Game groups are much like classrooms, some people take on the role of student and others take on the role of teacher.
Teaching board games to your friends, family, or acquaintances can be very rewarding because you end up introducing new people to the hobby, or at the very least, introducing them to a new game – and that’s always fun, too. But it can also feel frustrating when you only have limited time to play, and you’re spending a lot of it repeating yourself or to people who didn’t put in any time to prep.
Whether you’re already “the teacher” in your group and you’re looking for some advice on how to get the best results, or maybe you’re going to be teaching for the first time, here’s some advice to help your next game night run smoothly.
1. Do the Legwork
Letting people know what you plan to play ahead of time gives everyone a chance to get a head-start on learning the game. You can send them a link to a video or a quick article if you find any good resources.
If anyone takes a few minutes to go over this info ahead of time, it’ll be easier to explain things on game night and they’ll be able to help you teach the game to everyone else.
This is just bonus, though. Don’t worry if everyone doesn’t have the time to learn the game before game. People are busy, and sometimes it’s hard to dedicate extra time outside of the allotted evening. It’s okay, that’s what the rest of these tips are for…
2. Be Prepared on Game Night
Read the rulebook from cover to cover. You will want to make sure that you understand what you have read and reread any parts that you have found unclear. I also recommend doing a sample setup of the game and watching gameplay on YouTube, if available, for your own benefit.
Even if it’s a game you’ve played in the past, it’s still a good idea to give yourself a refresher beforehand so that you aren’t on the spot when teaching the game to others.
3. Start with the Theme and Objective
In order to get players engaged in the game, it is important that they understand what their role is in the game and what they are trying to accomplish. This should give them a good framework for understanding the mechanics that you will be teaching to them.
Going over too many complex ideas at once can be confusing, especially when you don’t have a goal in mind yet.
4. Teach Only the Essentials
Some games are more rule-intensive than others, however, a good teacher can make a complex game seem relatively straight forward. The key to this is to teach players only the minimum of what they need to understand the game. For example, there may be a very rare rule exception outlined in the rulebook, but the players around the table will be overwhelmed if you teach them every caveat and nuance of the game. Teach them the basics and go into these only when it is absolutely essential.
5. Go Through a Practice Round
Many people learn best by doing. After a rules explanation, have players go through a quick practice round so that they understand the flow of the game. This will help prevent players from feeling lost and unsure during the initial round of the game and also allow them to better understand how to form and implement a strategy.
6. Treat Your First Game as a Group Learning Experience
During the first playthrough of a game, mistakes will be made both by the players and the teacher. Try not to be too hard on yourself. I recommend that you and your group go into the game with the mindset that you are learning the game together. This will make you and others much more forgiving of any mistakes you made during teaching.
7. Be Patient
While teaching a game, the players at the table will likely interrupt you with premature questions, jump in to “help” you teach, get distracted with their phones, and show a loss of interest.
You will need to remain patient and when things get rough, take a nice deep breath before continuing.
Also, remember that everybody learns at their own pace and some people will grasp it more quickly than others. Also, people learn differently. You can explain something to somebody one time and they’ll instantly get it, whereas someone else might never fully understand what you’re trying to explain until they actually see it in action while playing the game.
The old adage practice makes perfect is also true when teaching games. There are two forms of practice that are worth utilizing.
Firstly, you can practice teaching the game aloud to yourself. This will give you an idea of any parts that you are not quite sure how to explain and also help you feel more confident when it’s time to teach to your group.
A second form of practice is to teach many games. The more you teach, the better you will get.
If you have any more tips or tricks you like to implement when teaching games, be sure to comment below and let us know.