It’s been a game-tastic month for me here on the edge of Chicago. My children sure have my number, so they showered me with games for my birthday, and I’m in the wonderful place of having a bunch of games I haven’t yet played much and am enjoying immensely. Which leads me to the day’s topic — learning a new game. I’ll cover a couple ways I’ve learned games and explore the positives and minuses of them.
- Learn from someone else. Positive – it’s a friendly and fun way to learn a game. It’s usually engaging, and can be social, and is likely followed by a playthrough of the game. Negative – either the person has to put a lot of energy into teaching you a game they already know (and if the game is complex, perhaps burn up an evening playing a muted version of it) OR you’re learning it together, in which case there’s lots of tiring rules consultation. And there’s always a chance that your friend isn’t good at explaining games. Or will get an essential rule incorrect. This happened to my group the first time we played Mice and Mystics. I misread a rule and we spent A LOT more time than we needed to on something.
- Learn from the rulebook. Positive – you get all the rules and you get them directly. Negatives – some rulebooks are clunky or poorly written or don’t fit your particular learning style. Some games also fail to give a good sense of what the game is like as you play it. I had this problem with both A Study in Emerald and am currently trying to digest Agricola this way — I can’t really conceive of what gameplay is like. This is especially hard if you then have to teach the game to others.
- Learn from gameplay videos. Positive – fun, engaging, usually thorough. Good gameplay videos give you most of what you need to play a game, and are often fun and easy to understand. This is a top method for me. However, such videos often leave out crucial rules due to time concerns or otherwise excerpt their work. This can be frustrating because you discover that you don’t quite know enough to play.
Result: I usually do a mix of all three of these when I’m learning a new game. This means, of course, that I spend even MORE time learning the game. But the payoff is usually good because then I have a better time playing it.
So, friends, what do you do when you want to learn a new game?