Response from Erie, Pennsylvania:
What is the best way to get a group of new players started?
a multi-Faceted approach has worked for me in the past & hopefully
will continue to do so in the future. I'll expand and explain what I
normally do & a few examples of what I would do, specifically with a
starter box of 8 decks.
1. SCHEDULE. At our local game shop Game Corps, I'd talk to the owner
John and set up a demo night, making sure to do so at least 2 weeks in
advance of the actual event. I'd go for a Friday or Saturday as many
seem to be more apt to game then. It should be easy to get 8 new
players with a free deck up for the offering...
2. POST. At Game Corps, I would post a sign up sheet for this demo,
letting those who sign up know that they will get to keep their
starter deck if they come, learn the game and play at least two games
AND have intentions to play again. If not, I would ask they to return
the deck so it could be re-used for another potential noob. Of course,
I would require that the people who sign up be NEW Players ONLY; I
know 99% of all who have played locally as I have taught most of them
& given them decks myself (or brought them back to the game after it
fizzled out in 1997). Players who are not new would be welcome to come
to help & maybe have their own game at a separate table.
3. PLAN. For a good demo for new players, proper preparation is
essential. I would run 2 tables of 4 new players each; they would each
get one unique starter deck (so no repeats of clan at a table). If I
veteran player wished to help out, they could be a 5th player at each
table with a deck of their own, so long as they help out, don't
duplicate any of the starter deck clans & use a simple, clan based
deck this is just a basic type of deck (like a starter is, usually).
---Also, any time I run a demo, I have materials at hand that make
things easier. My laminated copies of the Playmat for starters. Blood
counters; enough for everyone that plays. My abridged rules, available
for printing on Lasombra's website:
http://thelasombra.com/GangrelBoy-RulesBrief2010.pdf I print copies
for each player to keep; that in addition to the rulebook in their
starter & online resources covers that part.
I review cards lists ahead of time, when I have them; in the case of
knowing I'm going to be using a certain type of starter deck, it's a
lot easier. I always have at least 12 tournament legal decks on hand
anyway for those who want to play but don't have cards of their own.
3.a. THE APPROACH. When I run a demo, I do 2 main things. First &
foremost, I try to make it fun. I have a Count Dracula rubber duckie
edge counter that I've been using that usually gets a couple of
laughs. I stay optimistic & good-natured. Sprinkling a few jokes in
here and there is helpful, “these guys aren't “glam-vamps” like in
Twilight, they burst into flame in the sun, not sparkle & glitter”.
Second, I do my very best to make it easy to play. Having all the
resources prepped ahead of time helps, but far more is required for a
4. THE DEMO. Two clean, uncluttered tables, each with a tablecloth is
best, easier to pick up cards. I split the assembled players in to
their groups of 4 each, seeing who among the local Primogen are
available to help. I don't give them the cards right away, as a little
anticipation can often heighten interest. I would ask each player to
introduce themselves by first name... a lot easier then saying "hey
you" to the guy next to you. I also like to make sure everyone has a
snack or something to drink & are comfortable.
---I would do my very best to explain the game and its mechanics in
the simplest, easy to understand terms as possible. I always keep it
basic at first. The game premise is first. I teach Terms next: Hand,
Library, Crypt, Ash Heap, Pool, Blood Bank, etc. And it's all right in
front of them on the printout. If a player calls his Library his
'deck' I don't ever correct them but I use the correct term myself
when referring to game labels. I have all players play the first game
(usually only a partial game) with all cards face up, Uncontrolled, &
Hand. It's just easier to help a new player that way.
After reviewing some of the basics, I hand out the decks, randomly. I
ask players to only worry about card symbols that are in their deck,
as in Clan symbol, the 3 Discipline Symbols their clan have (which I
have them circle on their Rules Brief printout) and the Card Type
symbols (Action, Reaction, Act Mod, etc, etc). Another trick I do is
have everyone refer to the Playmat & my Rules Brief for only 2 main
parts: the Actions list & the Turn Sequence list (it's on both
printouts). The rest can be learned as you go.
Speaking of which, I cover the Icons for the card types last. When a
Player wants to perform an action, they can learn those symbols then,
if a card is required; again these are all on the Rules Brief. In the
course of this first face-up demo round, I have players try each of
the actions on the list, usually saving Politics & Encounter another
Methuselah's Vamp in Torpor for some of the last things. I always have
each player announce each phase of their turn, not just so they learn
it but also so the other player's can follow along. Again, I try my
best to keep it simple and fun. I almost always answer questions as
they arise, only occasionally asking for them to be put on a back
burner for a moment if it's in the middle of something already being
explained, such as combat.
One trick I use to help explain Stealth & Intercept. First, all
actions except Bleeding are at Stealth (unless a card says otherwise;
and of course, trying to commit Diablerie, but I cover that later).
Hide & Seek is the simplest way to help a noob remember it; if
Intercept meets or exceeds Stealth, the action can be blocked.
As each player's turn progresses, they begin to see the flow of the 5
Turn Phases, how & when cards are used (& WHICH cards) as well as
picture some of the events as they unfold..."Ok, so Lupo went to a
back alley & attempts to buy .44 Magnum...is she stopped?" With the
cards face up in this first round, players can see how reaction cards
& O.o.T. Masters are played. I always throw out there, you wouldn't
know this Methuselah had a Wake/Eagle's Sight. Getting to know what
different clans can and can't do comes later. With a game as in depth
& complicated as VTES, going in easy like this has paid off with new
players in the past for me. Also, as turns progress, I add in more
abstract nuances such as pool management, pool gain, cross-table
alliances, political dealings, defense & blocking, bleed bounce, what
to discard & why, and long term game thinking (OK, should I wait to
Oust my Prey until he has weakened my Grand-Prey some more?).
It is not important to finish that first game; it's fine to go around
the table 5 or 6 times, maybe until someone gets ousted or at least
low on pool so you can explain VP & gaining 6. After the face up demo,
time to start an actual game. I remain table side as many questions
are sure to arise or a player may just want some advice. I make it a
point to compliment a noob whenever they have a really good play,
idea, or particularly shrewd insight regarding some aspect of the
5. POST GAME REVIEW/FOLLOW-UP. Ask these new players what they liked,
what they disliked & answer any questions. This can also be an
opportunity for players to trade Starter Decks, if they should be so
inclined. Something else that can help boost/keep interest: I got this
idea from Mr. Mark Loughman… He keeps a free box of literally
thousands of cards at his shop in Newark, OH, for deck building & for
newer players. I have something similar I do; I have a large box of
about 10K or so, mostly Jyhad cards, all sorted by type and
Alphabetized. If a player want/needs some cards to flush out an
existing deck or wants to build an entirely new one, I say, have at it
& go nuts. I just keep my 20 some odd copies of Deflection out of the
box for my own personal use, LOL!!
6. PLAN FUTURE GAMES. Even if you set it up to only be once a month at
first, get contact info for all new players involved and set up a date
for everyone to play again. Posting at the store when this is slated
to go on is advisable. I'm a big fan of (e)mailing lists for letting
guys & the occasional gal know when games are happening.
One last thing: I tell players about websites & forums such as this &
the TWDA... we've all been there, methinks....
"Don't make me pop open a can of Aggro..." R. Reno, V:EKN Prince of