How to Explain Rules Properly

Posted by Martin Yong on

So you've gathered your mates together, and you're ready to start a game of Machi Koro. But there's a slight problem - there is someone who is totally new to the game. How do you go about explaining the rules, what will the vets who've probably heard the rules a million times do while you go on an exposition? 

Rule #1: Beginning with the end in mind

When you are in charge of explaining the rules of a game, think of yourself as a storyteller. You need to pitch to the lizard-part of your new player's brain - why should their childish, impulsive side listen to you attentively? It doesn't have to be fancy. Just use my "Who-Where-How Model".

Rule #2: Get the Veterans to pitch in(Physically)

There's always something to do; even for the veterans - give them something to do or they WILL FIND it on their own. Cards will always need to be shuffled, pieces moved about, coins split. Tell them to do it, "Jamie, could you help me set up the game while I explain the rules?" 

Rule #3: Focus on the options during the player's turn

I always use this presentation format when we get to the playable actions: "During your turn, you can do one of three/four/five things." This is where the toolbox analogy is useful - when people play games, they don't want to be told what is the best/fastest way to solving a problem. They want to know what their options are. Don't teach meta, teach options.

Rule #4: Start with a shortened or simplified version of the game after you've explained the Winning Conditions and Player Turn Options. 

Let's face it, even the most casual of games have a lot of rules to digest for a new player. The best way to reinforce learning is to do them - have your table start playing a shortened or simplified version of the game to allow your new player experience the rules. It can be just playing 2 hands in Get-Bit, or just the first age in 7 Wonders, or 2 rounds in Wink. Then after that reset the game and move into the official play-off. It will give your new player plenty of time to internalise the information while the game is reset. 

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