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Player Aids - Making Board Games Easier to Learn, Teach, Play and Enjoy

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21 Jun 2022 00:00 #333841 by oliverkinne
The title of my article gives a clue as to...

Teaching a game isn't easy and the same is true for learning. The teacher will do their best to explain everything and get everything right, but the first play of a game should always be chalked down to experience. Players should do what they can to help and expect mistakes to creep in. However, there are also things the game itself can do to make learning a new game easier, some of which will also help with playing the game again later.

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22 Jun 2022 08:01 #333843 by Legomancer
Recently, when learning to play Pax Transhumanity (and teach it), I created an outline of important concepts in order to organize the rulebook better. In doing so I was able to process and internalize the rules much more, and felt very confident teaching it. I'm considering doing this for other games that seem tough to get a grip on. It's not meant to be a player aid per se, just an aid in learning.

I have also made for-real player aids for games and almost always find them helpful for others.

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22 Jun 2022 08:12 #333844 by fightcitymayor
I make player-aid writeups for almost every game I play, particularly skirmish minis games. It's the same principle as when we were in school and assigned to read a chapter in a book: I can read something & understand it well enough, but if I read something and take my own notes (or in the case of games, construct some sort of rules restatement or player aid) then it cements the ideas in my brain better than just scanning text. I probably haven't had to use half of the player-aids I've written, but just the act of writing them helps me retain the knowledge better.

And in the case of games you come back to after a span of time away, a nice player-aid is invaluable to getting up and running again.
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22 Jun 2022 08:47 - 22 Jun 2022 08:48 #333846 by sornars
Knowing if a game has a UniversalHead/Esoteric Order of Gamers player aid is a legitimate selling point for me. They should print if he has made one on the box; it's much more valuable to know that than if it won the Spiel De Jahres or has the Dice Tower Seal of Approval.

A good player aid concisely distills the rules but a great player aid incorporates the iconography and fits the visual design of the rest of the game making it even easier to use. UniversalHead's experience as a Graphic Designer shows here; when I see some of his player aids I'm often confident enough to skip the rulebook entirely!
Last edit: 22 Jun 2022 08:48 by sornars.
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22 Jun 2022 09:46 #333847 by Shellhead

sornars wrote: Knowing if a game has a UniversalHead/Esoteric Order of Gamers player aid is a legitimate selling point for me. They should print if he has made one on the box; it's much more valuable to know that than if it won the Spiel De Jahres or has the Dice Tower Seal of Approval.

A good player aid concisely distills the rules but a great player aid incorporates the iconography and fits the visual design of the rest of the game making it even easier to use. UniversalHead's experience as a Graphic Designer shows here; when I see some of his player aids I'm often confident enough to skip the rulebook entirely!


One reason I kickstarted Masters of the Night was that they hired Universal Head to do the graphic design for the game. It's a very well-designed and enjoyable game, and one of the easiest medium-weights in my collection to teach to new players.
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22 Jun 2022 11:09 #333848 by Msample

sornars wrote: Knowing if a game has a UniversalHead/Esoteric Order of Gamers player aid is a legitimate selling point for me. They should print if he has made one on the box; it's much more valuable to know that than if it won the Spiel De Jahres or has the Dice Tower Seal of Approval.

A good player aid concisely distills the rules but a great player aid incorporates the iconography and fits the visual design of the rest of the game making it even easier to use. UniversalHead's experience as a Graphic Designer shows here; when I see some of his player aids I'm often confident enough to skip the rulebook entirely!


For me a label on the box with Spiel De Jahres or DT is a warning to put it back on the shelf - the former because SDJ awards are given to bland flavorless games and the latter is basically a paid advertisement.
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22 Jun 2022 11:41 #333851 by stormseeker75
I have a serious loathing of the Dick Tower based on a real-life interaction with Tom Vasel. Fuck those guys.

Conversely, if it wins an SdJ then I know I'm in good shape because I love me some dry, flavorless Euros!
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22 Jun 2022 13:40 #333854 by ratpfink
Hey now, the Dice Tower seal of approval has the high bar of someone played the game once and rated it a 7.
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22 Jun 2022 15:50 #333855 by Msample
Isn't getting a 7 BGG rating the same as getting a 400 on the SAT - the latter is your lowest score for just putting your name on the rest and not answering a single question ?

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22 Jun 2022 15:51 #333856 by Msample

stormseeker75 wrote: I have a serious loathing of the Dick Tower based on a real-life interaction with Tom Vasel. Fuck those guys.


Come on, don't be a tease. Do tell !

Isn't this when Barnes usually shows up and starts talking about pay to play review practices ?

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22 Jun 2022 18:33 - 22 Jun 2022 20:01 #333858 by Virabhadra
Rules summaries, reference cards, organized player boards... I'm a fan of anything makes a game more approachable and easier to parse.



UniversalHead's references are the gold standard, although some of them run long enough to stretch the definition of a "summary." I'll almost always read over a UH summary if I'm playing something I haven't dusted off in a while.
Last edit: 22 Jun 2022 20:01 by Virabhadra.
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22 Jun 2022 21:35 #333860 by Greg Aleknevicus
Can anyone point me to some examples of Universal Head's player aids? Thanks!

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25 Jun 2022 06:11 - 25 Jun 2022 06:12 #333895 by southernman
Virtually every game I get I will print out a separate rulebook (for mates to continually finger during the game) plus the best player aids I can find (Universal Head's will always get printed, I now patreon him because I have so many) that are then laminated, the more complicated/detailed games will get multiple aids printed out. And every now and then I will make an additional aid - I made one for Nemesis that basically was a well formatted table with the first column being 'I Want to Do This ...' and listing tasks you may need to do in a game and other columns detailing where or how to do it (yes, I can pass it on to anyone interested ;)).
Last edit: 25 Jun 2022 06:12 by southernman.
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