The Terror of Learning New Games

Last weekend, after eagerly waiting for two years, Tidal Blades (#tidalbladesyall) arrived on my doorstep. The box was quickly opened, pieces sorted, and the game was prepped for its first play. It then sat in that state until yesterday when my family and I played our first game. Why did this game, one of my most anticipated games ever, sit unplayed for a full week? I still needed to learn how to play. I hate learning to play new games.

“Rob, you’re a game reviewer for Pete’s sake! How can you hate learning to play new games when you have to do it all the time?”

Good question, fictional person written to personify my accumulated readership. I hate learning to play new games because I’m terrible at it even after all these years. I have a hard time staying awake when reading rulebooks, and it often takes several sittings to get through a more detailed ruleset. After that, I often make so many mistakes that it frustrates the people I play with. As much as I wanted to get Tidal Blades to the table as soon as it arrived, I needed to make sure I could set up the game and play it with as little mistakes as possible.

Thankfully Bea also read the rules and we had a great five-player game where we only missed one thing, the starting challenge cards for each player. Confident that we can now play the game correctly, it’ll hit the table more and be ready for review in no time. It’s not always this smooth, so we lucked out this time around.

It’s gotten to the point where sometimes a larger game will arrive and I freeze up when it comes to opening the rulebook. I ran into this with Empyreal: Spells & Steam. It has a huge box full of pieces and a large rulebook. Turns out the book has a lot of reference material and the game was really easy to learn how to play. Still, it stayed unplayed for longer than it should have due to my rulebook anxiety.

You think I’d turn to YouTube to watch people teach the game. Nope. Doesn’t work well for me. If I’m taught in-person to play a game, it helps tremendously. Watching a video and constantly having to pause it, rewind it, and rewatch it should work like a charm, yet it doesn’t. How-to videos are great if I question a certain mechanic, but never for learning a whole game. It makes absolutely no sense to me, but here I am. Broken somehow. Unable to get over the fear of learning a new game, even when I love playing new games as much as I do.

Before I wrap this up, I’d like to point out a weird exception to this rule. RPGs. You think a giant book full of nothing but rules would scare the living poop outta me. They don’t. A new RPG book comes in, and I chew through it so fast it’s crazy.

I know. I’m weird and make no sense, yet here we are.

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