With the new “LCG-style” Campaign boxes just around the corner we’re planning down our FLGS to make a big play for some new players. The Warhammer 40K Box in particular has already led to a few regulars wandering over to us with inquiries as the Games Workshop IP is popular round our way.
This has led me to put a little thought into how to demo and instruct new players in the game. Here’s some of my top tips for teaching new players…
Start at the end
I like to begin any tutorial by letting the new player know how a game ends, specifically; how you win.
This is something that has bugged me for years with instruction manuals and rulebooks – they address playing the game in chronological order of play and don’t place the game in context. I find myself searching for the “why” when elements of the game play are outlined in the rule book.
So I always start at the end when explaining a game. “This is a player vs player game where the objective is to beat your opponent. You begin with 20 life each and your aim is to be the first to reduce your opponent’s life to zero.”
Starting this way helps me then structure the rest of the tutorial – now they know that the win is damaging your opponent’s life count, what’s the next thing they want to know? How to do that damage. So then I walk them through that. Let’s talk Dice Attack & defense stats, dice levels, combat, and (my fave) direct damage.
Next – how you manage the resources to get your damage delivery together. “There’s a purchase mechanic for drafting your dice, this is how this works if you want that dice”. You talk purchase costs, fielding costs, the Bag process etc etc
And so on and so on. I find there’s a point where I start to chop about a bit, but overall I just generally find myself seeing it come together for the newbie better when we go backwards.
Find out what else they play
I like to start off with some chat around other games they play to find some parallels in the mechanics to help them get their heads around Dice Masters.
Many, many games are built around the core principles of developing a resource to manage (energy), purchasing useful tools to use in the game (buying dice), and some sort of combat mechanic (dice stats).
For example: if they’ve ever played a deck builder I like to talk about purchasing dice for your bag in a similar context to drafting your deck, or if they’ve played a CCG/LCG drawing connections in game-texts as a shortcut (ie Energy is like Mana, Deadly is like Poisonous, Overcrush is like Trample etc etc)
This is clearly only beneficial if they’re a seasoned tabletop gamer, but I am banking on the assumption that if they are inquiring down my FLGS then there’s some level of knowledge about the hobby already there.
Build Some Basic Teams
To get players off the ground I’ve built some “basic” teams to play against each other that demonstrate some of the game’s cornerstones.
I’m particularly keen on using starter sets and common rarity cards as the basis for this, mostly because they’re a straight forward purchase for the newb if it takes their fancy.
I like to think about teams that have a pretty straight forward mechanic to get started with but can open up some of the more exciting depth to the gameplay.
Some little rules I follow for the starter team:
- Put at least one, relatively straight-forward Global in there;
- Put an Action Card in there;
- Put something to demonstrate Ramp and Churn;
- Use a fundamental win-con that relies on a simple combo;
- Put something in that uses Affiliations;
- Drop-in a card with an interesting Keyword;
- Use a couple of popular, recognisable characters
Two sets I’m fond of using for this are World’s Finest and Superman/Wonder Woman starter. They have some strong cards that are reasonably easy to get your head around and well known characters. Plus; I’m a DC Fanboy. 😜 I’m also fond of using the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Box sets.
Don’t Go Smashing the Noob
And finally – I think there’s something to holding back a little and taking it easy on them.
Eventually they’ll learn and develop and will handle themselves, but in the early days of teaching a new player a game I think it’s more important to be a good tutor and coach.
I like to commentate through my turn, explain my decisions, and ask if they’d like advice on their turn. One of the most damaging things you can do is give them a negative play experience by smashing away their life with all your meta power cards.
They’ll come into their own and ask to be challenged to accelerate their understanding of the same soon enough – for now its more important for them to get a sense of how great the community members are and find their feet.
There we are then dear readers – my “top tips” for teaching the game.
What are yours? Any particular approach you take with new players?
Let us know in the comments below…