Email response: Child Psychology and 40k? How to teach your little brother the ropes.

It turns out my psychology posts have done some good and people are asking me how to deal with younger kids and 40k! I received this email question:

You're a Middle School teacher and all, so i figured you'd know how to help me with this. My little brother is getting into warhammer and has chosen an orc army. Atm its close to 70 models strong and is his pride and joy(halfway painted decently too). The only thing is that he has something like ADD where he just can't sit still for awhile. We usually will play 2 turns then take an hour break, but even with that its hard for him to sit still during my turns and leads to him just getting bored and throwing his dice everywhere until i get fed up. Do you have any ideas on how to help keep him interested while i'm messing with my army?

My answer:

I learned a lot about playing 40k with middle school age kids 10-14 while running my gaming club at school. First of all, kids and their ADD are fickle. I have seen countless kids with ADD sit and play video games for hours on end... Something has gathered their attention! The thing about most video games is this:

They are simple, and offer instant reward. Most xbox games you can pop in the disc, grab the controller, and have the hang of them within 10 minutes.

So, apply that to 40k. Simplify the game. Rules confuse them, and they get embarrassed because you make it look so easy, so they react poorly, throw dice, and walk away. Especially if they have a hard time reading, and/or processing math. Get rid of the calculation component. Using the ruler to check range is hard enough on them. Reduce it to just shooting and hitting. Dont worry about armor saves and wounds. That will make it much faster.

Kids hate to lose and will give up quick if they do, especially when trying something new.

"OK billy, Orks are not very good with their guns, but you have 40 of them, so it evens out. You need a 4 to hit my marines.... Oh no! You hit 9 of them... they die... Great Job!" As he gets the hang of it, and you have let him win a lot of games, start adding more. Don't pressure him, you will push him away, and no matter what, tell him he is awesome. :) Compliment him every chance you get. Make the rounds quick and fierce, like a round of Halo.

Remember, he looks up to you. Make it tough, but make sure he wins most of the time. Encourage him. Congratulate him. Create a gaming environment where it is super hard for you to become frustrated, and you wont! Hope that helps!



AutarchAndrew said...

hey im 15 and i could kick most players asses but i do agree with the ork thing kids are tended to play codex marine armies because there for noobs and orks for the same have to figure if a kid starts playing warhammer at age 10 i started at 14 but this is just an exaple and played warhammer there entire life there going to be uber.
jawaballs i not saying all space marines are noobs your blood angels tatics are amazing even though fritz helped you i probably like your battle reports more than way of saim hann battle reports.also ehen are going to post something on your eldar army

Ash said...

Wow, Jawa I am not sure if he is complementing you or eviscerating you. Which leads to another issue with younger players what are they talking about it jumps all over the place and with no clear coherent line of reasoning. If I can't follow a two minute conversation with them how am I supposed to figure out there tactics.

Oh, wait there tactics are charge, charge, charge. I think i can deal with that.


Jacob Bodmer said...

@ Ash: I Think AA is complimenting Jawa. I'm also not sure.

Teaching children (Heck, even college-aged people) 40k is difficult. I never realized until recently when I was trying to teach a friend just how many rules there are, and just how many exceptions there are to each and every rule (Power weapons, AP vales, vehicle damage chart (confuses the crap outa people) Invulnerable saves, not to mention abilities like FC, FNP, FoF, and so forth)

Also, if I may, I'm not sure if any of you are familiar with "The Jungle", but this fellow has been "blogging" about 40k before the term was coined. He's a solid writer, and has commented on a lot of things over the years, including the "Teaching kids" issue years ago:
If nothing else, it's another perspective on it. Take it or leave it, etc.

As a side note, I find teaching children to play far preferable (even though it's quite difficult) than playing children who think they know how to play, motor-mouth about how invincible and awesome their army is, then rage-quit when they're nearly tabled on turn 3. If you say you're invincible, I don't care how old you are, the Wolves come out of the box.

jawaballs said...

AA was smack talking. And he is right, I developed my tactics and army to use what Fritz developed... and improve it! :)

Teaching 40k is HUGELY hard. Just try writing a short essay on how to assault and you will understand. I started writing some of these posts, and no matter what, I realize that I should write 5 posts to prep for the post I am starting. That is why I have just jumped in and started writing about specif ideas... usually whatever is on my mind at the time. Eventually, when I am done writing these "How to Play" posts, I will consolidate them into a nice, coherent PDF.

AutarchAndrew said...

i wasnt smack talking well maybe a little and my tatics just like jawas tatics are fromed around fritz tatics but it is probably easier for me playing eldar and jawa playing marines.

jawaballs said...

Blood Angels are actually better at playing the Fritz Game then his Eldar. I am a little slower, but way tougher. And to be fair, I would like to claim credit for at least a little of his tactics... I mean... if he didnt have me to beat on... he would have had no one to develop them with! :)

AutarchAndrew said...

ya you have a point there i still want to face your blood angels in a game,and do you still want the pictures of the jawabases i painted up?

jawaballs said...

Yah man, email me pics with your models on them.

AutarchAndrew said...

k ill do it by tonight

Chernobyl said...

Hi there Chernobyl here, as all of you don't know I used to play 40k way back in the day( when Dark eldar where in the starter honestly if any one knows what edition that was i could stop guessing) of course being the silly kid i was i was more attracted to the "cool looking figures" then the game itself, when i tried to play it at a hobby shop well, being the kid that i was no one wanted to try and help explain the rules to all.
In the end i quit until a buddy of mine expressed new interest in it and got me all caught up in it too.

Now you might be thinking "Chernobyl what does that long winded post have to do with the current discussion you *insert explative*?" Well the point is is that kids under the target demographic ( 16-50) will always want to do what the cool *snicker laugh* older kids are doing but there developing minds just cant seem to grasp the sheer complexity of an ever changing rule structure ( as codexs have more canon then the core rule book)

So what does this mean in the short term? simply put you have to put it simply to which Jawa gave a brilliant example in his post , I would also like to add that just as when you pick up an issue of white dwarf and read the battle reports and they tell them in a manner similar to a story you could do the same to hold a young childs attention as well "Ah man the ork warboss was wondering what that loud whistling sound was before him and his buddys got blown to bits by the leman russ shell" something as simple as that allows a younger child to imagine the scene before them.

The thing to take into account is that the younger a child is the more interest in the imaginative then the real they will have.

Sabb said...

Hey Chris,

So I've been teaching my 11 yr old nephew to play 40k(he's definitely part of Generation Xbox). What got him sitting through all my explanations of the rules was hooking him on the fluff. I had him read all the stories I could find about space marines before even explaining him that it was a detailed game. Once he was hooked on the stories and his models, he WANTED to learn.
What was most important about this, to me atleast, was even if he never played the game correctly, he was spending hours and hours assembling figures, painting, and reading instead of playing Halo. Kids these days no longer have imaginations. Nothing made me happier when he was telling me about how badass Lysander really was; not referring to his 4 wounds and Eternal Warrior special rules.

Seeya at 'Ard Boyz


Flekkzo said...

Ok Mr Balls of Jawa, now you have gone and really done it. Now I have to actually post something with a serious tone. Something reserved for my rants about computer science and the likes. Here goes, in several parts, random order.

Letting younger people win. I don't do this. This can easily sound cold hearted, but what I don't do on the other hand is gloat. Or do something particularly nasty, or pull weird hard to grasp combos. Loosing is part of life, and so is learning to deal with life when the wrong thing happens. Kids do go apeshit just because they haven't been prepared for this as they have often been sheltered from consequences. This is pretty advanced child psychology and I will freely admit that most of this is far from my own ideas and observations. But from my limited experience they do seem to be correct. So your emailee (hi!) really have two separate issues. How to teach the game, and how his brother acts.

I probably should add that there is a young guy playing at my local gamestore. He recently turned 12 and adores many of the older guys who has armies and plays a lot etc. I've played him several times, never going that easy on him, but always always being very careful and clear with what I do and explaining rules well. And also trying to point of a few things to him to help him. When he bought a new army (in this case Horde, Legion of Everblight. I play Cygnar) he so wanted to try it out against me. Know what? I couldn't beat him. I started to try to figure out how the heck to do it, and got beaten. He will treasure and remember when he beat me, because it was for real.

What I so very wholeheartedly agree with in Jawaballs nice post is that making it into a narrative is a great idea, and so is 40k light. Sit down and make light rules. Change things into one die roll and if you make it the guy you attack dies. Plain and simple. Orks kill on 5+, Marines on 3+. Simple and in your face. I appreciate that there is a lot of rules as I am learning them right now, and they are not presented in a form that is good for me (too wordy, I rather have simple points, then an explanatory text). I can imagine that a 12 year old wouldn't be too hot on reading all of that. Even if it would be in their native language. Going back to my Horde playing pal, we usually explain the rules to him rather than have him read it.

Then we have the idolizing part. Younger guys and "noobs" usually look up to guys (where are all the females?) who "knows their shit". I think that the right thing to do is to be friendly and help them get into the hobby. All the blogs most of us here are reading helps us feel part of something bigger. Who wants to sit and play 40k alone after all? But beware of someone wanting to be like the "cool kids", as that desire can be far stronger than the desire to actually play the game.

Oh, I also found it to be far easier to teach someone who wants to learn :)

Also on the whole n00b thing. There are no cheesy armies, and no n00b armies. It is all about the player of the army. Doesn't matter if you play Necron or Salamanders, Eldar or Ork, Space Wolfs or Imperial Guard. It just reminds me of all those people out there arguing about which martial art is the deadliest.

There, probably said half of what I wanted, but this is the internet and the time to be serious is over. And I should be sleeping as well (guess why my post is a bit disoriented at times). It's a very interesting subject though :)


Flekkzo said...

(this was meant to be included in the previous post, but apparently there was some magical "max number of characters in a post" that screamed out its hatred for my ranting writing. But here comes the rest!)

JB, man, just an afterthought, I think I enjoy the stuff you write that isn't in the rulebook the most. I can figure out how the mechanics of an assault works (I'm a software archiect/engineer, used to stuff like this), but gold like attack more than one unit if you can when you assault and spread the damage to force your opponent to make more leadership tests and hopefully make a sweeping advance. That stuff is just priceless, that stuff take many games to get, and it is something that gives an edge. So if you are writing a PDF, make it about tactics and strategy, not about the rules themselves.

//John, again

Flekkzo said...

Read the excellent article on "The Jungle" and I have to revise my earlier opinion a bit. Letting them win the first few demo games is a good idea. Or at least make it into not much of a deal. I.e. pitting 5 marines against 5 marines and running towards each other really will make it mostly down to the dice.

Also, don't ever play huge games that demands many hours of attention with young players until they are at a point where they can handle it. Small games is more enjoyable for them.

Mr Syxx said...

Having to demo 40k at the store every weekend I can tell you how to introduce a child to 40k in under a paragraph. Simply lay out the simple rules of movement and shooting (if the are around 12-14 I add in assualt and Run, but for the most part you just want to show them how combat is resolved and use general simple stats on units like, this one hits on a three and this guy can block it if he rolls so and so. But more to the point being as graphically descriptive as possible (not for the really young) really helps get them interested in the game and teaches them to use there imagination. You want to tap that basic nerve that loves excitment.

Great article yet again, I hope to see more like these in future, I love breaking down the psychology of this game.

BH Senior Editor

jawaballs said...

Wow, lots of comments. Of course you dont want to always let him win. That is obviously counter productive. But always beating him down will just push him away. Thats what Fritz did to me, and I kept coming back... but if I were a 12 year old, I bet I would have just moved on to a simpler game. Just remember that 40k is not for every one. Keep making them feel good, and they will probably keep coming back.

Lord Captain Valentine said...

I have gotten my fiancee to play a few small games with me. While she didn't like sitting through rules explanations either, she started to get the hang of it. She had two five-man tactical squads to my smattering of Orks, and by turn 3 she was merrily exclaiming "Okay, I am going to shoot them again - can I still do that rapid-fire thingy?!?"

We even fought an assault. As long as I was there to tell her what she needed to make on her rolls, she very picked up the turn sequence and the whole roll to hit/wound/save

She liked 40k a lot more than Magic: The Gathering

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