Monday, March 2, 2015

Rule of Three: Introducing New Players to Tabletop Games

Me teaching people to play Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Introducing new players to the wonderful world of tabletop games can be a difficult task at times. You want to help the hobby grow and be more diverse, but you're not sure how to exactly do that. Which games do I use to do this? Should I come on strong, or be more subtle? Will the people who I'm trying to bring into the fold even be interested in the games I've selected? These are all questions that can rear their ugly heads when attempting to do this. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd take some time and express some simple ticks that I've picked up over the years for introducing people to the hobby. While this particular Rule of Three will focus on board games specifically, you can use these tips for introducing people to roleplaying games as well. Maybe I'll approach roleplaying games specifically in a future post. 

#1. Utilize Simple, Gateway or Cooperative Games
When introducing new people to board games, resist the urge to pull down the big box 4x game that will take six to eight hours to play. The game might be really cool and have a great amount of strategic depth, but none of that will matter if the person you are trying to introduce to the game is overwhelmed by it and scared off. Instead, grab the games with simple rules that are easy to understand and grasp. Games like Ticket to Ride or Splendor are perfect for this because the rules are relatively easy to learn, the amount of choices you have to make are small, and don't overstay their welcome, 

Alternatively, you could also use a simple cooperative game as well, like Forbidden Island or Pandemic. The great thing about cooperative games is that you can say "learn as we play" and actually mean it because everyone is working together instead of trying to be the sole winner. Also, its likely the new player has never experienced a cooperative board game before, so you get to show them something cool and interesting about the hobby right from the get go. 

#2. Take the Player's Preferences Into Account
While you're pulling down the different games you're contemplating using to introduce particular people, you should also take into account that person's taste in genre and media. Maybe they're a big fantasy nut, so you might grab Small World instead of Settlers of Catan. What if they love kaiju movies? Well, time to pull out King of Tokyo or Rampage. Are they a Trekker? I guess it's a good thing you picked up Star Trek Catan a few years ago. 

The reasons for doing this are pretty obvious. People are generally more likely to be engaged in something they already find interesting, so using a board game with such a theme gives you a automatic hook for that particular person. 

#3. Try to Make the Experience Less Intimidating
When attempting to bring someone new into the gaming fold, do your best to make the situation as open and welcoming as possible. While it might not seem like it to us, this hobby can be a little intimidating, especially when you consider the sheer amount of games that exist out there and the perception that many people have about our community.

Make sure the situation has a relaxed mood, showing that everyone is hear to have a good time playing some cards and chucking some dice. Remind the new player its alright to ask questions about the game, and please be patient with them when they do so. Finally, make sure the more veteran players understand what your'e trying to do and exude friendliness as well.

Do you have your own tips or tricks for introducing new players to board games and gaming in general? What are they? Mention them in the comments below because I'd love to hear about them.