This week, board games at Quarterstaff were entertaining, albeit non-momentous. Some newcomers came by. I helped teach them Small World, which I somehow contrived to win. I eked it out by one point. If I hadn’t taken the Spirit Elves and thus gotten one extra point a couple turns because of one little hold-out in decline that the Hill Giants and Something-something Skeletons ignored, I would have come in third. The top three scorers were right on top of each other, like 88, 89 and 90, something close like that.
After that, we ran through a couple tutorial sessions of Space Alert. One day I will play this game in normal mode, with all the elements and threat decks and such. It’s just that every time I play, we’ve got a new player. Space Alert just isn’t a game it seems fair to throw a newcomer into full bore, so we run through a couple tutorial missions and by then, everyone’s ready to move on to a different game. I still haven’t played with internal threats and the security droids, for crying out loud — nor actually read the rulebook that far, so shame on me for being unprepared to push the level of play upward.
Then came two rounds of Dominion. With two new players, one of whom had a single play under her belt and the other had never heard of the game before, I took a different tactic than I normally do. In addition to explaining cards, verbally narrating my turns to show how things work and making some suggestions on what might be useful choices for the other two players to make, I also played as well as I could. In the past, I’ve taken a more easy-going approach in teaching a game, sometimes not making optimal choices so as not to outpace someone who’s just learning the game.
This time, I played exactly as I would have in a game with experienced players. My rationale was to show by example, explaining why I did what I did, in addition to the usual elements I put into teaching a game. The results were lopsided, but I think it worked out well for the players.
The first game I ran away with by some silly number of victory points. The second game they walloped me hard in return. I think my score was somewhere in the teens and they were both in the high twenties. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my buying power together in one hand that game. I choose to think that means I’m a damn fine teacher of the game, at least when it comes to that introductory setup.
I’ve just purchased Small World myself and hope to play soon. I think my friends should really enjoy this. We love Risk and most will enjoy the goofy theme.
The nice thing about Small World is the ability to enjoy it on multiple levels. There’s the whimsical fantasy theme and delight of rampaging across one’s neighbors with berserker halflings, then there’s the point-crunching aspect for the people who like to figure the way to get the most coins in a turn.