Continuing in my series of articles about how to teach games to others, I want to talk about maybe the best approach – and that is getting your games group to learn a game together. After all, for many of us, playing board games is a social activity and at the very least, it’s a hobby we share. So it makes sense to also share the burden of teaching, or rather learning, how to play a new game.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know how much I like small box games. From wallet games to mini mint games to mint tin games to Oink-sized games to a deck of cards to any game that you can repackage into a smaller box and take with you anywhere. The other thing I like are games that are very quick to teach and learn and very quick to play, but still provide a lot of fun and excitement and many small box games provide exactly that. So in this article, I want to discuss why small and quick games are sometimes the better choice than big, heavy and long games.
Nobody likes a game with more rules than necessary. The more rules there are, the longer it takes to learn a game, especially if there are also a lot of edge cases or exceptions. Too many rules can lead to confusion and slow down the flow of a game and consequently increase playing time. In this article, I want to look at streamlining games and how it can affect the playing experience.
The holy grail of the perfect rulebook is something that most publishers try to find and is something that we all want. It’s no surprise that unboxing videos usually show you what the rulebook of a game looks like and one reason why many publishers allow you to download rulebooks for their games, so you can see for yourself if you’ll be able to learn the game from it. I have read quite a few rulebooks over the years and wanted to share my thoughts about what makes for a good rulebook.
I often feel that we accept the written word as something that’s a given and don’t pay much attention to it. We feel that writing isn’t hugely important and that it’s fine to just jot anything down, without much care or attention. That’s often fine and it’s great that people give writing a go. In fact, I encourage people to try and express themselves in written form. Keep tweeting, posting, texting and emailing. However, I think that there are times when it’s vitally important that the writing is done well and with care – and writing is actually hard if you want to do it well. Yet, in the board game hobby, writing is too often done by the wrong people, which can spoil the game experience.
Text and board games are inextricably linked. You find text in various places in every board game to a greater or lesser extent. I can’t think of any game that doesn’t have some text somewhere, but feel free to prove me wrong in the comments below. At the very least, there will be text on the box, stating where the game was made or what its player count is. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find games that are text-heavy. I want to look at the varying levels of use of text in modern board games.
Growing up, I played a lot of tabletop games with my parents and brother. Yes, there was Monopoly of course, as well as other roll and move games such as Winnetou, but also tableau builders like Ogalala and a stock market game called Die Börse which required a little more strategic thinking. It was mostly my brother who would teach us these sort of games, and my parents would teach us trick-taking games like Skat and Doppelkopf.
Tabletop game designers want to create an enjoyable experience for people – whatever enjoyable means in this context. From that starting point, they create a game that is balanced, flows well and meets the desired complexity requirements, as well as meets other criteria. They may use the skillset of developers to refine everything, and if a publisher is involved, there will be additional criteria that have to be met. However, in this article, I want to focus on enjoyment, what it means and whose responsibility it is to make a game enjoyable.
As some of you will know, I’m an alpha player at the core, which means I can take over co-operative games and tell people what to do. Even in competitive games I’m the one who makes sure rules are followed and actions are done in the right order. I even adjust tokens or tiles to line them up properly and ensure everything is in the right place. However, I’ve changed a lot over the last year or so and I want to share my journey with you. Maybe it will give you some tips for yourself, if you’re an alpha player too.
There are a lot of great things happening in the tabletop game community, which is great and for a lot of us, playing games is about meeting new people, having fun and sharing a hobby. Yet, growing the community and showing people, who have never heard about board games, what it is that we all love about playing them, is a different thing and often seen as something that is up to boardgame cafes, tabletop evangelists or game publishers’ marketing teams to achieve. However, we all can do something to grow the hobby and share with more people the joy of playing games.