You’re sitting down to play Dominion with three friends. They have never played the game before and are depending on you to teach them. Before we do anything else, let’s take a look at our players.
The Kinesthetic Learner - this person learns best by doing things. He will get bored if you try to lecture him on how to complete a task or require him to read directions. He would much rather get his hands dirty. In fact, he excels at on-the-job training. Let’s call him...Jon.
The Auditory Learner - this person learns best by listening. He would be perfectly happy if you told him everything he needed to know about a task before he attempted it. This player is very good at remembering things people say. Let’s call him...Tyrion.
The Board Game Newbie - this person is a bit of a wild card. Her learning style is not as important as her previous experience, or lack thereof. All she has to go on is her knowledge of simple games like checkers, Sorry!, Candyland, Monsters and Maidens, Come-into-my-castle, etc. She is famously bad at games with complex rules. Let’s call her...Sansa.
Quite the assortment. Well guess what-you need to teach them the rules of Dominion, get them playing AND having fun in a very short period of time. Let’s go over the Do’s and Don’t’s of teaching this game.
DON’T start by reading the rules out loud. This will appeal to only one player at this table. Can you guess which one? I’ll give you a hint. He’s short and loves to fuck. While Tyrion might learn a lot from listening to you babble on about Action phases and Buy phases, the rest of the table may actually get dumber. Imagine watching a PowerPoint presentation where the presenter reads every slide word for motherfucking word. Not only is this boring, but it's an insult to player's intelligence. Do the same thing to your playgroup, and Jon will quickly get bored of your jargon, while Sansa will be intimidated by all the big words you’re using. Nice job. Now half the table is angry and frustrated.
DON’T ask your group if they have ever played similar games. When teaching Dominion, I’d bet my balls that 9 out of 10 gamers would say something like “It’s a lot like Ascension. Have you guys ever played Ascension?” FOR FUCKS SAKE DON’T DO THIS. All it does is alienate the people who haven’t played any of the games you’re mentioning. It’s a lazy shotgun method that just wastes time. And let us not forget the doomsday scenario - your new players have played Ascension, and fucking hated it. Now they hate the Dominion too, all because you’re a snobby asshole. Obviously, if you know your playgroup well enough, this approach miiiiiiiight work. But, self-indulgently name-dropping a bunch of loosely related board games is a bad idea with a group of strangers. By the time you’re done with your bullshit, Tyrion will have paid someone to choke you in your sleep, Jon will be brandishing Longclaw, and Sansa will be crying in a corner because, well, she’s a dumbass.
Jon will get a huge kick out of this, while Tyrion will appreciate the opportunity to read the cards word-for-word. In fact, the little shit just might figure out the rules faster than you can explain them. That’s fine - these types of players are generally the easiest to please. They will usually ignore you while reading any material they can get their hands on. Sansa will reap the biggest reward here. You’ll probably have to spend the most of your time walking her through the phases of a turn, while fielding her questions, but in the meantime, Jon and Tyrion are figuring out the game in their own respective ways. So you’re ‘coaching-up’ the lowest level player, but at the same time you’re giving everyone else a chance to get their feet wet. This kind of multitasking saves you precious time and gets your group playing the game the fastest.
If you picked up on my references to educational psychology, don’t get your tightey-whiteys in a musky bundle. I left a lot of stuff out on purpose. This isn’t going out for publication in an education journal. It’s meant to help you have more fun teaching your friends beautiful nerd-hobbies.
So the next time you teach a game, I urge you to try out the approach I outlined above. Engage the table, think about your play group, and have some fun. With a little moxy, you’ll convert your newbie friends into a gaggle of die-rolling, top-decking, sheep-trading mavens in no time.
What is your go to method for teaching people new games?
What games have been so complicated to learn you just said "Fuck It," and ran for the hill?
Leave us a comment below.