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Rule 1… ah, whatever…

June 28, 2011

I’ve just been thinking about differences in the way adults and children learn to play games. Granted this is based on a very limited sample: the kids being represented by Miss B and the adults being represented mostly by the gaming nuts I have played with over the years, so it may not be entirely representative.

Anyway, my experience of teaching a new game to adults almost always resulted in a general recipe similar to:

  1. Introduce the theme and describe the game’s objective in fairly general terms.
  2. Describe key points about the board, cards and/or pieces, etc.
  3. Explain what happens each turn.
  4. Go into more detail about whatever mechanics might need further explanation.
  5. Go over the end game and victory conditions.
  6. Answer questions (though there are bound to have been a load earlier, potentially completely derailing the planned sequence).
  7. Set up the game and start playing.
  8. Reiterate elements of the rules at appropriate times.
There are plenty of games where this approach doesn’t work.  For example, Civilisation would generally skip most of the rules at first, introducing elements just before they come into play, like the trading rules can be safely skipped for a couple of rounds.
When Miss B is learning a game, what normally happens is something more like:
  1. Show her the various game components and describe the key features of them.
  2. Set up and start playing.
  3. Explain rules as they come up.
And this seems to be exactly as she likes it.  With each turn I have to explain less and less until eventually we’re down to not much more than the occasional “it’s your turn” or “no, poppet, you are the red one” reminders.
Thinking about it, this tallies with what we have been told at nursery and elsewhere about how the younguns are all about the process rather than the end result.  Indeed, B seems happy to suggest rule changes in the middle of a game, though she is generally happy to wait until next time to try them out.
Of course, now I can’t help but think about playing Fluxx (particularly after finding a new copy of Eco Fluxx in a charity shop over the weekend) and its mutating rules.  Unfortunately, Miss B’s reading skills aren’t yet strong enough to make this viable, but one day we’ll give it a go.


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