10 Tips to Become a Better Board Game Teacher
Know the Rules and Help Your Friends

When most people think about games as entertainment nowadays, video games are the first to come to mind. However, board games are as popular today as they ever were, and it’s possible to find something for all tastes and difficulty levels.

You may wonder why a board game requires a teacher. We’re not talking about the simple ones that everyone knows and loves here, like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. You can pick up and play those games in a matter of minutes, even if you’ve never played them before. Think more along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons, and you’ll only just scratch the surface of what you can explore. These games use complex themes and rules for a surprisingly immersive experience. However, with complexity comes the need for someone to take the reins and educated everyone else on how to play correctly. If that’s the role you play on game night, then these 10 tips are sure to make you a better teacher.

1. Ensure You Know the Game Inside and Out before You Try to Teach

We all had that one teacher in school that gave off the impression that they didn’t know what they were talking about. In our case, it was the PE teacher that had to teach geography as well. The point is that it’s difficult to show someone how to do something properly if you don’t know how to do it yourself. You take on a heroic role when you become the teacher, but you need to devote the time to poring through rulebooks, playing alone on test runs and everything else to qualify you as someone to pass on your knowledge.

2. Discourage Back Seat Teachers

Other players will learn best if they can focus on you and you alone for information. The chances are you play with friends, so you don’t want to tell anyone off. However, you should reinforce the importance of a single voice in the learning period if everyone is to be on the same page. There’s enough for a new play to get to grips with from one source without trying to take in information from more. The only change is when someone is clearly better-suited to teaching about the game. The best thing you can do in this scenario is swallowing your pride and stepping aside.

3. Always Start with the Objective of the Game

If you can make the destination clearer, the journey becomes easier to navigate. Rather than just taking in information, your students will be able to consider everything you say in the context of the end goal. If you can constantly reinforce the objective by mentioning it in context, it will keep the reason for each decision clear.

4. Stick to the Most Relevant Rules and Actions

If you’re just getting into complex board games, you might be shocked to see that there are games that can go on for days or weeks – they make Risk look amateurish by comparison. If game night all takes place on one night, there will be stages of the game you won’t reach. Take advantage of that by omitting parts of the game that are unlikely to become relevant, so you can focus on those that are.

5. Initiate Two-Way Conversation

Ask questions of your students and encourage them to do the same to you. If they’re not clear on something, they should never worry about asking for clarification. It is better to do so while the content is relevant rather than once the question arises mid-game, as it may also help players that are not yet in the same situation.

6. Save Some Teachings for Relevant Moments

Some games are complex enough where one decision can lead to hundreds of different outcomes. Unless your game night lasts a week, you don’t have time to explain every possible scenario. In these cases, wait to find out which of the hundreds of outcomes become relevant, and explain the specifics then. Over time, all players will get used to what each outcome does, and this gradual approach saves time without sacrificing the quality of your teaching.

7. Show, Don’t Tell

Many people find it easier to learn something when they are shown rather than told. This makes it far easier to apply what they’ve seen in real situations. Board games are no different and you should have the game to hand while you demonstrate things. Don’t go too in-depth and stick to the core message of the rule you’re working on for the best results.

8. Stick to Teaching the Rules, Not Finer Strategies

At this early stage, we’re still not sure whether your gaming buddies want to play the game or not. There’s no point diving into the finer points of game strategy here, especially as it can confuse the message. Try not to talk about what someone should and should not do in any given situation. Instead, focus on what their options are according to the rules. Leave the decision up to them, and save strategising for when the game is underway.

9. Ban Distractions

We’re not in school, and these are your friends, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ban phones and other distractions. You’ve likely got that one friend that’s always on their phone and they can end up wasting everyone’s time if they require more explanation when the game is underway. As far as we’re concerned, if you’ve taken the time to become the teacher, your friends should show enough respect to become the students for an hour.

10. If All Else Fails, Let Someone Else Do It

Unless you’ve designed the game of the night yourself, the chances are that there’s not only someone out there thoroughly versed in the rules, but someone that will have put them on YouTube. Over time, you’ll find channels to follow that you can rely on for rule breakdowns. This removes the pressure of teaching and ensures that everyone is on the same page.