What games do the International Ludigang members use to introduce new gamers to the hobby?
True, it is not an unusual question. But it is an important one, and quite frankly also an entertaining question to ponder. Because le’s face it, we all have people around us that aren’t as game savy or as fascinated of pieces of wood and cardboard as most of us are. So let’s see what our gang members have to say in the matter.
Click on the person of your choice to read what they have to say on the subject.
There are a lot of games perfectly suitable for new boardgamers, like Takenoko or Papayoo, that I have used to introduce both family members and others to the boardgaming hobby. But there is one game I never get tired of pulling out when such occasion arises, and that is… Ticket to Ride!
I love it because it’s quite simple to teach and has an ease of play that is suitable for almost all type of gamers. Each turn you only have two actions to choose between, either you draw cards, or you play cards in order to claim a route between two cities. A single choice like that make the game run very smooth. But don’t think for a second that this choice is an easy one. Ticket To Ride has enough both tactical and strategic depth to keep everyone interested, even the more experienced ones.
This level of engagement around the table is a joy to experience and I really get a kick out of seeing new players suddenly realise how tricky this simple game really is. Because you really need to plan ahead, be wary of your opponents’ moves, seize opportunities when they arise and constantly changing your strategy depending on your enemies’ decision.
As Ticket to Ride really is a race game at heart you will feel that special tension around the table, and the ambiance is often a mix of joy and stress. You will constantly look at eachother with suspicion and be cautious until the very end. This aspect of the game make me both love it and feel addicted to it, because as soon as one game is over I want to start another.
And you don’t need to worry about replayability either, since no game will play out the same. But, if you still want more variation, the publisher Days of Wonder sure got you covered. Almost every corner of the globe has gotten its own Ticket to Ride version. I recommend Europe to play with 4 players, Nordic countries when 3 players, and Amsterdam when time is short. There are soooo much more though: Japan, Germany, France, India, UK, even one that cover the entire world… So beware, you probably need a Kallax shelf just for your future Ticket to Ride expansions…
« What introductory games are the best? » is a question I have received many times over the years as I have been a part of the boardgaming hobby for almost two decades. But it really isn´t an easy question to answer because it depends on a wide arrange of variables. Available time, theme, general interest level, and number of new players are all aspects that affect the answer. But there still are some general characteristics that I would say are mandatory for a good introductory game. These are Pleasant table presence to get their attention, Simple rules to not scare them away, and Playing time of less than an hour to not test their patience. Famous introductory games like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Catan have all benefited greatly by sharing these general traits.
My own favorite introductory game is a lesser known title that was released at Essen in 2007, namely Uptown, or Blockers! as the latest incarnation of the game is called. It has a pleasant, muted 1920’s look and at a glance it looks like a scrabble variant. But instead it is a tile laying, area control game with rules that literally take 1 minute to explain. You have five drawn tiles to choose from, you place one, and draw another from your own colored pool of tiles. Each tile has only nice possible spaces where it can be placed, and you are allowed to remove your opponents’ tiles in order to place your own. When everybody has placed all but four tiles the game is over and the winner is the one with the lowest number of islands, i.e. contiguous areas of tiles in their own color. Uptown is fast, super interactive, quite aggressive, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
“What game out of your collection do you use to introduce new gamers to the hobby?” is a question that really preoccupies me. In Dutch we call board games “gezelschapspellen” which roughly translates to “companionship games”. To me this hobby is all about getting together, meeting new people and sharing memorable moments. For this reason, my partner and I love hanging out at “The Playground”, the local board game café in our home city of Antwerp. It’s a place where me and my board game addicted friends can effortlessly mingle with newbies and draw them into the hobby. I have a shortlist of gateway games that each highlight different game mechanism. Because as soon as a newbie finds the game mechanisms they like, they can independently descend further down the rabbit hole. Some of my top-pick games for introducing newbies to the hobby are Azul, Sushi Go, Downforce, Fuse, Century: Spice Road, Hanabi, Bärenpark,…
When a newbie is prepared to sit through a lengthier rules explanation, I offer them to play Istanbul. This game pits players against each other as rivalling traders in an Eastern souk. Who will become wealthy the fastest?
When this game came out in 2014 I was still quite a newbie myself and it just “wowed” me. It hasn’t failed to impress others up till now. It combines several modern board game mechanisms like worker placement, grid movement, pick up and deliver,. The major strong point of Istanbul is that theme and mechanisms are a great fit and make gameplay intuitive and engaging. The worker placement combined with grid movement makes players really feel as if running around a souk. The game board set-up is variable and finding an optimal path to load, trade and unload goods is key. Still, turns are rarely taken “on repeat”, as several gameplay elements force or entice players to deviate from course:
-A few neutral pawns roam the board and offer benefits upon encounter.
-A few market spots offer quick process, provided you’re lucky with the dice roll.
-When you encounter another player you need to pay them 2 lira or you can’t perform the action.
Furthermore there are two expansions available (or you can even buy a big box edition right away nowadays), so players won’t outgrow Istanbul anytime soon.
All in all Istanbul is not only a race to collect gems, it’s also a gem of a game.
There are games in my collection that rarely hit the table, but that I hang onto for the sole purpose of playing them with non-gamers. Eco Links and Kingdomino are perfect to play with children, Carcassonne is always a crowd pleaser, and a whole mesh of party games are the way to go if, well, you’re having a party with non-gamers.
One game that stands out for me, is Survive: Escape from Atlantis (aka The Island). This is an old game, but it’s always a hit when I bring it to the table for new gamers. Survive: Escape from Atlantis was first released in 1982, but it has gotten some new editions over the years. It feels like you’re playing a scenario of an ‘80s disaster movie. In Survive: Escape from Atlantis players get to manage a group of explorers who are trying to escape from the long lost island of Atlantis that is slowly yet steadily sinking into the ocean. There are a few boats, but not enough for everyone, you can use to try to make your way to the shore, and of course, you can always swim.
On your turn, you get to move one of your explorers or a boat with at least one of your explorers. But there are whales that crash the boats and sharks that eat the swimmers and a big scary sea monster that does all of the above. Players get to remove a tile from the island (effectively making the island smaller and smaller, forcing explorers (preferably your opponents’) into the water. A die roll determines whether you get to move a whale, a shark or the sea monster. And of course you will try to move the creatures away from your own swimmers and in the path of your opponents. It is a game that feels tense because you will lose explorers, but you will also cause opponents to lose explorers. And you can do all of this while using Jaws quotes, like “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” or humming the Jaws theme when you move one of the sharks. It just adds to the overall fun this game brings to the table. You will laugh, you will shout, you will plead for the life of your poor little explorers.
It has luck, it has take-that, but to my surprise, this goes over smoothly with my non-gamer guests. Maybe because they are used to games with negative interaction and luck of the dice by playing games like Monopoly and Risk. We all have to start our journey into the world of modern boardgames somewhere, right?
Almost everyone one has played a board game at one time or another. Wether it’s a traditional family game of monopoly or that ancient copy of scrabble under the bed. Hobby games though are a different kettle of fish. They can be intimidating to those more used to the mass market end of the spectrum. But we all want to introduce our friends to this wonderful hobby don’t we? Sitting them down in front of Twilight Imperium and telling them to clear their schedule for the next 8 hours will probably not have the desired effect! No, to ease them in and get them hooked we need a gateway game!
Gateway games loosely speaking are hobby games that are light in complexity. It’s ideal if they’re simple to learn and quick to play too. Most important though is that they’re enjoyable for all players. What game do we often turn to when enticing our friends away from the dubious pleasures of Pictionary or Cluedo? Splendor!
Splendor hits all the right notes. The core concepts are easy to grasp. There’s limited available actions so it’s not overwhelming to newbies. It does though have fully formed hobby game mechanics such as engine building and resource management. Turns are fast and it’s highly competitive with the shared card market which tends to keep everybody engaged. Most importantly though it’s fun and addictive so new players usually want to play again immediately. From there it’s a short hop to slightly meatier games like Stone Age or 7 Wonders. Before you know it the poor fools have spent their life savings on Kallax shelves and are remortgaging their house to pay for their new board game addiction. Mwahahahaaa!
For me, that entry level game is Codenames (in any of its many versions available). I’ve utilized this game on multiple occasions to introduce non gamers into this wonderful hobby, and needless to say, it’s one of the best out there. It combines word play (which is a very easy mechanic to learn), and also introduces tension in a fun way. Beside this awesome characteristics, it’s easily THE best party game you can play with anyone, making this title THE ONE they always remember and keep very close to their hearts.
But why is it so engaging? Well, establishing teams and roles is essential in this game. Determining which one of your teammates will be the person responsible for giving all the clues is KEY to victory. This is because this member (the spy master) has to assume (in most cases….mmm it occurs always, who am I fooling XD) how the other team members think and how they will translate the clue he’s giving. This is particularly engaging and part of the main attraction of Codenames.
It’s simply great fun to watch all the people participate in this game because you can observe in detail how these non-gamers sprout and surely become more and more interested in « non traditional board games ». I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me asking: -« When are we playing Codenames again? It’s so much fun! I can’t wait! »…. It’s the most amazing feeling you can possibly imagine, and it makes you proud to have shown your hobby to people that once didn’t know more games besides UNO, Chess and Monopoly.
Please, if you haven’t tried this game, what are you waiting for? This is the one responsible for my gaming group… all its members were non-gamers once.. but now, they know and enjoy boardgaming in a way you can possibly imagine.
If I have to take just one box out of the library my first choice is always Azul, the original one of the trilogy, mostly because it’s simple enough to be learned in a few minutes and everyone can easily play well since the very first game.
You are a portoguese tile-laying artist and you have been charged to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace of Evor by King Manuel I. You have just one simple option: take one (or more) acrylic pieces of one colour and place it on the player board in order to complete the grid and scoring point by placing them on your wall.
The first thing that makes Azul so catchy is how good looking is this game: the azulejos are really beautiful to look at and they feel very nice while handling them around the table, plus they also sound good when you shake the bag to mix them up! It is a game that really satisfies at least three of your five senses, unless you don’t sniff and taste the azulejos to make it a complete experience!
Azul also offers some “good” interaction between players that is always entertaining to play with if you want to spice things up a little bit but it’s not a mandatory behaviour to pursue. But if you want to pave your road to victory, leaving to other players a bunch of tiles from a color they can’t place anymore in order to make them lose some points is always a good move! Azul is my favorite abstract game because it is very suitable for many different gaming experiences. It can be enjoyed from the newbie to the regular gaming group that have just about an hour and still want to play some crunchy game. I teached Azul to many people as of today, including my mother and she’s definitely not a regular boardgamer, and everyone enjoyed it a lot! I tried with my dad too but no success as we were five at the table so he stepped out of the game! But my mission to teach Azul to him still continues, maybe one day..
Azul also offers some “good” interaction between players that is always entertaining to play with if you want to spice things up a little bit but it’s not a mandatory behaviour to pursue. But if you want to pave your road to victory, leaving to other players a bunch of tiles from a color they can’t place anymore in order to make them lose some points is always a good move!
Azul is my favorite abstract game because it is very suitable for many different gaming experiences. It can be enjoyed from the newbie to the regular gaming group that have just about an hour and still want to play some crunchy game.
I teached Azul to many people as of today, including my mother and she’s definitely not a regular boardgamer, and everyone enjoyed it a lot! I tried with my dad too but no success as we were five at the table so he stepped out of the game! But my mission to teach Azul to him still continues, maybe one day..