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Subject: How to make learning new games less of a chore for 'non-gaming' SO/spoused? rss

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Dave Mauro
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My wife...bless her soul...does enjoy playing games once she is familiar with them.

But learning new games is a nightmare. 5 minutes in she's rubbing her eyes, yawning, etc.

I LOVE learning new games, reading and dissecting rules, etc. I only wish there were a way to make the process less painful for her.

Anyone feel my pain/have any suggestions?
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Max Lampinen
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Try to teach things "on the go", just give very brief overview (i.e. for Agricola: "Goal is to build diverse farm") and then start playing, explain couple of (useful) things she could do per turn. She doesn't need to decide that much by herself at first, since if it's a complex game it's not like first-timer can create any useful strategies anyway.
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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My wife begins to rage whenever I explain rules. I have found that just playing and explaining as she goes is the easiest.

Even if the first game is a wash its fine since its meant to be a learning process.

Twilight Struggle took 3 aborted games to get right but she loves it.

I am still tempted to try to explain things ahead of time, but honestly I am starting to see that it does not work, she prefers to learn by doing and even a short "lecture" on a rule concept will make her tune out.

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Jules
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If I'm the only person who the game is getting explained to (which happens very rarely), I like to just ask questions about the rules and get SHORT answers that only answer this specific question.

That way we can go over the game in my own pace, I can grok it in my own way, and I am forced to stay an active learner. Also, I'm in charge which is never bad

So, say, for Agricola, we'd go:

Jules: So what's the goal of the game?
Explainer: To build the most rounded farms while keeping your farmers fed.
Jules: How much do they eat?
Explainer: Two food per round, and one for a new baby farmer on the round it was made.
Jules: Ooh, a game with sexy options! How do I get food?
Explainer: There's several options: you can put a worker on a certain place to grow grain, raise cattle, go fishing..
Jules: Grain sounds neat. How does growing grain work?
Explainer: First you plow a field here, then you can get grain here, and plant it with this action.
Jules: That seems like a crappy return on investment. Why would I want to do that?
Explainer: With this stove investement you can turn grain into bread which can feed a lot of people.
Jules: Oh, that sounds better. What about all these other investments, what do they do? And how do I get them?

...

Jules: I think I got all that. Did we miss anything?
Explainer: Yes, we missed out on professions.
Jules: Oh, right, I guess I can get them on this square here.. what do they do?

Wheew! I kind of got into that example, (Sorry if I got any Agricola stuff wrong, it's been a while) but that's because this way of explaining is far superior than any other way for me.

Of course it only works well if

1) you're doing a one-on-one explanation
2) Your explainee is actually motivated to learn this new game you brought home.
3) the enthousiastic explainer can manage to ONLY answer the question SHORTLY and not start blabbing the entire rulebook at the explainee. The idea is really that the explainee chooses what aspect of the game to learn about and can zoom in to the different subtasks at their own speed, or even (temporarily) abandon one aspect to learn about another.

This was my speech about explanation methods!
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LNXlady
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Around here, the wife (i.e. me) is the one who does the rule book reading and explains to the other players. For more complicated games or just games with a lot of rules, I look here at BGG for a player helper sheet that can be printed out used by new players to easily see what things can be done in what order on your turn. Most games have them in the files here.
Sometimes, we will play a mock game (or just part of one) which we don't play to win (it doesn't count), just to get the hang of things. That way, questions about rules that might reveal what cards you have, what your strategy is, etc., won't lose you the game. And you can go through the rules as you play, which is much better than trying to go over all the rules in the beginning.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Good suggestions so far.

If she's open to it, watching a playthrough video can help a lot.
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Clinton Coddington
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peakhope wrote:
Good suggestions so far.

If she's open to it, watching a playthrough video can help a lot.


+1

If the people in my game group are interested in playing one of my new games I point them to a play though on YouTube so they can get a feel before we sit down to play it. It helps me out a lot as well since I'm not the best teacher. I try though.
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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I tried to get mine to watch the excellent X-Wing tutorials.... She got bored and then refused to play it. Thankfully the kids gave it a try so I have stand by players.

So it might be a hit or miss, in my experience a miss.

 
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A long time ago, in a... never mind, but way back when I used to play a lot, we ran into this problem. One of the guys dropped out of the group after he met someone & I ran into him & we got back to playing separately from the others in our old group. His SO wanted to learn to play, but was new against 2 players who had repeatedly played out this 1 game & forced each other to improve well beyond textbook tactics. Even after she learned the rules, she was having trouble with the nuanced tactics. I came up with the "tactical officer" idea. She would play against 1 of us & the other would be her tactical officer. She chose to fight him so I was her TO. I pointed out her options, but left the decisions to her. After that, she was better able to play on a much more competitive level.
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Bryan S.
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Solution: Marry a gamer.
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Boss Beau Blasterfire
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Have her select a game that interests her by watching reviews of games. A good place to start might be a top 10 list from Dice Tower. You could also check on the women section of this forum to see what games click with other women and see which of those interests you. That way you can screen some games for her to check out that you could get behind. Maybe a coop game if she doesn't like competition. Perhaps a luck heavy game if she gets destroyed quite often. There are a ton of games, I'm sure something will click with her. It is just a matter of putting the two together, your wife and the right game for her.

I recommend trying gateway games with simple instructions first before diving into something with a thick rulebook and many complicated mechanics.
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The Apostle Green
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Nim_Was_Taken wrote:
Solution: Marry a gamer.


Damn... too late.
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Mark Bird
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max_s wrote:
Try to teach things "on the go"...


Definitely this! I've given up on trying to explain all the rules to a game to begin with. I just explain the basics of how to get started and the aim of the game, then as each turn is taken explaining the choices that can be made.

It's not an easy task for any gamer to lure their significant other into their spiderweb of boardgames...
 
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Automator Threetousand
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Just like with anything, you have to modify the way you teach to fit the person who needs to learn. I'm a rules person. I love rules. Before I play a game, I need all the rules. I devour the rule book. If someone even breathes word of a "house rule", I seethe.

Mostly when I'm teaching a new game, whether to my fiance or a friend, I teach in a build up sort of way, similar to the above conversation about Agricola. One thing I avoid when at all possible is arbitrary ordering of the rules - for example for Settlers of Catan, I'm not going to say "when you roll an 8, everyone with a settlement touching a resource marked 8 gets a resource, but a 7 activates the robber." Instead, I'll talk about resources first, then what resources can do for you, and only then mention "this little guy is the robber - if someone rolls a 7, anyone with more than 7 cards has to discard half, and the robber is placed on a hex, shutting down production on that hex".

No matter what, I always end with "the game makes more sense when you're playing" - because that's always true. The first round or two should be more teaching-learning, and then after the game is over, do a refresher.
 
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Moe45673
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Let her read the rulebook. I learn better reading it and my eyes glaze over after one minute of hearing someone explain rules.
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Jennifer Derrick
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Moe45673 wrote:
Let her read the rulebook. I learn better reading it and my eyes glaze over after one minute of hearing someone explain rules.


Second this. Some people just can't take it in when people read to them and that makes them frustrated. I'd also add that you can set up the game so that she can see it all laid out while she reads, and maybe try a few moves on her own with no pressure to see how it works.

Trying to take it in while someone is reading and while you're actively playing the game (meaning a mistake can lead to a loss) can be a lot of pressure. Let her learn at her own pace.
 
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Christopher O
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1. Every person learns differently. Figure out the way that your wife learns best and then use that method. Ask her how she prefers to learn a game.

For example,

Some people like a thorough explanation.

Some people like to read the rulebook on their own.

Some people like everything explained before they start.

Some people prefer to dive right in.

Some people learn by watching examples.

Some people need to figure all the details out.

Some people are "visual" - they want to see things on the board.

Some people are "verbal" - they need things to be explained.

Many people are some combination of visual and verbal - find the right balance for your audience.

2. When people start to yawn and rub their eyes, you've already lost them. At that point dive into game play. To avoid getting to the "rubbing eyes" point, mentally practice what you're going to say before you say it.

Also, have an "elevator pitch" for the game; explain the core objective of the game in one or two sentences, then have everything else you explain back up or support that primary goal. For people with little patience for game explanation (like your wife), figure out how you can cover the most important details in 2 minutes. Everything else can be covered as you come to it in the game. When you do this "dive in" approach, liberally allow mulligan/take backs, and explain why people can do/can't do/shouldn't do certain actions as they come up.

Some people find this method extremely frustrating, so only use it if your wife has patience for it.

Also, never try to explain a game to a hungry, tired, or otherwise stressed-out person. It just will put them off the game.
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James Austin
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max_s wrote:

Try to teach things "on the go"...

...

urgh. The number of times I've played games "on the go" with my wife, only to get moaned at with infamous line..."you never told me that"...
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Bryce Journey
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eldavicho wrote:
My wife...bless her soul...does enjoy playing games once she is familiar with them.

But learning new games is a nightmare. 5 minutes in she's rubbing her eyes, yawning, etc.

I LOVE learning new games, reading and dissecting rules, etc. I only wish there were a way to make the process less painful for her.

Anyone feel my pain/have any suggestions?


Tips for teaching a new game to a SO:

1) Make sure the stars are aligned correctly. When I tried to teach my wife The Stars Are Right, they were not and, consequently, we have not played it since.

2) Give them chocolate to munch on while they listen to rules explanations. Something biological happens in a woman's body when they eat chocolate. That's a scientific fact and I don't need to know any more about it. In any event, eating chocolate will make them more susceptible to playing and enjoying a new game. This totally worked when I taught my wife Lords of Waterdeep, which she was very resistant to at first because of the "D&D" logo on the box.

3) Make sure it's the right time of month. This is probably where I went wrong with Race for the Galaxy. She just wasn't in the right mood and frame of mind for a complicated, symbol-heavy, steep learning-curve game.
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Arjen Schouten
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godthedj wrote:
max_s wrote:

Try to teach things "on the go"...

...

urgh. The number of times I've played games "on the go" with my wife, only to get moaned at with infamous line..."you never told me that"...


On the go learning is the least "boring" for them, but this inevitable remark does indeed always comes with all but the simplest games.

I usually starts explaining the goal of the game, and after that try to demonstrate a basic turn. Then I start summarizing all the different rules, options, etc. Usually people give me a "Let's just play" at this moment. And then after a while the above quoted line comes up.
 
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Max Lampinen
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godthedj wrote:
urgh. The number of times I've played games "on the go" with my wife, only to get moaned at with infamous line..."you never told me that"...

In that situation it's time to whip out the rulebook and start reading it word by word (preferably with monotonous voice). devil
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Arjen Schouten
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I always wonder why people don't care to read the rulebook themselves. I mean, we're talking about native english speaking people and english languaged games here right?
 
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Jacob Walker
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I am lucky in that my wife has a pretty strong tolerance for rules explanations, but my sister-in-law is the exact opposite. Teaching her new games can be a real struggle (though I suspect she more often than not feigns ignorance as a ploy to build sympathy and lull us into complacency).

I would personally caution against the "learn as you play method". I find that more often than not it just leads to greater frustration. I've heard too many cries of "you never told me that", and I personally grow frustrated when the game is in full swing and we suddenly have to stop to explain some key mechanic that hasn't arisen until now. Especially because this usually leads to responses along the lines of, "well if I had known that". As much as possible, I like the people I'm playing with to know all of the rules ahead of time, so that they never feel like they were cheated out of a winning strategy.

Still, not everyone can tolerate a lengthy rules explanation, so my general strategy goes something like this:

1) Before teaching games to my sister-in-law, I have played them several times and know them very well. I have a very good idea of what concepts are absolutely necessary, and what concepts are not. I have a teaching degree, so I have a lot of training in distilling things down to the bare necessities like this.
2) I choose new games very strategically, so that new games build on concepts she has already seen before. She is very familiar with Dominion, and my brother taught her (I assume very painstakingly) Race for the Galaxy, so that made Eminent Domain a very simple next step. This is always helpful when teaching a game. Way easier to say, "This works just like ____ in ____.
3) Here's an educator's trick, which I use a lot with my sister-in-law: don't explain everything. Leave out a few really obvious things - this mechanic or that interaction. If they are paying attention at all they will be forced to ask you to fill in the gap. Basically, by being a little vague (in very specific areas), you can force the learner to engage in the rules explanation. This can be very effective if you are good at it (again, I went to college to learn how to do this kind of thing), though sometimes it can also make it seem like you suck at explaining rules.

 
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Tell stories about the people in your life that relate to the rules.

"So I ran into Janet today, and you know she's about to have a baby, and in this game new family members take one food to feed while they're babies but babies grow up so fast, don't you think? Especially in this game where they are grown up next turn and take two food, not just one anymore, that's one hungry kid. Anyway, Janet was telling me about Bob, the cattle rancher, and you know you can get cattle from this space here but it won't come up for a bit, and Bob just built a new shed, a minor improvement, speaking of which there's a minor improvement space right here and it lets you use these cards here."

Etc.

It'll take a while but you'll really get those rules and your day across at the same time. It's harder to explain when you don't know any farmers though.
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Arjen Schouten
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Jythier wrote:
Tell stories about the people in your life that relate to the rules.

"So I ran into Janet today, and you know she's about to have a baby, and in this game new family members take one food to feed while they're babies but babies grow up so fast, don't you think? Especially in this game where they are grown up next turn and take two food, not just one anymore, that's one hungry kid. Anyway, Janet was telling me about Bob, the cattle rancher, and you know you can get cattle from this space here but it won't come up for a bit, and Bob just built a new shed, a minor improvement, speaking of which there's a minor improvement space right here and it lets you use these cards here."

Etc.

It'll take a while but you'll really get those rules and your day across at the same time. It's harder to explain when you don't know any farmers though.


I'm can't help but hearing Commander Trip Tucker's voice when I read this.

But it's a good idea!
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