David Pontier
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This past weekend, my house was invaded by my sister, her husband, and her six children. Add in my 4-month-old and my wife, and our house ballooned from 3 people to 10. It was a hectic time, but her two oldest (13 (girl) and 11(boy)) have always been interested in games and always bug my brother and I when we play. I was always able to point at the side of the box where they suggest the ages and send them on their way, but now they are older and every five seconds they asked if they could play a game. So I obliged. I came up with a couple interesting observations.

We first played Snow Tails, which I just got and am still getting the feel for. I think there is way more strategy there than I have uncovered. I taught them the game with relaxed rules and a very easy track and the 11-year-old destroyed us. Then we played a slightly harder track with the speed limits enforced and I won by tie breaker (I was on the inside lane). I was still helping them out most of the game, giving them advice and telling them what to do, but I was rather disappointed with my performance that I could only win in a tie breaker with kids who had never seen the game before.

Ticket to Ride Europe was next. I had bought them the USA TTR for Christmas last year, and my sister has thanked me profusely because it gets played so often. I didn’t need to help them at all, and while the 13-year-old did poorly (106 points) the 11-year-old beat me 149 to 136. I was very upset that he kept pulling 10-point routes that he had already completed. He did this twice and once with an 8 point route. He also had the longest route. I guess it is the luck of the draw, but he was doing so many unsmart things, and I was working so hard to do everything right and still lose, that it was frustrating.

Next was Settlers. They had never played this before, so I spent a lot of time telling them what a good strategy was and what they had to do. The 13-year-old understood why a 6 and 8 were more probably than a 5 and 9, but the 11-year-old didn’t. So when he had nine points with 4 cities, and I hadn’t built one city yet, I was a bit disappointed. I ended up taking the longest road back from him before the 13-year-old won and I came in second, but I felt like I lost badly because they each always had a mitt of 15 cards and I had nothing with no chance to ever build a city. I hadn’t explained the 7-card limit early in the game, and didn’t feel like enforcing it half-way through because it was the first time they played.

So I did some soul searching as I was getting my butt handed to me by people one-third my age with little to no experience in the games that I have been playing for years. I figured that I was helping them way too much and not paying any attention to myself at all. Now, I don’t consider myself a competitive a-hole, but I do have a little pride, and they were both having a lot of fun playing the games win or lose, so I thought I should be a little harder on them.

When they asked to play settlers again, I agreed and when they did dumb things, I didn’t stop them. I let them build roads to nowhere and settlements on 12-11-3 junctions when 5-9-10 junctions were available. I won easily.

Then the 13-year-old and I sat down for Empire builder. She had been begging me to play Puerto Rico, but I knew that I would basically be playing both sides of the game, and there was no way that the 11-year-old would have the patience for Puerto Rico. I wanted to have a more competitive game, so I instead suggested EB. I felt that while it is very deep, she is very smart, and the concept of congruent routes in TTR should help. She did extremely well. I had to set up her initial route as that is the hardest part of the game, but by the time she was making her 5th or 6th delivery, I didn’t even pay attention to her cards anymore. She pulled off incredible combos and when we finished because of time, was only 20 mil behind me. I had the better system and was pretty sure I was going to win, but it was far from guaranteed.

So I learned two things. The first is that I rarely win games anymore but almost always come in second. The reason for this is because lately I am always teaching the game to someone else and spend the majority of my concentration on what they are doing and how to help them out and either they win, or another experienced player who does not have the divided attention does. I am conflicted about this because I really do enjoy spreading the gaming experience to people who didn’t know they had an inner gamer inside. However, I feel silly losing to people who had never played before. Does anyone else have this conflict?

The second is that my young niece and nephew (especially the niece) are very capable gamers. I had always excluded her before because my brother and I didn’t want to lead her by the hand through our more complex games. Now I am actually looking forward to November when we go visit them for Thanksgiving and we can play games together. She went from annoying to cool in the matter of a weekend. I even went so far as to promise her that I would play PR with her when we visited in November. Now, I’m sure not every pre-teen can do well at Empire Builder, but don’t just count them out of the complex games because they are young. I actually enjoyed playing with them.
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Hammock Backpacker
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Sounds like a really fun time. A hectic house true...but some willing participants to gaming...priceless!

I've found that I enjoy evangelizing and teaching more than competitive play. I'm really not that good at playing, usually ending in the middle of the pack. I have my moments but it's definitely not rare for me to get beat by newbies. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with that but I still love teaching new games to new gamers.

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Pete Lane
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We always enjoy when the nieces come to visit, and are frequently asked to play one of "Uncle Pete's Games." Being a regular demo team member at conventions for local board game companies, I think it's important to note that when teaching a new game, you need to be sure you're not going to win. Winning straight off can leave new gamers and especially kids with a bad taste in their mouths. You want to "sell" the game, and what better way than to give them the taste of victory! Once they've caught on... GIVE UM HELL!
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Steven
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Quote:
I really do enjoy spreading the gaming experience to people who didn’t know they had an inner gamer inside. However, I feel silly losing to people who had never played before. Does anyone else have this conflict?

I have the same problem. I'm actually a very competitive gamer, and not always in a good way; even party games like Catchphrase and Celebrities have sometimes ended in bad blood. I've found that when I first teach somebody to play, I expect to win, and when I don't, I become very grumpy.

This actually just happened yesterday (again). I taught my brother San Juan for the first time. He ended up with a Smithy, a Guild Hall, a Trading Post, and around a million Silver Smelters, and absolutely crushed the rest of us. I became very upset and refused to play any additional games. Not one of my better moments. blush

I think I may suggest a cooperative game today to avoid further tension!
 
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David C
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This got brought-up in this thread even... give San Juan a stab before Puerto Rico. I think it will only help you explain PR, and if it sucks, you're in for much less time wasted on something they hate.
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Tom Dickson
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They're only young once - and once they've learned the rules they will destroy you! Having games that are fun to lose is also key - in fact, I'd say that a game that's not fun to lose isn't worth playing.

I do experience the "beginner's luck" - but that's often more because the other players will help the player. Often we play the first game or two "open hand" so that everyone can comment and instruct.
 
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McDog
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Long Shot and Tales of the Arabian Nights.

 
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fishhaid
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I would say that this mirrors my experience exactly. When I teach, I usually don't win and this usually helps with the new players experience. Similar to your experience with Settlers, after they know the game and I'm playing for keeps, I let them make their own mistakes.

It sounds like some new gamers are taking shape and that's a good thing.
 
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