So you’re actually hosting a game session and might wonder how to ensure your players around the table will have a good time ? This starts by explaining the game you will unfold for them – making sure they understand the purpose of the game and allow them to immerse into the theme and mechanics.
The key element to be successful at explaining games is to be able to articulate clearly in 3 steps what it is all about. There’s no miracle to do this: Learn the game.
You will have various ways to do this, but ultimately you will end up with the combination of the following: Read the rules + Watch videos about how to play the game + Set the game up at home + Pretend to play it solo/more players.
So you’re ready to explain your game ? Well, let’s make sure you’re covered through the 3 explanation steps so you don’t waste your players time & energy and don’t have to get back to the rules every 2 minutes (which typically would break the atmosphere and momentum).
Step 1: Cover the Game Concept
Tell your players around the table about the overall idea of the game. Players will want to know what is exciting about the game. They will want to somehow relate to the theme and the actions they can take. Here’s a few questions you want to answer during your explanation pitch :
- What is the game about ?
- Who do you represent ingame ?
- Who are your friends and ennemies ?
- What’s the boardgame style of this game ?
Step 2: Highlight the Victory Conditions
In many rulebooks, this comes at last – bad idea because often the understanding of what you’re saying to a player will be shifting once they understand how they can score points or influence victory efforts. Right after the explanation of the theme, it’s a good idea to briefly introduce the victory conditions. I usually repeat this also at the end of my pitch, just before we launch the game.
- How do you win the game ?
- Any special rules for game ending ?
- What happens in case of a tie ? (usually there are special rules)
- Show an example of calculation of points.
Step 3: Game Mechanics
Now that the players know how to win the game, you’ll be explaining what they will be doing. Examples are good – throw out lots of them ! Don’t hesitate to put the rulebook aside, take the pawns and demonstrate how player X could do this action while player Y will prefer to perform this move. You will be teaching the actual things that you will be doing during the game. This is the most time-intensive portion of teaching a game. Now, depending on if you will be one of the players at the table or not (in some cases you are just explaining rules of various games but not actually playing them), it will be useful either to save the details for later or on the contrary adding here and there a few tips (if you’re not playing). Remember to cover the following questions :
- Describe each area of the board & its function.
- Is there a round/phase count-down ?
- What actions can I perform on my turn ?
- What else do I need to know ?
You’ve covered the 3 steps and you’re good to go ? Not so fast ! Before actually starting the game, ask your table if they are questions, it’s through examples that they will really understand what’s going to happen. Once players know the overall flow of the game, then revisit each of the portions of the game and dive deep enough where people aren’t lacking anything that they will need to know.