Guide: Teach Boardgames to non-players

One thing that makes our hobbies great is sharing them with others. No matter what you’re into, if you share your passion for it with someone else it becomes something grander all together. When it comes to gaming, adding friends to the mix is always the best way to liven the party. But what if you’re wanting to incorporate people who aren’t gamers? What if you’re trying to share your gaming hobby with people who have never played games before? Well don’t worry, we’ve all been in that situation, so it’s time to share some knowledge!

Since we’ve so many games here at the office, or what we like to call Nerd Haven, that we’re almost always teaching friends and colleagues something new. We also frequently run game demos, so we’re nearly always showing a game to someone who’s never heard of it before. We’ve learned a bit about teaching games to new players, and we’ve compiled some tips to produce a how-to guide when introducing games to both non-gamers and new players. Let’s check it out!

1.) Be Frequent

It’s important to offer to play games with your non-gamer friends often. Often, non-gamers won’t jump at the first chance to play a game, so it’s a good idea to keep introducing the prospect of playing. If you don’t keep the pressure, in a friendly way, non-gamers most likely won’t get around to hopping on board. For new players, stress the fact that they should give a new game at least one go, and just like with non-gamers keep introducing it.

2.) Patience is a Virtue

Perhaps the most important tip for introducing games to new players/non-gamers is to be patient. These players won’t get everything on the first go, and they’ll most certainly have questions. Be ready to explain game components, and prepare yourself to answer rules questions. Don’t get fussy over questions or if it takes a new player a while to decide what they want to do during the game. It’s important to keep the flow going so the game doesn’t take all day (unless it’s Twilight Imperium), but try not to be too forceful. You’re there to enjoy the game and help, not rush.

3.) Get Prepared

To touch on something above in a bit more detail, be prepared when teaching games to new players. They’ll have a lot of questions, so try to familiarize yourself with the game’s rules and components in advance. Read through the rulebook in advance, try setting up the game in your spare time so you know what to do when the time comes. This makes things a lot better for new players, and they’ll feel more comfortable when playing.


4.) Start with Simple Games

Not everyone is a pro when it comes to trying new games. Even players who have played through a couple of sessions of Carcassone or Pandemic may have difficulty with learning new games. That’s why it’s important to, when teaching games to non-gamers, introduce simpler games to start with. Try games with responsive mechanics like “draw a card, then play a card”, or “roll the dice, resolve what was rolled, pass your turn”. When describing a game, even if you think it is easy, if you sell it to non-gamers or even new players as it being simple, they still may feel overwhelmed once you get into it. Some good ideas of simple games are:

  • Forbidden Island
  • Karuba
  • The Resistance
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Tsuro (and Tsuro of the Seas)
  • Kingdomino
  • Splendor

4.) Watch out for Jargon

The longer you play games, the more terminology you add under your belt. When playing with other gamers, it’s easy to use this terminology when talking about a game because everyone understands it. New players and non-gamers obviously won’t know what you’re talking about when using gaming jargon at the table, and they’ll understandably be sitting confused. When introducing games, be mindful of the terms you use and make sure you approach the gameplay with the “explain like I’m five” mentality. Once the game is over and everyone’s had their fill, then you can explain to the players what type of game it is, what mechanics were used, and use the terminology that fits it.


5.) Remain Positive, and Don’t Trash Talk

I know it’s fun to talk smack to your buddies when you’re beating them royally in a game of Catan, but with new players it’s not so enjoyable. When introducing games to new players or non-gamers, remember to remain as positive and helpful as you can. Encourage new players to make the right moves, even if it puts you out. Players will leave the game feeling much more accomplished and willing to come back if they’ve had a good time. That being said, be respectful of all the players. Provide a positive and enjoyable gaming experience for everyone.

Whether you’re demoing a new game for players at your local game store or trying to get a non-gaming friend into your hobby, we believe that following these steps will no doubt be helpful in your quest. I’m always happy to add new gamers to the ranks, by doing so it helps open my options when looking for people to play with! If you have any tips of your own, don’t hesitate to share them below. We’d love to collaborate! Now get going and show your friends some games!

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