Recently some friends and I got together to play the Game of Thrones board game, but the game didn't happen.

We spent an hour setting the game up, and started learning the rules, before giving up as too complicated.

As the games master I screwed up by not being more prepared (ie. familiarising myself with the rules before hand), but I get the feeling that this might have been a difficult task anyway.

What's the best way to introduce this game to people who haven't played before?

  • 1
    Nothing can beat reading the rules and playing a few practice rounds prior to the 'real' game – link64 Nov 5 '15 at 4:53
  • 1
    Fantasy Flighthas some gameplay videos to explain the rules. They explain each phase of the game. – user1873 Nov 5 '15 at 7:03
  • 2
    As a rules explainer, I would suggest reading the rulebook the day before you are going to play. I would also play a fake game against yourself, playing as all players (not a complete game, but at least all the phases of the game). Finally, on the day you play, start with explaining the objective of the game. How you win, how you lose, when the game ends. Then A brief discussion of the phases of a turn, and what choices you can make during your turn (describing the bits and board and what things mean). play a couple of fake rounds so everyone understands the mechanics of the game. – user1873 Nov 5 '15 at 7:22
  • @user1873 you could probably flesh that out and turn it into an answer. – Thunderforge Nov 6 '15 at 17:30
  • 1
    @Thunderforge, feel free to do it yourself. I don want to take the time to create a good generic answer that could be used for all games, nor a FFG GoT specific answer. If you do, I will upvote you. – user1873 Nov 6 '15 at 19:40

This is a very general question and really depends on who you're playing with (and how they're feeling at the time).

Playing any new board game with a group of new players can be a daunting task, and a lot of players are reluctant to listen to a rules explanation for an hour before you start.

If nobody knows the rules then, unless the game is simple, it's likely (as you experienced) that the group will give up. Unless you have enough rulebooks for everybody, or a really interested group, having one person read the rules in front of everyone is a bad idea. As you mentioned, a better idea is to have someone take charge, and read enough of the rules in advance that they'll be able to set up and guide the learning.

It's fine for that player to follow along with the rulebook. A new player is a good facilitator, especially if everyone understands that they're still learning too. This helps avoid blame where you didn't give them all the options or explain all the rules in advance (and if you did they'd have stopped listening or given up!).

Set up the basic parts of the game and give a brief explanation of what the board means and how the game flows. Then you can go through phases in a bit more detail. Try to mention the various options without necessarily explaining the details (again, this helps avoid the "you didn't tell me that" issue).

Then finish setting up, getting the players to help out (e.g. "can you sort the cards into coloured decks, can you give each player a set of tokens, please?"). This helps everyone get a sense of the different parts used in the game and the names of those parts, which helps understand the rules as you go on.

Then, start playing the game, stepping through the options and details of what's going on. After a couple of rounds you can ask everyone if they understand, and offer the option of a restart. In my experience, most people will be fine to carry on unless they've accidentally devastated their own position, and resetting shouldn't be too difficult.

The most important part is for the group to accept that mistakes will be made. If you realise you were playing the game wrong, let people know about it and move on.

To reiterate the important points:

  • Have a player who's familiar enough with the rules to set up and help others understand the game. If nobody's played, someone should spend a half hour or so in advance.
  • Make sure everyone knows that it's a learning game, and that it'll be a bit of a muddle the first 1 or 2 plays.
  • Be ready to allow people to undo recent mistakes based on rules misunderstandings, or to stick with/change incorrect rules as you play.
  • Focus on getting everyone to understand what's going on rather than just picking easy options. Encourage the whole table to share good strategic advice with everyone, even their opponents, so that players can focus on strategy in later games.

Having played a first game, here's what I recommend.

  1. Before the game, get everybody to watch this video. The video is 20 minutes long, and is entertaining enough to give a good overview of the rules. The video does a better and more entertaining job of explaining the rules that you will, and will allieviate any 'The games master sucks at explaining the rules/doesn't know what he's doing' tensions.

  2. Go over what all of the orders, and influence tracks do.

  3. Set up the game, and then emphasis the following rules:

    • Special Consolidate can be used to muster troops
    • Special Raid can be used to remove a defense order
    • Supply limits apply when marching troops to merge armies.
    • Support orders can be used for multiple fights in a single round.
    • March orders can be chained to allow units to move multiple times in a round.
  4. Make the quick reference page available - it's very useful.

  5. Start playing. Players should be aware that it being a first game there might be a few rule gotchas that they're not aware of, but they should get the hang of the game by the end of it.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.