How to Teach Someone a Board Game (and Even Have Fun Doing It)

Before your game night

Pick the right game for the groupI'm a firm believer that tabletop games are for everyone, but that doesn't mean all players are going to appreciate every game. Although complicated and heavy games can be exciting and deeply rewarding, not everyone is going to want to invest the time and energy needed to learn to play those beasts.

For players who are newer to modern board games, it may be better to start off with simpler fare. Games like Splendor and Ticket to Ride are wonderful introductory board games for newer players. This is partially because they're great games that are fun to play. But it's also because they serve as useful lessons, each highlighting common game mechanics that come together to make up more-involved, complex games, like Terraforming Mars and Root.

One of the easiest mistakes to make when you're teaching a game to friends is reading the rulebook to them.

For instance, Splendor is all about using resources to buy cards—from a shared market—which then produce more resources, which you can use to buy more valuable cards (a game mechanic known as engine building). Ticket to Ride emphasizes claiming territory on a shared board and predicting the routes and plans of the other players (in order to potentially foil them). Add in Skull, a wonderful little bluffing game that also includes a bidding/auction mechanic, and you'll have all the skills needed to play the delightfully intricate and brain-burny game Power Grid.

Smith also pointed out that theme is another thing to consider when picking a game. "Theme will buy you a lot of grace from your audience. If someone's invested in the theme, if they think the game looks cool, suddenly they're willing to suffer through a slightly more complicated rules teach." If you know that all the people in your group were huge fans of the Redwall books (novels about woodland creatures having Arthurian-esque battles and adventures) when they were younger, they'll probably be onboard for trying to learn Root (where woodland creatures battle for control of a quaint woodland area), even if they've shied away from intimidating war games in the past.

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