View Full Version : Passing the Torch: Teaching Games?

Chapters Unwritten
13-02-2012, 02:37
I run a club and lately it has been growing, and we have been attracting a number of people who are newer players. I want to teach people the game, as more and more they are approaching with little to no experience. For me, this is great! I am thrilled to help breed the veterans of the future. The problem is I just don't know the most effective way to run teaching games.

Some things seem pretty obvious; you want low points, and you want to face them using some very basic models. No vehicles to start, largely infantry forces (like those in the Black Reach set, for example).

I have seen some people try to teach the game to others and it really is completely impossible to teach it all in one go to someone who hasn't religiously read the rules. I saw one player use his normal IG force full of vehicles, trying to teach his girlfriend (playing Daemons), and between the vehicles and the special stuff about the Daemons she was lost from the get-go.

I know GW stores have a very specific way of showing people the game. At first they don't discuss stats, they strictly talk in abstracts and tell you what you need to roll ("Okay, orks are not very good marksman, so they need a 5+ to hit on a d6..." etc). So that is obviously a good plan. Bogging people down with all the numbers right off rip seems like it would be rather confusing anyway (especially since some of them don't make full sense right away).

Does anyone have a lot of experience teaching new players the game, and do you have any tips to offer?

Solomon Stern
13-02-2012, 03:09
First, let me say "thank you" for teaching people to play, it speaks highly of you. The next thing I would do is provide a fully painted army for your student(s) to use. It may only be one or two squads, but you want to make the game as pleasing as possible and nice models are eye candy. Third and most importantly, lose. That's right, lose. Let me be clear, lose.

The reason you need to lose is to build your student(s) up. Helping them understand what works well against your army is positive reinforcement. I can't count how many times people tried to teach me to play and they hammered me into the ground. I couldn't figure out what was the right weapon to use against what. The argument was, "Well you don't learn anything if you don't make mistakes." And yes, that is true, to a degree. The point of teaching new players is to instruct them so they feel comfortable with the game, and once they show a competency with the system, you can up the game (asking if they are sure they want to do X.Y & Z before they commit). Then once they have earned their stripes, you can make the game challenging. I remember the first guy who tried to teach me 40K and he brought 'Nids. After 30 minutes and about 5 games and 5 bone crushing defeats, I was ready to put the game down. Luckily another guy pulled me aside and offered to teach me how to play, I've been playing for over a decade now.

13-02-2012, 04:04
The best rule I learned for running a demo game is "the rule of four". That is fours to hit, fours to wound, and save on four.
I also find it works better if you can get two new players to play against each other while you show them the rules.

13-02-2012, 04:52
My advice is to use basic units with simple rules (Ie as few special rules as possible) and initially make the focus on moving, shooting and assaulting. By the last turn you want them to be able to move their own models and understanding how rolling to wound (and to hit in HTH) is decided (they don't need to memorize what they need to roll, just know how to find out from the chart and stats).

Also do use terrain. Visually it makes the game more intriguing as they can mentally picture models taking cover or struggling to move through dense jungle.

I've found Marines vs Orks to be best. Both are completely different so gives a real hoard vs elite feel.
-assault marines for are good to show variable movement
-Terminators are good to show a "super" unit (yet don't have complex rules)

Having a unit with a simple special rule also helps show diversity so having so terminators or assault marines deepstrike is good, try to explain whats actually happening (ie terminators are teleporting in). Being able to mentally visualize the action is the key to inspiration and making the battle more immersive.

Letting someone win is a good idea, just don't make it too obvious.

13-02-2012, 05:06
It's my job to teach the newbies at my FLGS, there's a few things I've picked up.

1. Combat Patrol is basically perfect. Enough points to do "neat" stuff, but not enough for really powerful things. Anything that would be really powerful is limited, no more than 2 wounds, armor limit, etc.
2. Troops. Having the basic troops of the army around gives them a good idea of what to expect of the race in question. Marines are tough and good, but expensive. Orks are Hard to wound but have no armor, and they're cheap. Dark Eldar have good guns, but they're fragile. Things like that people pick up on.
3. Explain. Ballistics. Skill. People get it so much easier if you just tell them their target number is their Ballistics skill subtracted from seven. "Why seven?" they'll ask (every time). I honestly still don't know, and I tell them as such, but that's how you find your target.
4. Keep it simple. Vehicles, especially transports, are difficult for new guys to figure out. Leave 'em unless you're specifically teaching the subject. They'll have to learn them eventually, so don't coddle them there, but don't go rhino rushing them on their first game.
5. "Rule of Four", as Hite said. Little different with me though, just explain very well how the wound chart operates. 4 on 4s in 4s, 5 on 4s is 3s, etc. People actually pick up on that pretty quick.
6. I follow a rule when I'm GMing for RPGs. As GM, I can kill my players whenever, wherever, however I want. But that's not fun, so instead my goal is to loose in the most fantastic way possible. So it goes with teaching newbies. I still remember one intro game where he had 20 marines and I had 30 Boyz, 2 koptas, grotz, and kannons. At the end of the game, He had one marine and I had a kannon. It was thrilling, and he had a heck of a time. Didn't get into 40k, but started up Flames of War, so still a win. The trick is not to have your not winning be obvious, like you're still trying but there's something not quite going your way. People don't like being treated like children, so don't (even if they're 10).
7. Orks are great for intro games; even if you somehow manage to accidentally win they'll still have killed about twenty orks, which is still satisfying. They're "Bad Guy" enough without being too scary or obviously evil, and they're fun to fight. Failing that, Guard or Tyranids work well.

13-02-2012, 05:32
I run a club and lately it has been growing, and we have been attracting a number of people who are newer players. I want to teach people the game, as more and more they are approaching with little to no experience. For me, this is great! I am thrilled to help breed the veterans of the future. The problem is I just don't know the most effective way to run teaching games.

Some things seem pretty obvious; you want low points, and you want to face them using some very basic models. No vehicles to start, largely infantry forces (like those in the Black Reach set, for example).

Our club had an influx of kids just after black reach was released, so my experiences are with a group of 12-15 year olds who were coming to the hobby cold...It's like trying to herd cats.

You're definitely on the right track with where you want to start. Try 500 points with a FoC that requires only one Troops Choice (and a maximum of one of everything else). Gearhead's spot on about Combat Patrol.

Limiting choices is a good plan but must be done sensitively because, from my experience, newbies will turn up with a shoebox of things that the GW salesmen (or the internetz) have told them is awesome (rather than a solid starter force) and this can lead to guys bringing units that are constantly subjected to veto for the sake of learning, and that's not going to foster the love of the game that'll last a lifetime (especially if they're youngsters who have to orchestrate christmas/birthday gifts in order to bolster their starting forces, one lad who started playing with us was borrowing a Codex for six months because he'd leapt on the models he'd liked).

Firstly, to better use your time, GM games between newbies, we found that the guys we were teaching picked it up quicker if both side of the game were explained as they went, it also means that they aren't handed easy victories by friendly old vets. ;)

Devise a simple objective based mission where holding the objective is more important than killing the enemy, and then stick to that mission for the new guys until they start to pick it up. Reference sheets are a HUGE help (especially if some people are lacking a Codex).

There's not a lot to say beyond that, the rest of it is human interaction.

Let me be clear, lose.

Dear sweet unmerciful gods of blackest ruin, no!

It teaches NOTHING.

Explain your moves every step of the way. Tell him (or her) what each one of your units is doing and WHY and how that affects their army. Explain the potential perils of any obviously bad moves on their part and remind them of things they might be forgetting. Advise them on the best way of dealing with your force and your tactics.

Bring a less than optimal force, by all means, field those units that struggle to make their points back if you must but show your students how to win, don't simply give them a win because it'll make them happy.

@ Gearhead. I always say it's because 7 is the number above 6 and therefore allows every score on the dice to be used. :)

13-02-2012, 06:16
My club has several older members who will teach the games to anyone who wants to learn.
Not so much "passing the torch" as this implies that someone has to carry the torch first - and I'm damned sure not going to be accused of carrying a torch for GW.
There is NO unrequited love in that relationship. :D

3 0f 6
13-02-2012, 08:26
I know GW stores have a very specific way of showing people the game.

Yeah, such as "these are ultramarines, buy lots of these"

What about using the Macragge (sp) set for teaching peeps, with any necessary changes made to the rules where needed?

13-02-2012, 12:26
Start with a mirror match to work into the rules. Both sides have the exact same units. Say the Black Reach Orks or Marines without the vehicles for both sides. Do this a few games to cover movement, shooting, and assault. Then add a vehicle or two, like a rhino and a dread for marines, or a trukk and deffdred for Orks. Slowly add more models/units to demonstrate rules concepts, but keep it a mirror match while teaching, so you can easily explain what is going on to the learner, and they can replicate everything you do with their army.

13-02-2012, 12:34
Hi, I'm an Ex-GW staff member and thought I might share what I've learnt from recruiting new gamers as my first post. I've probably started the hobby 'careers' of hundreds of kids (whether or not they still play now is hard to say!) and after a while you start to notice what keeps people interested and allows them to develop their knowledge. I wanted to post on this so much as its pivotal to everyone to embrace new gamers as they are the only way hobby shops stay in business and keep us in shiny toys!

This applies to people who have played 5 or less games, then after that slowly fade these ideas out for more of a focus on tactics and memorising stats etc, but I presume that goes without saying.

- The number one rule is to paint a picture for them. Most new players are too busy trying to remember numbers to actually enjoy them game, so force fun on them! If they forget rules and numbers here and there, that doesnt matter, that will come in time. Just try and be as dramatic as possible and get really, really into it. If they get really excited that they've rolled correctly to murder my commander, I'll forget he has an invulnerable save if its a particularly dramatic outcome and makes him happy, but that doesnt translate into just letting them win all the time. I would consider the same vice versa, its all about the imagery. You might think this is counter productive to remembering rules in the long run, but everyone forgets things some times so at such an early stage, theres no point being pedantic.
- Winning or losing doesnt seem to matter, as long as you compliment them and reinforce the things they do right. Even if they lose the game outright, reminding them of how they destroyed your Unit X will give them a feeling of accomplishment and something to take away mentally.
- Testing their memory throughout and patience is vital. Get them to tell you what save they need to roll and so forth. Studies have shown the best way to learn something is to teach someone else, so get your student to tell you what they need to hit etc
- Ensure they leave the game feeling like they achieved something, enjoyed themselves, and give them some mental homework to develop for next time. Basically jsut get them to analyse strengths/weaknesses of their current set up is simple enough.

Anyway, hope that helps and I wish you every luck encouraging new people into the hobby!

Solomon Stern
13-02-2012, 15:11
I must disagree yet agree with Chem-Dog. I believe that for the 1st or second game, as the teacher, you should lose. As it has been said previously, use a marines against orcs. It's designed to lose, but you can still explain moves, strategy, tactics, etc. There's nothing wrong with it and in the 1st game, I believe your primary goal is not teach, so much as it is to garner further interest in the hobby. After a few games, then expand on the nuances of the game and throw in more rules. When teaching, it is imperative to provide a positive experience. Then when they play games with larger forces (more than a squad), they can lose and learn from their mistakes.

Easy E
13-02-2012, 15:21
Be enthusiastic. Enthusaism sells. I don't care what you are selling, and enthusiastic salesman make a huge difference.

Keep in mind, I am using the term salesman loosely.

13-02-2012, 16:43
Keep in mind, I am using the term salesman loosely.

We're selling the game and setting, not the models. Big difference. I never encourage someone to splurge and buy 3000 points of something right away, I think that's poor taste.

13-02-2012, 18:44
First thing I would suggest is accept the fact that you can't teach them the game in one sitting. There's simply no way you're going to cover list building, game rules, strategy, and tactics and not completely lose the students, so don't attempt it. Change your approach to focus on the things that are absolutely, 100% required by all armies in the game- movement, shooting, assault, terrain.

I wouldn't even "play a game" with them, to be honest- it's just too much to cover. I never bought Black Reach, but Macragge had little situational scenarios that more or less outlined how to move properly, how to shoot, remove casualties, etc. Do that. Type up some stuff in GDocs or Word or whatever and bring printouts. If you've got the time and ambition, take some pictures. Show them what a Marine with a bolter looks like versus a Marine Captain with a PS and PP or whatever. Include real statlines for the models too, but I'd suggest if you kit out a model to have 4 attacks, then list 4 attacks rather than 3+1 or whatever. Unless you know they'll be completely turned off to the idea, suggest they use your models, or let them bring one model/ squad of their own and after you run through the scenarios you've typed up, let them throw their own stuff on the table and fight. If they bring their own stuff, you're going to bog down explaining FOC and list building and all that, which if you have no idea how the game is played, what fits their playstyle, etc., there's not really any point in filling their heads with the FOC and list building strategies.

Me personally, I wouldn't "rule of four" it because that's going to get your students used to the idea of using the wrong stats and ideally, you don't want to teach anyone anything that isn't correct and applicable- that requires them to unlearn what you've already taught them which obviously is counterproductive and a waste of time. I say if there are things in the rules you think are too complex for this little introductory session, don't cover them rather than cover them but change them or streamline them or whatever. This is another good argument for not playing an actual game vs. having them execute some scenarios you've typed up as you can stack the deck, so to speak and not include complex units with different toughnesses or models with special abilities that aren't covered in a FAQ or whatever.

Chapters Unwritten
13-02-2012, 21:46
It's not hard to get around the rule of 4. I would like it, because honestly I think the armor saves and the weapon strength differences are really where some of the narrative fun gets into things. Saying, "Now the ork, look at him...he has like, a freaking t-shirt on...he's not going to have very good armor, right?" and engaging the player, for example.

GW are the pros at getting new players so I would like to emulate their techniques as much as possible. Honestly when I started it was the manager at the local GW who helped me really get into it. Now I'm the leader of a very large and successful club!

The starter set seems like an obvious way to go. The models included in it, with the exception of the dread and the bikers, seem like a great basic framework.

The Devourer
13-02-2012, 23:12
Make sure they get an elite army and you play a horde army. Its much more fun for them if they see their shooting and combat having an effect. Seeing their models kill handfuls of ork/nids is much more interesting than seeing their weapons bounce off SM armour. Sure they may be equal in points cost but they don' know this.

You don't have to lose but don't completely beat the either. Something I've often noticed in GW and independat shops is that the person giving the demo makes the turns as fast and brutal as possible but only plays to turn 3 or 4. This is a good idea since you keep the game fast paced and exciting and stops units getting bogged down in combats and prevents repitition. it gives you a chance to speak to them about what they enjoyed about the game.

14-02-2012, 09:28
When I demo game I play to win and actually try to crush my opponent, this is because there's nothing more ofputting than playing an opponent that pulls his punches.
I always pick a bad list with mostly basic troops though and have yet to win a Demo game.

I've noticed younger players usually want to play big games right from the start.
As this can lead to a bogged down cluster-fornication of new rules so I'd reccommend convincing them to play a game of 500p or so to start with.