Everything you need to know to play like a Pro.
Written By: Dwight Kilgore
I have been hearing a lot of people say that tabletop games are hard to understand. It is a common misconception that you need to invest hours upon hours and never leave your house to get into modern games.
The truth is that all tabletop games follow similar patterns and use similar terms. Once you understand these terms and how they relate to games in general you can approach any game and look like a pro. This will reduce the learning curve and eliminates the pain in reading rule books.
So first off, tabletop games, what are they? You are probably familiar with games like Monopoly and Connect Four, but a tabletop game is any game a group of people play indoors, using a predetermined set of rules to accomplish a goal or overcome a challenge. However the most important thing is that the game is fun. For me learning a new game with no background knowledge can quickly remove that fun. Focusing on the following three aspects of a game have helped me catch onto new games quickly.
Though they may go by different names like chapters, or seasons most games use rounds to keep track of the progression of the game. One round of a game happens every time all players take a full turn. A new round will begin when the first player starts their second turn.
So why are rounds important? In many games the completion of a round may set a clever mechanic into play. For example players can replenish their resources, reset the play area for the next round, or barter to try and gain a more favorable position.
In the game Legendary a new character is revealed on the board by flipping over a Hero card. I enjoy this mechanic because it provides a new hero each turn. This means that the hero you desperately needed may become available and give you the edge during the game. I always try to be aware of the decisions of fellow players during a round to determine how they will affect my turn and the outcome of the game.
Turns are the moment where you get the chance to implement your plan to gain victory. During turns you may have the opportunity to gain points, spend resources, or thwart your fellow players.
Games Like Onitama have a relatively simple turn order. One player makes a move and replaces the movement card, and then the next player goes. Other games, such as Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, can be a bit more complex. Games like Lanterns may include turn cards to reference so you will know what to do each turn.
In modern Tabletop gaming turns are not as cut and dry as they once were. Many games make use of a Mechanic called an interrupt, or a response. Interrupts allow other players to “interrupt” your turn and take an action. This action may allow the other player to avoid negative effects of your turn, or prepare for their turn early.
In games like Sheriff of Nottingham your role may change during your turn. In this game you play as a shop owner trying to import valuable wares into your shop. However, for two turns per game each player takes on the roll of the sheriff and inspects the other players goods for illegal goods. Playing as the sheriff takes a change of tactics, while you try to decide if players are bluffing or not.
Even though rolls may change, or the turn order may shift throughout a game you will usually get one turn per round. And the goal is always to take an action to gain the advantage over other players.
During your turn you may be able to take more than one action. I have found that the actions you can take are usually divided into phases. There are rarely more than four phases in a turn. Phases usually include actions like moving, buying, ending your turn, and resolving or letting your actions take effect.
Phases are the decision making time of the game. I, like many others have a hard time remembering the order of phases in new games, but designers are aware of this and often provide turn cards to guide you through each phase of your turn. For me phases provide the strategy aspect of a game. Because actions must happen during their assigned phase, a bit of thought is needed to figure the best move of all the possible options available.
In the Game Cypher you have three phases. In phase one you play a card to gain points, in phase two you draw a card, and in the last phase you pass one card to an opponent on your left and on your right. You keep the last card in your hand. By the beginning of your next turn other players have given you enough cards to start your turn. This final phase makes Cypher a very interactive game. It is always exciting to see what your opponents will choose to give you, and it also can provide some insight into what they decided to keep.
In conclusion Rounds, Turns, and Phases take place in nearly every game. Now that you know these three common aspects of Tabletop Gaming you can approach new games with the confidence of a pro. These elements are used commonly to create a fun gaming experience, and they work. If you are still unsure about your ability to join in on a new game don’t let this stop you from enjoying the time tested tabletop gaming universe. Many games are now designed with apps. That can quickly be downloaded to your phone to assist you through that learning curve. You can also find tons of videos online to give you a quick rundown. So don’t let a lack of Tutoring hold you back.
Good luck and Good Gaming