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Subject: How do you Teach yourself the rules to a new game? rss

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I realize that there is a similar-sounding Poll thread out there right now along these lines but I'm more curious about how players actually teach themselves their new games, i.e., the actual process?

As I see it, there are several different ways people learn a new game. Some of these might include:

1). The Deep Dive - you just dive into reading the rules, front to back, taking it slow, making sure you understand any tricky terms. Once you've completed reading the rules, you usually take the game out and maybe even play a few practice solitaire rounds, just to get a feel for it. At that point, if something's confusing, you may even head over to BGG or the game developer's website to get clarification on any particularly difficult rules. THEN and only then, will you sit down to play with others.

2). The Water-Skier - you basically skim things pretty quickly, skipping across most of the rules to get the basic game-flow and gist of things. You won't hesitate to get a group together for a game since you figure you can just work it all out together while playing.

3). Para-sailor - you get a broad overview of the gameplay either via an Internet video review or from playing a few rounds of the game at a convention or friend's house before trying to figure out the game yourself. Buoyed by the boost from a bit of experience, you're able to figure the game out far easier.

----------------------------------

Those are just a few of the ways I can think of to learn a game. My methodology for learning a game can also depend on the type of game it is - if it's a deeper game, I'll use method #1 The Deep Dive, if it's a lighter weight game, I'll maybe go with Para-Sailor. I'm not much of a Water-Skier learner, though I have several friends who swear by that method.

What's your style? Are there other methodologies that I've missed that you'd like to share with us? I'd love to hear other gamers' thoughts on this matter. Thanks!
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Dive, dive!

I'm always the first person to read the rules, so I usually end up explaining them to others. My friends sometimes don't even bother touching the rulebook.
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Mike Fassio
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ElAdoranSureshot wrote:
Dive, dive!

I'm always the first person to read the rules, so I usually end up explaining them to others. My friends sometimes don't even bother touching the rulebook.


And yet we are always blamed for not explaining some obscure rule ad nauseam. Oh what troubled lives we must live.
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Bryan Maxwell
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I skim the rules once or twice, I then set up the game and simulate a 2-player game on my own until I feel comfortable with it.

I hate trying to learn a game while I'm trying to teach it.
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John Weber
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Yeah, I generally read through the rules and try to simulate or solitaire a game with the optimal number of players until I feel comfortable enough to teach it to others. With some games, that point never comes and those games stay on the shelf until I decide to unload them at some point...
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Chaddyboy
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I do a little shallower dive than the deep dive. I just read the rules carefully, at which point I can usually get a pretty good feel of how the game plays just from that.
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Ted Groth
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Dive! Usually I prefer to read the rules completely before handling the components (much) Then I will play a few sample turns by myself to get a feel for the flow of the game. Or if I am having trouble understanding a detail in the rules I will begin examining all the components, especially any that don't seem to be explained well enough in the rule book. Sometimes I will play through an entire game or two by myself, especially if I am trying to gauge game length and balance issues to determine suitability for a particular game group or situation - or if I am just really into the game.

On the other hand, I am happy to be taught a game by having someone else explain it to me, as long as they know the game well enought to explain it well. I will still read through the rules completely later on, if I have the opportunity, but learning games from others people has intruduced me to some great games that would probably never have sought out on my own. I guess this is the "para-sailor" description?

What I DON'T like doing is working out the details of a new game with other players. I am generally regarded as the expert, so I am somehow expected to be able to explain the game right away as I read the rules for the first time. If someone else tries to do this, they inevitably botch it, and I hate that too. NOT a Water-Skier.
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Sue Hemberger

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Read the rules, outline or rewrite the rules, look at the pieces to make sure I know how all of them are used.

I'm generally the one who has to explain the rules to others who (a) have particular ways they want the information presented and (b) will rely on me to get the rules right. Then I keep the rulebook next to me the first time we play because there's usually some situation that comes up where I can imagine a couple of different ways things could go.

Sometimes the rules resolve those situations (oh, that's why they said that!); sometimes they don't. In the latter case, after the first play, I tend to look at the forum listing the game to find answers to problems/issues that arose. Often the Q&A are already there. If not, I post the Q.

Then I update the outline and leave it in the box, so I can quickly refresh my recollection next time. Also, if I notice a player's aide that looks helpful while I'm checking on rules, I tend to print multiple copies and stick it in the box for next time.
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Dan Conley
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I'm a diver, but I don't ENJOY reading rules as much in my advancing age. The last game I learned was done with a decent-depth dive, then my friend came over and we walked through things together. Had a BLAST doing it and his input was MOST helpful.
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Rod Batten
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All of my gaming buddies are quite highly literate, intelligent people but, mysteriously and tragically, they seem to be afflicted by a rare condition, dysreglia lexipseudosia, rendering them incapable of reading the rules.

I usually take the dive approach to get everyone started for the first game and hope they will read the rules themselves when they notice me cheating.
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Russell Grieshop
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I'm a deep diver.

I'll usually take a look at all of the components, and then spend some quality time reading the rules. Once through, I'll get a sense of how the rules are laid out. By the second time through, I re-look at the components and see how they mesh with the rules. I may skim through the rules forums on BGG to see if anything catches my eye, but I won't read too much right away.

I'll usually punch the components at this point, and lay the game out, checking the rules as I go. I might play a couple of sample rounds to get a better feel for the game, but at that point I will usually be ready to try and teach the game to gamers.

I won't usually try to teach a game I'm playing for the first time with non-gamers. I like my first time to be with gamers, so that we can figure out the sticky points.

Once I've got a game or two under my belt, I usually go back to BGG and read all of the rules forums (unless that's way too crazy and time consuming). I like to try and read all of the questions people ask, since this usually points to an area that I've either figured out, didn't even notice, or that I completely misunderstood. In many cases, I find that I know the answers that people are asking, but just as often, I'll realize that I missed something entirely, and will usually leave notes to myself in the game or even written on the rules.

Throughout this entire process I'm usually asking myself "How will I teach this game to others?" I pay attention to the order in which things need to be presented, how the pieces need to be demonstrated, and how to help ease people (especially non-gamers) into the experience.

I read rules for fun. Part of the fun for me is imagining how I'll teach the games to others. I consider building a good tool set for teaching games to others is an important component of my interest in this hobby.

All that said, I always like having a game taught to me by someone who does know how to play, and who knows how to teach a game.

And I can almost never learn a game by having someone read the rules to me. I've known lots of people who can, and I tip my hat to them all! But I'm not able to listen to a rules reading and get much out of it.
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Joe Grundy
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I'm with Chaddyboy. I read front to back but it doesn't feel "deep" or even like a dive. Usually it's done in a few minutes, and in my mind I have what's almost a visual diagram (a conceptual network) of the rule-chunks and how they fit together.


I've only set up about one game in fifty for the purpose of helping me clarify rules.


About a third of games I'm left with one or two of what seems to be a non-trivial ambiguity somewhere in the rules and I'll come on BGG to fill the gap. From time to time I really did miss something in the main text, but more often the gap is filled with something which turns out to be in an example, or a sidebar, or a funny font... these are the things I sometimes (but don't usually) miss. Less often, it comes down to common understanding or a designer/publisher clarification.


btw... having particular rules which are only spelled out in an "example" really bugs me. I'll read examples if I have the slightest uncertainty about the rules, but sometimes a rule which isn't even hinted at in the main text appears only in the example or on a "player aid". eg "the player is now allowed to ..." or "in this situation the player is not allowed to ..."
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Stephen Stewart
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Mr_Nuts wrote:
I skim the rules once or twice, I then set up the game and simulate a 2-player game on my own until I feel comfortable with it.

I hate trying to learn a game while I'm trying to teach it.


Agreed.

If you read the rules and teach without actually moving some counters first, more than likely you'll look like an idiot and lose some players.


If you are clear and give pointers, players will be more interested instead of having to listen to you ramble and look up rules as you "teach". It's not a pretty sight.

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Bill Norton
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I skim enough to get things going, and then play a game by myself or friends. I then go back to the rules and read them thoroughly.
Rules don't make sense until I have play some of the game out.

Bill
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p55carroll
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I open the box, examine the components, and read the rules. When I come to rules that refer to the components, I examine them again. When I've finished reading the rules and feel I understand them well enough (sometimes this takes a second or even a third reading), I set up a game and play at it solo, referring to the rules as often as I need to.

If it's a complex game, I'll play it over and over again solitaire, until I get to where I don't need to refer to the rulebook anymore.

Then I feel ready to play the game with someone else, should the opportunity arise.

When I did that with Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader, it turned into a fifteen-year learning period. I never did play it with anyone else. Around 1995, I decided I'd never completely learn the game, so I packed it up and finally sold it. (I had some fun along the way, though.)

I do not like learning a game on the fly. I've had to do that with party games and some card games, and it makes me very uncomfortable. I adjust and end up doing OK, but it really goes against my grain.

 
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Steve Russell
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I've been through a couple of those techniques described, but now, I'm more closely into Diving. We play a lot of games with the family, especially my brothers-in-law, son and nephews. BGG has definately changed how I do the process. NOW I find the rules on BGG, read them thoroughly, read some reviews, then decide what to buy. So I pretty much know what I'm going to have before I get the box.

Used to be more of a Skier, along with those aforementioned people. The pitfalls of that is that since no one deep dives or medium dives, everyone develops a mutual understanding of what they Think the rules are. This can lead to some disappointment in the new game. My nephew bought me a Christmas gift of Alhambra, which we all sat down and started to play after a cursory reading of the rules. When it got to scoring on the scoring rounds, we all misenterpreted the "longest wall" scoring rule as being ONLY the person with the longest wall gets points. I think that this interpretation of the rules came from playing a lot of TtR, so we equated to "longest continuous train" in that game.

After playing this game four or five times, we all moved on to something else. Longest wall person was usually winning the game and the strategy of the game started to revolve around this and became very boring. That was almost two years ago, and the game sat in my game cupboard. Just recently went on vacation to Fla and packed up a bunch of games to take along. I decided to take Alhambra to see if I could get anyone to try it again. It had been awhile since I'd played and we were having a pool day so I took the rules to read at the pool. After a truly thourough reading of the rules, I realized the error of our playing ways and told my son about it (he had been one of the severe naysayers on playing this game again because of the scoring of the game and wasn't really interested in it at all due to this). He finally agreed to give it a try again and we played it twice that night, each of us winning one game. He is now open to playing again. I got my wife to play three times on that trip also, so now she is liking Alhambra too.

Never again will I "Ski" through learning a game.
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Daniel Cristofani
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Previously, I did "Shallow Dive", reading the rules carefully about twice and thinking about how to paraphrase them for teaching. But now that I have a regular game group, I normally try games first with someone else teaching them, and then if I like the game enough I'll dig up the rules online before deciding whether to buy the game. (Often enough I find that the person teaching the game made some important error.) Then after the game arrives I'll read the rules thoroughly another time or two before trying to teach the game.
 
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steve mizuno
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I think it depends on the type of game we're discussing. If we're talking about a typical "family" type game, something published by Parker Bros, well, set the thing up, and let's have at it!

However... if you're talking about a medium complexity game, I spend a lot of time reading the rules, examing the player aid charts, and trying my best to "grok" the game. This is a large part of the fun in acquiring a new title for me.
 
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Todd Redden
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I don't just read the rules. I follow the rules in a learning solo game, set up the board for a small number of players (3 or 4), play each player and try to get a "feel" for the game first. Then, after reading and playing through the rules, I go through a practice attempt to teach the rules, going back and rereading the rules until I'm familiar enough with the game to teach it and not forget anything. I may not attempt to teach the game after that, I usually like to actually play a real game or two at least before teaching to new players if possible, but feel you don't really understand a game until you are familiar enough to teach it. (I guess that makes me a deep diver.)
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Tomello Visello
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1) read rules thoroughly (with pleasure).

2) simultaneously learn and teach. A walk-through game with another player. Open information, mutual discussion of possible strategy, purposely attempting actions that might be poor strategy just to exercise a partucular action and learn its potential meaning. Some things come into better perspective when actually carried out (as opposed to simply reading).

3) read rules thoroughly to double check for items missed, find new understanding revealed.

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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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More and more, I've started taking notes as I read rules to games.

When learning to play Europe Engulfed, the owner distributed rules and we all were tasked with reading them if we wanted to play, so I took notes as I read and had them handy while we played our first, rough game. Second game went much faster and with far fewer mistakes than usual for a second game.
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Matt Thrower
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For most games, providing the rule book is thin enough, I roll up the rules into a narrow tube and push it into my left ear. The rules are then instantly absorbed into my brain.

If the resulting tube is too wide for the ear then I pronounce the game unplayable and trade it away immediately.

Doesn't everyone do this?
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David C
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The deep-dive, play a few practice rounds by myself.

For me, introducing a game is a little like guitar hero. You miss too many notes in front of a crowd, and you'll get boo'd off stage.
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Joseph
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For me it's multiple skimmings, and then focused study on bits I don't understand. The rules spend a lot of time on either the nightstand or in the bathroom.

It's a long process for me. I like to digest the rules slowly without time pressure.
 
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thomas coe
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deep sea diver!!! i love reading rules to the new games i get! i read them multiple times before trying out a solo game. then i bring in the others that want to play and we go from there!
 
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