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Know How You Learn Board Game Rules

I’ve written about how you teach board games before. In fact, I just did that about a year ago, which you can find here. One thing I haven’t written about is how you learn board games. As the person who teaches most new board games, I learn games in a particular way, but not everyone learns them in the same way. I’m sure there are more way than I’ll talk about, but I’m going to touch on three that I find to be common.

The Rulebooker

This is the person who is going to read the rulebook no matter what. Whether this is because they need to know every detail, can’t pay attention to someone talking, whatever it might be, this person is going to only learn by reading the rulebook.

Why This is Good

This is good because someone else knows the rules. They have gone through the book so if you have missed anything in it, hopefully they’ll have caught it. That means you get a more comprehensive overview of the rules.

Why This is Bad

Two reasons why this can be bad, firstly, you get a more comprehensive overview of the rules. So if you aren’t teaching it in the order they are thinking about the the rules, they might interject and break up y our teach for other people. This can hurt the learning process for other people a lot.

The other thing is that reading a rulebook often takes longer than someone teaching the game. You don’t want everyone else to have learned the game and then wait on the rule book learner.

How To Help

Two things that can help with the Rulebooker. Firstly, let them know what games are going to be played ahead of time. Board Game Geek has a ton of links to rulebooks for them to use. So figure out what games you are going to play and the new ones for the player and send them the rulebooks ahead of time.

Next, open up your teach of game setting the expectation that you’ll pause for questions or comments at certain points in time. This sets the expectation that no one will be interrupting during this process. Then ask for comments or questions on what you just taught. And don’t feel bad about interrupting if this rulebook reader goes down the rabbit hole of something that’s yet to be taught.

The Jump In

This player claims that they don’t learn except by doing. They get the general idea of the game and then they want to jump right into the game and start playing. Even if the rules aren’t fully explained they are gung-ho to get going and get playing.

Why This is Good

This can often be enthusiasm and that is great for gaming. Someone who is excited about a game gets more people excited about a game and that helps get more games to the table.

Why This is Bad

You need to know the rules to play the game. That is one thing that any TTRPG or board game has, it’s a set of rules that create the framework of what you do in the game. You can end up with someone who just wants to play and then will get annoyed when they don’t understand everything.

The Jump In player also can lose focus when rules are being explained. As much as the positive can be excitement and getting other players into the game. This can be a negative and push other players away from the game. It isn’t always that this learner isn’t interested in the game, but more that they aren’t focused. But it comes across as lack of interest.

How To Help

Show and tell is what I’m going to say is the biggest thing to help this player learn and stay engaged. Or it might be more Tell and Show. As the person teaching the game tell what is happening, but have the hands on learner of the group engaged doing stuff. When you explain how cards work, give them to deck to shuffle and put in place. When you explain how a move it done, have them move it on the board. For some people it is that they do learn so much better by doing. And for those people who have really short attention spans, giving them a new task every few minutes helps keep them engaged.

The Every Detail

This one is similar to the rulebooker, but I do think that they are different The Every Detail player is capable of keeping their hands off of the rulebook. But they need everything explained 100% clearly, including all the exceptions, before they are able to feel comfortable starting a game. This can come from a few different areas, often competitiveness.

Why This is Good

This is often the player who catches if you missed something. They’ll ask questions and often lead you through the teaching without knowing it. They won’t correct your rules, but they will help you know if you’ve missed anything with the questions they ask.

Why This is Bad

It is often impossible to cover every exception. And it makes the teach of a game way longer if you try and do it. So having to answer every question for them in the moment means that the others learning the game are checking out from the rules and forgetting what was already taught.

This adds a ton of time to the teach of the game. Like I said, other players are forgetting what was taught. And you are getting in less gaming. I don’t like to start a game with negative impressions or having to go back over rules.

How To Help

Only cover the important exceptions or exploitable ones. If something happens at phase 3 of the game that is completely separate from everything else, you don’t need to answer exception questions on that until then. And just be up front with that, say that you’ll answer questions and explain more then.

So what do I mean by exploitable exceptions Basically anything that you as a person who knows the game, can use to do better or make other people do worse at the game. If you can take over an area from someone with a certain exception, that’s no fun if you teach that when you do that.

Players Know How You Learn Board Game Rules

Like I said at the beginning there are other ways people learn, and most people learn in some combination of these stereotypes. But these three are ones that stand out as often being a larger hindrance to getting games to tables. So know where your weakness lies and where you strengths lie as learners.

For example, I know that I tend to be a bit of the first two. I have learned from so many rulebooks that I can read a rulebook and get going fast. So if I know I’m going to be learning a new game from someone teaching me, I should still read the rulebook. And because I’ve learned so many board games, I tend to just want to jump in as well. Once I hear the basic premise of the rules I can sometimes fill in the details without needing to hear them. Or at least I assume that I can and I want to get playing. The issue is that I might be wrong or the game might do something unique, so I need to listen for that.

This is the same when I teach, I need to pay attention when I read in the rulebook for those different things and really highlight them. It’d be very easy for me to assume that it makes sense to everyone. Or assume that it is going to work like every other game out there. Or even assume that people will be able to get that rule just with a simple description because it is common across other games.

How do you learn rules?

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