Whether you’re teaching a game to your friends or doing a professional demonstration, how you teach a game can lead your players into gaming bliss or frustrated failure.
This has become exceedingly clear to me after sitting through several demos and leaving disappointed in what I thought would be a good game. To be honest demoing a game can be hard sometimes. You can be nervous or have a super rowdy crowd. You could be showing a game to people who have never seen a board game before and seriously even some instruction booklets get these simple steps wrong.
So I’ve devised a quick reference to help everyone out.
How to Demo a Game… better!
It doesn’t matter if you’ve played the game thousand times before, reading the instructions before you demo a game is a must. It’s a good refresher and a simple reminder of all the little details in the game. I also look up the frequently asked questions so I can quickly answer everyone’s questions.
Let the Players Get Hands On
Demoing a game is not about running the game, it’s about letting the players enjoy the game you brought. I always try to let the players open the box take out the pieces, shuffle the cards and get involved in the setup of the game. After all these people came out to play and see your game.
Explain the Back Story.
This step usually gets ignored by most people who demo games, however it is one of the most important things you can do. It sets the scene for your game and reinforces why people have flocked to your table. Before they sit down they’re filled with curiosity of the theme and you need to make sure to feed into that. Capture their attention and tell them the story of why they’re here.
Here’s the hard part. I know you might be really excited to show this game to people but remember to explain the players choices in a linear fashion. . Seriously I cannot stress this enough. People can get easily confused if you jump back and forth between choices, token explanations, parts of the board. Just focus on the player choices on their turn and most everything else can be explained from there.
People are visual creatures. So if I’m telling someone they draw a card, then I draw a card and show them the example. If I tell them they get to move spaces across a board then I move my pawn across the board. It’s a very simple trick that will resonate with a lot of people who are visual learners.
Explain what the Goal of the Game is
By the time you get to the end of your demo your players heads might be spinning from the information they were just given. So just before we’re ready to start I always sum up what they need to do to win the game. Now that its fresh in their mind they can start planning.
Ask if anyone has any questions
This is the last thing I do and it insures I’ve covered all my bases. If you’ve done a great job explaining everyone will be ready to start!
And Finally Don’t be Afraid to take Control
This doesn’t happen all the time but every once in a while things get out of control. Maybe somebody’s having issues calculating a final score or two players are getting upset at each other. Bottom line you’re there to help resolve problems and answer all of the questions. The easiest way for you to do this is not to play the game while demoing. I know you want to enjoy the game too but by doing this it takes you out of the fight. Then you can offer encouragement and help players who might not ask you questions about the game if you were playing against them. Remember you’re here to spread the joy that is gaming with others. Not to beat newbies to a bloody pulp.
How do you demo a game? Any secrets I missed?