Seeking advice on hosting a game with inexperienced players


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Hell everybody,

    on the weekend I’m going to host a game for five fairly inexperienced players and me. They played around one or two games each. I have played around 10 and read a lot on the forums…

    Currently I’m thinking about if I should tell things like:
    "A lot of players ‘on the internet’…

    • kill both uk fleets in G1."
    • think about killing the italian fleet in UK1"
    • trying to reconquer yunnan every turn"
    • step back with russia and at most leave one infantry to stop blitzing"
    • buy mostly infantry as russia"
    • move italian groud troops to russia to do ‘can openers’"
    • do not buy cruisers"

    One the one hand I don’t want them to invest two days in a game and don’t have fun because they don’t think about an important objective and lose. On the other hand I don’t want them to just blindly follow a script or something.

    My current idea is to give them only tactical advice, but leave the overall strategy open for them/us to explore.
    Although in the past I got a lot of times comments like: “yeah, I was thinking about that, but thanks for revealing that to my oppenent…”.

    All in all I find it very hard to achieve a good balance BETWEEN preventing obvious mistakes that are somehow game changing and might make people angry because they invest so much time AND having too much influence on the overall game and creating a demotivating atmosphere with that.

    Do you have some advice for me?

    regards,

    koala



  • One of the biggest things that throws off newer players in my experience is aircraft range. Specifically airplanes flying in one direction. When a plane from london suddenly strikes something in the Mediterranean instead of defending around the channel that will surprise someone. When a bomber from California threatens most of the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic that will be harder for players to comprehend. New players almost always think about planes in terms of return flights rather than landing in distant far away territory. They are more inclined to fight a Battle of Britain than a Doolittle raid.

    Secondly, I would not tell them advanced strategies. I think players learn the game faster by having to respond to their opponent rather than trying to follow a script. A J1 attack is really strong, but a new player might struggle to follow up on the opportunities it creates. However, a new player that goes up against a J1 attack will have to learn how to react quickly which brings me to my next point.

    Speed up turns. New players risk getting bored if your turn cycle takes 2 hours before they can get back in the action. It’ll seem weird but try to put players on a timer. They’ll learn quicker and become better at spotting additional units they could have brought to a fight or an area of defense. Mistakes help people learn so let them make mistakes. If you want to avoid large mistakes I would reiterate the victory conditions for each country and emphasize the need to buy units with the future turns in mind rather than the present.

    Might be worth mentioning hits on carriers. Players don’t want to lose units in ways they don’t have a say. Advise them to protect transports and their factories. Blocker units are good.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    Just focus on the “things that you must do to not immediately die.”

    So things like:

    • Killing UK Fleet/Paris G1

    • Killing Italian Fleet UK1

    But leave smaller things for the players to figure out on their own, otherwise they won’t feel like they have any control over anything. The rules of A&A are hard enough to remember for a beginner on their own, let alone minor things. I’d steer clear of nitpicky advice like:

    • Specific build advice (Dark Skies, etc.)

    • The entire concept of a “Can Opener”

    The only advice you should really give in terms of builds is to focus on cheap units (INF/MECH/ART/SUB) and avoid more expensive ones (CRU/BB/TAC). If anything, that’ll help your players feel more comfortable in making decisions, since they’ll have a smaller subsection of the units to buy from.



  • This is a very good question.  I often see new players get frustrated when someone pulls a sneaky move on them, or their plans get ruined by a small technicality in rules.  The key is not to play for them, but make them think with probing questions:

    “Is this fighter going to do anything this turn?”
    “Are your AA guns going to sit on Holland all alone?”
    “How are you going to deal with that Italian cruiser and battleship?”
    “Wow, did you know that four planes can scramble to protect Sea Zone 109?”
    “Are these guys in Australia going to just sit around while Japan eats my China?”
    “Can you try to knock out that ANZAC destroyer and transport so they don’t take Brazil?”
    “What if Japan built an airbase on Kwangsi?”
    “Do you think you could successfully kill both British fleets?”
    “Whatcha gonna to do if my French AA gun kills three of your planes?”

    There are to ways to subtly point out a possible problem by requesting the destruction of a certain enemy force as a teammate or making a somewhat cheeky comment as the enemy: “You’ll be ‘rekt’ by my Luftwaffe, hehe.”

    Another good one is to simply point out the units that the new player is forgetting to move:  “Are those guys in South Africa going AWOL?”

    When suggesting strategy, don’t make specifics.  Instead, argue a certain theory:  “I think that Italy can become a beast if at least two of its transports survive.”

    This might be needles to say, but don’t belittle anyone or give the blame for anything.  Although you should never go easy on new players (the hard way is the best way to learn), take an active interest in adapting to your opponents’ weaknesses by trying new strategies yourself.

    As a teammate, point out enemy weaknesses and tell your buddies where they are not defended well enough.  Strike up conversations about advanced tactics such as blocking, blitzing, and bridging.  If possible, introduce them to the shorthand of calculating odds: “With six tanks, you should average three hits on the first round because…”

    I really like Grim’s idea to try to speed up turns.  Getting bored because of delays is sure to make your new players angry, especially if they wait an hour just to get diced in the battle they engaged in.  Strongly stress the randomness of battles and the fact that nothing is guaranteed.  Give them the analogy that although it is the general (them) who decides operations, it is the troops who have to do the fighting; the dice represent this.

    And most importantly, have fun and keep a fun atmosphere ever present.  Tell WW2 jokes.  Play some GI Jive in the background.  Talk about future games and ways to improve.  Rolplaying and comraderie among teammates is sure to brighten the dark days on 1940.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    One idea that you could pitch to the group prior to the start of the game, and making it clear that it’s entirely up to them whether they want to do so or not, would be to propose that your first game together be a training game rather than a real one.  The game wouldn’t have a winner, and might not even be completed; moves and decisions would be discussed collectively as (or after) they’re made, and players might perhaps even have the option to “take back” a move they’ve just made that is an obvious mistake (though of course they could go ahead and play it anyway, and then see for themselves why it wasn’t such a good idea).  If your group is comfortable with this, it would enable everyone to achieve a certain basic level of competence in a risk-free environment – with the goal being that when they eventually play a real game, they will be less likely to lose because of silly and obvious mistakes.  If your group says “thanks but no thanks” to this idea, that’s fine too because it will implicitly mean that the players are willing to take ownership of any silly mistakes they do end up making; if anyone does end up losing due to such a silly mistake, they won’t be in (as much of) a position to complain that they blew the game in this manner.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    I second CWO Marc’s “training game” idea. The combination of training games and post-game “after-action reviews,” in which everything from unit purchases to moves was discussed, is how I taught my wife to play G40.

    Step one in getting new players up to speed - and this is critical - is to make sure they read the rule book themselves, rather than you trying to explain the game on the fly. I learned this the hard way, after my wife became frustrated by my repeated “you can’t do that” interjections, followed by an explanation of the rule she was violating.

    In particular, my wife benefited enormously from the after-action reviews, as they were quite thought-provoking and always left her inspired to try new strategies (and thus, looking forward to playing again). As we played, I made brief notes. After the game, I’d refer to those notes to prompt questions, such as, “On UK4, you were obviously building your Normandy invasion force. Why did you buy two submarines?” and so on. A respectful back-and-forth on the merits of purchasing two subs vs. four infantry helped my wife develop her A&A strategic thinking and planning skills. As a result, her frustration with G40 has been largely reduced to one we all share: good strategies thwarted by unlucky dice.

    A final note: We made our own setup charts for each power. On the back of each chart, we printed that power’s National Objectives. I still find it beneficial for myself, not to mention newer players, to go around the table before each game and have players read their NO’s aloud. Doing so gets everyone thinking about achieving their own objectives, as well as preventing the enemy from achieving theirs, allowing the seeds of strategy to germinate before a single move is made.



  • @Charles:

    This is a very good question.  I often see new players get frustrated when someone pulls a sneaky move on them, or their plans get ruined by a small technicality in rules.  The key is not to play for them, but make them think with probing questions:

    “Is this fighter going to do anything this turn?”
    “Are your AA guns going to sit on Holland all alone?”
    “How are you going to deal with that Italian cruiser and battleship?”
    “Wow, did you know that four planes can scramble to protect Sea Zone 109?”
    “Are these guys in Australia going to just sit around while Japan eats my China?”
    “Can you try to knock out that ANZAC destroyer and transport so they don’t take Brazil?”
    "What if Japan built an airbase on Kwangsi?"
    “Do you think you could successfully kill both British fleets?”
    “Whatcha gonna to do if my French AA gun kills three of your planes?”

    There are to ways to subtly point out a possible problem by requesting the destruction of a certain enemy force as a teammate or making a somewhat cheeky comment as the enemy: “You’ll be ‘rekt’ by my Luftwaffe, hehe.”

    Another good one is to simply point out the units that the new player is forgetting to move:  “Are those guys in South Africa going AWOL?”

    When suggesting strategy, don’t make specifics.  Instead, argue a certain theory:  “I think that Italy can become a beast if at least two of its transports survive.”

    This might be needles to say, but don’t belittle anyone or give the blame for anything.  Although you should never go easy on new players (the hard way is the best way to learn), take an active interest in adapting to your opponents’ weaknesses by trying new strategies yourself.

    As a teammate, point out enemy weaknesses and tell your buddies where they are not defended well enough.  Strike up conversations about advanced tactics such as blocking, blitzing, and bridging.  If possible, introduce them to the shorthand of calculating odds: “With six tanks, you should average three hits on the first round because…”

    I really like Grim’s idea to try to speed up turns.  Getting bored because of delays is sure to make your new players angry, especially if they wait an hour just to get diced in the battle they engaged in.  Strongly stress the randomness of battles and the fact that nothing is guaranteed.  Give them the analogy that although it is the general (them) who decides operations, it is the troops who have to do the fighting; the dice represent this.

    And most importantly, have fun and keep a fun atmosphere ever present.  Tell WW2 jokes.  Play some GI Jive in the background.  Talk about future games and ways to improve.  Rolplaying and comraderie among teammates is sure to brighten the dark days on 1940.

    That is a really good tip for new players. Helping them learn about the uses of facilities and factories. Sometimes new players over rely on factories instead of transports so that would be something helpful to address as well.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The Pripet Martian’s point about after-action reviews is an excellent one.  And note that professional military wargames (simulations used for the training of junior officers, for example) are sometimes run in a way similar to what’s being described here: as “seminar games” in which critical discussion, under the supervision of the non-playing game director and/or referee, always takes place after the game and sometimes takes place during play itself.  These professional games aren’t really games, but rather training exercises, and the point of these games isn’t for one team to win but rather for both teams to learn – so in that sense, all the participants “win” such games (regardless of the outcome on the game map) because they all emerge from the game with improved knowledge and judgment.


  • 2019 2017 '16

    A few things I’d add to the above:

    • have a clear strategy for handling things like dice resting on its edge, too many dice rolled, not enough dice rolled (I only count dice rolled in the box, re-roll them all, roll more dice respectively)
    • it’s nice if you have some extra dice to what is in the box
    • don’t be overly strict about no more attacks added after dice are rolled - clearly forgotten and sometimes even missed attacks should be allowed to be added, particularly when no dice would be rolled
    • when someone attacks say an undefended transport with a potential scramble, warn the attacker before the move is committed
    • allow combat moves to be put on the board before purchases are finalised
    • if you have some time, put in some dividers into the piece trays so you group air/land/sea together. I also have a separate compartment for Germany, USA and Japan for artillery. Or you can do the other approach where you put all the infantry (e.g.) in a single tray so you just need to find the green ones.

    These should prevent arguments/agro, hopefully speed it up and generally make it more fun.



  • I think we forgot to mention that every new player is going to complain about destroyers and cruisers being too hard to distinguish from one another.

    I have yet to remed this issue without marring the pieces.  Even long-time players sometimes (like the old guys who can’t see very well) forget the differences after not playing for many months.  The only thing I can do is constantly confirm, “Yes, that’s a destroyer.”  “No, that’s a cruiser.”

    I knew a player who used the American destroyer and cruiser units interchangeably.  😞


  • 2019 2017 '16

    Destroyers have a square stern. Cruisers don’t. Only exception might be France.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    We’ve wrestled with the “cruiser or destroyer?” issue, too. Looking for the squared-off stern is a great idea. Another way we dealt with the issue was to organize our storage trays for each power in exactly the same way, so players quickly learn which units are in each compartment, no matter which powers you’re controlling.

    In particular, I organized ships as follows: (alphabetical order, top to bottom and left to right) Aircraft Carriers and Battleships in the first compartment, followed by Cruisers, Destroyers, Subs and Transports in separate compartments. Players know cruisers will always be in the compartment right below the carriers and battleships, while destroyers are in the compartment at the top of the second column, and so on.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    First of all thanks for all the replies so far.

    Some takeaways from the real game:

    • destroyer-cruiser confusion was indeed a real problem

    • I think we overestimated the defensiveness of fleets a lot. There is really a difference in triplea and live games especially because of the battle calculator

    • Stuff like Taranto too advanced for us, firstly we needed to get all the basics straight and I think we did good with that

    • japan focused on killing china and left UK and US till turn 4

    • I think navies have some special appeal. Everybody except russia build them a lot

    • without taranto and tobruk, italy was doing really good above 30 income

    • germany build too much fleet and therefore russia survived and snowballed

    • I think we prevented all really stupid mistakes by warning each other which was really nice



  • In regards to the destroyer cruiser issue, I put a control marker under the cruiser. Helps easily identify at a glance…attacking or defending


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Another thing that might be useful in terms of sculpt recognition would be to print out the unit identification charts I posted over here:  http://www.axisandallies.org/forums/index.php?topic=31982.0

    I keep a copy of my printouts in a ring binder, as a reference tool.


  • 2018 2017 '16

    I always send them to GeneralHandGrenade’s YouTube channel and tell them to watch the instruction videos before they come over. They are very informative and he’s a heck of a nice guy. 😉


  • Disciplinary Group Banned

    Have the experience players play the weakest countries. Plus once the game starts, don’t help the rookies with strategy. If you do help them, it’s like playing the game for them.

    This is a guide line, it is not written in stone.



  • ANZAC is the perfect starter nation.  It has very little of everything, but it usually does not get crushed like Italy might.  Learning how to buy right, plan, and manage limited resources are important parts of being ANZAC and really help train new players.  Just be sure to tell the U.S. player to watch that Japan does not pick on the little Australian brother  😉



  • @CWO:

    One idea that you could pitch to the group prior to the start of the game, and making it clear that it’s entirely up to them whether they want to do so or not, would be to propose that your first game together be a training game rather than a real one.  The game wouldn’t have a winner, and might not even be completed; moves and decisions would be discussed collectively as (or after) they’re made, and players might perhaps even have the option to “take back” a move they’ve just made that is an obvious mistake (though of course they could go ahead and play it anyway, and then see for themselves why it wasn’t such a good idea).  If your group is comfortable with this, it would enable everyone to achieve a certain basic level of competence in a risk-free environment – with the goal being that when they eventually play a real game, they will be less likely to lose because of silly and obvious mistakes.  If your group says “thanks but no thanks” to this idea, that’s fine too because it will implicitly mean that the players are willing to take ownership of any silly mistakes they do end up making; if anyone does end up losing due to such a silly mistake, they won’t be in (as much of) a position to complain that they blew the game in this manner.

    This is how we play(ed).  When just two of us started playing global, we often helped each other walk through ideas and options.

    In fact, even now, just Sunday morning a reasonably experienced player was handling the Axis for the first time in ages.  Once he decided he wanted to do a J1, I coached him on all his options, including his purchases.

    For my partner on the Allied side, he had the Brits and Russia.  During his turn I liked to help him see all his options and the consequences they might lead to.  At first he thought I was telling him what to do, so I clarified I was just saying out loud what I usually do in my own head when I’m the Axis by myself.  Helping him see the whole board and that I hoped he would do the same for me.



  • I would give two general advice:
    1. Don’t play your power optimally. The newbie can’t compete with that.
    2. Allow the newbie to play his/her own game.

    I would recommend resisting the urge to give unsolicited advice. It is important to let new players experiment themselves, and feel like they are in control. The only time you should give advice unsolicited is when the newbie is about to make an obvious blunder. This will usually be due to not remembering the relevant rules, or forgetting some capability. If they don’t remember the rule, you should explain it to them (for example: “fighters can’t land on damage carriers, are you sure you want to take your hits like that?”). If they forget about a capabilty, explain that to them (example: “I can land on you capitol now, it is not defended well enough”, or “Those transporters are undefended”, or “that fleet will be smashed if it is there”)

    You could also perhaps spend a little time on the NOs, after turn 3 (or so), when they are starting to get the hang of everything else.


  • 2018 '16

    This is how we explain playing the game to new players.

    1. Explain to them that this is a “Game of Punishment”
          You will be punished for bad maneuvers, as in Chess. The consequences will be immediate or delayed.

    2. There is no timer so think it through. It is your turn so you don’t have to hurry. Next time we play we may expect quicker play.

    3. Count to three each and every time you move something because that is the range of an enemy bomber that could kill you.

    4. Consult your teammate in private. Don’t blurt out your plans.

    5. Read the rulebook when it isn’t your turn. This sorts out a lot of questions.

    6. Ask if you are still unsure.

    7. If this is in your group (it is in ours for sure), drink beer or some other beverage of choice. It eases the pain of those evil plastic cubes when they have not landed in your favor.

    8. Have a good time, win or lose. Don’t be a baby or we aren’t inviting you back. Some griping is permitted but only on absolutely horrible dicings.

    Last but not least…
    We will play again. Teams will be different. Factions will be different.


  • 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15

    I would tell them as little as possible and give them a +60 bid for allies and you take axis for yourself. When they loose they will ask why and learn a whole lot


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