Friday, August 8, 2014

Five Great Gateway Games

Occasionally, I like to participate in some geeky evangelism and attempt to introduce people to the wonderful world of board games. Although most people have played games like Clue or Monopoly, I want to broaden people's horizons and show them some of the great games that are out there begging to be played. 

However, I always find myself struggling with a simple question: "Which should they play first?" I highly doubt I'm the only person who's struggled with this question, so I thought I'd create a short list detailing five different games that I feel are great "gateway" games for beginners. These games are in no particular order and I tried to pick a variety of styles. Also, consider this a list of great games to buy if you're starting your very own board game collection. 

So, let's begin: 

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a railroad-themed, set collection game designed by Alan R. Moore and published by Days of Wonder. Players take on the role of railroad barons, building train routes across North America. They achieve this by playing different sets of color-coded cards on their turn, hoping to earn as many victory points as possible. Ticket to Ride's strength is that its rules are incredibly simple, the game's easy to teach, and it possesses a nice ratio between luck and skill. 

Settlers of Catan

Designed by Klaus Teuber and published by Mayfair Games, Settlers of Catan is a resource management game and one of the first German-style board games to achieve popularity outside of Europe. As the name implies, players take on the role of settlers establishing colonies on the titular island of Catan. These players build settlements, cities, and roads buy collecting and sending different resources they gain throughout the game. While not as simple as Ticket to Ride, Catan makes up for that with a decent amount of depth and the customizable board makes it very replayable.  


Dixit is a card game created by Jean-Louis Roubira and published by Libellud. Each player possesses a hand of cards which depict an interesting picture. Each turn, one player will take on the role of the storyteller, making up a sentence or a phrase that describes one of the cards within their hand and playing it face down. Everyone else will select a card from their hand they feel best fits the sentence or phrase, playing it face down as well. Once revealed, everyone but the storyteller votes on which card they believe is the storytellers, earning points based on their guess. Dixit is incredibly easy to learn and teach, and makes a great party game. 

Forbidden Island

Created by Matt Leacock (the same designer who brought us Pandemic) and published by Gamewright, Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where the players are daring adventurers who've traveled to a mysterious island to recover four ancient artifacts. However, there's just one problem: the island is sinking. If they want to escape a watery death, the players will have to work together and do whatever they can to survive. Like most of the games on this list, Forbidden Island is a pretty simple game, possessing rules that are easy to figure out and plays pretty quick. It also doesn't hurt that you can usually find a copy for $16 dollars or so.

Small World

Small World is a strategy game designed by Philippe Keyaerts and published by Days of Wonder. Like most strategy games, each player controls a specific faction and tries to conquer and control different areas on the map. Each faction is a fantasy race, like dwarves or elves, possessing a singular trait, such as "Pillaging" or "Wealthy". These races and traits have their own, individual powers and strategies associated with them. Since the races and traits are interchangeable, Small World possesses a high level of replayability. The game is also incredibly fun and just a great strategy game. Also, it doesn't take forever to play, which is definitely a bonus in my book. 

While I feel these games are great starting points, there are a few other games I didn't list that would work too. Alhambra, Carcassone, Castle Panic, Tsuro, and King of Tokyo are great gateway games as well. If you have some ideas for games that would be great introductions to the hobby, leave them in the comments below.