How Do You Learn to Play a Game?

Once you purchase a new game, what process do you follow while learning to play? I know some people that will buy a new game, unpack all of the pieces, glance at the rules, and then start playing. Some others would rather observe someone playing or be introduced to a game by an experienced player, before they try the game for themselves. I tend to read the rules a couple of times, and then try to run through a few rounds on my own, before I will try and introduce the game to others. Others will just look at the board and decide they already know all about how to play, and they will proceed to make a total mess of things. These are the people you send out for snacks while the rest of you get the game ready.

Here are some options you might consider.

  • Experience is the best teacher. If possible, the best way to be introduced to a new game is to play it with an experienced player who can break down the rules for you as you play. This type of experience gives you a big picture of what the game is all about. Once you’ve played a game or two, then you can go out and purchase the game for yourself, and read the rules in depth with the background knowledge you gained from your experience. WizKids Heroclix is a perfect example of how this process worked for me. I purchased a DC Heroclix Premiere Edition and started looking at the rules. There were certain aspects of play I just could wrap my head around for some reason, and the game sat in the box for almost a year. One of the owners of a local game store offered to show me how to play one afternoon, and from that point on, it all made sense to me. It wasn’t until I had a certain amount of experience, that I could read the rules and really understand the flow of the game.
  • There is power in groups. If you have a new game that nobody has played yet, then get a group together and just start playing. Have one person unpack the box, and have someone else read the rules out loud to the group. Play a round or two just to get a feel for the game, and then start over. You will be pleasantly surprised how well a group can work together to figure something out if it means having a good time. I remember one holiday season when we were given the game, Cranium. We all just sat down and took some part of the game to prepare, while someone read the rules. We were ready to play within minutes.
  • When in doubt, seek online wisdom. There are so many sites online that deal with games and gaming, if you get stuck on some aspect of the game, just do a search online. I wouldn’t try the website listed in the rules, because if they were so great at explaining the game, you wouldn’t need any extra help. If the rules that came with the game are vague, then chances are the website will be just as bad. Do a search for the name of the game with a how to play at the end of it. Chances are you will find a wiki site that will explain it in more detail that you would ever want.

There are some games that you can pick up and start playing right away. Rummikub and Apples to Apples are very easy to learn. Bridge is not so easy. I was very lucky to have one of my college professors take the time to teach me how to play bridge. In the end, the best way to tackle a new game will be up to you, the player. The important thing is to play games and keep your friends and family close.


2 Comments

  1. Tim

    Great article, I’ll have to save this to reference in the future. I’ve also found it’s best to have at least one person know everything about a game to avoid flipping through manuals or having doubts while playing.

  2. gameguy

    That’s so true, especially in more complex games; although, sometimes I admit that my friends and I just agree to make up our own rules. HeroClix is a good example of this, as is any RPG. But with something like the Settlers of Catan series, it’s really important to have someone who’s very comfortable with the rules.

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