Going to the mat for teaching new players

October 13, 2021 at 8:35 pm

“Happiness is a place between too little and too much”

– Finnish Proverb

This is normally the time of year when we are preparing for an annual gaming convention trip and looking forward to spending a few days wallowing in TFT and other nerdy pursuits. Unfortunately, scheduling and an ongoing pandemic canceled those plans and left us with some pent-up gaming energy.

I started thinking about teaching the Fantasy Trip to new players, and looking at ways to make it easier to pick it up. For conventions, we created a folder of quick reference rules (see it here), but it can be a little intimidating. Steve Jackson Games has released handy card sets for characters, actions, and other game elements, but how can they be best leveraged to help new players keep the information they need organized and accessible?

Taking a page from collectible card-gamers, we decided to put together a play-mat to collect and organize character information. Similar to a character sheet (and easily used as one) it has the benefit of giving space for cards detailing character attributes, gear and abilities, and action choices. We added spaces in each section for players to write out these details if they don’t have cards, and tracking spots for fluctuating stats like Hits, Fatigue, and Mana. We rounded out the layout with reference for common die rolls, engagement, and facing.

Check it out here. This is a work in progress, and we’d love to hear if this is a tool you would use at your table and how it might be improved. Are there more appropriate rules to keep at a new player’s fingertips? Are there important character details we have overlooked and put in a strange location?

What about item and ability cards? Would they be a handy addition or just one thing to keep track of and store between games? And how much detail is needed? Speaking of cards, would smaller euro-game size cards allow space for more items to be shown at once, or just make things unruly. And if you did want item/talent/spell cards, would you be willing to pay for them?

This is a work in progress, so your input is greatly appreciated. And hopefully, we can all be better prepared for new games in the future.