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Finding a Board Game Teacher – Ask The Bellhop

How do you go about finding someone to teach you to play tabletop games?


This topic is a direct follow up to last week’s Ask The Bellhop article where I talked about what to do when you’ve got a bad rulebook. In it I suggested a variety of ways to learn games other than the rules included in the box. My final suggestion was to find someone to teach you the game. But how exactly do you find this game guru?


The Short Answer:

Dungeon Crawl Classics being taught at The CG Realm a FLGS in Windsor OntarioThe first place I would look to find someone willing to teach me a new game is a Friendly Local Game Store or FLGS.  Here in Windsor, we are lucky to have a selection of local game stores, some friendlier than others. With the growing popularity of tabletop gaming, it seems like game stores are re-appearing all over the place.

Most game stores are going to have game nights where you can show up and play the games they sell. Many are also going to host demo nights where they show off specific games. Some stores are even going to be willing to open up a game you are curious about and teach it to you. All you have to do is ask.

I personally suggest actually going to the store instead of calling, if possible. This way you can check to see if they have one more thing — a place for people to post that they are looking for games or players. These public message boards are great ways to meet other gamers and that includes game teachers. If you don’t see a posting, you can create one yourself. Note you are looking to take part in a game night and list what game(s) you want to learn.

If none of this is happening at your local store, I would personally ask the owners/managers why not. Let them know you are interested in attending new player friendly game nights. That you would be interested in demoing games. If you’ve got a game group you play with at home, offer to bring them all out to the store for a learning game. Maybe the store management has never considered this as something the local community would be interested in. As with many things in life, it doesn’t hurts to ask.


The Long Answer:

Sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to have a FLGS near them. So what do you do if you don’t have a local game store to make contact with in your search for a game teacher?

Over the years I’ve found a few solid ways to find other local gamers looking to play the same games as me. Over the years more and more of these resources are found online. Mostly gone are the days of small groups playing in their basements and having little contact with the local community. You no longer have to sit there with your pile of games and wonder if there really are any other people out there into these games. Finding gamers and game teachers is now easier than ever.

The net isn’t your only source though. Besides local game stores there are more and more ways to meet gamers in person now a days.

Below I’m going to look at some of the best ways, both online and not, to meet up with a fan of a game, a fan more than willing to share their love for that game.


Game Cafes

Gaming Cafe WindowGame cafes appear to be popping up everywhere. Snakes & Lattes in Toronto seems to be the grandfather of the modern gaming cafe. It launched in 2010 and is still considered the Gold Standard as far as game cafes go.

One of the secrets of Snakes & Lattes success is the fact that they have game experts there at the cafe. These Game Gurus are there to not only suggest games for groups to play but to teach all of the games that are there for people to play.

This model is set up to be completely noob friendly and remove all barrier to entry into this wonderful hobby of ours. It also means that game cafe’s are an amazing place to learn and try new games.

Now not every gaming cafe is quite as impressive as Snakes & Lattes and not all will have someone on hand willing and able to teach all the games they have but it’s worth checking out if you do have such a cafe in your area.


Game Conventions

One of my favourite things about Game Conventions is the fact that they are filled with excited people who are there specifically to show off and get you to buy the latest game from whatever company they represent. At a con people want you to sit down and learn their games. Companies set up booths and hire demo teams to show off their companies game collections. It’s the perfect place to learn a new game from a real expert.

Origins 2017, Chimera Station from TMG being taught.

One problem with cons is that most companies are usually only doing demos of their new hotness. Whatever games are being released at the con or came out in the last year or so. This is especially true for the bigger companies with large catalogs. In these cases, it’s still worth asking someone at the booth if there’s any way to do a demo of one of their older games. I’ve had mixed success with this but it has worked for me. Also at the larger cons there is often a separate gaming hall different from the exhibit hall and companies will have a booth at each. In the vendor hall they are showing off the new hotness but in the gaming hall they have a larger selection of games.

Besides companies doing demos of games most scheduled gaming events don’t expect you to show up knowing the rules for a game. The exception being some type of organized play tournament, though even some of those welcome new players. If there’s a game you really want to try out, check the cons event list and see if there’s a scheduled sitting of a game you can play.

One final option, and one I’ve done myself, is find someone playing a game at a con and ask if you can watch in order to learn the game. This could be a scheduled event or just a group doing some open gaming. I’ve found most groups are more than willing to having a spectator and walk you through their turns, but there are some people out there that just want to play and be left alone, so don’t be offended if someone says no.


Social Media

This is probably the number one way people hook up with a game teacher in 2019.

Looking for someone local to teach you how to play Arkwright for the first time? Jump on Twitter and ask. Toss the question up on your Facebook wall. Post a picture of the rule book with the words “I’m Lost” over it on Instagram.

A screenshot of the Windsor Gaming Resource Facebook Group

Besides shouting into the darkness you can also go searching for that tabletop tutor. I set up the Windsor Gaming Resource group on Facebook specifically for people looking for other gamers. Facebook is filled with all kinds of groups and pages dedicated to all forms of hobbies, tabletop gaming being one of them. When heading to a new city for a trip or vacation one of the first things I do is search “<City> Gaming”  on Facebook to see what I find.

All the other social media sites have similar search fictions as well. Though I haven’t personally found any to be quite as good for finding gamers as Facebook, there are plenty of alternatives.


Meetup

Meetup.com is another great online resource for finding out about all kinds events in your area, including game nights.

Chris Sniezak teaching his new RPG Sequence

Meetup is completely free to join as a user. You just tell it where you are, how far you are willing to travel and then do some searches for things like “Board Games” “Tabletop” or “RPG” and you should find a few local groups. Even here in Windsor, I was able to find eight local tabletop groups, four RPG groups, and twenty-four board game groups. Now for me the problem is that I’m in a border city and most of these groups are in the U.S. , over in Detroit. Which is one small downfall to Meetup is it doesn’t have a country setting.

Now if you can’t find a local gaming group on Meetup you do have the option of starting one. This is also free as long as your membership numbers stay small. At some point once you get to a certain number of people signing up for your events they do start to charge you.


Board Game Geek

Board Game Geek is a huge site with a ton of resources. Some of which people may not even know are there. One of those lesser known resources is local forums.

Screen shot of board game geek.BGG has a forum area dedicated to pretty much every State/Province/Country out there and these are great places to find out about local gaming events and to meet other local gamers. BGG is actually how I found most of the people I game with now. Before I set up the Windsor Gaming Resource BGG was my main source for finding local gamers. As an example check out the Ontario Forum.

In addition to localized forums, BGG also has a guild system. It’s worth checking to see if there are any local groups who have set up a guild in BGG. I personally have a Guild for the Windsor Gaming Resource there, though I no longer maintain it since moving the group to Facebook.

The last option would be to go to the actual page for the game you are looking to learn and post something in the forums for that game noting that you are looking for a local teacher.


Playing Online

This is an extremely popular way to learn a new roleplaying game (as well as play games you already know). Online gaming is becoming more and more popular. You no longer need to have all of of the players in the same physical place to play a game. The same goes for learning a new game.

Race for the Galaxy on Board Game ArenaThis doesn’t just apply to RPGs, I’ve also seen a growing number of groups playing board games, card games and even miniature games remotely.

Now Sean, my podcast co-host, and I have tried learning board games online with mixed results. I personally find that nothing beats learning something in person, but if that’s not an option, setting up a Skype chat could be a valid way to learn that new game.

Besides just doing some kind of video conference you can also play and learn on a virtual tabletop, whether that be through Tabletop Simulator, Board Game Arena or someplace else.


Other Resources

Here’s a short list of other resources for finding a cardboard coach.

The Publisher’s Website – Quite a few publishers include a community section on their website. These often have links to where you can find events featuring their games or forums where you can interact with other fans of the game.

Apps – There are a growing number of apps and sites dedicated to finding you a gaming group, GameFor, NearbyGamers, Find Gamers, etc. I think these sites and apps work best when you are in a big city. I’ve personally never had luck with any of them but they may work for you. I know part of the problem, for me, is that many of them are US based and don’t even include Canada.

Local Libraries – Based on what I’ve been seeing online, game nights at libraries are becoming more of a thing. This isn’t something happening locally but it’s worth checking your local branch to see if they have anything tabletop related going on.

The Supermarket Pickup – This is how I met gamers way back in the day. I hung out at the local hobby store and waited until I saw someone pick up a White Dwarf Magazine or look at a copy of Talisman and then asked them: “Hey, do you play hobby games?”  You could do this hanging out in the board game section of Target or in the games section of your local Chapters or Barns & Noble. Just try not to be too creepy about it. Perhaps a better idea would be to ask to post up a sign noting that you are looking for local gamers with a shiny new hotmail email address at the bottom to contact you at.


So there are some of my best suggestions for finding yourself a board game guide, someone to teach you how to play that game you’ve always wanted to try. Have you ever had to seek out a board game teacher? What methods did you use?

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