Cover image of How To Play Podcast » Podcast
(54)
Leisure
Games

How To Play Podcast » Podcast

Updated 3 days ago

Leisure
Games
Read more

Welcome to the home of the How to Play Podcast; A Podcast about learning and teaching games. We all know that the best way to learn a game is to have it taught to you by someone who knows the game well. That is what The How to Play Podcast is all about. Its like you are hearing an explanation of how to play a game from your wittiest, best looking and most charming friend. You don’t have a friend like that? Thank goodness, that guy would set the bar for me far too high, and in that case I’m sure that you will think these game explanations are fantastic. How to Play is a tool for learning, and learning to teach, games. Each explanation is carefully handcrafted for your listening pleasure. As an added bonus you might get a bit of strategy, some musings on various board game topics and assorted special lettered episodes all for the low, low price of free. Check it out.

Read more

Welcome to the home of the How to Play Podcast; A Podcast about learning and teaching games. We all know that the best way to learn a game is to have it taught to you by someone who knows the game well. That is what The How to Play Podcast is all about. Its like you are hearing an explanation of how to play a game from your wittiest, best looking and most charming friend. You don’t have a friend like that? Thank goodness, that guy would set the bar for me far too high, and in that case I’m sure that you will think these game explanations are fantastic. How to Play is a tool for learning, and learning to teach, games. Each explanation is carefully handcrafted for your listening pleasure. As an added bonus you might get a bit of strategy, some musings on various board game topics and assorted special lettered episodes all for the low, low price of free. Check it out.

iTunes Ratings

54 Ratings
Average Ratings
47
5
1
1
0

Repaying the Capo

By Al "The Gamer" Rey - Aug 22 2013
Read more
Love the show, I enjoy learn from this so I can teach others.

Best

By Vinnie gamer - May 09 2013
Read more
Ryan, love this show! Please give us more.

iTunes Ratings

54 Ratings
Average Ratings
47
5
1
1
0

Repaying the Capo

By Al "The Gamer" Rey - Aug 22 2013
Read more
Love the show, I enjoy learn from this so I can teach others.

Best

By Vinnie gamer - May 09 2013
Read more
Ryan, love this show! Please give us more.

Listen to:

Cover image of How To Play Podcast » Podcast

How To Play Podcast » Podcast

Updated 3 days ago

Read more

Welcome to the home of the How to Play Podcast; A Podcast about learning and teaching games. We all know that the best way to learn a game is to have it taught to you by someone who knows the game well. That is what The How to Play Podcast is all about. Its like you are hearing an explanation of how to play a game from your wittiest, best looking and most charming friend. You don’t have a friend like that? Thank goodness, that guy would set the bar for me far too high, and in that case I’m sure that you will think these game explanations are fantastic. How to Play is a tool for learning, and learning to teach, games. Each explanation is carefully handcrafted for your listening pleasure. As an added bonus you might get a bit of strategy, some musings on various board game topics and assorted special lettered episodes all for the low, low price of free. Check it out.

Episode 13 – 1830

Podcast cover
Read more

1830 Teaching Guide

1830 Teaching Guide (B&W)

Released: April 4th, 2010

Game Description:

This is an epically awesome railroad game.  In this game you will invest in multiple railroad companies, build their tracks, and attempt to increase their stock value without getting left behind in the train technology race or going bankrupt.

Original Show Notes:

Here it is. The 18xx episode. 18xx; The granddaddy of train games, a legendary game design, and an unforgettable experience. This episode will teach you how to play the great game 1830, which rumours say is due to be reprinted this year. If you cant find 1830, there are plenty of other great variations of this system out there which are discussed in the show.

Though the length of the show may be intimidating, dont be afraid, the major rules explanation is just about 1 hour. And for ease of digestion, I have cut the meat into six easily comprehensible chunks. Including not only the rules but some basic strategy to get you started.

I hope you will give this episode a chance and think about giving 18xx a try. This episode was an immense chore but it was a labor of love and a testament to a beautiful game design.

Component Pictures on BGG

Apr 04 2010

1hr 48mins

Play

Episode 27 – Race for the Galaxy

Podcast cover
Read more

Race for the Galaxy Teaching Guide

Race for the Galaxy Teaching Guide B&W

Released: April 12th, 2011

Game Description:

Space. The Final Frontier. Our quest: to bravely go where no card game has gone before. (besides San Juan, but that doesn’t really count cause it was sort of designed at the same time and really well this game is in space so it’s totally different.)

Learn to play and teach this excellent card game that takes the ideas innovated in the great game Puerto Rico and takes them into the future! (the future in this case being 2007)

Components Pictures on BGG

Apr 13 2011

46mins

Play

Episode 26 – Shogun

Podcast cover
Read more

Shogun Teaching Guide

Shogun Teaching Guide B&W

Released: March 21st, 2011

Game Description:

In this episode we get into the exciting Japanese themed game Shogun. This unique game combines some wonderful mechanics with a well integrated theme for a great experience. You will have a great time attempting to become the next SHOGUN!!!

Component Pictures on BGG

Mar 22 2011

1hr 3mins

Play

Episode 35 – Twilight Struggle

Podcast cover
Read more

Twilight Struggle Teaching Guide

Twilight Struggle Teaching Guide B&W

Released: March 25th, 2012

Game Description:

USA vs USSR.  The struggle to alter the course of human history.  Twilight struggle is a two player card driven game with the well integrated theme of the cold war.  Twilight Struggle is one of the greatest games of this generation, it’s a wonderful game experience.  Learn it, teach it, play it you will be glad you did.

Component Pictures on BGG

Mar 25 2012

59mins

Play

Episode E – How to Paint Miniatures

Podcast cover
Read more

Released: August 14th, 2010

Show Description:

This episode hopes to inspire you to give painting miniatures a try. I start with a motivational speech and then launch into equipment you need to paint your game pieces. I follow that with a brief description of the basics of painting miniatures and include a few of the most popular techniques.

A few years ago I taught myself to paint game pieces. It’s not the best paint jobs you will ever see but it just goes to show you that any average joe with a bit of time and effort, can paint a pretty decent set of game pieces.

Ryan’s Painting Projects

Shadows Over Camelot

This was our first project. My wife helped me put together this set and I am happy with how it turned out.

From this…

To This…

Robo Rally

Next were these cute robots, pewter version not the plastic

From this…

To This…

Empire Builder

Time for some trains for Crayon Rails. (Note the R for ryan and KLS for my wife )

From this…

To This…

Age of Empires

These pieces are too hard to tell apart, needs a paint job. Too many pieces? How about the “dip method.”

From this…

To This…

Heroquest

Uh Oh running out of stuff to paint.. How about this game from my childhood.

From this…

To This…

The World Cup Game

From this…

To This…

Aug 14 2010

35mins

Play

Episode 36 – The Settlers of Catan

Podcast cover
Read more

Teaching Guide for Settlers

Teaching Guide for Settlers BW

Released: April 15th, 2012


Original Show Notes:

Settlers of Catan is my favorite game strictly for fun player interaction.  Each game involves negotiation, diplomacy and lots of laughs.  This game is responsible for my rediscovery and current addiction and indirectly for entirety of the existence of The How to Play Podcast.  It deserves its own episode and here it is.  Everyone needs to know this game.

I will take this opportunity to show off my daughter Gwen utilizing her negotiation skills…

Component Pictures on BGG

Apr 15 2012

31mins

Play

Episode 41 – Mage Knight

Podcast cover
Read more

Mage Knight Teaching Guide

Mage Knight Teaching Guide B&W

Released: October 27th, 2012

 Show Notes:

So you say you want a great solo game experience to get your geek on when nobody’s around? Mage Knight is your game.  Its a wonderful thematic fantasy adventure game with a strong puzzle element which makes it particularly well suited to play on your own. Or enjoy Mage Knight with a friend or two.  This game feels like Magic Realm for this generation, the same great experience with about 70 less pages of rules.  Enjoy!

Component Pictures on BGG

Oct 27 2012

1hr 22mins

Play

Episode 20 – Magic Realm

Podcast cover
Read more

Magic Realm Teaching Guide

Magic Realm Teaching Guide B&W

Released: September 2nd, 2010

Game Description:

Magic Realm is an older game that attempted to recreate the classic fantasy roleplaying game experience and recreate it as a boardgame.  In order to do so the designer included a LOT of mechanics, in order to recreate as much of the experience as possible.

Original Show Notes:

It is finished.

Come explore Magic Realm, THE MOST COMPLICATED BOARD GAME OF ALL TIME.

This 1978 classic adventure fantasy game has long been deemed unapproachable by most, hopefully this episode can change that.

In this episode I will give you a basic walk through of playing the most basic version of the game. And the best part is you can play along with me using the Robin Warren’s fantastic computer version of the game RealmSpeak. (available at www.realmspeak.dewkid.com)

I will help you through the basics of your first few games, teaching you the goals of the game, the basic steps of a turn and the combat system. In no time you will be able to dive in deeper with the other 15 characters, exploring the magic system, hiring the native populations and more.

Enjoy exploring the Magic Realm.

Component Pictures on BGG

Sep 02 2010

1hr 47mins

Play

Episode 6 – Stone Age

Podcast cover
Read more

Stone Age Teaching Guide

Stone Age Teaching Guide (B&W)

Released: November 16th, 2009

Game Description:

A lighter worker placement game that is a lot of fun.  In this game as cavemen you will get resources, technologies and expand your tribe.  Plus you get to throw a bucket of dice.  A wonderful mid weight game.

Component Pictures from BGG

Nov 17 2009

50mins

Play

Episode 3 – Agricola

Podcast cover
Read more

Agricola Teaching Guide

Agricola Teaching Guide (B&W)

Released: October 12th, 2009

Complexity Rating:

“Family Version”

“Standard Version”

Game Description:

This very popular worker placement game has a lot of moving parts.  Who knew farming was this hard you will need to raise animals, grow crops, expand your house and your family all by the end of the game to be the King of the Farmers.

Component Images from BGG

Oct 12 2009

40mins

Play

Episode 30 – Troyes

Podcast cover
Read more

Troyes Teaching Guide

Troyes Teaching Guide B&W

Released: August 20th, 2011

Game Description:

Troyes is a game about building a medieval French city by exploiting your influence in the three realms of the nobility, the clergy and the peasants who are represented by dice.

Original Show Notes:
By listener request episode 30 is on the dice rolling strategy game Troyes. Oxymoron you say? I am unfamiliar with that term. I hope you are not calling me nasty names. Troyes uses dice in a unique way and is an interesting strategic game even with the rolling of 18 dice each round. Is that possible? Tune in and check it out, it’s euroriffic.

Components pictures on BGG

Aug 20 2011

Play

Episode 9 – Brass

Podcast cover
Read more

Brass Teaching Guide

Brass Teaching Guide (B&W)
Released: January 1st, 2010

Game Description:

This wonderfully unique game is probably unlike anything you have played before.  This is a game of card management in trying to build industries in England in the Industrial Revolution.  A brilliant blend of mechanics and theme by Martin Wallace.

Original Show Notes:

Today is my most ambitious game to date. Brass is one complex game, therefore this is the longest episode yet! But its a great game too and hopefully this tool will be useful to you in learning it.

Hook 3:00
Meat 4:30
Hamster 48:00
Footnotes and musings 52:30

In this episode’s footnotes, there is a 10 question Brass rules quiz and a discussion about strategy vs. tactics.

Component Pictures from BGG

Jan 01 2010

1hr 15mins

Play

Episode 36x – Expansions and Spinoffs in the Catan Series

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode I dig into the universe of Catan and the works of Klaus Teuber.  This episode will give a basic overview of the expansions, variants, scenarios, spinoffs and other assorted Klaus Teuber games.

Apr 15 2012

29mins

Play

Episode 28 – Acquire

Podcast cover
Read more

Acquire Teaching Guide

Acquire Teaching Guide B&W

Released: June 4th, 2011

Game Description:

Today we cover a classic in board games, Acquire. This game from 1962 holds up with some of the greatest modern games in our hobby. If you are unfamiliar with this game, you owe it to yourself to listen to this episode and play this game as soon as possible. How does it take 40 minutes to cover 4 pages of rules you might ask? Good question, well I wax poetic about the influence and awesomeness of the game for a while, give some strategy, take about open vs. closed information give advice on editions and throw in a Wolfgang cameo. I could have made this fifteen minutes, but what would be the fun in that. Enjoy!

Component Pictures on BGG

Jun 04 2011

41mins

Play

Episode 33 – Game of Thrones

Podcast cover
Read more

Game of Thrones Teaching Guide

Game of Thrones Teaching Guide BW

Release Date: December 20th, 2011

Game Description:

Game of Thrones is one of my favorite games because it lets me be a part of one of my favorite stories.  It is also an excellent direct conflict game with a lot of tension and requires a lot of strategic play, enjoy!

Component Pictures on BGG

Dec 21 2011

1hr 17mins

Play

Episode A – How to Teach Games

Podcast cover
Read more

Here is my original article on teaching games that I wrote on March 9th, 2008 with which the methods I used to eventually develop the How to Play Podcast.

Feel free to read the article or listen to the audio version, Episode A, by playing the episode at the top of this page.

How To Teach Games: A General Primer

Class is in session! Listen up kids, today’s topic is how to teach games. Pay attention there will be homework.

When playing a game with players new to a game, how well the game is taught is the most important element to whether the game is an enjoyable experience or a painful one. Most of us here on this site are the ones constantly trying to spread our hobby by introducing these games of ours to friends and family who may not be familiar with such games. If you introduce a game poorly, it is unlikely you will have earned yourself future games. If you do a great job teaching the game, not only will they wish to play that game again, but they may start to ask about other games in your closet, and you may have created some budding new gamers, who may even call you and say, “Hey do you want to come over and bring some of those games of yours?” And that is a wonderful thing.

As teaching is my profession, I thought maybe it could be useful to give general pointers for how to teach a game. I hope that the advice here can be useful to people who have never attempted to teach a game and to those who have taught hundreds. I would not be surprised if someone has posted something similar to this before but regardless this is my take on teaching games.

In general this post is directed at teaching medium to heavy weight euro games and does not apply toward party games, card games, lighter filler games or wargames. Examples of games that could be taught using this method include; Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, Railroad Tycoon, Puerto Rico, Caylus, Power Grid, Agricola, El Grande La Citta, etc. etc.

Teaching a game is about more than just going over the rules. Your job as the teacher is to get the players to be excited about playing the game, understand the object of the game, understand how to play a turn, know a few possible strategies, and know the most important rules ALL in fifteen minutes or less before their eyes start to glaze over.

“Pre-Game Show”: Prepare by Understanding the Game Yourself

In order to introduce a game well, you need to have a thorough understanding of the game. Reading the rules multiple times is a must; also it helps to refresh yourself of the rules the day you plan on teaching the game. Ideally, you will have played the game twice or more, so that not only do you understand the basic rules of the game, you are aware of the technicalities that occur and have a general understanding of the various strategies a player may employ and the pitfalls that a new player may fall into not quite understanding basic strategies of the game.

Sometimes it may not be possible to play a game with others, with lighter weight games such as Ticket to Ride or Settlers, this may not be a problem. However if you are playing a more complex game than that, (such as a Puerto Rico, Caylus or Power Grid) you should find some way to deepen your understanding of the game. Three options to try would be playing some of the game solo, reading articles about the game online or playing the game online. Having a general understanding of the game will make your teaching of the game and the overall game experience more enjoyable.

Why do you have to know the strategy of the game, isn’t just knowing the rules enough?? More on this later.

And now, How to Teach Games in 3 easy steps…..
1. “The Hook”
2. “The Meat”
3. “The Hamster”

Hook, Meat, Hamster???

Catchy isn’t it?

What the *%$@ is this guy talking about? Are you intrigued… perhaps I have “hooked” you? Which happens to be our first step, keep reading……

Step One: What is this Game About?: “The Hook” (30 sec. – 1 minute)

Here we get to our introduction, we have our players, we have the board all set up and we are ready to give our intro. Let me stress this, your job is NOT to summarize the rules as written in the rule book. Rulebooks are boring to most people, although probably not to you and I, and that’s what makes us gamers.

But for your general average Joe who is about to play a game, here is what they want to know in fifteen minutes or less;
1. What is this game about?
2. How do I play?
3. How can I win?

Just like in teaching a lesson in the classroom, in teaching a game your first job as a teacher is to grab your “students” attention with a “hook” within the first thirty seconds of teaching.

Your hook should explain the basic idea of the game in terms of the theme, including what they will be doing throughout the game and how to win the game.

Example Hook (Caylus); “ In this game you are a master builder in the medieval France employed by King Phillip to develop the lowly village of Caylus into a mighty city! In each turn we will take turns placing our workers into the different buildings in order to get resources, money and to build various buildings. The games take place over three stages of building the dungeon, the walls and the towers of the castle. We will score victory points for building buildings in the city and for helping to build sections of the castle. When the tower stage is complete, whoever has the most points will be the victor!

The hook is a very general summary. It is important you get into NO specifics yet, just one minute or less on the general idea of the game to serve as a backdrop for the rest of the explanation. When you teach a game, show enthusiasm for the game, because if you do not seem interested in the game why should your players be?

It is very important to refer to the theme when describing the idea of the game and the basic mechanisms in terms of theme. Some people first introduce the game abstractly and then bring up the theme as an afterthought, near the end of the entire introduction, (Oh yeah this game is supposed to be about ________ ) In the best games, the theme of the game helps the players understand and remember the rules and mechanics of the game. There ARE a few games that the theme is so irrelevant to the game that it can be ignored. (Example: Uptown) But even in games where the theme is irrelevant to game mechanics, such as Through the Desert, at the very least the theme is important in adding to the FUN of playing the game especially in the first few plays. I know I’d much rather be putting cute plastic camels on the board to connect palm trees then say, connecting cubes to sticks. So use the theme frequently as you explain the game.

Step Two: How do I Play? : “The Meat” (5-30 minutes depending on game complexity)

This will be the main part of your instruction, thus “The Meat.” Most of the meat should be explaining how a player plays his turn. This is how I would start this part of the explanation after the hook; “Here is what you are going to do on your turn,” I would first quickly go through with the phases of a turn are and then go into more details about each phase.

If I was explaining the game Settlers of Catan, in the first thirty seconds of the “meat” I would explain how in a turn you roll the dice, you get resource cards, you trade resources with the other players or with the bank, make purchases and then pass the dice until someone gets 10 points. THEN I would go back over it again and get into the details of each phase such as explaining how a roll gives resources, how one can trade with the bank or other players, what you can buy and what happens when a seven is rolled.

I try to keep “The Meat” the meat and leave the vegetables on the side until necessary to keep my instruction time down. Huh? There are certain rules and details I will skip as they are not essential to the general play and strategy of the game until they happen. For example in Ticket to Ride I might not talk about how the locomotives sweep until it happens. I may not explain the cards in Railroad Tycoon until they are flipped face up etc. This not only keeps instruction time down but it also is more meaningful to players to have these things explained when they become important in the game, instead of getting everything all at once. If not knowing a particular rule could severely damage someone’s game (Example: the 7 card discard rule in Settlers of Catan), I make sure that it is mentioned at the beginning of the game.

You will be amazed how you can cover almost all of the rules of playing the game discussing it within the context of a players turn. However you may also have to explain functions of cards, tiles, buildings or alternate ways to acquire victory points that are essential to the general play of the game. I end this section of the introduction with talking about how the game is ended and reminding the players of how the game is won.

You may want to warn the players that, you have not explained all of the rules, but you have explained the most important ones in order to get started with the game. Tell them you have only skipped ones rules that will make more sense as we get to them in the game, and should not have any affect on overall strategy.

Warning: Despite all of your best efforts, you will very likely be faced in a situation with “The Blamer.” No matter how thorough you try to be, someone will at some point claim that there is a rule you never explained to them, regardless whether or not you actually did. All we can do is claim the Good Samaritan law, that we have done our best, and take their criticism with a grain of salt. Such are the hazards of teaching games. Grin and bear it. Apologize and say “I’m sorry if I did not explain that rule to you, but that is the rule.” Let’s move on.

Step Three: How Can I Win?: “The Hamster” (2-5 minutes)

This is the part of the game introduction that is usually not found in rulebooks, and the part that if you forget or skip will severely impact your game experience.

Your players now know HOW the game works and HOW they do things in the game, but generally don’t have any concept of WHY they would do any of these things.

It is at this time that you will have to get the hamster running in the heads of your players, by sharing some of the different strategic paths one might try to follow for victory. Players, especially non-gamers, need a few basic frameworks to try to follow to succeed in the game.

Games are most fun when all players are working their hardest to win the game, the competition makes it fun. We have all played games where one or more people stop trying to win and the game rapidly disintegrates into stupidity. The same situation can occur if someone has no idea of how to win the game, they will make seemingly random moves out of frustration. This will make the game no fun for them and much less fun for everyone else.

This is where a basic understanding of the strategy of the game is essential. Before you start the game “the hamster” portion is when you give general strategy tips, common beginner pitfalls, and typical long term strategies.

Examples:
• In Ticket to Ride, I might talk about how players generally accumulate lots of cards in the beginning of the game
• In Settlers, I might talk about how you want to get more cities and settlements on the board as quickly as possible, rather than purchasing development cards
• In Caylus, I might talk about how people follow two general strategies of getting the mason and lawyer on the board and climbing the point track, or trying to get up the building track quickly and building the first stone farm and the importance of money and turn order
• In Puerto Rico, I would make sure players know they need to make some money early in the game, and how to do that and I might talk about two strategy paths of scoring points by getting lots of corn and trying to get the wharf or getting many different kinds of goods early and acquiring the factory

Now during this step, I am not going to explain everything I know about the strategy of a game for two reasons. First, I want to get to the game as soon as possible. Second, part of the fun of games is figuring out the strategy for yourself. But it is very helpful to give the players a starting point, to start to figure out the strategy of the game.

If you are playing with regular gamers, this “hamster” discussion may not be necessary or even desired, in fact there is a percentage of people out there who will not want any strategy advice at all as they would prefer to figure out the strategy themselves. There are also those particular untrusting sorts who will think you are trying to trick them by suggesting bad strategies. However, in general, most players, especially those new to “these games of ours,” are happy to have some direction in strategy, they may or may not follow your advice, but it is helpful to know what a person might try to do, it gets their “hamster” running.

“The Color Commentary”: Your Role during the game.

It’s time to get to the game! Your intro length will depend upon the complexity of the game. A Settlers intro could take five minutes, A Caylus intro probably closer to twenty. But in either case try not to babble or point out every minute detail of the game, it’s more important to get started. You’ll know you’ve talked too long when you see the spaced out expression on their faces, they’re at verbal information overload, its time to learn through doing.

Which Rules Set, Expansions or Variations should I use?

In choosing how to play the game, if there is any beginner rules or first time rules, USE THEM. Unless you are playing with regular experienced gamers, who you are confident will pick things up quickly, use the beginner rules. This does not necessarily apply to rule variations that shorten the game. Shortening the game is not necessarily what you want, but anything that takes one or two elements of complexity away from the game, will ( for most people) make the game a more enjoyable experience and they will be more willing to play the game again with the full rules.

Here is a very important idea most people teaching a game miss, reject or intentionally or unintentionally forget…..

The Teaching Games Golden Rule: When you are teaching a game, it is more important that the other players enjoy the game than if you enjoy a game.

This means for the first game….
• In Settlers play with no expansions and with the board preset
• In Carcassonne play without farmers
• In Agricola play the “Family Version”
• In Caylus play without favors
• In Power Grid play the short game (I know this contradicts what I said above, but the complexity of Power Grid warrants the play of the short game. I wouldn’t necessarily shorten other games with short rules. i.e. El Grande, Keythedral, Ys)

And please, please, please, don’t add expansions or variants to a new player’s first game that make the game more complex, except in a very few cases where the variant adds little to no complexity and enhances the fun of the game. (One example variant of this type of case is in the game Evo of playing with one less tile in the Auction)

I know, I know you’ve played basic Settlers, a million times but you’re friends haven’t. You make think that playing with these beginner rules, dumbs down the game. Yes it does, that’s the idea. Remember the golden rule. You may not feel the same thrills during that first game as your friends. But try to enjoy the experience vicariously through your friends. And think about those first games as an investment you are making in future great gaming experiences.

What if a situation comes up that I don’t know the answer to?

Don’t be a hero, grab the rulebook. Its okay to admit you don’t know the answer, its far better than pretending you know the rules. If the players feel like you are uncertain of the rules and you are making things up as you go along, it takes away from the whole validity of the game. And worse yet you could play the game wrong. The rules are there for a reason, if you play with too many rules wrong, the game will be a flop. Take the two minutes and get it right. If you can’t find the answer in the rule book, agree on how to play the situation as a group, and find out the answer later online or through another means.

However, grabbing for that rulebook more than a few times during the game, shame on you, you did not do your job prior to the game of developing an understanding of the game. Waiting for your “Teacher” to read through the rulebook is the opposite of fun. If you are completely lost in your explanation or in trying to play the game, don’t be afraid to abandon the game for another day until you can study up or get a chance to learn the game from someone else. Go back to an old stand-by

How much should I “help” the players during the game?

DO make sure players understand the rules and the basic strategies of the game.

You do want to give reminders of important rules during the game, especially if you see they are in peril of disaster during the game. A key example is a person in a game of Settlers of Catan with 11 cards in their hand about to pass the turn. Other things you will want to remind players of is, when scoring phases happen, what triggers the end of the game, various methods of scoring victory points etc.

DO NOT play other people’s game for them.

If you too often suggest particular moves, you will create a situation of learned helplessness, where whenever the player has a decision to make they will look to you to tell them what to do. Also worse, if you point a player towards a decision that benefits you, you will be seen as manipulating people new to the game in order to win, a true recipe for disaster. Have you ever played that game of Puerto Rico where there was one new player and all the experienced players including the game “teacher” were playing a meta-game of how to manipulate the new player in order to benefit them? Needless to say, that is not good teaching.

If a player asks for advice, explain the situation and point out various options. Include all options including bad options and options that may hurt you in the game. Suggest at least two possibilities, and if one of their best options is to negatively impact you in the game, include that, don’t just slyly forget to point it out. If you do something like that you move from being a game teacher to a manipulative sleazy dirtbag. Now in the second game, that’s where you stop pointing out moves that wreck you.

Should I let players make mistakes?

Yes! This is how they will learn. The important thing to consider when you see one of your “students” making a bad move is to think about are they making this move because they are forgetting or do not understand one of the basic rules or important concepts of the game, or is said move about to completely crush their game? In one of these cases I would probably advise them against making said move.

Now say they are making a move and there is a better strategic move on the board, and they make a worse play? Usually in cases like this I will let them make the mistake, and through the course of the game they will see how that move, negatively impacted their ability to win and they will make a better choice next game.

One last point about during the game is to involve your “students” in the mechanics of the game. Give them jobs in handing out money or resources, scoring points, dealing out cards etc. This will help them to understand those parts of the game, and increase their knowledge of the game. For example in the game, Settlers of Catan, have all players collect their own resources or at least request which cards they should get. If you just hand out resource cards, they may not figure out or ignore why they are receiving such cards.

To Win or not to Win?

Ahhhh, Game Ethics. As a teacher of the game, and at the same time as a participant you will be put in some interesting ethical choices. The most difficult being: should you try your hardest to win the game?

This is an eternal question. With many of these games, especially the more complex games with a higher learning curve, an experienced player will probably be able to crush a set of beginners to the game. Should you sandbag a game to make it closer or even to let someone else win?

Here is what I believe, you are free to agree or disagree with this opinion. You will have to make this decision for yourself for each game depending upon the situation, but I urge you to remember the Golden Rule, whatever you do, you need to make sure that the people playing the game have a good time. It would be nice for one of the other players to win; it will certainly increase their enjoyment of the game. But I also believe in the game having a sense of honesty and integrity. I do not believe a player should win the game if they played poorly. You can show the players that skill is important in playing the game, so winning the game yourself is not necessarily a bad thing, you just have to be careful how you win the game so that the other players still have a positive experience.

Here is what I do when introducing games but as I said, you will have to make your own ethical decisions for each different situation.

• If a game has a high luck factor, I will play the game all out. In a game like Settlers, even if you are playing your best, you can lose the game due to awful dice rolls.

• If I am playing a game with a steep learning curve and little luck that I have a lot of experience with, I will play the game well, but maybe not quite all out. There is certainly no need to run up the score.

• If an opportunity arises to seriously wreck one of my opponents, even if it greatly enhances my position. I might seek an alternative move even if it may be not completely optimal. Once again, the second game is where you crush them mercilessly.

Now, I have heard of players, who are willing to sit out of a game and just act as teacher, without participating in the game, especially when introducing one of the more complex games. As much as I think this is a noble idea and would certainly encourage people to try this, I personally like to play in the games and maybe I am just too selfish to do this sort of thing. But I think there is also something to be said for having an experienced player in the game and letting the others players see how an experienced player plays the game.


“Post-Game Show”: After the Game

When the game is finished and a winner is declared, don’t immediately go and start putting the game in the box right away, leave the game set up for a minute. Reflection is a very important part of learning. Usually without any prompting, players will start to analyze their play. They will say things like, I should have done this or I shouldn’t have done that. Listen and comment. If they give no reaction, you can prompt them a little, maybe commenting about different choices they could have made during the game, or explaining why someone did really well.
This would be a great time to point out those strategic mistakes you saw them make during the game and what else they might have done. Ideally, it’s better for them to think it out and for you to be a listener. Be humble during this post-game reflection of the game but honest. Try not to sound like a bragger of things you did correctly and things they did wrong and again don’t say too much. You don’t want to explain the whole strategy of the game to them and sound like a big know-it-all. It’s more fun for them to figure out for themselves.

You know you did a good job if they say things like, “I really like that game” “I know what I’d do differently next time” or the best yet, “Can we play again?”

The last step, of being a game teacher which you can do later that day or the next day, is to reflect on your teaching. First of all, if you are relatively new to the game reread the rulebook and make sure that you played the game completely correctly. It is not unusual to have at least one or two rules that were played incorrectly. Good teachers admit when they taught something wrong. In your next playing of the game, talk about your mistake.

Then ask yourself;
• Did I follow the Golden Rule; Did my players have a positive Experience?
• If Not, Why Not?
• Was my explanation too long, too short or just right?
• Did I miss anything in my explanation or did I include things I didn’t need to?
• Did I assist the players during the game without playing for them?
• Did I play the game ethically as the teacher of the game?
• If I were to introduce this same game again what might I do differently?

As in any teaching, teaching games gets better with practice. But practice without reflection will not make you any better. Take the time to really think about these questions. Many of us geeks have a hundred games or more in our closet and have not played hardly a fraction of them. New players are reluctant to learn new games, because learning games is hard work. It’s even harder work when you get a completely awful explanation. But with a great teacher, learning a game will be a much more enjoyable experience and maybe instead of hearing, “Can’t we just play settlers again?” you’ll start hearing, “Let’s try something new.” And that’s music to a geek’s ears, we can’t get to that game closet fast enough.

A Conclusion: Or Aren’t you done yet?

We all want more players to play games with and we all want to play more of the games in our closet. Teaching your games well is the key to achieving both of these things.

As all good teachers would do, here’s a quick review on tips for teaching a game;

• Before introducing the game have a solid understanding of the game; both the rules and the general strategy
• When introducing the game Hook the other players with a 30 second intro of the object the theme and the general play
• Then give the Meat, the basic idea of how players play during their turn
• Before starting the game get their Hamster running, by giving them a few bits of strategic advice and paths they might follow
• Play with a rule set that is most suitable to new players
• Remind players of integral rules during the game
• Give the players strategy advice cautiously and in a non-biased way
• Let the players make mistakes and play their own game
• As the teacher, play the game in an ethical, rather than a manipulative way, that is forgiving to players that are new to the game
• Let the players reflect on their play
• Reflect on your teaching

And most importantly don’t forget…….

The Teaching Games Golden Rule: When you are teaching a game, it is more important that the other players enjoy the game than if you enjoy a game.

I hope you read carefully, as I said there will be homework. Your assignment is to teach at least one game in the next week. Good luck and best wishes in spreading our wonderful hobby to the ignorant masses.

Phew that’s it! When I started this post I had no idea I had 4000+ words to say about the topic but there it is. I look forward to your comments on this method and these ideas. Please share if your technique differs or if you try this technique and it works for you or does not work for you.

If this post is well-received I would like to perhaps do a series on how to teach specific games. Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing instructions using this method (the hook, the meat and the hamster) for specific games.

Now get out there and teach some games!

Ryan Sturm

Oct 18 2009

32mins

Play

Episode 7 – Puerto Rico

Podcast cover
Read more

Puerto Rico Teaching Guide

Puerto Rico Teaching Guide (B&W)

Released: November 22nd, 2009

Game Description:

The game that really put role selection on the map.  The major decision of the game is on your turn to decide which of 7 actions all players will participate in.  A wonderfully elegant game of resource management and analysis of how to help yourself without helping your opponents too much.

Original Show Notes:

Today I discuss the granddaddy game that is Puerto Rico.  Ive broken it up into 4 clean sections for your listening enjoyment; Hook (intro) 2:21, Meat (full rules explanation) 3:25, Hamster (Beginning Strategy Tips) 32:22, Footnotes and Musings 37:25.

Those just wanting the explanation or using the episode for teaching purposes can listen to just the first 3 parts, those familiar with the game can feel free to skip to parts 3 and/or 4.  In musings for Puerto Rico I discuss Puerto Rico’s impact on Eurogames, what BGG ratings really mean, historical sanitation in games and childish game behavior!

Component Pictures from BGG

Nov 22 2009

58mins

Play

Episode F – HTP’s Top 50 Games as of 2010

Podcast cover
Read more

Released: December 11th, 2010

Show Description:

Today you are in for a special episode. I count down my personal favorite fifty games of all time as of 2010. I give a brief description of each game, and describe why it made the list.

You can view or print the list here;

How to Play’s Top 50 games as of 2010

Dec 12 2010

1hr 12mins

Play

Episode 39 – Eclipse

Podcast cover
Read more

Eclipse Teaching Guide

Eclipse Teaching Guide BW

Released: August 8th, 2012

Show Notes:

Today I cover Eclipse which was the overwhelming favorite as the next game to be covered by How to Play as chosen by the supporters.  Eclipse is an amazingly fun 4x game.  What is a 4x game?  Well you can be a fancy gamer like me and use cool terms like “4x” after listening to this episode.  Learn the hottest game of the last few years and one of the most fun with this episode.

Component Pictures on BGG

Aug 08 2012

1hr 36mins

Play

Episode 23 – Notre Dame

Podcast cover
Read more

Notre Dame Teaching Guide

Notre Dame Teaching Guide B&W

Released: November 22nd, 2010

Game Description:

This unique game is all about resource management.  You can never run out of money or cubes, you must always fight off the rat threat and somehow in between find a way to score points.

Original Show Notes:

I’m back. This time I cover a favorite from 2007, Stefan Feld’s Notre Dame. If you have yet to play this one you are missing out on a gem, quick to pick up, moderate play time, but with a ton of strategy and tension. Great Fun! In the musings I discuss a new found disease in the gamer community and as a bonus give you an overview of some of my favorites of Stefan Feld’s other games.

Component pictures on BGG

Nov 23 2010

1hr 1min

Play

Episode 46 – Trade on the Tigris

Podcast cover
Read more

Trade on the Tigris Teaching Guide

Trade on the Tigris Teaching Guide B&W

Released: August 15th, 2018

In this episode I teach you to play the game I co-designed with Geoff Engelstein on the Ludology Podcast, Trade on the Tigris.  This game started its life called “Trading in the Mediterranean,” and six years later has finally grown up to be a real life game.  This will likely be the final How to Play Podcast, I hope you enjoy it.  As a special bonus I have created a video for the Hook and the Meat of this episode.  For extra intro and hamster content check out the audio version of the episode.  Thank you so much for listening everyone.

Aug 16 2018

49mins

Play

Episode 45 – Merchants and Marauders

Podcast cover
Read more

Released: February 18th, 2014

In this episode you get to listen in on Ryan’s explanation of Merchant and Marauders, whose tutorial was won as an item for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund.  Though not truly an official episode, hopefully it might sate some of your longing for new HTP episodes.

Feb 18 2014

1hr 2mins

Play

Episode 44 – Clash of Cultures

Podcast cover
Read more

Clash of Cultures Teaching Guide

Clash of Cultures Teaching Guide BW

Released: June 29th, 2013


 Show Notes:

I present to you Clash of Cultures.  Which is a wonderful civilization game.  This epic meaty strategy game could not be denied an episode of How to Play.  It is highly recommended for fans of the theme and weight of a game this chunky.  Plus as a special treat I am joined by the game’s designer, Christian Marcussen, to help me introduce the game and give you some basic strategy.

Component Pictures on BGG

Jun 29 2013

1hr 41mins

Play

Episode L – Ryan’s Reviews

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode I pull together several of my dice tower reviews for your listening pleasure while I am taking a bit of a break from producing How to Play.

Reviews included are;

  • Glory to Rome: Black Box Edition
  • 1989
  • High Frontier
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Runewars
  • The Settlers of Catan: Traders and Barbarians

Enjoy!

Mar 19 2013

34mins

Play

Episode 43 – Merchant of Venus

Podcast cover
Read more

Merchant of Venus Teaching Guide

Merchant of Venus Teaching Guide BW

Released: January 1st, 2013

Game Description:

Merchant of Venus.  A wonderful blending of the excitement of an exploration game with the strategy of an economic game.  It is a fabulous adventure through space.  With the recent rerelease of this classic you can now play this game without having to cut out 437 circles and affix them the wooden discs.  Fantasy Flight Games’ new release of Merchant of Venus allows you to play the classic version from 1988 or try out their updated version of the game.  I focus my explanation of the classic game but discuss both versions of the game at length.  Plus, I could not do this episode without asking one of my friends to come along for the ride.  I hope you enjoy the episode.

Component Pictures on BGG

Jan 02 2013

1hr 16mins

Play

Episode 42 – Ora et Labora

Podcast cover
Read more

Ora & Labora Teaching Guide

Ora & Labora Teaching Guide BW

Released: November 17th, 2012

 Show Notes:

Its time to cover Uwe Rosenberg’s third great resource management game, Ora et Labora.  This game enhances his previously developed ideas by adding a geographical element to the game.  If you like his previous works of Agricola and Le Havre, you pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this one as well.

Component Pictures on BGG

Nov 18 2012

46mins

Play

Episode 41 – Mage Knight

Podcast cover
Read more

Mage Knight Teaching Guide

Mage Knight Teaching Guide B&W

Released: October 27th, 2012

 Show Notes:

So you say you want a great solo game experience to get your geek on when nobody’s around? Mage Knight is your game.  Its a wonderful thematic fantasy adventure game with a strong puzzle element which makes it particularly well suited to play on your own. Or enjoy Mage Knight with a friend or two.  This game feels like Magic Realm for this generation, the same great experience with about 70 less pages of rules.  Enjoy!

Component Pictures on BGG

Oct 27 2012

1hr 22mins

Play

Episode 40 – Goa

Podcast cover
Read more

Goa Teaching Guide

Goa Teaching Guide BW

Released: September 30th, 2012

Show Notes:

Today I cover one of the greats of the “eurogame” genre.  This game has a wonderful auction system and delicious decisions.  Even better it has just been rereleased in an even improved version of an excellent game just recently in August of 2012.  I invite you to enjoy Goa: A New Expedition

Component Pictures on BGG

Oct 01 2012

1hr

Play

Episode 39 – Eclipse

Podcast cover
Read more

Eclipse Teaching Guide

Eclipse Teaching Guide BW

Released: August 8th, 2012

Show Notes:

Today I cover Eclipse which was the overwhelming favorite as the next game to be covered by How to Play as chosen by the supporters.  Eclipse is an amazingly fun 4x game.  What is a 4x game?  Well you can be a fancy gamer like me and use cool terms like “4x” after listening to this episode.  Learn the hottest game of the last few years and one of the most fun with this episode.

Component Pictures on BGG

Aug 08 2012

1hr 36mins

Play

Episode 38 – Rex

Podcast cover
Read more

Rex Teaching Guide

Rex Teaching Guide (B&W)

Released: July 11th, 2012


Show Notes:

You want a great theme with strong mechanics, Rex fits the bill.  The six colorful races of Rex fight it out for control of the universe, six races who were begging and pleading me to appear on the show as silly voices.  Developing characters for this episode was easy because the characters within the game are so interesting and is probably the thing I enjoy most about this game.  This game truly has characters as well as a nice setting, and a plot that develops throughout each turn.  This game feels like an interactive story, which I enjoy very much.  Dune, Shmune.  The owners of the Dune property were foolish to let this wonderful game design be separated from their brand, but good for Fantasy Flight for losing none of the magic by utilizing their own unique characters to tell the story offered by this game yet retaining the brilliance of a classic game design.

Component Pictures on BGG

Jul 11 2012

1hr 21mins

Play

Episode K – My Least Favorite Things

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode I compile my Dice Tower segment Series, ” I Don’t Like _______”  which aired on episodes between February 2011 and February 2012.  This compilation is annotated with some thoughts in between each segment as I take a listen back to each segment.  This episode is also a final push to complete our Summer Fundraising efforts for the show, help HTP meet its goal to be fully funded for the rest of the year by donating today, see this link for more info.

Segments Included:

  • Part 1 – Pillars of the Earth
  • Part 2 – Power Grid
  • Part 3 – Quidditich
  • Part 4 – Deal or no Deal
  • Part 5 – El Grande
  • Part 6 – Hobbit Cards

Jun 26 2012

42mins

Play

Episode J – How to Play’s Top 50 Green Circle Games

Podcast cover
Read more

Top 50

For this episode I do something very different.  I count down my Top 50 Green Circle Games.  I love complex games, but I also love great simple games.  Here is a list of my top 50 simple games.  This episode also kicks off my summer fundraiser, please donate today!

Here is a reference of the list. (Spoilers!, if you want to be surprised don’t look yet

HTP Top 50 Green Circles

Jun 10 2012

1hr 28mins

Play

Episode 37 – Carson City

Podcast cover
Read more

Carson City Teaching Guide

Carson City Teaching Guide B&W

Released: May 6th, 2012

Game Description:  It’s Caylus … but with guns!  That’s right, if you don’t like that your neighbor placed his cowboy in that box, well then just put your man in there and cock your pistol hum the good, the bad and the ugly theme song.  Give this Wild West Worker Placement game a shot, I think you will have a rootin’ tootin’ good time.

May 06 2012

1hr 6mins

Play

Episode 36x – Expansions and Spinoffs in the Catan Series

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode I dig into the universe of Catan and the works of Klaus Teuber.  This episode will give a basic overview of the expansions, variants, scenarios, spinoffs and other assorted Klaus Teuber games.

Apr 15 2012

29mins

Play

Episode 36 – The Settlers of Catan

Podcast cover
Read more

Teaching Guide for Settlers

Teaching Guide for Settlers BW

Released: April 15th, 2012


Original Show Notes:

Settlers of Catan is my favorite game strictly for fun player interaction.  Each game involves negotiation, diplomacy and lots of laughs.  This game is responsible for my rediscovery and current addiction and indirectly for entirety of the existence of The How to Play Podcast.  It deserves its own episode and here it is.  Everyone needs to know this game.

I will take this opportunity to show off my daughter Gwen utilizing her negotiation skills…

Component Pictures on BGG

Apr 15 2012

31mins

Play

Episode I – All I Really Need to Know

Podcast cover
Read more

This is a compilation of a 5 part series that originally aired on The Dice Tower Podcast in the Summer and Fall of 2010.  In this series I examine some of the deeper life lessons that can be learned from playing board games.  The scripts for the five segments are posted below.

All I really need to know I learned from Playing Boardgames.

Part 1: Get Your Priorities Straight

Aaahh Prioritization, some of my favorite games are games that make you prioritize.  You need to look at a multitude of options and decide which is most important for you to do now and which you can afford to wait to do later and perhaps miss out on the opportunity to do that action.

These sorts of decisions can be found in almost every game but are easily apparent through the worker placement mechanic.  Think about Agricola, Caylus, Age of Empires or Stone Age.  In these games, prioritization is essentially the entire game!  Whoever makes the best decisions about which action is the most important for them each turn will win the game!  You also see this in games involving drafting such as Notre Dame or Fairy Tale.  Which card is the most important to you and which can you afford pass.  Or even the staple Ticket to Ride.  Do I have to play on that route now or can I get those blue cards I need?  Which track should I build first, which can I build later?

Those sorts of decisions are the reason why I play board games, I love trying to figure out what is my best move each turn.  And you know what is great, you almost always get immediate feedback from those decisions by how many points you score and can reflect on how well you did in the game, and can use that knowledge to better your play in future games, which is why board games are way easier than actual life.

It’s fun to imagine life as a gigantic game of Agricola; Where hundreds of times a day you have your one wooden disc and you have millions of squares from which to choose from.  Imagine your Saturday Morning;

WAKE UP – Snooze Alarm, Get Dressed or Shower

BREAKFAST – Cereal, Eggs, or Coffee Shop

FIRST ACTIVITY – Exercise, play with your kids, Watch TV, train for a competitive eating contest.

SECOND ACTIVITY – Visit your mom, call friends, or listen to an episode of the how to play podcast.

And in comparison game like Agricola is so much simpler.  In Agricola you only need to get some food tokens and score metaphorical victory points.  You think its hard baking bread in Agricola?  How many token placements you think would be required to begin a professional career in middle class modern society.

And victory points?  Oh I wish it were all so simple, wouldn’t it be great if the meaning of life was all laid out for you in the obtainment of items and goals, all of which were attached a quantifiable numerical value, and by the time you croaked if you reached a certain score, you would leave this world a winner having attained complete fulfillment and joy.  Ah that would be something wouldn’t it.

But that is the joy of it all isn’t it?  That life is hard and unpredictable and that only you can decide how to win your own actual game of life.  But one thing is for sure, life is short, you have got to get your priorities straight.

Part 2 – The Road Not Taken

At the end of the How to Play Podcasts I try to give the listeners some basic beginning strategy tips for each game and time and time again I seem to give the same piece of simple yet effective advice, 7 simple words that always seems to be an important consideration and can generally improve your standing in a multiplayer game, no matter what that game might be..

Those 7 words are…

Do what the other players aren’t doing!

From the simplest to the most complex games if you focus your efforts towards areas that the other players are ignoring, you will tend to have greater success.

Some examples of this from popular games would include games that score points in multiple categories.  For example look at the game Alhambra, there are 6 different colors of buildings which score separately, if you manage to go after colors the fewest other players are involved in, you are more likely to score more points.

Or an area majority / area control game such as El Grande, obviously you would like to get to areas that other players don’t seem to be interested.

To games that include a supply and demand element; such as Power Grid or Brass, if you take advantage of resources that no one else seems to be interested in you will save yourself lots of money and be able to score points more easily.

It is easy to think about many examples when two or three players end up in a dogfight trying to get the same thing and end up committing far too many resources, Especially in an Auction Game such as Modern Art or Age of Steam, when a player gets caught in a bidding war and gets a undeniable urge to win, squandering much of their resources.

Or think about that one time where you played a game, and tried a new strategy, that no one had ever tried before, and it seemed so crazy that it just might work, and it did.

I love how playing games can help you develop this greater sense of moving from a narrow viewpoint of; this is what I want to do and I have to do no matter what, to developing a constant state of analysis, seeing each turn as a fresh new start and reevaluating the choices you had planned, seeing the big picture and making sure that better options haven’t become available.

As significant as it may be to win that game of El Grande or Age of Steam These skills have a greater purpose.  Imagine applying that same sense of reflection and analysis to your day to day life.  Instead of getting caught up in the day to day slog and routines you have developed, every once while, take a step back and think and reflect on your current situation and think; What other options are available to me now, is there another path?

Can I do what other people aren’t doing?  Are there other opportunities for me that other people cant see, what can I do that other people won’t do or can’t do?

This whole idea of filling in niches that aren’t being satisfied is certainly something that is constantly applied in adult’s professional lives with people developing successful businesses or career paths, in realizing a demand or an opportunity that no one else has seen before, creating a product that fills a need that no one ever knew existed, or launching a career in a field that few others would dare attempt.

But it also is a valuable concept in our personal lives.  So strong can be the pull of conformity and the status quo, it is easy to get lost in such pressures and shy away from following our heart, of establishing our own personal identity, and of being frightened of doing something that has never been done before, of doing more than just being, but also creating, creating something, anything that has never been done before.

So I say just as you would in one of your favorite games; Dare to do what other people aren’t doing.

Or as my friend Bob would say, “Take the road less traveled by”

It might just make all the difference.

Part 3 – What’s it worth?

One of the most important skills that board games can teach you is the concept of relative value: The skill of being able to constantly assess the changing value of a card, a tile, a spot on the board or perhaps of a trade being offered to you by your opponent.

Many times in board games you have to guess at the possible value of things without having all of the necessary information, but you have to use the clues that you have available to you to judge the potential value of that item, and perhaps throughout the game you are given more clues as to how much things are worth.

Almost all games that include some kind of an auction element force you to really think about what something could be worth.  Even something as innocuous as a bid for starting player leads to a complicated thought process of how much is that really worth.  Or you could think of the changing values of possible actions in a worker placement as a turn progresses or as a game progresses

But looking at pure auction games, the easiest examples of games in which you must consider relative value are Reiner Knizia’s trilogy of amazing auction games, Modern Art, Ra and Medici.  In all three of these games the whole game is essentially looking at a card or a set of tiles and from using the clues you have available to you including: the tiles or cards that others have collected,  which tiles or cards have come out and which are left in the bag and how much time is left in the round, these are all factors that affect the value of the items that are being bid on.

With every pull of a tile or draw of a card the value of that card changes and we get more information.

Many interesting phenomenon reveal themselves as the values change…

Consider how the value to each player changes – As players collect different tiles or cards, the value of future items is now much different than their value to you, and if the value to another player increases to a high enough point you must consider the value of denying this to another player.

Many times in games where relative value is a factor it can be a skill to read the others at the table, where you can use a bit of small talk at the table, or just read their body language to get a player to reveal just how valuable the item is to that player.

And you must consider an items potential value.  As you see the events of the game unfold you must consider not just what their apparent value is but also what could their value be possibly by the end of a round or the end of the game.

What deeper message can these exercises teach us in changing values?

Well we are all confronted in various situations in our everyday lives when being able to discern a hidden value of a good or service can be very important.

Recently I can think of two situations from my own life that I was forced to use these skills, I got to play the very real game of negotiating the actual price I would pay for a new car I was buying and I had to negotiate a price that I would pay for a contractor to finish my basement.

Now these real-life games were especially challenging for me because of my complete and utter lack of knowledge of the costs of automobiles and of building materials and labor costs.  Anything having to do with cars or hardware is completely out of my realm of knowledge.

Though I honestly believe that some of the tactics and skills I had developed in my favorite games, by bidding low, reading body language and exploring options from my competitors helped me to obtain a fair price.

In a more abstracted view of these concepts I think about the changing of values that has occurred in my own life over the last fifteen years.  I think about how my own personal game has played out in becoming a father and the stage I am at in my career and it is interesting to reflect on how values can change in a few years or even in just a few months.   Before my first daughter Gwen was born many things that seemed so important just don’t seem to really matter that much any more.

Fatherhood has had a significant impact on how my values have changed, I now have a much different view on what is most valuable to me.

Part 4 – In Other People’s Shoes

Ever play a game and think, I wonder what that guy is going to do on his turn…

Humans are selfish creatures by nature.  It is only natural that as living things we seek to meet our own personal needs, we are constantly thinking about what we need and what we want and almost all of our actions and thoughts are geared towards meeting our own personal needs and desires.

In games it is no different.  When players play a game, all of their actions and strategies are based on their personal motives within that game.

Now in a typical board game experience, you will have four or so players sitting around the table all motivated by a single desire, to win.

Many times in a board game it can be advantageous to be able to really see the game from another player’s shoes to be able to predict their actions and think…

If I were you, how do I see this game right now and what would my next move be?

And in many cases the answer is simple, they are trying to win the game and they are going to make is the move that most benefits them.

However in many cases it is not that simple; sometimes you have to factor in that player’s understanding of the game.

If they have a very limited understanding of the game, they may make moves that make sense to them in their attempt to win the game but don’t make sense in the grand scheme of playing the game well. I think about a new ticket to ride player who plays the game one route at a time.  Or I think about a new player in Puerto Rico, who sees taking the craftsman as good because he gets lots of goods, not realizing the upcoming consequences.  So even though these actions don’t make sense to you, they make perfect sense from their shoes,

It also gets more complicated when you factor in players whose decisions are motivated by more than just the desire to win.  Their actions may be more driven by a relationship they have with someone else at the table, or a vendetta against another player, or someone who just wants to try to do “something cool”, or someone who thinks they can’t win no matter what so they are not even going to try, or someone who purposefully tries not to win the game.

All of these motivations and many more could be what is going through a player’s head as they make each decision in a game.

Sometimes it can be very much to your advantage to be able to read these motivations and be able to predict what your opponents might do.  And sometimes it can be more fun than the actual game itself to try to predict and think about why players are playing the way that they are.

Take a game like Citadels, for me the whole fun of this game is trying to guess what people will do and see how people react from round to round.  Citadels for me is a much more social experience than it is a strategic game, as the players each turn play crazy mind games with one another.

It’s funny how your sense of perspective can cloud your judgment as well as you attempt to read the intentions of others, because at times I have convinced myself that a player would not make a move that would hurt me, simply because I was hoping that they wouldn’t.

I think most of us have let our personal perspective cloud our judgment in another circumstance as well, in choosing the right game for a given circumstance.

As the game guy, it is often my responsibility to pick out a game for a variety of situations, including a game experience for family and non-gamers, and games for my game club for kids.

So many times I have failed in this exercise as I attempt to pull out a game that is fun for me, but not for anybody else, which of course makes it not fun for me either.

I have learned that my family wants to play board games with me simply because they know it is a love of mine and they want to share that with me and spend time with me, but for the love of god Ryan don’t break out Settlers of Catan again.

In my game club, I have learned that kids are still kids, and they need games that are appropriate for them and their abilities, put Ticket to Ride back on the shelf, and get out Apples to Apples, TransAmerica and Dungeon, and remember how 8 year old Ryan thought that Dungeon was the greatest game ever made, and for 8 year old boys it just possibly could be.

I have learned how important it is to recognize how my own personal motivations are impacting the choices that I make and when I need to try to see things from a bigger picture, when I need to see things, from other people’s shoes.

Part 5 – The Balance.

I use games… A LOT in my 4th grade classroom, I use them for a number of reasons, I use them because they are an incredible way to engage students in learning content but perhaps most important of all is teaching these children the difficult balance of Respectful Competition

I will never be able to teach my students everything I would like and it’s likely they won’t remember things like what a interjection is, or who Peter Stuyvesant was, or which part of the crayfish is the cephalothorax, but I know that when it comes right down to it, that if they learn nothing else I hope they leave fourth grade with two values; Ambitious Scholarship and Citizenship.

I want them to understand the importance of ambitious hard work to be competitive and be the best that they can be AND I want them to remember that they are a part of a greater community and they need to be a contributing and positive member of that community.

Sometime these two things seem to pull at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Work your hardest to be the best, yet still do it in a way that is respectful and remaining a positive citizen within the group.

Teaching these two values and the balance between them I believe is the most important thing that I can do for these students and for the communities in which they live.

Our world is a competitive world, when these kids grow to be adults they need to have the ambition and work ethic to be able to compete and succeed, but it is also our hope that they will do so in a way that makes their town, their country and their world a better place to live.

We see all the time the results of people who lack these values.

It used to be in America that just getting a college degree or even having a high school diploma was a guarantee to a decent career and life in the middle class, this is not the case any longer, not without strong ambition, hard work and a little bit of luck.

We also see examples every day of people who act or make choices with their only consideration being themselves and forgetting that they are a part of a larger community.  From things as drastic as selling huge mortgages to people that in no way afford them, to things as simple as the gradual erosion of friendliness and polite behavior in public life.

How can I possibly teach this fragile balance between competitive ambition and cooperative citizenship?

One word;

Games.

I can use a simple game as a way to teach and instill the values I hope for them to demonstrate as they go out in the world and play the great game of life.

First of all games can teach them the importance of ambition and hard work.  Within the context of a game, students learn that if you work hard and play better than the other players you are often rewarded with victory, they learn that if you work hard and play your best sometimes you still lose and students learn that if you don’t play as well, don’t put in as much effort, or frankly just aren’t as good at a certain activity, you will lose.

It is difficult to see kids lose, but it is worse to let them win without effort, or let them think they are good at something that they are not or worse yet never give them the any experiences of real competition.  In order to prepare students for a competitive world we have to teach them how to compete including what it takes to succeed.

But also the very important lesson of the manner in which we expect them to compete.  They need to learn how they can be competitive and yet still be a respectful member if their community.  How they can compete in a way that still makes the game fun for everybody, and that there is a right way to win and a right way to lose.

The balance of Respectful Competition is something we all can continue to work on.  Have you ever caught yourself doing any of the following things at game night…

-          complaining about your bad luck incessantly, impacting the game experience of others

-          getting so involved in the game that you forget to learn and use the names of your competitors and interact with them in a positive way

-          after falling behind in a game, stop trying to place as high as possible OR play the game in a way that diminishes the experience for others

-          manipulate novice players to your advantage

-          finish a game and immediately explain to the whole table the reasons why you didn’t win

-          forget to congratulate the winner of the game or thanking the teacher of the game

These are common behaviors during game play in a classroom of fourth graders, and they are not entirely uncommon from adults at a game day.  These are some of the most important lessons I teach my students, and sometimes they are lessons that we as adults need to remind ourselves of as well.

Playing games throughout my life has taught me so much about the way I wish to act as a person and attempt to model this balance of ambitious scholarship and good citizenship and it is my greatest hope that I can convey these values to my students, to make them better people and our communities a better place to live.

I hope that this segment and this series, has gotten you to think a bit about all the things you can really learn from playing board games.

This has been Ryan Sturm from the How to Play Podcast

Apr 10 2012

23mins

Play

Episode 35 – Twilight Struggle

Podcast cover
Read more

Twilight Struggle Teaching Guide

Twilight Struggle Teaching Guide B&W

Released: March 25th, 2012

Game Description:

USA vs USSR.  The struggle to alter the course of human history.  Twilight struggle is a two player card driven game with the well integrated theme of the cold war.  Twilight Struggle is one of the greatest games of this generation, it’s a wonderful game experience.  Learn it, teach it, play it you will be glad you did.

Component Pictures on BGG

Mar 25 2012

59mins

Play

Episode 29w – How to Win Through the Ages

Podcast cover
Read more

Date Released: February 12th, 2012

 Description:

In this third “How to Win” episode I tackle Through the Ages with my good friend and fellow TTA fan, Geoff Englestein.

Feb 12 2012

1hr 22mins

Play

Episode 34 – Die Burgen von Burgund

Podcast cover
Read more

Die Burgen von Burgund Teaching Guide

Die Burgen von Burgund Teaching Guide BW

Released: January 17th, 2012

Game Description:

A great medium weight game couples game.  In this game players are simply choosing tiles and adding them to their “estate” to score points.  So simple yet so many interesting decisions to make.  One of my favorite newer releases.

Component Pictures on BGG

Jan 18 2012

49mins

Play

Episode H – 2011 Review and Top 50 Update

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode I talk about the games that I played this year, muse on the year in gaming and present an updated list for my Top 50 favorite games of all time.  I discuss all games I played many are new and some are older games.

Here is the list  games:

How to Play’s top 50 games as of 2011

Jan 09 2012

55mins

Play