Coaching Beginners to Victory!

As someone who was once a cutthroat 15 kyu in Go, one of my favorite games, who got into the habit of trying to crush my enemies on the go board, I realized it’s hard not to be super competitive with the person you are teaching. It feels good to be good at something and it’s hard to not let that get to your head.

But for the beginner, it can be very discouraging to lose on your first time and not really understand why. I’m not saying that you should bend the rules or let them win, but we should encourage beginners to get better so they want to play more games with us.

For example, I love to teach Ascension, a deck building card game, but since the deck rotates and there are so many cards, it is difficult to just know right off the bat how the strategy works. I usually explain things like how getting rid of lower cost cards with the mechanic “banish” is good because then you can draw more of the things you want to draw like cards with a higher value or a better mechanic.

There are also four different factions in Ascension and you can combo many of the cards to get more points. For example, mechana is a faction that helps you get only other mechana cards so I will explain to the person I am teaching that if you go for mechana just to keep purchasing that.

And this is all if the person wants help. I try to steer away from playing the game for them, because that’s also not fun for a beginner. Sometimes I have to rein myself in while playing Forbidden Island because I turn in to the “leader” (which is not a role or mechanic in the least), and try to plan out what everyone can do on their turn. And.. that kind of defeats the purpose of playing a co-operative game.

But you do want to encourage people. For example, if someone is really good at Go, really has an understanding of the game, I want them to know it. And that is for one reason and one reason only.

At ACEN (Anime Central, an anime convention in May) a couple of years ago, after I was done gawking at the amazing costumes that are there every year, I had decided to check out the game room. I walked in and saw people teaching Go. I sat down for a game and became enthralled by the strategy. The person who was teaching me told me I was so good, I could be, like, a Go prodigy. Part of me realized that this was an exaggeration, but part of me didn’t care in the slightest. I was now obsessed with this game. I joined a club, made lots of friends, and it has been four years since that point. I around 10 kyu, which for those of you who don’t know, you start at 25 kyu and work your way down, which is good.

Now if someone had discouraged me before I got a really good grasp of the game, I may not have continued. But luckily I found someone who was cool enough to teach me Go and who encouraged me to continue.