We are in France at Bruno’s Faidutti Gathering of Friends. Fabien starts to explain us rules to Welcome To…. Merry pays no attention whatsoever. At some point, she whispers to my ear: ‘I go for a beer.’ and she walks from the table.
Fabien stops explaining rules and waits for Merry to come back.
‘Continue’, I say. ‘She wasn’t listening to you anyway. I will explain her everything in Polish when you finish.’
Fabien is one of the kindest people on Earth, so he is not making a scene. He continues explaining the game knowing that then I will do all the work again in Polish especially for Merry.
He finishes. Merry comes with the beer. I turn to her and say in Polish. ‘These numbers write in the houses in ascending order. Here are special actions – fence draw between houses to have parcels, trees you write here on the street, this orange thing modifies the number, pool if written in house with pool gives you additional points. These 3 cards are your objectives.’
Then I turn to Fabien. ‘She is ready. We can play.’
Over past 20 years working for Portal Games I spent countless hours running demos at conventions. My philosophy always was very simple – ‘It is not Rules Convention. It’s a Game Convention. People came here to play, not to listen to rules.’
I start the game of Robinson in less than 3 minutes after I say ‘Hello, my name is Ignacy and I will teach you how to play the game.’ I start the game of Neuroshima Hex in less than 30 seconds after I say ‘Hello, my name is…’
I don’t explain rules. I let people play the game.
As you can see, we are a perfect match with Merry. We both are in the camp that wants to play the game and learn on the fly. I always believed this is the best way.
This week I ran a poll on my Twitter. Results surprised me.
I argue on this for years. Let me know what do you think. Would you prefer start the game earlier but not being explained all tiny details of rules, or take your time, learn all the rules thoroughly and then start the game?
— Portal Games (@trzewik) December 12, 2018
As you can see, there is almost exactly half of the gamers who agree with me and prove that I always was right.
There is also half of the gamers who don’t appreciate this approach, who’d never ask me to explain them the game and who prefer to listen carefully all the rules and then only start the game.
To say that the results surprised me is to say nothing. I am thunderstruck. Absolutely stunned. I always imagined that there is a small percentage of ultra geeks, crazy nerds who love to listen to all the boring rules before the game. I couldn’t imagine that this is exactly half of the board gamers.
This poll results won’t change my approach. We will be both happy with Merry playing and explaining games as we always did. And yet, I find these results very important. This tiny poll reminded me once again the most important rule. One rule to rule them all.
We differ. One loves Gloomhaven, the other prefers Munchkin. One says Detective is the best game, the other will choose Here I stand. One prefers to start the game without knowing all the rules, the other cannot imagine that.
Respect others. One rule to rule them all.