Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Guide to Teaching Board Games - Streamlined Explanation - Rialto

| April 4th 2016 | 
Thanks for checking out my blog. I have a new, much better looking version of this review here:

This is part two in a in a series I am writing to help people become better board game teachers in the hope that we can scare less people off and change the attitude that the games we play are "way too complex and have so much to remember". Below I will cover how to explain Rialto, a medium weight Area Control Game by Stefan Feld, in an easy to follow manner covering only the need to know information.

You can find the first part by taking this link where I explain my five steps to explaining any board game in detail. Guide to Teaching Board Games = The Five Steps

Guide to Teaching Board Games - Streamlined Explanation - Rialto

1 .Objective/Goal: Rialto is an area control and hand management game that awards players for having majority control in many different ways. We will be taking the role of noblemen in Venice trying to assert our influence and gain the most victory points. It is important to note that there is a second scoring track in Rialto named the doge track, this will be used to break all ties and determine the order in which you choose your cards for the round.

Doge Track

2. Tools: There are a few different ways to gain victory points, the most prominent is by seeding your councilmen into the various districts of Venice. The twist is the value of each district gets determined as the game unravels and will not award points until the end of the game. Then players will score points based off their number of councilmen awarding the most victory points to whoever has the most councilmen then half that value to whoever has second most and so on continuing to half the value.

It is always good to provide a visual example when explaining, it is good to set these up in advance so you don't have to fiddle around during the explanation.

White would score 12 points, yellow would score 6 and green would score 3 points.

The other way you earn points is by constructing buildings, each building has a cost associated with it, this is the number of brick cards you will need to play in a turn to construct that building. This cost is also how many points they will be worth at the end of the game. In addition some buildings award you with victory points.

Finally playing bridge cards will award you with 1 point per card, and if you do not play any bridges you will lose 1 point.

3. The Absolute Basics: Now you know how to win, let me explain how to play. On a turn you will pick one of the available columns of cards to use during the round, once everyone has chosen you can activate any green buildings to draw more cards. Finally before using the cards everyone has to discard down to their maximum hand size which starts at 7.

In order to choose your pile you should know what each card does, red hats advance you on the doge track allowing you to break ties and choose your column of cards first. Coins simply give you money which you will need to use the buildings that you have already constructed. Bricks let you construct new buildings based on the number of brick cards you play. Bridges score you 1 point each, in addition if you do not play any you lose a point. Gondolas let you take councilmen from your reserve and bring them into your personal supply so that they are available to seed onto the board. And finally Councilmen cards each allow you to play 1 of your wooden councilmen tokens onto the current district. If you played the most of a card type treat is as if you played 1 extra of that type, in addition the player who used the most bridges / gondolas gets to play the bridge / gondola tokens.

4. Recap: Remember the gondolas and bridges determine how many points each district is worth. Whoever is higher on the doge track breaks ties and card columns are chosen in order of the doge track. Lastly remember it is brick cards to construct the buildings and you need coins to activate them but they give victory points just for owning them at the end of the game.

5. Set the example: I will go first but before we begin everyone has to choose one of the 1 value buildings to start the game with. The green ones allow you to keep more cards, the yellow one allows you to wait and not play your cards of the current type until last so you can see how many everyone else has played (useful if you have jokers) and the blue one allows you to upgrade your other buildings at the very end of a round.

Rialto is a game with a lot going on, it is not the most complicated game but a lot of the available actions change if you play the majority of them. Because of the way choosing the card columns works you also need to know a lot more up front then a lot of games, players need to understand how 6 different cards work in addition to the majority effects of bridges and gondolas, the 3 main ways to score points and how the 3 basic buildings work. Hopefully this helps you understand the 5 steps I use to explain games to people a little better. As promised here are some important tips that will help any explanation go smoother even if you do not plan on following the above steps.

  • Set up the game and any examples you want to show ahead of time.
  • Plan out how you are going to explain it, run through the explanation once or twice in your head or out loud. Know what information you are going to cover and what you are going to leave out, this will help you stay on track during your explanation.
  • Check the files section on Board Game Geek and see if there are any useful player aids available for the game you are going to be introducing. If there is one or two you like print them and familiarize yourself with the aides. 
  • Read or watch a couple reviews to make sure you are not getting any rules wrong.
  • Do not exploit any advantage that is a result of playing first to set the example of how to play, in Rialto this might look like purposefully not picking the best card column. 
  • Remove distractions during the explanation, if you generally listen to music or socialize while you game be sure you have everyone's attention and the music / tv is paused. 
  • Do not get frustrated when people ask you about things you have already explained.
  • If more than 1 person knows the game well, avoid having multiple people explain things as they may not have gone through the explanation in their head and usually just adds confusion to the explanation. 

Thank you for reading my guide to streamlining board game explanations, if you wish to read my full review of Rialto go to

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