Thursday, January 7, 2016

Armada: Some tips for demoing the game

Building a better community.

One of the most difficult challenges when playing a new game is building a community.  When I show players how to play a game, I go out of the way to make it a fun learning experience.  The key objective is to make sure the players being introduced to the game walk away happy, fulfilled, and eager to play again.

Here's the list I demo'd the game with last time:

Howl + 3x Ties

CR90 + TRC
Luke + 2x Xwings

Below are some of my tips for how to demo a game of Armada:

  • For example, in the list I gave above, I always demo with 2 flavors, Rebels and Imperials, and I always let my opponent choose which one to try out.
  • I always include an upgrade or two, but always low, to keep things simple but entertain the fact that there's a ton of upgrades in the game and these are only some of them.
  • I always try and build something that I think is fair for both players.
  • I always try and include one medium ship that's slower, and one ship that's faster.
  • I always try to keep the overall mechanics low, so not overloading in named pilot, titles or upgrades, and only playing with similar squadrons (all ties, or all xwings).
  • I always try to keep the mystery: no commanders to dilute the ruleset, but I make it known that in real games there's always an admiral to lead the force.  This means no objectives either.
  • I always try to keep the point range low because you're play a demo, not a full game, and every minute should be used to capture your audience's attention.
  • I always try to put some theme in there: Luke and X-Wings are familiar, HTTs on a Victory or a swarm of TIE Fighters.
  • Lastly, I always try to give as much advice as possible while letting my opponent make his own mistakes and decisions.  No free games, as I find that free games lead to less replay value in the future.  Oh, and always talk about the game afterwards: What you could have done, what they could have done, how things could have been different..etc.

I've been demoing games for a variety of games since my earliest days teaching Academy classes at GW.  The formula above is what I found to be most effective at keeping the suspense alive, giving a fair game, and demonstrating the mechanics of the game without overwhelming the other player with too much info.

This might sound like a sales ploy or something, but it's really not.  Always give a demo with the saying "but wait, there's more!" in your head.  If you're not actively engaging your audience while keeping the mystery alive, then the demo wasn't very effective.  If you take a list with Tarkin, the Y-Wings, A-Wings, special characters, a bunch of upgrades while playing objectives, that's just too much for a new player.  There's just too many keywords that you have to explain (which adds time) and too many things to remember in a short time (which adds stress).  You want to present the bare minimum amount of special rules when giving out demos, especially to a newer player,  At the same time, the point range and the amount of activations for both players should be low and manageable.  You generally want to shoot for under an hour so you can maintain maximum attention from your audience.  Always remember:  The game is supposed to be fun.  So enjoy teaching players the game as much as you enjoy playing it.  Your audience will definitely notice and appreciate you for doing it.

I might crap on GW a lot because well, they're GW, but once you take out the trying-to-sell-you-crap-after routine, their demo strategy is actually quite excellent.

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