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How to Learn a New Board Game

Do your gaming partners look worried and distraught when you pull out a new game for the first time? If so, it might be time to refine your board game learning skills a little. Learning to play a new game is no easy task, there’s no denying that, we hope this helps make it just a little bit easier.

13 Tips to Help You Learn a New Board Game

1. Avoid learning a new board game on the fly at all costs

 Even though all you want to do is play that shiny new game, it’s not worth trying if you haven’t prepared.  It’s not fun for anyone, especially your unfortunate guests, who will have to sit through you flipping through the rulebook, wasting hours on a pointless round of the game, because it won’t really be the game since you’ll likely miss countless rules.

2. Read the rulebook!

It sounds like common sense, but we know for a fact some people avoid reading that rulebook at all costs.  Even if it’s a couple of pages there is still a strong temptation to skim it or ignore it completely.  We’re guilty of it sometimes too, but trust us, it is so important to at least read through the entire rule book at least one time.  It’s even better if you can have the game set up in front of you (not to play, just for reference) while reading through the rulebook.

3. Watch a How it’s Played Video

With so many amazing how-to-play board game videos out there, you should have no problem finding a video that summarizes how to play the board game you are trying to learn. You can look at the length of the videos and decide how in-depth of a tutorial you need.  One of our favorite how-to-play channels is Watch It Played – YouTube and is a good place to start.

4. Set up the game and play through a couple of turns by yourself if possible

Yes, we know you might feel a little silly playing a board game by yourself, but this mental anguish is worth it.  Make sure to set up the game perfectly, referencing every rule exactly, and then play through a few turns until you feel like you are comfortable with the game.  You probably won’t need to play the game all the way through but doing this will likely give you the best grasp on the game without any of the stress of having to play or teach others.

5. Watch a full playthrough if you need to

For us, this usually takes too much time and we’d rather suffer through a rougher first playthrough of our own, but it’s good to know it’s there if we need it.  This method may work better for you though so give it a try at least once.

6. After preparing enough, recruit a willing and patient participant to play through your first game with you

Understand that this first game is a practice game. The goal is not to win but to learn the game even more as you play.  No matter how much you prepared you will likely still need to look up rules in the rule book or on the internet for clarification multiple times.  You will also have to teach your partner to play, but having a partner who doesn’t know how to play may actually help you learn more rules and the finer details of the games because they will ask a lot of questions, forcing you to learn the answers if you don’t know them.

7. Use the games overview, quick reference guide, or rules summaries when playing

If the game doesn’t have these, look online for user-created rules summaries or rule guides and print them off. These rules summaries point out the most important parts of the game and are essential tools for playing the game correctly.  Even if you miss some minor rules but follow the rules summaries, you will still be playing the true essence of the game and be on your way to learning the game to perfection.  

8. Make note of any misunderstandings, odd rules, or questions you have during your first playthrough

After playing look up the answers to these questions or see if that’s how a certain rule really works.  This will help you learn the finer details of the game better and make sure you’re not misunderstanding any rules.

9. Read or at least skim through the rule book again if you have time right after your first playthrough

This step might be one of the most important if you want to truly know how to play a game %100 percent correctly.  You will be able to see rules you missed or followed more easily after your first game.  

10. Play the game a few more times before playing other games or learning another new game

It will take a few plays before you really cement how to play a game in your brain.  The more plays you give a game, the more you’ll learn the rules or see other things you missed.  

11. If there are rules you often miss or follow incorrectly, make a list of these and include it in the game box so you don’t forget them

Just making the list will probably make sure you remember next time, but if you don’t those easily forgettable rules will be right there in the box.

12. Teach the game to others once you feel like you really know it inside and out

This will really make the game stick in your head.  This will also help you think about every aspect and rule as the people you are teaching will ask questions.  You will either know the answers to their questions or you will have to find the answers.  

13. (Bonus Tip) Some games have digital versions or shorter versions of the original game that are easier to learn

These can be helpful in learning the game, especially the digital versions.  Digital versions allow you to play around with the game without long setup times and many even have tutorials that will teach you as you play.

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Learning a new board game can be quite daunting, but following these tips can make the task more bearable.  The more games you learn the easier it will get, as your knowledge of board game mechanics and rule types will increase.  

Everybody is different, but all the tips above should help you learn a new board game more quickly and effectively.  Experiment with different ones and orders and find out what works best for you.  Let us know how you learn a new board game in the comments below.

We have one more very important piece of advice. Don’t stress too much about missing some minor rules or playing the game wrong the first few times. If you did your best and still have fun as you’re trying to learn a game, that’s what really matters. As you play the game more you’ll learn the rules better each time and eventually play it exactly as intended.

Hopefully, these tips will help make sure your game nights look a little less like this next time…

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Want to learn how to play some of your favorite board games with just two players? Head here to see our “how to” posts: How To – A Pair of Meeples

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