Learning and Teaching games - how do you go about it?

Do you have a preferred or standard way to learn board games? e.g. 

- Read and re-read the rulebook until it sticks

- Learn from the rulebook whilst playing your first game of it

- Tuition videos online

- multi-handed solo playthrough

- Always taught by other people

- Another method

(or any combination of the above)


and for teaching a game do you?

- Seek to know the rules well enough, that you can do it without referring to other materials / the rulebook

- Read from the rulebook

- Always trust the rulebook and have it on hand or open throughout the game, but talk through the key points yourself

- Use or create 'teach sheets' with summarised rules that aim to cover 99% of what might occur in the game

- Ask people to watch a video / learn the rules before playing (at the most extreme level - you're there to game not teach)

- Get the basics of the rules clear enough, but 'wing it' the rest of the time, accepting the odd 'Rahdo' (rules gaff)

- Any other approach


Feel free to describe in your own words (I reckon a poll would have been overly prescriptive).


For me, I love starting with watching a playthrough, how to play or even a review video to get the overall flow of the game / basic terms clear. After that I generally find rulebooks much easier to read / digest. Ideally that's followed by a multi-handed playthrough, but playing Furnace last night, I skipped that step and the game rules clear enough that I don't think it was necessary. I did draft a teach sheet, but ended up doing the teach from memory. I did however go back to that sheet today to refine it from the experience of teaching it (that revision  v0.2 I've since loaded up as a file under the #Furnace game). I'm not convinced teach sheets are my ideal way to teach (I prefer a focus on the board / player boards and of eye contact to see if I've lost them already), but I'm giving them a go. I absolutely hate having to rifle repeatedly through a rulebook!


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Premium User12 months ago

In our game group we have a pretty consistent flow now:

1) Whoever "championed" the game we are playing finds and posts the rules PDF and a "how to play" video.

2) Everyone must at least watch the video.

3) During game day we will do a rough run through the rules.  Usually everyone has grasped the concept and we quickly get to the game.  Every once in a while one or more of us don't quite get it and we'll go through things in a bit more detail.

In the case where someone didn't absorb the rules and that is detrimental to them during the game we basically say, "Oh well" and keep on trucking.  

We've been gaming for years now and with the same general group of people so it works really well for us.  

Moderator Level 112 months ago

Everyone watching and reading in advance would be awesome. My oldest son will certainly pre watch and pre read as I will, but forget it for everyone else. It always falls on him or I to do all the prep and then teach everyone else.

Premium User12 months ago

It's really group dependent.  My group has a core of 3 people that are all heavy in to the hobby and often it's just us three.  If I was playing with less motivated players then it might require me to do more work to make sure games happen. 

Moderator Level 112 months ago

That's certainly part of it, My Oldest Son and I are both of the ones heavily into boardgames, the rest of the family enjoys the family interaction, but isn't as heavily into the games otherwise.

12 months ago

That certainly will make the teaching go massively faster - I could see game night 'teaching' being not much more than a brief reminder of the structure & flow with demonstration on the board(s), plus being ready for questions upfront or later. 

The structure of our gaming club precludes such an approach, it being a group of 20-40 gamers, where we (usually) avoid pre-arranging games, so as to avoid cliques developing. At 7:30pm we call out what everyone has brought, then everyone mills around to set up a game with something that appealed to them. Within 5-10 minutes everyone is typically sat down at a table, starting to set up the various games chosen.

If we were a pre-defined group, then I'd very much like your approach. Just like a good insert, anything that decreases downtime, so we can get more games / gaming in, is absolutely ideal.

Premium User12 months ago

Yeah, it definitely works better when you have a set group, a pre chosen game, and people actually willing to put a bit of time in ahead of time.  Not for all groups and all situations.

12 months ago

I am the teacher of games in my family, so with a new addition, I read the rule book (sometimes twice).  Then if I don't have it solid, I watch something online.  Then I summarize for the family, and we play a game.  Hope it sticks, and go from there

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I'm the gamer in the family, and organized a small group of three friends for a semi-monthly game night.  Two of us have a collection of games, but it's usually me that provides them for game night.

When learning a game, I like to read the rules first, then see if Rodney at Watch It Played has done a video.  If he hasn't I might watch a short review on The Dice Tower (which I often have done already before purchasing the game).  I'll set up the game and play a two-player solo game so I can better understand the game.  I also have the rule book handy for reference.  (This comes in real handy when learning anything from Garphill Games.)   Once I've done that, I'm ready to teach to others.  

When teaching the game to others, I first describe the goal of the game.  Then I explain what they'll be using (cards, meeples, etc) and how they are used.  I'll describe the possible actions one can take, and maybe demonstrate a few if clarification is needed.  I always have the rule book on hand and reference for questions when I can't recall the clear answer.  Yes, there have still been some times I've missed a rule that changes how the game played or scored, but we chalk that up to 'next time'.  I would love to find (I don't have the knowledge or time to create my own that would look decent) simple player guides for all of my games to make teaching easier.  I have only seen them in Scythe, Wingspan, and Welcome to... and think they're a great idea.  I would love to see more games do this, especially the more involved ones.

12 months ago

A good comment about 'what they'll be using'. Whilst I often talk about "using cards to...", I often neglect to tell them about what resource is what! Now in some modern games with fancier components, this is not much of a deal, as it's very obvious, but nonetheless it's too often a gap in my teaching.

Practically it feels like setup is the ideal time to mention them, but I tend not to do it them, as often people are helping setup, so I haven't got their full attention (or they're getting a drink from the bar!). Plus mentioning them then is a little out of context.


Rules mistakes do happen, and our group, I suspect like the vast majority, always chalk it up to 'next time' (or if it's fair to switch to the correct rule mid-game, to do that). No-one is that precious about winning that it's an issue, and most importantly the teacher is usually so focused on teaching and supporting, that they themselves usually trail in a distant last! Only in one instance do I recall a teacher doing a less than clear explanation, then diving into optmising their own game. That's not a good look.


I think most teaching guides are produced by gamers themselves, and in addition to that Furnace one, I've recently drafted one for a newly arrived game #Legacies. It is indeed more of an involved game (some echoes of Pfister and Lacerda in the design, with a fraction more interaction). I may do more as it's not a bad way to embed the rules either (a little like the revision notes I used to make when studying). I think I might also do a one pager for Legacies that is purely an 'end of round/generation checklist', so that I do all the end of round upkeep. 

There are a few games that have [Rahdo voice] Handy Dandy [/Rahdo voice] player aids, but I've found these hit and miss. The ones that do get referred to are often just a list of actions (or similar). Any time more complex information is included, it can be very offputting e.g. the player screens in Roll For the Galaxy, even though a friend from the games club swears by it being brilliant. The use of symbols to demonstrate often makes these feel unfathomable for a first game, as players are still learning the symbology. By the time they've played it once, they've probably worked out the symbology, but also the gameplay, making the player aid redundant! 

Supporter12 months ago

This is a fun post!

I am primarily the teacher, for two reasons... a. 90% of the games we play I own and b. I'm a teacher by profession so I think I have a propensity to be pretty good at it from a board game perspective.


- I pretty much always learn from How To Videos.  Often this is because I watch the How To before I even purchase a game, or while I'm waiting for it to get to my house.  I also glance through the rulebook but videos make it really easy.


- I usually find a shorter(ish) overview rules video to have everyone watch before hand.  I like to keep this 20 minutes max.  Then I will watch a few different or longer teaching videos.  I did this for #Dune recently.  I showed them a quick video and then I watched about 6 videos or more to learn the rules.

- I set up the game and then I teach what I've learned by showing examples of everything on the board.  Then everyone gets an understanding of what it will look like when we actually play.  I've found demonstrating play makes the teach really quick.

- Of course with heavier games there are things that may slip my mind so I keep the rule book handy so I can double check during the teach and once play has commenced.


12 months ago

A very good point about demonstrating, and it's even better for learning if it's practical to get the other players to demonstrate.

Otherwise if I go on too long then they start to demonstrate in a different way!

Supporter12 months ago


Thankfully we don't really get to that point ever, I can usually get a teach in in about half of the time that most of the videos take.  It helps that they at least have a cursory understanding of the game before the teach.

Premium User12 months ago

I gave up teaching. Most of the people in our game groups aren't super serious or heavy gamers, so there's a lot of chit-chat during the rules explanation. So I let let other people take care of it now.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I learn with a mix of you first three, but prefer a video, then learn the rest while playing the first game.

When I teach a game I try to be sure I know it well enough that I only ocassionally have to refer to the rulebook.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I've learned that I'm a rulebook guy. That's the way I absorb the rules best. Of course, if the game is complex, I do like to do a multi handed solo runthrough of at least a few turns to get a good feel for it.

As far as teaching, if I know in advance that I'll be teaching it, I try to make sure I know the rules (hence the solo runthrough) and just try to teach them in a way that I think makes sense. I don't like to look through the rulebook when teaching if I can help it because that's when people tend to mentally check out.