How to Explain Board Game Rules

Explaining board game rules is an art. The wrong way will leave people overwhelmed and confused. The right way will make people excited to play, and able to enjoy the game.

How to Explain Board Game Rules
16 Steps

Explain in right order to ensure context is introduced before specifics, and prevent people from getting lost. Don't go too deep- Maximum time needed, in seconds, is after last sentence of each step.


Who am I in this game? "You play the role of a ___ (role) in ___ (time & place), trying to ___ (thematic goal)". Explains the theme and important to hook players in and helps rules make sense. <10s

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How long is the game and how many players? "It takes about ___ minutes for up to ___ players. ___ is minimum but best with ___" This helps decision to commit or back out, so they can focus. <10s


Why is it fun? "This game is fun because you have to skillfully ___ (game mechanic) and overcome ___ (challenges) in order to win." No specifics, just concepts so rules will 'click' faster. <10s


What and where are the game components? Overview of board sections, names/meaning of decks, piles, and pieces. Visuals make rules easier to follow. Anatomy first, then rules will be physiology. <60s


When does it end and how do I win? "The game ends when ___ and whoever ___ wins.". Before hearing what choices you make on your turn, it helps to know what goal they are helping close in on. <10s.


How do I play and when do I make choices? Brief overview of turn order. Quickly shows steps. Then go back and review choices and consequences at each step. Ignore all the exceptions for now.<10 min


As you go, assess if anyone is lost or overwhelmed. Are they looking away or yawning? If lost, slow down and review high level steps without detail so they have a feel for the flow, then continue.


Lastly explain the tedious details and exceptions. If possible do quickly or ignore if they can be learned as you play. At a certain point many people just can't absorb any more without playing.


Tip: If there is a player guide, have them follow it as you explain so they can use it for reference later. As you explain, walk through an example and move the pieces on the board.


Tip: If you are interrupted with questions, ask them to wait if it will take you out of order. Don't give details until they have context. Don't give exceptions until they know the basics.


Tip: Give everyone a set up task (sort, arrange, shuffle) to speed up start time. The longer the wait the harder it will be to get everyone's attention if they find a new activity or conversation.


Tip: highlight ways to collect $, resources, and VPs when reviewing game board and when reviewing details on how to collect them if appropriate.


Tip: avoid discussing strategy during explanation, however once you start playing ask if they want some common strategies and caveats to consider and help get them started.


For step 4, here is a list of game mechanics…


Summary: 1. Who am I? 2. How long for how many? 3. Why is it fun? 4. What and where are the parts of the game? 5. How and when to win? 6. How and when to play. Then gory details, if needed. Have fun!

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