Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Learning a Game

Posted by sodaklady on March 17, 2007

When my kids were in high school, they took a test to determine how they learn.  There are three main ways: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, although Wikipedia also includes reading/writing.  This information is then used to suggest appropriate occupations for the future wage-earner.  This was a new idea to me ten or so years ago and I thought it was pretty interesting; I still do or it wouldn’t be stored in my memory! A couple of good sites for more information are The Learning Curve and Learning Styles.

This brings me to the subject of learning new game rules.  Like many of you, I’m generally the rules reader and explainer, a weighty responsibility which I’m still working to improve.  What I’ve discovered is that the best way for me to retain rules, unless the game is very simple, is to write down the salient points in an order that is logical to my mind.  This is especially helpful in reminding me of all the rules since I am in the habit of forgetting something until it comes up and then interrupting play with, “Oh, yeah, you can also….”  Very annoying to the new players and something that I am often teased about when I’m teaching a new game.

So with all that said, why did I think that a simple twice-reading of the rules to something as complex as Combat Commander: Europe would suffice?!  I still had only a rudimentary understanding of the game in the vein of “You play an Orders and then we can both play Actions after each one, then I play an Orders and we can both play Actions after each one.”  Right, that sums it up!  I had no idea of where to start to teach this to my husband.  Oh, I could get him to read the rules himself…*stops to laugh*.  That’s only happened once and it was after we’d played a couple of games of Command & Colors: Ancients.

I finally sat down with pen and paper yesterday to go through the rules once more, writing down the main points that I need to explain to get the game going and all of the finer rules that are often forgotten (or so says experienced players in a thread on the geek).  Between this list and the start-up sample game in the back of the scenario booklet, I think I’m finally ready to teach this game to my husband.

This re-writing of the rules isn’t something I’ve ever heard about before and I wonder if I’m the only one.  Does everyone else just open the rules and start explaining, even for a complex set of rules?  Do you play the game several times solo until everything comes easily and naturally?  Do you just start playing with a basic explanation, referring to the rules constantly?

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3 Responses to “Learning a Game”

  1. geraldmcd said

    If the game rules really are simple, I just glance through them as I explain the rules, to be sure (hopefully) I don’t forget something. For more complex games, I have taken time to create a player’s aid to hand out and teach from. For Princes of Florence, I wrote an outline to teach from. I used to teach adult classes, so if I take time to prepare, I can do a good job of teaching game rules. Unfortunately, I don’t always take that time, and then my instructions are unorganized and pitiful.

  2. R. N. Dominick said

    Like you, I’m usually the one to explain games. I almost always read through the rules first, and then refer to them while explaining the game. I like to use the game pieces to explain difficult things (like conflicts in Tigris and Euphrates, for instance; the first time I taught it to someone, I didn’t lay out tiles to illustrate what I was saying; when I did that later, someone who had learned the first time around said it made it much clearer), and if there isn’t a (good) player’s aid that comes with the game, I try to find one on the Geek.

    For some games however, this isn’t enough. Not to pick on Friedemann Friese, but I had to rewrite the rules to Formidable Foes to be able to teach it effectively (and I keep meaning to make a player aid for it for BGG) and I am about to do the same for Power Grid (because I keep forgetting one or two things every time I show someone how to play) and Funny Friends. I don’t have to do it for Amun-Re because I found a good one-page summary that I keep in the box as a supplemental player aid.

    Also I have to tailor things to who I’m teaching. C— gets really impatient with a lot of rules all at once, and learns much better through practice rounds and such. I also didn’t used to handle being asked questions during rules explanations very well, saying things like “we’ll get to that in a minute” quite a bit. I’ve found it’s better to give a short answer and, if there’s anything more to explain, say “we’ll go into it more a bit later” — interacting instead of just effectively ignoring the question.

    Of course last Tuesday I told everyone the rules to a game as I read the rules for the first time. It was a wonder any of us enjoyed that game of Santa Fe Rails, but we did…

  3. Linnaeus said

    Doesn’t Jody do the “rewrite the key points of the rules” thing too?

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