Christmas is over (finally) and the world’s slowly getting back to normality, ignoring the insanity that is the January sales… although I’ve never seen any games on sale in January? Great sale. Anyway! Since the festive period has come to a close and the New Year is behind us, I’ve been thinking, how do you best learn games? I spent New Years playing games with close friends and thoroughly enjoyed it! We played Colt Express, Magic Maze, Smash Up and Carcassonne. Now, two of those were brand new to some of the group; none of us had played Colt before and my partner and I hadn’t played Magic Maze. Because of this, I personally believe that no matter how heavy a game is, if it’s explained well it can be learned as it is played.. Not every game needs to have the rules read!
Me and D went through the rules for Colt and set it up, had a sample run through and got to grips. Yeah sure, we needed to know the rules first, but we couldn’t just go in blind! We then got the others in and went through a round all as a group referring to the rules as we went to avoid confusion. It went well, no one argued and there wasn’t a phone in sight (always a good sign people are paying attention!). They learned as we played and it worked. But Colt is a light game, not very technically advanced and doesn’t require a tonne of understanding, so learning as we went worked. But would it work for something heavier like Resident Evil 2? Betrayal? Gloomhaven!? Probably not. Not without someone understanding every element of it!
Magic Maze is even lighter in complexity than Colt and we only needed an initial brief explanation before we got it! The game could be explained and understood before being played. We didn’t even need to see the components! We definitely learned as we played! That being said, I’ll commend my friend massively as he is damn good at teaching boardgames to people. Maybe teaching that way suited him better than had he given us the rule? Or maybe the lightness of the game suited being taught that way better?!My partner taught me Kingdomino recently as well (yeah, another super light game) but once she knew the rules she was able to explain it quickly to me and we could play! I can’t imagine that it would have taken me long to get to grips with it, but I’ll honestly say I think her explaining sped the process up.
As an example of a more heavy game, I know I taught Cosmic Encounter to my group without using the rule book at all (dangerous I know!). I know Cosmic’s ins and outs and; rather than have them understand the logistics and set up in the rules, I was able to quickly give them an overview, demonstrate a few practice rounds, then get down to Cosmic domination! Sure it was just the vanilla base game, but it worked. The only clarifications they needed were on alien powers, but I’ll give it to Fantasy Flight on how thoroughly detailed most alien powers are!
On the other hand, I did teach Nemesis (mostly) through play with my group and it went quite well, but teaching something that new to people when I’d only just gotten to grips with the rules meant I was constantly double checking. It did speed up the learning process in my opinion; myself and my partner learned the basics of play in about 40 minutes (between sorting out x, y, and z at the same time) and we then managed to explain the basics to our group in 10, meaning we could start playing and go round slowly, ensuring myself and my partner had our turns first to mop up any confusion. The alternative would have been to either read the rules altogether again and discuss every aspect to ensure everyone had it. Would that have really been the best way to learn it?
I guess you can teach the game as you play it, but the heavier the game the better your understanding of the rules needs to be! Sort of explains why ‘How to play’ videos are popular on YouTube!