I have been told by many people that I am very good at teaching games, so I thought I would share some of the strategies I use in doing so. Here are some pointers for you, to help improve your teaching of games!
1) Be sure you have a good understanding of the game. It seems that this should go without saying, but I have been taught games by people who clearly didn’t know it well themselves. When I get a new game, I usually read the rules at least two full times before trying to explain it. Check out instructional videos and rules clarifications, if necessary.
2) Don’t assume that anything is a given. While you shouldn’t patronize people (it means treating them like they’re stupid), you should thoroughly explain everything, even the stuff that seems like it should be common knowledge.
3) Try to draw examples from other games they may be familiar with. If I’m teaching Flash Point: Fire Rescue, I’ll often use the phrase, “It’s like in Pandemic…” This helps provide relatable examples, and perhaps strike up interest in other games. “If you like this game, you should check out (insert game here.”
4) Don’t just use one style of teaching. People learn in different ways. I myself am a very visual learner. Someone else at the table may learn better by hearing. Try to incorporate examples in your explanation to appeal to all types of learning.
5) Provide plenty of examples. It’s one thing to tell someone a rule, it’s another thing to SHOW them a rule. Demonstration is of utmost importance. If you’re teaching 7 Wonders, show them each of the different types of cards, and explain how they work. Maybe even play a practice round with open-faced hands. That way, any questions can be tackled before they become problematic during the game.
6) Be thorough, but concise. There’s nothing worse than a player getting bored before the game begins. (Okay, well, perhaps being branded in the eye with a cattle prod would be worse, but you get my drift.) You want to be sure to cover the basics of the game thoroughly, but, if at all possible, try to keep the rules explanation under 15 minutes, especially when playing with casual gamers.
7) Teach the basics before you teach the specifics. Before you go into minor things, be sure the newbies have an overall sense of the game. When I teach Puerto Rico, I don’t even mention specialized buildings until everyone has an understanding of the resource production, roles, and other fundamentals. Similarly, if I’m teaching Cosmic Encounter, I don’t assign alien races until everyone understands the turn structure, encounters, the Warp/Void, etc. Only then will I get into the nitty gritty.
8) Inevitably, somewhere down the line, there will arise a situation where “you didn’t explain that rule,” and somebody starts whining about an unfair game. When this happens, try your best to solve the problem without jeopardizing the integrity of the game. Usually, my house rule is, if the mistake is due to me not explaining something, the errant play will be allowed once.
9) Be excited and enthusiastic. If you want your game to be fun, be sure you yourself are having fun. As the teacher of the game, you serve as the first point of contact for the new player with said game. Thus, it is your responsibility to establish a fun environment from the start.
10) The fact is, not everyone likes every game. Thus, sometimes, people will leave a new game dissatisfied. That’s okay. Try again later with a different game. Maybe it will be more successful.