Geekly Board Gaming Guide: Explaining the Rules

By Phillip Canada on


Explaining the rules of a new board game to other people can be one of the most challenging aspects of board games for players. The task usually falls to the owner of the game in addition to the blame if a minor rule is forgotten or misinterpreted. The following are some tips to help improve yourself as a rules explainer for board games.

Read the rules multiple times

I know, I know, this may seem like a dumb rule to include; however, it is critical. Multiple readings can help you catch rules you’ve missed. You need to understand the material before you teach others.

Check Board Game Geek for player aids.

For particularly large games these are great tools to keep all players informed of the game. These are community generated items that translate entire rule books into an 8 x 11 piece of paper. I know the user interface leaves much to be desired on Board Game Geek but look to the highest rated items in the “Files” section.

Exclude strategy

Don’t tell the players what to do, tell them what they can do. The question of “What should I do now?” will come up from first time players. Give them a list of their options and tell them how each one is beneficial. Do not tell them the one thing you think they should do, your own strategy might be flawed. Facilitating learning of the actual game should be more important than winning.The great thing about games is there are different avenues to win.

Let online videos teach the game

Youtube series like “Watch It Played” or “Rhado Runs Through” (these videos have flaws but there are often call-outs to address the mistakes). I don’t feel like this is cheating. You can have members of your group watch it before and then do a minor refresher before playing.


Questions will arise when a game is being explained. As the one explaining, you have to make sure to answer questions and then to get back on track in explaining the game. It is perfectly acceptable to say “That is a good point, I will be explaining that in a few minutes!”


There are many styles of how to explain the rules and they vary from group to group. Ask your group how they would like to be taught a game, but don’t get offended if they want another person to explain the rules. The suggestions above can help you begin on your journey and find your own ability to explain games and rules effectively.




  1. Another YouTube series I’ve found helpful and highly entertaining is Geek & Sundry’s “TableTop.” Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: TNG’s Wesley Crusher) starts every game’s segment with an overview of the basics before beginning play with three ever-changing celebrity guests, explaining rules variations they’re playing and more subtle rules as they go. It’s definitely made me want to purchase a number of games myself.
    “TableTop” is in its third season, having played a wide variety of games from classics like “Settlers of Cataan” to smaller games like “Zombie Dice” and plenty in-between.

    • Tabletop can be a good resource too! I prefer Rahdo and Watch It Played for the amount of content they produce. Tabletop doesn’t consistently come out content, only when thier season is airing. Tabletop is certainly fun though!

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