Lately I’ve been involved in discussions about how to address bad players in games. There are, for some reason, a large market segment of players whose enthusiasm for games is only matched by their ineptitude.
I’m not sure what it is about a game that makes me (a) want to learn it, and (b) keep playing it after being taken to the woodshed. Running demo-games is an art to itself, quite aside from this persistence in the face of being unlikely to win. People also tend to enjoy close games more. They don’t seem to enjoy getting smacked in the face because they weren’t paying attention, and didn’t care enough to read the rules or pay attention during the introduction script.
From a commercial standpoint, “learn to play” is never a good answer to why your game doesn’t work as advertised. How would you solve the problem of a bad player complaining about how your game allows them to make a bad move?
I have played quite a few games where the mechanics match the narrative so well that you can tell them “We are going to become farmers and use our skills and resources to make our farms, grow vegetables and breed animals” – this explains Agricola pretty nicely and the mechanics back this up. After a couple of games it becomes fairly easy to play.