How to Teach Board Games : The Pawns And Pints Way

“If you look at page 97 of the rule book, you will see that the demogorgon may become an issue, therefore, in order to best attack, you shall have to utilize one of 18 flanking strategies, which I shall carefully explain to you right now….”

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We’ve all experienced it. We sit down to play a game with some friends, and a knowledgeable player begins “teaching” us the game – but, while this knowledgeable friend may know a lot about the game, all to frequently, they don’t know much about how to teach.

Therefore, I figured I would utilize my teaching background(I taught school for 2 years and have a masters of education), to develop and adapt a system for teaching board games which is simply to learn and will reduce the amount of time explaining a game a game and increase the time playing!

The basic concept is very simple : Simply explain what the player needs to know at first, and avoid complex explanations, tips, or analysis. 

Concept

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The first trick to teaching the game is having a concept easily accessible to explain to your players. This can be as simple as referencing it to a game they’ve already played: “It’s like Monopoly but…”, or reading or paraphrasing something off the back of the box.

This should always be kept to 2-4 sentences and not take more than 30 seconds to communicate.

Here are some example of good concept statements:

Pathogenesis is a deck building game in which you play as the germs fighting against the body.”

Red Dragon Inn is a card game where a bunch of adventurers try to get each other drunk with different abilities.”

 

The basic rule is this – KEEP IT SIMPLE. Avoid extraneous information, and communicate the basic concept.

Objective Of the Game

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The objective of the game should be explained in similarly simple terms to the concept. It should be distinct from explaining the concept, but it should be simply stated.

For example:

The objective of Monopoly is to gather more money than the other players and cause them to go bankrupt.

The objective of Risk is to take over the world.

Again, you do not need to go into depth, you simply need to present the basic concept of the game, so as you continue to explain the game, the players will understand what information will help them win.

 

Set Up

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There are two schools of thought on set up – one is that you can teach them how to set up the first time they play, and that way they will never forget – the other is, set up for them, and after they play the game, they will understand the set up.

Personally, I prefer to set up the game and get the players rolling, but there is merit to both strategies. The benefit of explaining it as you go is that they can pick up some of the set up as you go, the downside is, the chances are they aren’t listening, and the information is extraneous unless they decide they love the game.

Win Conditions

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This is where you can start to get into the nitty gritty. Most modern games have cards that have the win conditions very clearly expanded, but it’s worth it typically to verbally go through the win conditions exactly, so all of the players understand how to do it. If they are not written down somewhere on the game box, I recommend writing them down on a piece of paper for the group.

Although you will want to explain things in a more technical sense here, I still reccomend doing it as simply as possible. For example:

Example of Clearly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once all the other party members have “passed out” drunk because their fortitude has become lower than their alcohol content. They also lose if they ever run out of gold. 

Example of Poorly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once you have managed to get all of the other players counters to cross. The fortitude can either be reduced to zero, or the alcohol content can be increased, but if and when they ever match up with one another, or pass one another, that player is knocked out. By gambling you can get them to lose money, which can also help you win. 

The difference between these two is how clear the first one is – it’s short, it doesn’t drag on, and doesn’t get to deep into the mechanics.

End Conditions

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End conditions, like win conditions, need to be explained in exact turns. Simply state them as such:

The game ends when ______ occurs, or _____________.

Again, I highly reccomend writing this down for the players or directing them to a clear statement on the game which explains when the game ends.

Turn Walk Through

The next step is to take the players through a turn – it is typically worth it to do this with each player playing at least once, because they will frequently not be paying attention while it is there friends turn. This will differ depending on the game, but in games that have a hidden “hand” of cards, it is typically worth revealing them as you walk them through one turn, clearly delineating each “phase” of there turn.

Extra Rules

If there is anything absolutely necessary to add, add it at this point, but otherwise, if the rules are – like with most games, written on the cards or only happen with certain conditions which will reveal and clearly state that the rule is now in effect – simply warn the players about it, without going in to too much detail.

Shut Up, Stand Back, Answer Questions

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The most important thing to remember to do when teaching games is to stop talking and let the players play. If the players seem to be picking up a bit, as early as their first round of turns, stop talking and just watch and be willing to answer their questions. The longer you talk, the longer it will take for them to genuinely have fun – part of the joy of playing games is figuring them out to a certain degree.

That being said, being knowledgeable of the rules and be ready to answer questions. Knowing how to answer players questions concisely and helpfully, will help them get into the game and have a great time!

Here is a list of things we recommend you DO while teaching board games:

  • Understand the game inside and out.
  • Review it before teaching it.
  • Be prepared with concise statements about the game.
  • Be ready to answer questions.

Here are some things which we highly recommend you DO NOT do while teaching board games:

  • Talk about strategies, art designs, similar games or anything not relevant to how to play the game while you are teaching it.
  • Judge the players or look down at them for choosing a specific game.
  • Act irritated when players ask you the same question.
  • Narrate the game experience past the first turn.

If you follow these simple tips – we are confident that you shall be able to teach board games to all your friends and have a good time! If you think you are an expert board game teacher, send me an email at edward@PawnsAndPints.com, we are always looking for more game gurus!

Also, don’t forget to back us on Kickstarter – which is your only chance to get the highly discounted Kickstarter annual membership for $150 – only 8 days remain!

Furthermore, please follow us on twitter, facebook and instagram, and check out our lead DM’s continuing blog posts and twitter feed!

And please – comment with your best strategies for teaching games – what works for you? What doesn’t?

How to Teach Board Games : The Pawns And Pints Way

“If you look at page 97 of the rule book, you will see that the demogorgon may become an issue, therefore, in order to best attack, you shall have to utilize one of 18 flanking strategies, which I shall carefully explain to you right now….”

image-20160121-9766-1dx07im.jpg

We’ve all experienced it. We sit down to play a game with some friends, and a knowledgeable player begins “teaching” us the game – but, while this knowledgeable friend may know a lot about the game, all to frequently, they don’t know much about how to teach.

Therefore, I figured I would utilize my teaching background(I taught school for 2 years and have a masters of education), to develop and adapt a system for teaching board games which is simply to learn and will reduce the amount of time explaining a game a game and increase the time playing!

The basic concept is very simple : Simply explain what the player needs to know at first, and avoid complex explanations, tips, or analysis. 

Continue reading “How to Teach Board Games : The Pawns And Pints Way”

Evolving Personalities: Creating and Maintaining Characters Across Multiple Campaign Settings

When we look back at our favorite RPG stories, it is not just the grand adventures that come to mind. Certainly there are impressive, even epic feats our parties have accomplished, victories and triumphs that warrant retelling. Yet equally memorable, if not more so, are the characters that made those events possible. We see this especially well in the high fantasy tales of Tolkien, Martin and Lewis. It isn’t just about destroying the One Ring, it is about Frodo Baggins. It isn’t just about claiming a birthright, it is about Jon Snow. It isn’t just about defeating the evil Witch, it is about Peter Pevensie.

So too, then, our greatest adventures are not about defeating the Arch Nemesis that emerges from the Void, it is about our Character! There’s no player that gets the fullest enjoyment from their role playing without first developing and becoming invested in their own character, their own contributions to the world. This is even more true when the party consists of sttentive and engaged players. The story will be both forever more memorable and immediately more enjoyable when you take an active hand in the writing, moving, even telling of the story.

To this end we are going to explore how we as players can tie our own PCs more intricately into the worlds they tread. What elements of the campaign setting are adapted to the character’s story, what motivations our characters have, how their flaws impact their decisions, right down to how a strong or favorite character can even evolve between chapters of a story, up to and including transitioning to new stories entirely. The hope of this article is to, by example, illustrate the benefits of developing a character, the merits of character investment, and the ways we can make an RPG more fun and engaging by taking a step into our roles more immediately.

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Continue reading “Evolving Personalities: Creating and Maintaining Characters Across Multiple Campaign Settings”

How to Terrify Your Players(And make them love it)

Since the dawn of time, humans have been attracted in some way to that which terrifies them. Why do we seek out such a primeval feeling? Perhaps it is for the simple novelty of it, the adrenaline and blood pumping, or perhaps it is a trial, of which we willingly undergo, in hopes that it will better increase our understanding of the dark and dangerous world in which we inhabit. Whatever the reason: dread, suspense and mystery can add an element to your game that your players will never forget!

Tabletop games may seem the least likely place for an adrenaline packed heart racing journey into the lands of terror. But, with the right preparation by the game master and commitment by the players, it will be an experience your players won’t soon forget!

 

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To help make up for the upcoming terrifying imagery, here is a neutral, non scary clown.

Continue reading “How to Terrify Your Players(And make them love it)”

It’s All Fun & Games: The History of, and Moral Quandary Presented by, Playing RPGs

Who doesn’t enjoy a good game from time to time? It is a fulfilling social experience, a way to exercise wit and critical thinking, and can be both challenging and competitive. There is an opportunity for discussion, even discourse, a time set aside for relaxing in a comfortable environment, and the stakes are at best minimal. It can be a way to learn, a way to improve ourselves, a way to entertain guests, a way to match wits, and even a medium by which stories can be crafted and told.

For many of us we would include RPGs in this category without hesitation. However, as it were, there is a stigma, particularly in Western culture, against Fantasy and Science-Fiction type RPGs. We hear this most frequently in the form of attacks on Dungeons & Dragons by groups of well meaning but misguided individuals. The concerned groups usual cast damning remarks at RPG Players for dabbling in the occult, black arts, witchcraft, or even lambast accusations of courting demon kind. On a lesser gravity, we also see individuals who have become wary of joining RPGs to a point they simply falter or hesitate. They hear the mention of Magics and otherworldly Realms and choose to remain cautious. Some have heard the advocacy groups attack RPGs so forcefully, it makes them wonder, maybe there really could be something to be wary of, couldn’t there?

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In this article, we hope to first go over the history of RPGs and their development. In so doing we can come to a better understanding of where these games originate, where these controversies first arise, the forms they take, and how best to address them. Then, following this we will look at the common objections against RPGs more closely, and how we may give reasonable answers to those who have questions about the genre. Lastly, our hope is to increase an understanding in the gaming community of what RPGs are, and to further our collective understanding as a society of what elements, if any, we need be wary of when playing RPGs.

Continue reading “It’s All Fun & Games: The History of, and Moral Quandary Presented by, Playing RPGs”

The Wheel of Morality – The Comprehensive Guide to Alignment in RPGs

 

Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn! Tell me the alignment I should learn!

Perhaps the most integral part of making any character for an RPG is determining that character’s behavior. A player should have at least a basic understanding on what drives his character, and be able to distinguish what he would do from what his character would do. To this end and when in doubt, players often turn to the line on their character sheets that reads, Alignment.

But what is an Alignment? How exactly does it govern my play style or my character’s actions? Should I choose an alignment to play, or play and whatever alignment my style happens to be just adopt? Should I make my back story match my alignment, or my alignment match my back story? Continue reading “The Wheel of Morality – The Comprehensive Guide to Alignment in RPGs”

How to Play an “Evil” Aligned Character without Messing Up the Party

“So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.” We love the bad guys in movies and TV shows – and well done bad guys can make or break a book, movie or show. However – when it comes to playing an RPG – many people advise steering clear of the moustache twirling villains in order to have a party that actually get’s something done. In the following article, we will tackle how to play an Evil character in any sort of party.

What is evil?

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“I’ll have puppies with a side of kittens for breakfast! And don’t forget to kick the orphans this morning – come to think of it, they look a bit plump, are you feeding them AGAIN?”

We all have a variety of actions, phrases and people we would associate with “Evil” – but in our increasingly moral relativistic world – it is hard to define evil – especially in an RPG.

Continue reading “How to Play an “Evil” Aligned Character without Messing Up the Party”