How to teach board games: 7 steps to make teaching easier!

7 steps to make teaching easier!

Introducing a new board game into a group is not always easy.  It’s not unusual for games to come with large detailed rule books making teaching hard. It’s even harder when the group is not very experienced or the game is quite complex.  A combination of the two can make it seem nearly impossible to teach people how to play.  So what is the best way to teach board games?  This guide will lay out a series of simple steps that will help you to learn cool tips and tricks to help you on your way.  So keep scrolling to find out how to teach board games.


Step 1 – A thorough understanding

In order to teach a game well you will need a thorough understanding of the game you want to teach.  Make sure you have fully read the rules more than once and understand the majority of the rules and how to run through the game.  Ideally if you can play the game through yourself first at least a couple of times, even alone, it will greatly increase your understanding.

Also be sure to check out game-play videos online to get more of a feel for how the game plays and to see some circumstances that you might not come across in a normal game.  The aim is to have a better understanding than just the rules.  An understanding of the specifics and technicalities of the game are super important for both explaining and for the first play-through.


Step 2 – The elevator pitch

It’s important to catch the attention of your group.  If people aren’t interested in learning a new game then they won’t pick it up very quickly and the process will be more painful than it needs to be.  So work on a short elevator pitch that gives a very brief overview of the game.  Keep it high level and no longer than a minute or so.  You will go into further details later on.

If you know that certain features of a game will get your group excited then be sure to point those out.  Imagine that someone was pitching a game to you and think through what would get you excited.  Aim to get your fellow gamers invested in the game and have them want to learn how to play.  Then the process will be a lot easier!


Step 3 – What do the players do?

The next step in this guide for how to teach board games is to tell players their role within the game.  Explain what part they play within the theme, if appropriate, and briefly explain any background they will need in order to continue.

Then walk through an example turn.  Rather than simply explaining a turn verbally, get the pieces all set up and ready to go.  Then play through an example turn exactly as you would in the game.  Take it slowly and make sure everybody understands why you are performing each action.  Be sure to answer questions as you go but also ask questions to check that you are being understood.


Step 4 – What are the win conditions?

Teaching a board game would be pretty pointless without telling players how to win!  Now that you’ve walked through an example turn, explain the process a player must take to win.  Relate it back to the specific turn actions you mentioned in the last step.

Using the board and the pieces that are still out from the previous step, demonstrate any specific examples of win conditions.  This may not always be possible depending on the type of game being played and it’s specific win conditions.  For example in Dead of Winter each player has their own set of win conditions that must be built up over time.  Whereas in Catan each player must earn 10 victory points.  This can be demonstrated by showing how victory points are earned with buildings and cards.

win conditions

Win Conditions!


Step 5 – Play the game but with commentary

By this point your friends are probably already bored by your voice and watching you play with the pieces.  So start playing!  Once they have the basic knowledge from the above steps     the group should now have enough information to play through the game, though probably slowly at first.  In my opinion there is no better way to learn a game, or any skill for that matter, by having a go.

During play though you should be actively commentating on anything that appears unclear.  Additionally you should not be playing to win.  But rather you should point out ways in which turns could be improved.  By teaching small pieces of strategy like this, people will begin to better understand the mechanics of the game.  They will also start to develop their own strategies which will help them to understand the game in their own way.

play with commentary

Play With Commentary!


Step 6 – Debrief

Once the game is over everybody will finally have experienced the new game.  Now is the time to clear up any lingering questions or discussions on strategy.  In short ensure that everyone is clear on the events of the game that took place.

It is unlikely, especially for more complex games, that you will encounter every scenario in a single play-through.  However by ensuring that players have a complete understanding of the scenarios that did take place, it is much more likely that they will understand future scenarios with ease.


Step 7 – Play it again!

Now that the game has been played through once the hard work has been done.  Everyone should have a decent understanding of the game.  Often at this point I find my friends are itching to play again now that they understand everything properly.  They want to be able to start from the beginning with their new found knowledge and improve upon last time.

If you have the time and willingness to play again straight away then great!  The key to learning things is repetition.  And if your group enjoyed it then playing it again shouldn’t be a hard case to make.  Second time around you should need hardly any commentary at all.  But be sure not to forget your duties of explanation should a question arise.


How to teach board games

Every board game is different so you will need to adapt this list to the board game you wish to teach.  But as a starting point these steps should serve you well.  Over time you may find that certain techniques resonate better with the group of people you are trying to teach.  So it’s important to include your own observations and teaching style.

Let us know in the comments below your favourite tips for how to teach board games.  And let us know your success stories too!  We always love hearing from our readers so if there’s something you want us to write about then let us know.  We hope you enjoyed this article on how to teach board games.  Have fun introducing people to your favourite board games!