Picture it: You’ve returned from your FLGS with a brand-new game that you’ve heard great things about (perhaps from Active Player Network?), you gather your friends for a game night, you present the game box magnificently upon the table… and no one has played the game before. Now, rather than a fun-filled 3-hour venture into a new game, it’s a confusing 3-hour slog through the rulebook with a lot of “no, wait” and “are you sure?” and “let me check”. Granted, even seasoned players have those moments, but too many at once can definitely affect table morale.
So how do you avoid this? Ideally, someone at the table already knows how to play the game. But how do you learn a new game? Do you read the rulebook? Do you watch a video? Do you learn by playing? And do you have friends that learn differently than you do? That could be because of Multiple Intelligences, which is a learning theory created by Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983 and is used a lot in schools to advocate for different teaching styles.
Long story short, different people learn differently, and knowing how you learn best can help you both in the classroom and in life. the 8 intelligences are: Linguistic (word), Spatial (visual), Interpersonal (people and interactions), Intrapersonal (self-awareness), Logical-mathematical (numbers/reasoning), Bodily-Kinesthetic (body awareness), Musical (music), and Naturalist (nature).
I could do a whole other article about different games that highlight these different intelligences (and perhaps I shall!) but for now we’re going to focus on how knowing how you learn in general can affect how you learn to play a new game. Some of these don’t really apply (I mean, I guess you could just go play the game outside for those Nature-inclined learners), but I’ll be covering as many as I can.
Verbal learners: Read the rule book
This one is the most traditional way of learning a game. You open the box, pick up that rulebook, read it cover to cover and emerge victorious and ready to play. Seeing everything laid out in front of you step-by-step with the designer’s words and intentions can be super helpful, and it serves as a great reference if there is ever a question while playing. Publishers have gotten so good at condensing their rules to something as concise as possible, so even the heavy euro games aren’t a slog to read anymore.
Visual/Spatial learners: Watch a How to Play video
Visual learners around the world rejoiced when YouTube How to Play videos began emerging. From what board set up looks like, to seeing how a turn plays out, or just being able to follow along with the video. How to Play videos are like having someone teach you only they’re not in the room. And you can’t ask questions. For that you have to turn to…
Interpersonal learners: Have Someone Teach You
This is the go-to method for game nights. Someone comes in with a game they love, and then they have to wrangle everyone’s rapidly shortening attention spans long enough to teach it. People who teach others to play board games are saints, so if you’re someone who learns well by being taught, be sure to thank your teacher.
Kinethsetic learners: Learn While Playing
You have to touch the pieces to remember what they do. You have to perform the actions to understand how they work. Kinesthetic learners are a bit rarer, but they’re definitely out there, and they can find themselves the most frustrated when being talked at or trying to read a new game. These learners do best with a trial game first, just a few rounds to get the feel of everything and test actions without consequence. Then you can go back and start the game for real.
If you have trouble learning a new game, maybe you aren’t leaning into your learning style. Try changing it up and see if a different way to learn eases that frustration.
If you already know what your best way to learn a new game is, let us know in the comments!