When you mention board games to some the first image that comes to mind is one of frustrating Christmas arguments over a game of Monopoly. For those with a bit more exposure the idea of socially awkward geeks hunched over a miniature battlefield, shuffling scale-accurate figurines and rolling dice is inescapable. Although these stereotypes still exist for some, the hobby has moved on significantly in recent years.
Today, board games are as diverse and unique as the people that enjoy them. The classic old styles still exist, but they exist now within a golden age of creativity and masterful design. When we say there’s ‘something for everyone’ in the hobby we truly mean it!
But convincing people of that fact is still a difficult task at times. If you’ve enjoyed board games for a few years you’re probably familiar with the mechanics and tactics of more complex (and terrifying for newbies) games – but introducing complete novices to the pastime can still be a taunting task.
On the blog today we’ve selected some of our favourite games for
brainwashing introducing your friends and loved ones into taking their first steps into the board gaming world.
The one with dragon pile-ups
A completely valid complaint many non-gamers have is the time it takes to really engage with some games. When all of us have at least one example of a game that’s stretched on for hours it’s easy to see why some might get turned off by the concept. Tsuro is the complete antidote to this problem. Games take around 15 minutes, meaning you can set up, explain and complete the game in the time it would take to even unpack some of the more heavy weight titles out there (we’re looking at you Scythe).
But what really sells Tsuro is it’s classic and simple design. Players guide ancient dragons across the skies by laying down tile cards and avoiding collisions (usually unsuccessfully). It has the elegant, timeless feel of an ancient classic, like Chess or Go, but was in fact created in 2004. Tsuro is a well-designed and beautiful game that will engage anyone, regardless of their previous experience in games.
The one with the 11:16 (first class) to Vienna
There is no bigger fan of Ticket To Ride than our managing partner Peter. He owns literally every edition of the game and was once berated by his girlfriend for smuggling the digital version onto her phone so he could play it during their two-week holiday in South America. To say we love Ticket To Ride here at ITB is an understatement.
From it’s simple and intuitive design to its system of random card draws that give some balance to every game Ticket To Ride is an excellent introduction for non-gamers. The balance of light strategy and an easy-to-grasp mechanics makes this a strong recommend for every gamer’s collection.
The one where everyone gets sunburn
One of the most interesting recent ideas that have emerged in board games are co-op games. Working together to complete a shared goal is a great way of helping ease non-gamers into the hobby.
Forbidden Desert is an excellent example of a game that allows beginners and veteran players to cooperate on the same level. If you’re more confident in your strategic abilities then you’ll feel well at home in this game, while at the same time even complete novices can contribute to the team’s success.
Perfect for families and mixed-ability groups, Forbidden Desert is a wonderful primer for some of the best, more complex, co-op games out there.
The one where Jim points at a carrot passionately
Picture the scene: Your family, ruddy-faced with wine and after eights, scream across the living room in violent factions divided by hatred and indifference. Grandma desperately jabs her pen towards a drawing that resembles a (poorly) trained dog’s attempt to emulate Picasso while Uncle Phil expels a list of seemingly unconnected words like the world’s worst beat poet. “WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO PLAY PICTIONARY?” cries Auntie Flo, her face buried into her hands in a desperate attempt to avoid the horror that unfurls around her.
Concept was designed as a counterpoint to the miserable parlour games so many of us have suffered through at parties and family gatherings. Instead of their own (often lacking) drawing skills players use a board of abstract concepts to hint at their chosen word or phrase. The combinations of words, phrases and ideas make this game instantly accessible – and one that adapts to all group dynamics. Incredible fun from the start, Concept is the smarter, better way to bring your social group around to the idea of well-designed tabletop titles.
The one that’s like Battleship but actually fun
Captain Sonar is more than your standard tabletop game. On this list it’s the only thing that can earnestly be described as an experience. With up to eight players playing simultaneously, Captain Sonar is a chaotic and thrilling game that sees teams take control of their own submarine in a one-on-one battle royale.
With perhaps one of the trickiest learning curves on this list, this game isn’t as instantly accessible to all. But the intuitive and simple modular style helps players easily get to grips with their own focus, while working together as part of their team. The hectic and exciting gameplay is enough to bring anyone back to the game.
Although arranging a game like this can be hard to pull off, the payback is immense. First time players will be hooked, eager for more tabletop games that challenge and excite them in this same way. An incredible introduction for lovers of faster paced skill games.
The one where mermaids fight rats and everyone agrees it’s fine
Small World takes the tried and tested ideas of many games before it and transforms then into something accessible, lightweight and friendly for beginners. The game is a tightly packed conquest game in which players compete for land and glory.
With simple-to-grasp mechanics that don’t bog new players down with rules and restrictions, Small World is light on strategy, but still creates an engaging level of complexity for all players. An excellent introduction for players seeking something cerebral and competitive, who aren’t ready yet for some of the more advanced mechanics of heavier games with similar ideas.
The one where Jim turns into a demon and murders everyone
Betrayal At House On The Hill is a wonderful introduction to story-driven gaming. A lightweight RPG-style game, Betrayal borrows from classic fantasy and horror tropes to create its story lines and setting. Players explore a spooky mansion, uncovering creepy and unsettling mysteries as they go. Suddenly. Everything changes. One player, their eyes ablaze with ancient evils, turns against their friends.
Betrayal allows players to take on unique and engaging roles in a setting that is a lot of fun for those that enjoy indulging in some amateur dramatics. With a generous handful of possible scenarios, and a number of expansions too, the story is different each time – enough to give strong replayability for players.
Perhaps not the most instantly sellable for those with strong stereotypes over board gaming; Betrayal might be a hard sell for those uninterested in the theme. But for those willing to engage it’s in wholeheartedly, the game is an excellent stepping stone to the more difficult, and more complex, titles in the genre.
Know any more that we missed? Send us your suggestions on Twitter!