Gaming 101 is a series of articles designed for new gamers. It will cover all the basics of gaming – from choosing a beginner’s game to hosting your first game night. Have something you want to see in Gaming 101? Email us or leave a note in the forums.
Great Introductory Games
In our last article, we talked about what separates so-called Designer Games from more traditional games like Monopoly or Battleship. If you’ve made it this far, I’m going to assume that you’re interested in hearing more. That’s great! I can talk about this stuff all day.
(But I won’t.)
Any hobby can be overwhelming at first, and gaming is no different. There are so many games out there – 2012 saw the release of about 1000 – that choosing where to begin can feel like building a life-size spaceship out of Legos.
You know that you have to start somewhere, but you’re just not sure which “somewhere” is best. Choose a bad introductory game, and your exploration of the hobby might end before it even begins.
But games can be good or bad for all sorts of reasons, and what I think of as a great intro game might not be your thing at all. The best path when starting out would be to ask someone you trust and know personally. If you have some gamer friends or family, go to them.
If not, though, don’t worry. We’re here to help. Previously, I’ve outlined some things to look for when choosing an introductory, or “gateway”, game. Below, I’ve listed a few gateway games that you might like. I was careful to describe why I chose them and also included some suggestions on which game you should pick to get started based on your previous experience with classic board and card games, like Monopoly or Poker.
So, look through this list of games and pick one or two that grab your interest.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride might look childish at first glance, but don’t let the theme fool you. It’s simple, yes, but it’s also fun and easy to learn – both of which are important traits for an intro game.
Ticket to Ride puts you in the role of a railroad tycoon eager to see your trains span the United States. The game board looks like a colorful version of old railroad maps, and much like barons of old, it’s your goal to build your rails better and quicker than everyone else. Each turn you have the chance of accumulating colored train cards. When you reach the necessary amounts to lay track segments, you’ll place your pieces on the board and score points for doing so.
Why It’s a Good Gateway Game:
It’s simple, quick, and very engaging. Also, it lets you scale the difficulty with different players, expansions and other location maps in the Ticket to Ride series.
You’ll Like This If:
If you’re a fan of games that ask you to place tokens, like Battleship, you might like this one. Other games that don’t involve conflict, like Clue, are good predecessors.
Settlers of Catan
Any list of gateway games would be remiss to leave off Settlers of Catan. This is THE gateway game, and it’s likely the only one you’ll find on your average store shelf.
What it’s about:
Settlers is a simple yet elegant bargaining and territory control game. You are new arrivals on the island of Catan, and you’re looking to generate the most territorial influence. This means that your goal is to control the largest area of the map, and that you have to trade with other players in order to do so. The Settlers game board consists of orthogonal tiles. Each tile contains a resource, such as wood or wheat, and a number. You use resources to build settlements and roads at the the intersections of the tiles. You’ll gain resources depending on which settlements are adjacent to tiles that are activated each turn. A tile is activated when its number is rolled. For instance, if you build a settlement next to a forest tile, you gain more of the wood resource when that tile is activated. So, there’s still a bit of luck here, but obviously some numbers are more likely to appear than others, so strategy plays a part as well.
Why it’s a good gateway game:
Settlers is simple, fast, and engages with the other players.
You’ll like this if:
If you like traditional games that let you collect things, like Monopoly, or barter for things, like Monopoly, you’ll probably like Settlers.
Alhambra doesn’t make it onto a lot of gateway game lists, but it’s still a good choice if you’re looking for something a little different. It’s fast-paced and simple, and you’ll be able to understand it after only a round or two.
What it’s About:
Alhambra lets you build a beautiful medieval palace. Each player starts out with a center fountain tile. From that, players must use their turns to collect money and/or use that money to buy more tiles. Each tile has a separate wing of the palace on it, and different wings are worth different point amounts depending on how many of them there are. Players must then place their tiles correctly adjacent to their center piece so that they are not intersected and, hopefully, so that the walls along the edge of the tile forms one continuous wall. The player with the longest continuous wall gets more points.
Why it’s a good gateway game:
Alhambra combines the idea of basic resource strategy with a non-combative contest among players. It isn’t impossible to interfere with other players slightly, but most of the time people are focusing on advancing their own tile area.
You’ll Like This If:
If you like visual puzzles, you’ll probably enjoy the city-building aspect of this one.
(For a more in depth article on Alhambra, you can read our review of it.)
If any of these games strikes your fancy, it would probably be a great place to start.
What do you do if none of these seems interesting? Well, Gateway Games are the easiest and fastest way to get into board games, but they’re hardly the only way. If your gamer-savvy friends don’t have one that interest you, spend some time browsing your local game store or Amazon and look for something that catches your eye. Then, research it a little more. Make sure that it’s a good game and that the rules are thorough. Then buy it and read the rules. Ask questions in our forums if you have any, or if you want some other suggestions.