How Do I Teach Board Games To New Players?

Hey everyone. I'm a long time board gamer but i've never really been the person in charge of explaining the rules of games or how to play them. Lately i've had a group of friends who don't play board games at all ask me to bring some over. I'm a bit nervous because i don't really know how to teach non-gamers how to play board games. 

I found a few articles on the topic but don't really know where to start.

How To Teach Board Games - Game Hungry

How To Teach Games In General - BGG

Does anyone have any quick tips for me? Any advice at all would be appreciated thanks! 

4 points by ChongoDiggles - updated 7 months ago | 8 comments | report | subscribe

JamesReid860 Supporter7 months ago | 1 point[-]

I try to go about it this way:

1. Briefly explain the setting and theme. 

2. Explain how to win (most points, most money, get to X points first)
3. Explain how the end game is triggered

4. Explain how a turn goes

5. Then go over the other rules. Depending on the game, this can happen as the game is playing. 

HooperGirl 7 months ago | 1 point[-]

These suggestions are all great.  I agree with explaining the objective first.  Then I usually go through the steps of the game and the components.  I sometimes hold off on explaining things that come up later on in the game so I don't overwhelm them with rules.  I learn best myself by just jumping in after minimal explanation and fumbling through my first game, so I prefer someone explaining to me by just playing through it and talking, explaining our thinking as we go.

nealkfrank 7 months ago | 1 point[-]

Everything posted here is helpful, I second it. The philosophy I have is teach the game backwards. Simple. Start with winning, then how to score or win. Etc. 

BenjaminK 7 months ago | 1 point[-]

Great advice all around. I may repeat some of what was already said, but at least I'll do so in my own words. :) 

I always like to say first off what the win condition is. (i.e. "Whoever scores the most points wins," "First player to collect 10 sets wins," "Last player standing wins," etc.).

From there, you can go into how to go about meeting those conditions. For example, you gain points by playing these cards. Or, you defeat your opponents by dealing damage. You deal damage by playing a card, rolling 12 dice, and then clucking like a chicken (hypothetically, of course).

Then you go into greater detail about the process. It helps to give a brief explanation and/or overview of a turn, a round, or whatever it is your game has. Give examples of completing certain actions or objectives. 

If the game is thematic, try and incorporate the theme into the actions. Let's use Terraforming Mars as an example, since it was used earlier. Since you already have the background (thanks to Skurvy5's comment), you can explain that the cards you play are "projects" your corporation is working with to help increase one of the three parameters. Other cards are one-time events, such as bringing down Deimos. Obviously, that's not about to happen again, if we're keeping to the theme! And since some projects require oxygen to use (like Penguins or other things that use living organisms), it makes sense thematically to build up the oxygen levels first before playing that card. 

If you're trying to learn a game to teach, and there's a video for it online, I suggest watching that--at least a round or two of gameplay to get the gist of things. But also use the rule book to learn, because it should cover outlying cases that may come up. That said, don't necessarily teach those outliers, as that will slow down the learning process and even make things more confusing. But, should the question arise, you will already know the answer. 

Sometimes it helps to have the other players help set the game up. That way, they're already somewhat familiar with the components so it's not all completely new.

And above all, if you're playing with others who have never played, don't necessarily try your darnedest to win. Sure, play competitively if everyone else is, but if they're super new to the hobby, play to their level and pace. That way they're not so intimidated with you blasting off into the lead. It's like playing sports with young kids. Yeah, I can smack a basketball away from a kid trying to shoot (because I'm 6'2"), but there's really no fun in playing that way.

Again, the other comments all have wonderful helps as well. What games are you planning on bringing?

Marshwiggle92 Supporter7 months ago | 1 point[-]

The other comments are very helpful. One thing that is important is to have plan and stick to it. There is always someone who interrupts and asks about fringe issues. Tell them you can address that later. And just continue with your plan.

Of course if there are questions because they simply are not understanding it you may need to reevaluate. But I find that many times a carefully crafted of theme and the rules end up making sense in the end. It is sometimes easier to understand the whole picture better than small parts of it.

And, of course, you will want to start with games that are easier to teach yet still fun. Just remember, the interrupter, while not a malicious person, can make it much harder the the group as a whole to learn IF you don't curb his tendencies.

I say all this, as a interrupter. 

Skurvy5 Supporter7 months ago | 1 point[-]

Phil did a great job explaining but I’ll add my couple of thoughts as well. 

1. Explain everything in the context of the theme of the game. Start with what the goal of the game is and what the overall theme ties into. 

Example: Terraforming Mars. 

“We each represent a different corporation attempting to make Mars habitable. Mars is considered habitable when there is enough water, the atmosphere is thick enough, and the temperature is warm enough to sustain life as we know it.  Each round lasts an entire generation in game time and our different corporations will be undertaking huge projects to turn mars into an earth like planet. At the end of the game the corporation that contributed most to the terraforming of Mars wins the game.”

2. Explain broad rules but don’t get bogged down in minutiae right away. Throwing every exception and strategy at a player during the Teach just causes confusion.

3. Explain how a typical turn works and what options a player can take each turn. Keep everything in the theme of the game. I personally find that people are more engaged and rules make more sense if they are taught within the theme of the game. 

4. Be patient and talk slowly. Sometimes it helps to have the other players repeat things back to you or let them ask questions. 

5. You need to be the expert on the game. Have the rule book handy but it’s best if you can do the Teach from memory. 

6. Have fun! I greatly enjoy teaching board games. 

philryuh Supporter7 months ago | 1 point[-]

I feel you, I've never been the one to explain the rules so when I needed to, I realized it's not an easy job at all. Takes a bit (or A LOT) of prep work and heart to want to present it in the easiest manner possible for the group.

I think some quick tips from what I've seen from others are:

  • Prepare in advance, with amount of prep time correlating to complexity of game
  • Have the board setup before you start explaining so that the group has a reference point
  • Start with the hook - don't immediately start going through the rulebook; start with the theme and what the main point/goal of the game - make it sound fun!
  • Then go into the details of how you achieve that goal through the mechanics of the game
  • Don't start pausing after every couple of minutes to mention about different strategies
  • Don't feel like you need to explain the game 100%. You should have the bulk of the rules in your head but no need to weight down the group to try and maintain everything from the beginning. Let them start with 70-80% (especially if it's a complex game) and then point out any errors as it plays out
  • Consider playing the first round of turns as a practice to get the mechanics down or to play with the cards in everyone's hands facing up for everyone to see.

Just some thoughts I have based on personal experience only! And welcome to the forum! :D

sdirrane Supporter7 months ago | 1 point[-]

I agree with all this.  I also find it helpful after the board is set up to actually move pieces, play cards, whatever mechanism, etc. so they can see hands on how the rule works.  For instance, in Viticulture I would take a worker and put it in the spot I’m explaining and then also “play” out the spot (give victory points, play cards, make wine...) so they can see how it will function when they make that particular move.