This week I welcome three prominent and distinct boardgame designers to talk about teaching boardgames. Rob Daviau, Jamey Stegmaier, and Phil Eklund help me untangle the complicated fine art of how to best bring your favorite boardgames to your friends..
Stayed up way too late tonight listening to this, but awesome podcast. I was amazed you got Phil Ecklund, co-designer of my current Favorite Game of All Time, "Pax Porfirina" (seriously people, get this game), but it was interesting all around. I'm not very skilled at explaining games myself, I tend to jump around too much. A nice aspect of BGG is that the community there sometimes gives outlines on how to best explain more complicated games. (I know there is a pretty good post there on tips to explain Pax Porfiriana)
Eklund's Pax Porfiriana is a sublime work of art. If you haven't played it yet, you should at least give it a go sometime. The strategy for winning isn't immediately apparent when you first play. It shares some of the same logic as Navajo Wars in that respect. But between the card art, the historical text and the ingenuous manner in which someone you THINK is losing is actually playing an end game strategy that can pull a win out at any time, it's an exciting and fascinating thing.
AND it's a small game that can easily fit in your man purse!
Tom, here's a question I have for you -- you said that you never want to teach a game until you have learned the rules perfectly, but when do you reach the realization that you've perfectly internalized those rules? I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but I've experienced a number of times when I want people to learn a new game that, even after having read the rules two or three times the day before, when the time actually comes to teach the game to other players I embarrassingly discover that I don't know the rules as well as I thought I had, and as players ask more and more questions that I'm uncertain how to answer, I find I end up having to start flipping through the manual again. What advice do you have to avoid a situation like that?
I think this is where it can be helpful to set up the game first and spend some hands-on time with it, which I believe Jamey asked about.
I don't mean to imply that I know a game *perfectly*, but I try to know it well enough that I can anticipate what sorts of questions will be asked and have the answers ready. I still have to look up stuff, but ideally I know the game well enough to minimize this, or to at least know exactly where to look to find the answer.
Interesting podcast (although I never played any of the guests' games). When I explain a game I already know, I have to stop my own enthusiasm about the game :-). As for teaching experiences: I "hate" players who want/agree to play a boardgame, but then only play only half-invested and often ruin so the game for every player.
To rule books: When The Settlers of Catan was released in the mid-nineties in Germany, it was marketed to the mainstream audience, but was seen by the publishers as more/too complex. I don't know if the following was used in other countries, too, but the rules were then split into three sections.
The first one was a big, colourful and graphics-heavy sheet of paper with beginner's rules for the very first game. Just set up the board as seen on the sheet and learn the core principles of the game with reduced decision-making. Then there was the real rulebook for the second game which more or less contains all rules. But more explanations to quite all game elements and especially how things interact in different and/or unusual situations were found in a third glossary book ("almanach").
I quite liked this approach, but I don't know if many games used this setup. And if you can use it for games that are more complex than Catan.
A great podcast Tom. Too often I've brought a new game to a group and said "ok let's figure out how to play this!" only to get blank stares and then suggest we play something I know well instead ( yay Munchkin). I'll try to become more prepared in the future.