Here’s Why Every Game Night Needs A “Rule Guru”

In All by Jake WardLeave a Comment

Dealing with the rules of a game can be one of, if not the most frustrating aspect of Game Night. A great solution to this problem that we have found is assigning a “Rule Guru.” Whether this is the host, or the most experienced player in your group, having a single person to handle this aspect of the night saves everyone a lot of headache. The responsibilities of the Rule Guru are as follows.

Teaching New Players

Ben explaining Cones of Dunshire to Leslie from "Parks and Recreation"

Ben spent way too much time preparing his rule presentation.

One source of contention that we see time and time again is when a newcomer is trying to learn how to play the group’s favorite game. They are invariably pounded by a barrage of instructions coming from every member of the table. The newcomer tries as hard as they can to follow along, but ultimately just gets a half baked summary of how to play.

This can be mitigated if there is one person whose sole responsibility is to explain the rules. It then becomes much easier to follow a single line of prepared dialogue then trying to decipher three sources of garbled input at the same time.

Teaching a game comes easier to some people than others. Need advice on how to be a better board game teacher? Check out our helpful tips on teaching board games.

Teaching New Games

castles of mad king ludwig rulebook

Somebody’s gotta read it.


Let’s say that instead of one new player, we are dealing with a new game that no one has played before. Often times we have seen a game night that begins an hour and a half late because we all had to wait for Jonathan to pour through the rulebook so that he could try to explain it to the rest of us.

This is a terrible situation for everyone because, while some members may be ok with chit chatting for a while before the game, others may be getting anxious about how late it will be before they get back to their babysitter or perhaps how soon they can get home to feed their poor hungry cats. Not to mention that Jonathan is missing out on the mingling because he is sitting in a corner by himself trying not to get distracted so that he can understand the game well enough to explain to everyone else.

Now, let’s say instead that Jonathan had been assigned this role before hand. He could learn the game on his own time and then show up like a bona fide Rule Wizard ready to bestow this precious knowledge to his pupils. This way Jonathan can conjure up a plan on how to best explain and display different aspects of the game as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.

This is better for everyone because Jonathan feels good about himself instead of anxious and left out, and the rest of us feel calm and ready, instead of confused and angry.

Resolving Conflicts

folks shaking hands over a rule disagreement

Keeping things agreeable

Pretend we’re playing Settlers of Catan, Cities and Knights Edition and Todd is boasting about being one point away from winning his 7th game in a row. Jenny gets a devilish grin as she plays a knight in the middle of Todd’s road thus breaking his longest road and knocking him back two points allowing the throne to go to someone else. Well Todd won’t take this sitting down, as evil dictators rarely do, and starts railing on about how knights aren’t allowed to be placed in the middle of other players’ roads.

This is the Rule Guru’s time to shine. All players look to him as he adeptly flips to the page in the rulebook about knight placement which states that Jenny is indeed able to break Todd’s longest road using a knight. Todd then accepts his fate and hands in the Longest Road card, and there is much rejoicing.

It’s situations like these where rule gurus are helpful, because they can bring a sense of law and order to the table when you’re playing with difficult players.

The Ideal Guru

Uncle Iroh from Avatar: the Last Air Bender

Uncle Iroh would have made an unimpeachable Rule Guru

The reason we like to use the term Guru as opposed to Rule Master, Rule Wizard, Rule Emperor, or Rule Dictator is because Guru implies a calm and impartial arbiter. When choosing your Guru, you want to pick someone who is going able to lay down the law in a way that keeps the mood light and the players having a good time.

You don’t want to pick someone who is going to let this power get to their head and make people feel bad for missing rules or accuse another player of cheating when maybe they just misunderstood how something works.

It’s also good to have someone who will calmly show the rule in the rule book to the other players instead of just saying, “No, you can’t do that, because I say so.” This way, if the Rule Guru is one of the players involved in the dispute, the rest of the players can see why it is the way that it is instead of just having to blindly trust the Guru’s authority.

Find Your Group’s Guru

Ben holding up the Ledgerman's hat from Parks and Recreation

If you thought being the “Ledgerman” sounded fun, boy do we have a treat for you!

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have just one Guru. We like to have each member of the group have certain games for which they are the designated Guru. This helps everyone to feel included and helps make sure that one person is not getting worn out since Guru can sometimes be a heavy burden (I’m looking at you, Star Wars: Imperial Assault).

All in all, the benefits of having a Rule Guru are myriad and adding one to your game night could be just the thing to help everyone have a better time, including the host.

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