Arguably, the biggest struggles getting new games to the table are time and learning how to play the games themselves. Rules are very important to playing board games; creators spend plenty of time playtesting and giving us ways to enjoy their creativity. Yet more times than not, learning a new game is the main reason we don’t get new games to the table. Rule books are not all created equal, and that problem becomes abundantly clear when you start reading rule books and teaching more games.
Having good teachers is the best when learning new games. Nathan and Andy both do this a lot in our group. We make goals of getting new games to the table and, more importantly, take the time to learn and prepare the game to teach everyone else. In our group, we like to tease each other, and sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, we will tease Nathan. He often reads rules to teach us a game, and while teaching us a game some rules get left out. It is not in a way that he does a surprise reveal in the last round of the game that rule allows him to get lots of extra victory points. Most of the time that rule affects everyone evenly. What usually happens is we pay so close attention to Nathan that we just get lost in his puppy-like eyes and his melodious voice that we miss a rule. When I lose a game I blame Nathan and his eyes.
Many games have rule books that are just ok, I wish that they spent more time allowing others to learn and ask questions from their rulebook before taking it to print. Hopefully, that would allow them to see what is not transparent to them and those already familiar with the game. They are board game creators and they should focus on making a wonderful board game. The experience of the game that they worked so hard for would be better if they would spend some more time on the rule book. I love games with well-written rules. When I am spending more time playing a game and not online looking up rule clarifications I am a happy camper. A video on how to play that game makes learning even better. Games utilizing both the rule book and an online video as a reference helps even more playing that first game.
I have ADHD. As such, it makes learning new games a touch more difficult. Most of the time I cannot hear the rules of a game and ponder and decide on the value of several different strategies. Normally with more complicated games, I need to understand a core strategy and hope it works. Unfortunately, nothing helps as much as playing a game and struggling the first time. But what helps the most the first time is being able to read the rules and not being chased onto the internet to find some clarification on BGG. Now if only we could add an extra day to the week so my friends can play more games with me.
When I learned Great Western Trail with Nathan, I did not (to a point still don’t) know how to use buildings on the trail for the highest effect. I understood that I needed money and tried my best to buy the greatest variety of cattle with extra value to get me that extra money when I went to Kansas City. With games like this that have a higher level of complexity, I need to play the game more than once to be able to get a greater idea of what strategies work best.
Having a background in board games and an understanding of game mechanics and styles helps a lot when learning new games. It is also a great benefit when I can use terms like “counter drafting.” Having a hand of cards, picking one, and passing to the right or left. You are not only looking at what benefits you but would it help someone else even more if you allow another card to pass.
For example, when we were learning Isle of Cats, I was able to focus on how we “fish” for these cats to rescue them and build a strategy of how I might win instead of spending brainpower trying to understand how they worded the counter drafting mechanic in the rule book.
I propose that we citizens of Meeple Nation raise our glasses to our friends who read the rules and teach us how to play new games. A toast to those who encourage us to learn new things and make new memories, even if they forget a rule here or there. Cheers to those who encourage creators and give them positive feedback when a game company publishes good rule books and content creators produce helpful online videos to help people like me better understand how to play their games. Here's to you!