We touched on this unfortunate tendency back in “General Disarray.” But what’s going on in today’s comic isn’t really quarterbacking. It’s that closely-related but distinct behavior known as “patronizing.” And if you think of yourself as a tabletop veteran, you know what a razor’s edge it can be. That’s because today’s comic is all about teaching games.

Those of us who have played for years or decades know what it’s like to take a fresh young gamer under the wing. We want to share a love for the hobby. To peel back the layers of arcane mechanics and reveal the fabulous kernel of fantasy adventure underneath. But teaching is an art, and it’s all too easy to go in with a heavy hand.

When I observe successful games gurus out in the wild, I’ve noted that they usually rely on a light touch. They explain everything once, and they explain it clearly. They hand out the cheat sheet. Then they let the eager young padawans come to them with questions. That’s because learning a new game is a process of discovery. It’s all about finding patterns and grokking mechanics on your own. And when you’re confused, you consult the rules (or the more experience gamer) for clarification.

That means that, as a teacher, the real key is allowing the newcomer to make the first move. Remember: you can’t beam new knowledge into a new player’s head, no matter how clearly you explain. You can lead ’em to mechanics, but you can’t make ’em think.

That leads us to our question of the day! What are your favorite tips, tricks, and techniques for teaching new games? Have you ever been the victim of a patronizing, over-explainer? Sound off with your tales of practical games pedagogy down in the comments!


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