I always loved playing board games as a kid. Monopoly, Sorry, Candyland, Mouse Trap, Life, I couldn’t play enough of them. More often than not, I had to twist someone’s arm to play with me, usually my mom. Fast forward a few years: I met my now husband and found out that his family really enjoys board games. Awesome! But not the games I remembered as a child; these games went to the next level. There were card games and games where you played tiles and games that had these really awesome contests between players. I was hooked. Each year his family visits a rural lake in Pennsylvania and there is no television and no WiFi. Just spending time with each other and yes, LOTS of playing board games. The first year I was asked to come along and I played all of these games. I was in heaven. I was also struggling to learn how all of these games worked. It can be totally overwhelming for people who love the oldies but goodies who want to transition into more modern gaming. Fear not gaming friends, we are here to help! We have compiled a list of five games for new gamers to assist you with that step into heavier gaming! We CANNOT stress this enough how much online play-throughs and reviews online help with understanding games. Without further ado:
- Ticket to Ride: This is a train car laying, route/network building game that many consider to be one of the top games for people new to table top games. Your task in this game is to connect cities in the United States by train, based on cards that you draw. Taking a look at the game board, you will see a multicolor network of routes connecting different cities in the continental United States. Players need to collect colored cards that match the routes they are trying to build. When a route is completed, you may choose to build more routes until one player gets very low on trains. Then each player has one last opportunity to play any cards and place trains that they can on the board. At the end of the game, each player reveals their routes and points are tallied up to reveal the winner. It may seem like a lot, but this game really is pretty easy once you have played a couple rounds, but the strategy can be as deep as you would like it to be!
Sushi Go/Sushi Go Party: Sushi Go is a hand drafting game where you try to collect different sets of sushi to earn points at the end. Each player starts with a hand of 8 cards. Each time a player selects a card they want to play and passes their hand of the remaining cards to the player next to them. You continue to do this until all the cards have been played. Every card has a different way of scoring, from simply adding points to collecting dessert for the end of the game. The game is three rounds, so it goes very quickly. After each round, tally up the scores for each player. At the end of the third round, each player will add up their scores, highest score wins! Sushi Go Party is the reprint which includes the base game of Sushi Go, adding a board with various tiles that can be played that dictates what cards must be collected. This allows for varied gameplay, play for up to eight people and kicks Sushi Go up a notch!
- Forbidden Island: This game is a cooperative board game where players play band together to gather the four treasures needed to win the game and escape the island. However, as the players scurry from place to place, the whole island is sinking. Players will move their pawns on the different tiles that make up the game board. Each game is unique because the tiles will be placed in a different configuration every time. Each player possesses a special ability to travel across the island and grab the treasures as the tiles are sinking, one by one. If you can manage to collect all four treasures and get every member of the team back to Fool’s Landing, you win the game! Co-op games are great for new gamers because everyone gets to pitch in and help each other in winning the game. It can be difficult to win this game, so don’t be discouraged if you lose. My husband and I lose this game all the time, but we keep coming back to it because of the challenge it presents and the fun it gives each player!
Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City: In this game, you are the mayor of the city. Winning the game requires you to build the greatest city among all the players. Each player starts with a few resources, and use those to collect money and build more buildings. Once they are built, they give the player special abilities throughout the game. Players earn money, and gain other benefits, by rolling either one or two dice. Each card has a number that when rolled will give players money. The game is set up where three stacks of building cards make up the playing field: cards that are activated with one die (rolling a six or less), Major Specialty Establishments, and cards that are activated with two dice (rolling a seven or more). Players take turns rolling the die/dice, collecting or giving away money and then purchasing cards to add to their city or building their landmarks. Play continues until one person builds all six of their landmarks. I really love this game because it is so different every time, but the mechanics are very easy to pick up. There are many versions of Machi Koro. We chose this version because it takes all of the current versions and combines them to give you the best version of the game. If you cannot get this version, then the base Machi Koro game with the Harbor Expansion is just as good.
- Bang: The Dice Game: This game is a Yahtzee-style dice rolling game where players get three chances to roll the dice and press their luck to try and shoot other players. Who you are shooting at depends on the role you have in the game. Roles are kept a secret, except for the Sheriff, who must reveal themselves at the beginning of the game. Depending on how many players there are will dictate how many roles show up in the game. The Outlaws are trying to gun down the Sheriff. Renegades are trying to gun down everyone. And if the Sheriff is lucky, they will have the help of a Deputy. Players receive a character card that gives them a special ability that only that player can use. Each turn the players roll dice and use those dice to complete their secret mission. Players take wounds, shoot other players, or drink beer to gain life all with the threat of an Indian attack looming. The person who can complete their roll mission wins the game. I love teaching this game to people. Most are familiar with Yahtzee, so transitioning to this one is very easy and most people really enjoy the Wild West theme. If the wild west is not for you, you may enjoy The Walking Dead version of this game.
We decided to add a sixth game to this list because we feel like this is considered to be, by most people, THE gateway game:
- Settlers of Catan: For many, this is the game that really started the board game playing phenomenon that we know and love today. In this game you are trading and gathering resources to build settlements, roads and cities. Resources in the form of wood, grain, brick, sheep and stone allow you to build up your civilization. This is another modular board game where the game board is never the same. Each tile represents a different terrain that gives the player on that tile that resource (i.e. forests give wood, hills produce brick etc.). Each tile also has a number placed on it which represents the frequency in which each resource is produced. You are building networks in the form of settlements on the game board which help you earn points. Each turn players roll dice to see who receives resources in the form of resource cards. Players need to be careful, though. If you roll a 7 then the robber pawn comes out to steal your resources! Resources are collected and then used to develop your settlement. You can also trade with other players or the bank for these valuable resources. The player who achieves 10 victory points wins the game! We both felt that this is a wonderful game for those gamers who enjoy the complexity of games like Risk or Axis and Allies. This game relies more heavily on strategy, which is why it is our variable addition to our list.
There you have it, our top five(ish) games for new gamers! Please keep in mind that there are so many other games that are wonderful as gateway games, many of which we went back and forth on for this list. Ultimately, these are the games that won. Do you have a favorite game that you think should have been on this list? Let us and other new gamers know in the comments. Happy Gaming!