Ten Board Games For New Gamers

Most of us in the hobby probably remember the first game we played that introduced us to the world of modern board games. Many like to call them “gateway” games. They are games that are simple enough to not overwhelm someone unfamiliar with modern board games, yet are just different enough to intrigue them into learning more about the board game hobby. Today, I will be discussing my top ten games to introduce people to hobby board gaming.

10. Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep is the number 10 entry on my list, not because it’s my least favourite of these games (it’s not), but because I feel that complexity wise, this may be the hardest one for newcomers to grasp.

However, the first time I played this game, I was playing at a convention with 3 others who were new at the game. Another table nearby was also playing and they were all experienced. With only a bit of explanation and guidance from the game master, we were all able to grasp the game well enough that our scores rivaled the final scores of the experienced table. That experience is one of the main reasons I am including this game on my list.

Out of the many worker placement games out there, I would say that this one is definitely one of the lighter ones out there with simple to understand actions. Another thing I’ve found with Lords of Waterdeep is as the game goes on, there’s almost an electric feeling as players are finally getting into the groove of how they wish to get their points and it really brings a fun atmosphere to the table. Lastly is the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy theme which can be very appealing or familiar to some new players.

9. Dominion

Unlike Lords of Waterdeep, Dominion is not going to attract players for its theme. Instead, Dominion is included on this list as a great introductory game to the deck-building mechanic. Dominion was the game that popularized deck-building and its style of doing so still holds up well today.

Dominion’s system of deck-building resembles many popular trading card or collectible card games, so new players who are somewhat familiar with those types of mechanics will have no trouble picking it up. The game plays fairly quickly, especially at lower player counts, which can be a very inviting thing for a new player who may not want to be involved in a long game. As well, Dominion was the winner of the Spiel de Jahres or Game of the Year award. This award is usually given to games considered accessible to many and are usually on the lighter side.

8. Blokus

This is the one game on my list that is definitely more of a mass market board game, but trust me, those claims on the cover of being “Easy To Learn!” and “Great For Families!” are accurate and elevate this game above the standard mass market board game many are used to.

Blokus is an abstract game which are usually great introductory games since many classic board games fall under this category, including Checkers and Chess. Blokus’s system of placing tiles diagonally touching and fighting for space with your opponents is a very simple one and yet still requires some real strategic thinking. Blokus is a very accessible game, having no language dependencies, making it good for young children or those whose primary language is not the one you speak.

The only downside to Blokus is that it really only shines at its maximum player count of 4. If you are playing as a pair, there is a version called Blokus Duo, specifically designed for 2 players.

7. Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first modern board game experience. I haven’t placed it higher on this list though because while it was my “gateway” game, I feel there are some that are even more accessible to new players.

Ticket to Ride is a simple route building game with an ever-popular train theme. Players are trying to complete their secret routes, which can be complicated by the fact that opponents may be going to the same spot and use your planned route. The game has a healthy dose of competition that new gamers may be used to from classic board games, like Monopoly but offers more strategy that may entice new gamers to stick around and try some other strategic games.

While there are tons of versions of Ticket To Ride out there, my personal opinion is that the original game is probably the best one to introduce new gamers to, as other versions add new rules and offer other challenges that could be intimidating for a first time player. However, if you do play the base game, I strongly suggest getting the USA 1910 expansion. It replaces the small cards from the original game with regular sized cards, which makes it a lot more accessible, especially for those with visual disabilities.

6. Forbidden Island

The idea of playing a board game cooperatively is pretty foreign to most new gamers. I know I had never thought about it until I was introduced to Forbidden Island.

Forbidden Island is, as mentioned above, a game where instead of competing against other players, you are working together towards a common goal. In this game, the goal is to escape the island with as much treasure as possible before the island sinks and brings you with it. As far as cooperative games go, Forbidden Island is definitely one of the lighter ones out there, making it a great game to introduce the idea to new gamers. As well, the idea of working together as a team instead of against each other can be a reassuring feeling to a new gamer, particularly if they are playing with more experienced gamers.

5. Splendor

Many a game has been considered the usurper of Splendor. One of the major ones is Century: Spice Road/Golem Edition, which I have played and enjoyed, but for introducing new gamers to this sort of engine building, I find Splendor to be the easier one to teach, and the one that scales better for lower player counts.

In Splendor, players are looking to gain 15 or more points as fast as possible. To do so, players will collect jewels to pay for cards which then provide the player with a permanent “jewel” of that colour. These cards help players buy better cards with point values, as well as receive visits from nobles who bestow points upon them. While the concept may sound a bit difficult to follow, the actions themselves are simple. When I taught this game to my sister, I had extensive practice on the Splendor app (which is excellent) and she beat me both games we played.

The theme of Splendor is the one drawback to the game as it’s not a very enthralling one. However, as announced at Gen Con, publisher Space Cowboys will be releasing a Marvel themed version of Splendor.

4. Qwixx

Roll and write games are really popular in the board game world right now. This is great news for those looking to bring new gamers into the hobby as roll and writes are an excellent way to do so. Roll and writes tend to have fairly simple, straightforward rules and have a level of familiarity among people due to the popularity of classic roll and writes, like Yahtzee. Qwixx, in my opinion, is a great game to demonstrate a modern roll and write without straying too far from the classic formula of Yahtzee.

The object of Qwixx is to have the gain the most amount of points by crossing off numbers as shown on the scoresheet. However, numbers can only be crossed off from left to right and once a number has been skipped or passed, you can’t go back and cross it out. This provides a new layer of strategy that a game like Yahtzee doesn’t necessarily have but is present in many modern games. To add to the strategic play, rolls also can benefit other players, with all players able to use certain dice each round.

Qwixx does use some more modern strategy mechanics than many classic roll and writes, but still features one key similarity. Players are dealing with regular 6-sided dice, which I feel is a better fit for new gamers than a game with pictures on the dice or irregular shaped dice.

3. Love Letter

Simple card games are a great way to bring in new players. Many people have played a traditional card game in their lives whether it be Crazy Eights or Go Fish. Adding some nice artwork, some actions and strategy, and an interesting theme are just a bonus. Love Letter has all those things.

In Love Letter, players are vying to win the heart of a beautiful princess. To do so, they must defeat the other players and be the first to deliver 5 letters declaring their undying love for the princess. Players get one card to start with, draw up to two, then discard one, using the action of the card in the process. These actions often (but not always) work to a player’s advantage, allowing them to eliminate opponents or provide them with information to do so in the future.

Love Letter was originally published by Alderac Entertainment Group for 4 players, later expanding as a “Premium” version as a 6 player game. As well, they released a bunch of differently themed versions of the game to appeal to many different audiences. These included popular franchises like Archer, Adventure Time and Batman, as well as a version based on the H.P. Lovecraft mythos called Lovecraft Letter. However, the rights to the game were sold to Z-Man Games, who have released a updated version, now playable up to 6 in the base game, with some beautiful new artwork.

2. King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is the second game on this list that I would describe as “Yahtzee with a twist”. The other of course is the aforementioned Qwixx. However, their takes on the familiar formula are very different

King of Tokyo involves rolling dice and attempting to make sets, like Yahtzee. You even get the three re-rolls. However, instead of just inputting the die results onto a scoresheet, you instead use them towards your attempt to become the supreme monster overlord of Tokyo. There are options to gain health or victory points, gain energy which can be spent on special action cards or to attack whichever monster has decided to currently take over Tokyo. There’s a constant shift in power dynamics and strategies which provides a fun experience for new gamers. Plus, who wouldn’t want to play as a giant monster or creature fighting other giant monsters or creatures?

The theme is really the star of this game and appeals to a broad range of audiences from adults to children. I think out of this entire list of games this one has the strongest thematic appeal.

1. Azul

Out of all the games on this list, I feel that Azul is easily the most accessible to a variety of audiences. There’s no real language requirements to the game play. The tiles are all visually different and can be distinguished by players with color blindness. My husband, who has a visual disability, loves this game and does well with it. Aside from being accessible, Azul has a whole other host of other qualities that make it great for teaching new gamers.

As mentioned above, abstract games are great for teaching new gamers due to familiarity and accessibility. Azul is definitely an abstract game. There’s a healthy dose of strategy involved with players drafting the tiles to place them on their boards. Like Dominion, it’s a Spiel de Jahres winner, speaking to the broadness of the audience and strategy level. Like Splendor, it scales well at all player counts, including lower ones. The game is visually striking as well, adding to the whole appeal. Plus, from my own experience, I’ve had a ton of success when teaching the game to new players.

And so that concludes my list of ten games for new gamers. Do you agree with my choices? Is there something you’d add that I don’t have here? What’s your favourite game to teach to new gamers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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