Komm, Spiel Mit!

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Last weekend we caught an early plane to Germany, and attended three days of Essen’s International Spieltag, the world’s largest board game convention. We went a couple of years ago, on the hunt for exciting game mechanics we could fit to our show, and a great time was had. This time I wanted to spend some time learning games, and paying attention to instructions. I also went to buy – since visiting in 2012 I’ve seriously gotten into the hobby, though I doubt my collection or mastery will ever rival Muttley’s.

We learnt a lot of games, and played a lot of games, and bought a lot of games. We met some lovely people and had many games taught to us by people operating the stalls. I will forever be impressed by someone able to explain a complex game to strangers in a second language.

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I spend a fair bit of time thinking about how to teach board games to other players. When I’m teaching a board game, I generally try to make my explanation fit the following structure. There are games that don’t fit it, but this works as a base – it’s how I think I can most efficiently learn games, too.

1. Who you are in the game and how you can win
2. What you can do to get to the win condition
3. What you’ll typically do on a turn
4. When/how the game will end

The reason I think this works (when it does, which is not always) is that it’s shaped around the player experience – and probably comes from my experience in interactive theatre as well. For the show, I think we’ve made a very good effort to keep our instructions framed within the audience experience. Our instructions are getting leaner and clearer as we get through more playtests, and I think by the time we do these scratches at the end of the week we’ll be feeling very good about them.

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How do you best learn/teach games?

– Nathan

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