One of the best reasons to play board games at Snakes and Lattes is that you’ll always have access to a board game guru. With their vast knowledge in games and experience in teaching games to others, they always seem to teach me a new game in a matter of minutes, versus the hours it usually takes me to fumble through manuals and online tutorial videos. If it were possible, I would want to have access to one of their board game gurus at all times so that they can teach me a new game anywhere.
The harsh reality is that this will never happen. Most of the time, I’m going to have to figure things out on my own or with Steff. In order to avoid placing the burden of learning games the hard way on others, I usually take the time to workshop a game alone or with Steff so that we can make the learning experience better for others.
When I first open a new game, my first instinct is to sort all of the bits that come with it. Before I even know what they are or what they do, I try my best to sort things out based on how they look. For some games, sorting is a breeze, as things are either packaged in a way that is easy to sort, or the bits inside are easy to match up.
After my experience with Marvel Legendary, I don’t take this process for granted. That game and Marvel Legendary: Villains are the absolute worst when it comes to sorting, as cards are bundled together in a way that doesn’t make sense for how they need to be sorted for play. Furthermore, the manual itself isn’t all that clear on how to package things up. As such, the first time I opened the original Legendary, it was a two-hour slog that involving the manual and numerous tutorial videos just to sort the cards. With Legendary: Villains, I already knew what I needed to do to sort the cards, but the process still took over an hour due to how poorly they’re bundled together.
Once all of the pieces are organized, I give the manual an honest try. Following along, I’ll set up the game as per the instructions and try to play it out myself. Some manuals are actually very good, but most of them leave me with questions that stifle my progress. It’s at this point when I hit the internet for tutorial videos to fill in the gaps. One of the best at providing video tutorials is Watch it Played, as Rodney Smith does a tremendous job of explaining games in a clear and concise manner.
My last step is to then set up a trial game where I play multiple roles. If the game is straightforward enough, this part will only take a few turns. In games with more elaborate rules, such as Betrayal at House on the Hill, I’ll play it in full. By the time I’ve gone through this whole process, I want to be at least knowledgeable enough to be able to teach the gamers I’m playing with the gist of the game in a matter of minutes, versus the hours it would have taken me to get to the same point.
There might be a light at the end of the tunnel, at least for certain games that integrate with digital apps, such as XCOM: The Board Game. Much of that game is guided through the app, which is almost like a tutorial in an actual video game. Still, even in the age of video tutorials and apps, board games will likely continue to be a slog to learn if you don’t have a Snakes and Lattes game guru handy. If the hours I spend preparing beforehand makes for the best first experience with a real group, then it’s time I’m willing to spend.
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