Heya heya folks! This week I’ve decided to take a look at some of my favourite games that make great introductions to modern gaming. Now before I get started, there are a few caveats. When referring to beginner games I mean games that are a step above the old classics like monopoly and scrabble, but not quite approaching Catan or Pandemic, as those games still have a few mechanisms that can take a bit to get your head around. I’ve also tried to select games that can be taught in about 10-15 minutes and take about 30-40 minutes or so to play and where possible I wanted games where player choices matter; people like to know they had a hand in the final outcome. And finally, I chose games where more experienced players wouldn’t have their eyes glazing over while teaching it or playing it with others. I find these games are always fun, now matter what your experience has been. Let’s go!
Dixit is a storytelling game of abstract art, vague clues and determining how well you know the people around you can make an entertaining introduction to social deduction games. Players are dealt a hand of cards, the active player will say a phrase or a word that refers to their card. Each other player then selects a card from their own hand they think best fits that same description, the chosen cards are then shuffled together and laid out face up on the table. Players vote for the card they think belongs to the active player. Points are scored for the number of players that vote for the active player and any votes for incorrect cards contribute to the points score of that card’s player.
The trick is to make your clues vague enough that there will always be some question around which card is the correct one. If everyone votes for your card, you score no points, likewise if no one votes for it, perhaps your clue was too difficult. The game can be set up and learned in minutes and, due to the nature of the game, new players won’t necessarily have a disadvantage due to inexperience. It’s all a matter of using your imagination and trying to be somewhat clever with the clues you provide.
9. Ticket to Ride
There’s a reason so many people flock to the Ticket to Ride franchise, it is, simply put, a great game. The theme has massive appeal, players just love laying down those little trains, and fulfilling tickets and scoring points are satisfying and rewarding. I recommend starting with the original Ticket to Ride as it’s the least complicated in the series.
Further titles begin to add variation to the gameplay, such as Ticket to Ride Europe which adds stations. The gradual ramping up of these mechanisms means players can progress towards more challenging games outside of the Ticket to Ride universe. While not the newest kid on the block, Ticket to Ride still puts on a good show.
In Carcassonne, a 2-5 player tile laying board game by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, players attempt to expand the landscape, create roads, fields and cities and place their meeples to control areas and objects of interest. Carcassonne makes a great game to teach to new players, even if they aren’t able to grasp the intricacies of the game on their first play-through, there is still an inherent sense of achievement to be had from simply placing the tiles and seeing the land take shape.
It won’t be long before they start to see the ins and outs of the game and become more bold with their choices, thinking ahead and placing their tiles with more deliberateness. Once players become accustomed to the gameplay, they can attempt to up the ante with any of the vast multitude of expansions. A great introduction for new gamers!
7. 5-Minute Dungeon
I’d highly recommend this one to anyone wanting to get their kids into tabletop gaming. 5-Minute Dungeon delivers what promises to be a fast, fun, frenetic fantasy frolic with friends and family fighting flagitious foes with fearless fortitude! Players take on the roles of familiar character tropes, like barbarians and wizards and, using their individual decks of cards, players collaborate to take down their enemies by contributing the required amount of symbols towards the attack, for example a fighter will add swords, while a wizard will add spells.
As each enemy is beaten, another takes its place immediately and so the play continues until either the 5 minute timer is up, all the creatures in the dungeon deck and the final boss are defeated or all players run out of cards. 5-Minute Dungeon is cute, quick and quirky, it can be taught in less time than it takes to play it and it can make a great distraction between other games.
One of the older games on this list, but by no means one of the lesser, Tsuro is a 2-8 player tile laying game that challenges each player with laying a tile in front of their stone, which represents their dragon. With each tile placed, another section of road opens up, to the end of which players must move their stone.
The challenge comes from keeping their stone in play longer than the other players; if a stone reaches any side of the board, they are out of the game. Simple, fast and a great choice if you have a higher than average player count. There are very few rules, the gameplay is largely intuitive and most games last around 15 minutes, so multiple matches can be the order of the day.
This tile drafting game seemed to come out of nowhere a few years back and it has proven popular with new and veteran players alike. While there are now several variations of Azul available, the original would be my pick to introduce to new players. Accommodating 2-4 players, Azul is an efficient game with clear goals and players’ choices matter.
Making hard decisions ups the stakes and does so in a way that is safe and enjoyable. The tiles have a satisfying heft to them and the drafting mechanic is a great opportunity to discuss other gameplay mechanics in modern games. Being an abstract game means there is no real theme to confuse players and I doubt anyone could be offended by laying tiles… could they??
This one is my first choice when introducing new players to board games. Takenoko packs a lot of game in it’s cute, colourful box. The little panda and gardener figures really stand out, as do the brightly painted wooden bamboo shoots that players attempt to grow.
The gardening and panda-care themes are delightful and appeal to all ages, as players attempt to expand and tend the Imperial gardens, grow bamboo in the three colours, and keep the panda well fed in an attempt to complete as many objectives as they can before one player triggers the final round, after which all completed objectives are tallied up to determine the winner. Simple, colourful furry fun! Beyond being a great game on it’s own merits, Takenoko makes for a fantastic centrepiece that draws the eye and keeps players’ attention as they watch their garden expand.
3. King of Tokyo
If you’ve ever played Yahtzee then you’re already halfway there when it comes to King of Tokyo. This dice rolling, push-your-luck game of Kaiju caricatures fighting for control of Tokyo is always popular at game nights. The rules take mere minutes to teach, then players are away! Depending on the number of players a game can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
Each player selects their favourite giant, city-stomping monster standee, sets their dial to track their health and victory points and then get to work rolling a set of six dice, trying to gain victory points, deal damage to their fellow creatures, heal, or gain power tokens they can use to buy new powers that can aid in their attempts to crown themselves the King (or Queen) of Tokyo. Similar to Yahtzee, players have up to three tries to roll what they need and can keep or discard any previous rolls until their final attempt. No matter how it turns out though, everyone wins because this game is awesome!
An abstract strategy game for 2-4 players, Sagrada has players drafting colourful transparent dice which represent the colours and shades (denoted by the number on the dice) of pieces of glass used to create the gorgeous stained glass windows of the famed Basílica de la Sagrada Familia in Spain. Each player begins with a player board and a card of varying challenge levels which indicate patterns the players must attempt to create using a shared pool of dice.
There are fixed rules denoting how the dice can be placed but in each game three randomly selected tool cards are available that allow players to “break” the rules for a single placement. At the end of the game, points are scored based on how complete the window is, and which of the three objectives selected at the start of the game the players managed to achieve. Colourful, challenging, easy to learn and difficult to master, Sagrada is a pleasure to play with new or experienced players.
1. The Isle of Cats
This popular strategy game has players rescuing cats from an island and placing them aboard their seafaring ships over five rounds before an evil rogue vessel makes it to the island. In The Isle of Cats, these languishing felines are represented by polyomino pieces, which, for those who haven’t heard of these before, are basically Tetris style tiles in varying shapes. The challenge for players is to fit as many of these tiles into their ships as possible. Points are awarded for collecting “families” of cats i.e.: cats of the same colour and achieving objectives.
The game can be played in two ways, the Standard rules, which have players purchasing cats using fish as currency and working towards a larger variety of more complex objectives, or the Family rules which do away with the purchasing mechanic and many of the other more strategic elements, resulting in a more streamlined experience for new or younger players. A wonderful game with an intriguing theme and gorgeous production quality, there’s a ton of replayability here and new players will be setting sail to The Isle of Cats time and again!
Welp, that’s it for this week! I hope you’ve found something here to entice new gamers to your group or help elevate existing players to a whole new level of board gaming. In the meantime let me know your favourite games to teach new players in the comments below and, as always, thanks for joining me here in my den and I’ll see you all next time!