How To Tame A New Tabletop Game
When you want to tame a new tabletop game, remember the "Dude" process: Discover, Understand, Dominate/Enjoy.
I'm casually browsing the Internet, reading articles, chatting with friends, when suddenly I see it. There, in a targeted ad, or maybe in a video play list, or a positive comment about it in some game forum: a new game! Word-of-mouth is positive. There's a buzz in the air about it. The box art is appealing.
I want to play this!
Do I want to play this?
Time to investigate!
Step One: Research
I first visit the BoardGameGeek.com page for the game. I read the description. Then I scroll down to the video section for some review videos. These generally come with a short summary of the rules, plus some game-play mechanics discussion. If I get positive vibes about the game, I'll go on the next step: rules explanation!
Step Two: Learn the Rules
Now I watch some rules explanation videos. This lets me see if it hits my criteria for determining a "positive tabletop game experience:" desired mechanics, preferred theme, good player count, and tolerable length. If it looks like I would enjoy it, I check out a play-through video of the game.
Step Three: Watch It Played
Next, I watch a play-through video. This gives me my first look at strategy and tactics dynamics. How does one move affect another? Can I influence other players in any significant way? What's the goal?
The play-through solidifies my rules understanding, and gives me an opportunity to see how fun the game could be. If it looks like it would be fun, I either find someone who owns it, or I buy it.
Step Four: Skim the Rulebook
This is just a brief scan of the rules, so I'll know where to go should an actual question come up during game-play. I also review the set-up. This is often one of the more complicated parts of any tabletop game.
Step Five: Play it to learn it.
The first time I play any competitive game, I'm not attempting to win as much as I am attempting to find out how to win. I want to experience the game mechanics, test some tactics, and just find out how one part of the game affects another. I want to start formulating strategies and tactics, and test how viable those might be.
Step Six: Play it to win it.
Now that I've got a clear understanding of the rules, and I have a little experience with the game-play, it's time to get serious. Of course, even if I'm not dominating, I still want to enjoy the game.
Am I having fun? Are my fellow players having fun? That's what it's all about.
Now, this is just what I do. I'm sure I'm not alone, and I'm sure others do something different. Let me know what resources you use to discover, learn, and dominate your tabletop games!