help out by being the teacher. If you have entitled players that make it hard for you, just break out LCR and tell them until their attitude improves or they want to teach, this will be all you will be playing with them. devil

Then, find a different group that treats you better.

I've been a high school teacher for 20+ years now and I would much rather teach my students in a formal environment than teach (some) gamers. There is this air of entitlement that can creep in and people can be nasty if they become frustrated or impatient.

So, I think in some instances you have to make it clear that if they want to learn this game from you, they have to be patient and understanding.

Barring that, like I said, tell them no new games until their attitudes towards you improve.

Kevin

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Ryan
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I would point out that the attitude of, "I don't want to learn the rules on my own, but will get upset/annoyed when I fail to understand your brief explanations" is very childish. Sometimes life lessons suck, but they sound to be desperately in need of one.
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Kirk Roberts
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My "search fu" is not strong, but I know there is a big thread (maybe many) about this very topic somewhere in the forums. Perhaps someone else can dig it up?

The basic ideas were: tell people how you feel about the responsibility and how you are treated, and spread the teaching role out to other people. It's okay to sit out of explaining rules. If no one else is willing to assume that role then play something everybody already knows. Or something incredibly simple. No need to call people out, just say you're taking a break.
 
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Pokey 64
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boombuddysc wrote:
these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules.

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen).

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding.


Stand up for yourself.

You don't have to sit there and be disrespected.

Next time any of this happens, don't say anything. Pack the game up and leave.

 
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Stephen Keller
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What if you actually talked to these people about these situations? Preferably at a different occasion when everybody is neutral.
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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I agree with a lot of what has already been said in previous posts. This is more of a group issue than a teaching issue.

Most/all of your players presumably have access to the internet and could take the time to watch an instructional video, unless you are choosing games for which no instructional videos exist. You could consider choosing games a week or two in advance and providing links to suitable videos. This is more work for you, and I don't know how likely people would be to watch videos in advance if they aren't willing to read the rules on their own.

Another possibility would be to print out enough copies of player aids for the games you're going to be playing, then do a very brief outline of the game before you start and let the players know that all of the details they need are on the player aids; that way, you aren't repeating rules, and you can't be accused of leaving anything out. You can find a bunch of good, free player aids on BGG or at the site below (scroll down to "Rules summaries, reference sheets, reviews") :
http://www.orderofgamers.com/
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Jason Brown
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boombuddysc wrote:
I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?

Before you seek suggestions, first check to see if you are, in fact, surrounded by assholes...
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Pawel W
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I want to thank everyone for the suggestions.

Firstly, sorry if there are several forums like this...

Second, it seems a lot of suggestions are for gaming groups. Most of my group consists of friends I can gather that particular weekend. So my group changes often. I REAAALLY don't want to go back to playing Catan everytime.

I think I may try player aids. I can keep that with the game box and let everyone refer to that. Videos may be a good idea too.
 
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Per Sorlie
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boombuddysc wrote:
I have a lot of friends interested in board games. However, these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules. I am usually tasked with explaining all the rules.

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?


? If the rules are "too" complex.. all partcipants should read the rules well in advance... = avoid/reduce most of the frustration..
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Bill Eldard
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Daggerheart wrote:
boombuddysc wrote:
I have a lot of friends interested in board games. However, these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules. I am usually tasked with explaining all the rules.

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?


? If the rules are "too" complex.. all partcipants should read the rules well in advance... = avoid/reduce most of the frustration..


I agree. It could be that the games you introduce require more rules explanation than these friends can absorb. Since they don't like to read rules, they might sit through a video instruction (BGG has some), though those can be time consuming, too.

QUESTIONS: Do the friends enjoy the games that you teach them? Do they want to play them again? If not, it could be that you may have to consider simpler games . . . or new friends?
 
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Angel Opportunity
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boombuddysc wrote:
I want to thank everyone for the suggestions.

Firstly, sorry if there are several forums like this...

Second, it seems a lot of suggestions are for gaming groups. Most of my group consists of friends I can gather that particular weekend. So my group changes often. I REAAALLY don't want to go back to playing Catan everytime.

I think I may try player aids. I can keep that with the game box and let everyone refer to that. Videos may be a good idea too.


Teaching "gamer groups" is way way easier than friends you are "forcing" to play a heavier game with you. For a gamer group you can do stuff like, "Okay, it's basic worker placement here *point to board*, and you do basic drafting to start."

Boom, you just saved over ten minutes of explaining.

You probably need to do easier games that introduce certain mechanics one at a time before you break out anything too complicated. 7 Wonders can teach drafting, Waterdeep or Caylus etc. can teach worker placement, and so on. Once you have simpler games that people like in various genres, you can figure out which games they like the best, and you can start saying stuff like, "This is pretty similar to Waterdeep..." in your rules explanations.

Keep in mind that people are supposedly doing this to have fun, and if you force a too-long rules explanation on them, they aren't going to have fun.

Alternatively you just have to find some games that are easier to teach. They may not be the games you really want to play, but they will be the games you can actually get your friends to play with you.
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Kyle Glyn
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boombuddysc wrote:
I have a lot of friends interested in board games. However, these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules. I am usually tasked with explaining all the rules.


What makes them interested in board games? Do they play video games? Find some way to correlate their interest directly to the game. Let us know where the interest comes from and maybe we can help further.

boombuddysc wrote:
The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.


There's nothing wrong with trying "let's just play". They may get frustrated if and when the game goes a bit off the rails, but that may show them the importance of a full explanation. Or they may embrace the chaotic nature of the first game in anticipation of getting it right the second time. Some people are willing to "lose as quickly as possible" so that they can see a full play of the game and get a better understanding.

boombuddysc wrote:
I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?


Someone else mentioned "how-to" videos and I will second this. Send everyone a link to a video that you have vetted as well as the full PDF rules. Those who want to get every detail correct will take advantage of the resources.. If they don't and they still complain about your explanations, at least you can say you tried to provide them everything they needed.
 
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Orpheus
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boombuddysc wrote:
I have a lot of friends interested in board games. However, these particularly new gamers are not interested in reading the rules. I am usually tasked with explaining all the rules.

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.

I get told off if I repeat rules too often and get absolutely crucified if there was a misunderstanding. Can anyone give suggestions to improve my approach?


One of my friends doesn't understand that there will be misunderstandings and that he will forget some of the explained exceptions, and that some exceptions need to be explained when they happen, and he consistently frames it as though I'm cheating (he's a very bad loser to be honest, and will basically blame anyone or anything if he does lose).

The strategy I've taken is to just say to people - if I have a bunch of new players - "this is a learning game, it doesn't really count, there will be mistakes, and that's ok." (Implicitly: if you lose it doesn't necessarily mean you have a low IQ etc). And I generally don't play with poor losers - it just sabotages the enjoyment. So another strategy could be to be more selective in who you play with (but this may certainly result in less overall games so it depends what you value).

I get frustrated when games that should have player aids don't include them - because that helps to relieve some of the pressure on the rules teacher if you can point at the player aid that's directly in front of the player - reinforcing their individual responsibility and moving them into a position where they only have themselves to blame if they make mistakes.
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Chris Williams

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I run meetups, and we always have some new people in, so it is a given that I will have to teach something every time I go. In over a year of doing it, I believe I have only had one person wanted to skip the rules and get to the game - but this was about 10 seconds into the rules, and she was not really in the mood to play anything I had brought. Other than this, probably a good 50-60 different have all done fine.

In general, I avoid buying games that are going to take a while to explain. I want to be able to explain everything in 5-10 minutes max, and so I buy games on that basis. I'd love to do Small City or Dungeon Petz or something, on game night, but these just look like they'd be a PITA to teach, so I don't even buy them.

But that doesn't mean that I only have party games. I do have, for example, The Golden Ages, The Oracle of Delphi, Vanuatu, etc. If I want to teach The Golden Ages, it has eight actions you can take on a turn. The eight actions are all listed on the player boards. Say that I spend 30 seconds on each one, that's only 4 minutes. I explain the most common symbols that appear on the cards and on the upgrade tree. 2 minutes. I explain how buildings work. 30 seconds. I explain how cubes work on the map. 1 minute. I give the players a print out of all of the cards in the game, with their explanations, and we're ready to go. With questions, that's probably 10 minutes total.

I just watched someone teaching Terraforming Mars, the other day, and I'm pretty sure they a minimum of a half hour to do it. We were 1/3rd of the way through our game (which, I think was Legends of Andor - though we had a 10m head start setting up), before they even started playing.

Based on watching Rahdo play through Terraforming Mars, I'm feeling like that's not a 30 minute rules explanation game. I'd put it in the 5-8 minute range. So the person teaching it was clearly doing something differently than I do. And I should note that I don't usually win games. The other players are all, always competitive with me, and I end up somewhere in the middle. I'm not just throwing them in the deep end and watching them drown.

Generally, a game breaks down into X number of options that you can take. In Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, there are 7. In Jaipur, there are 4. In Patchwork, there are 2.

Carnival Zombie has a whole mess of rules, but the players just need to know that they can move, shoot, or punch, and how damage and stress works. They don't need to know how the AI works. They'll pick it up during the game, if they care.

If you can teach people the objective and the actions they are allowed to take, and you can give them a player aid with the actions listed again, each with a full description, then you're probably 80% through the rules explanation.

If there's a game where, depending on where you plonk your worker down on the map, twenty different things are going to happen that you need to know, and each location is completely different, then don't buy that game. You're going to have to teach all that. If the game has forty different end scoring pathways and each one has different math and criteria, don't buy that game. Don't buy Vast: The Crystal Caverns.

If you're taking more than 5-10 minutes to teach a game, then either you need to improve your ability to teach games or you need to buy games that don't take so long to teach. If there aren't player aids in the box, or the ones that do are useless, print out something better and keep copies in the box. Watch what the other players are doing and warn them well in advance if you see them doing something that indicates rules confusion or where they might hit a rule exception. But don't alpha gamer them, either.
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Alison Mandible
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There have been a lot of good suggestions. But I want to underscore that there's no good way through this which doesn't involve them, in some way, realizing that teaching is hard work and they should show some appreciation for you doing it-- whether that's by working as hard at being good learners as you are at being a good teacher, or by offering to be the game-teacher sometimes, or by cutting you a break when you aren't perfect.
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Eric Folsom
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Usually the friends that tell you to hurry up are the ones that get mad when "you never said we also get 1 victory point for having the most money at the end!" Sometimes you have and others remember it, but they weren't paying attention.
It's hard to figure out what to do. Easy to say "just play with a different group" but if this is your core group of friends, that's difficult.
For some I'm able to say "dude, you have to know some of this or you won't know how to play. We set this game up, are we going to play it or should I put it back?"
For some I go "ok, I'll just start" then when they complain say "well you didn't let me get to that part of the rule, you wanted to just start." Or "I would have told you this particular rule, but I kept getting interrupted."

Unfortunately, there's no good answer to this that fits everyone.

EDIT: I even have a friend that gets frustrated when people interupt him explaining rules, yet he wants to 'just start' too.
 
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Pawel W
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There are a lot of good points here. Overall it seems like the answer is "it depends" on both the game and the group.

Instead of providing more resources, I may put down the alpha gamer torch and let others explain the game (especially if I taught them before). Communicating better that the first game is a trail run may go a long way to take the emotion out of bad choices.

themaster408 wrote:
"you never said we also get 1 victory point for having the most money at the end!"


This is usually the type of stuff that gets omitted. I don't start with overly complicated games with new players (such as stockpile)
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Gunky Gamer
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angel_opportunity wrote:
You probably need to do easier games that introduce certain mechanics one at a time before you break out anything too complicated. 7 Wonders can teach drafting, Waterdeep or Caylus etc. can teach worker placement, and so on. Once you have simpler games that people like in various genres, you can figure out which games they like the best, and you can start saying stuff like, "This is pretty similar to Waterdeep..." in your rules explanations.


Is there a geeklist or poll that lists the "best" games for teaching/learning fundamental mechanics?
 
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Trevor P
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boombuddysc wrote:

The problem occurs when most people get frustrated with long rule explanations. I find "Let's just play" or "I'll learn as we play" comes up a lot. To combat this, I explain the important rules at the beginning and introduce special cases and end game conditions before they become relevant to give people a chance to react.

I find most people get annoyed if they misunderstood a rule or didn't know (or listen). This leads me to repeat certain things especially when someone is making a decision. I may even give suggestions to certain moves if they seem lost.


The question of when to curtail the rules explanation and to "just play" is always a tough one. I try to just get the basics out there, but sometimes I'll see the players' eyes start to glaze over, and at that point I just have to go for it. Inevitably, though, something will come up in the game that wasn't covered in the explanation, and people will get upset that I didn't mention it.

It's definitely a good idea to provide any player aids if possible, and I always at least watch a playthrough video and read the rules prior to teaching a game for the first time. Still, I WILL miss some rule every time, and I've just come to accept that.
 
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Dave Platt
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You need to teach these guys some manners. You're doing them a favour by learning the game and then teaching them. They are too lazy to read the rules.
Next time someone gives you a hard time, you need to say to them "OK you teach the (expletive of choice) game then." as you toss them the rulebook.
 
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I think game groups are naturally formed. Talk to people bout
their preferences or interests, if they like hardcore games etc.
So you can form groups and play suitable games with them.

Also, if they are interested in boardgames they probably own
some or could get some from a library. Circulate around, each
session someone else brings a boardgame and explains the rules.

 
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marc lecours
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It is a challenge.

I am a retired high school teacher. For every 15 minutes of quality teaching there is at least an hour of preparation. The same goes for teaching games. It is a lot of work and many players avoid teaching games because of that. A few players often end up doing all the work. It is not fair... but that's life.

Players are less patient that 30 years ago. They have been spoiled by computers and internet. Hardly anyone reads an instruction manual for a new computer game anymore. They expect a "quick quality entertaining interactive tutorial" or to jump right in to a computer game and have it be obvious what to do. The modern player has no patience with an explainer that talks too much, or says too little... and god forbid if the explainer has to look up something in the rulebook.

My method is basically the same as yours:

I read the rules. Play one game solo. Read the rules again. Make sure that I know the rules inside and out before presenting them to others. It helps enormously that I enjoy reading rules.

Then I set up the game before all the other players arrive. When all are there and paying attention, I go over the victory conditions, some of the main rules, the not so obvious components (and symbols) and where to find info on the player aids. Verbal explanations are kept to under 10 minutes (under 5 minutes is better).

Next I announce that we are going to play for about 20 to 30 minutes then I will call for a restart. During this period I explain the sequence of play, and the main options as they come up. It is really important not to give any strategy tips. Half the fun of new games is discovering strategies on your own. But I will point out a few of the main pitfalls (being out of the game early is no fun).

In the first game, I have a big advantage over the other players because I know the rules by heart and I have played a game solo. I don't try to win as hard as I will in the next games. Instead I try to use each of the types of options in appropriate times so that the others see the possibilities open to them. I also try to balance the game so that all the players have a chance (otherwise the game will never make it to the table again). I especially avoid "take that" moves in this introductory game, or rather I warn the others of what I might do to them soon, so that they can take defensive measures.

Good luck
 
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