Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gateway

The best board & card games to introduce non-gamers to the hobby...


Also nominated:
For comparison purposes, the top five games from 2002:

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7 Comments:

Blogger Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

No real surprises in the top five (all are, IMHO, excellent choices)... but a couple of surprises in the nominees.

One pleasant - Around the World In 80 Days is delightful. One not - I just do not get the "love" for Ingenious.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

There are two categories of "gateway" games in my opinion.

There are the sort of "fake" gateway games. These are the ones that, in my extremely prejudiced opinion, suck people in because they are familiar. They draw on concepts like melding and tile-laying that are familiar from our cultural games like Rummy, Dominoes, etc. They are more "compromise" games than gateway games; people who aren't hardcore games can play and enjoy them because they are familiar, while hobbyist gamers can generally find enough in them to enjoy them well enough also. This category includes Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Take it Easy, and Can't Stop.

Then there are the "true" gateway games, the games that open up the gateway to the rest of the modern games. For me, these are games like Modern Art, Settlers, Ingeneous, Samurai, Blue Moon City, San Juan, and Bohnanza, games that very accessible but also can show your prospective gamer what a rich world modern board games are. They are games that you can really suck friends into German-style games with, in my opinion.

So. I'm not a huge Ticket to Ride fan, so that may color my impressions. But it seems to me that Ticket to Ride is a game you can play with your family, but it seems that it won't get them to say "hey, these games are really cool". A game like Modern Art, Settlers, or Samurai can do that.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Wow... excellent comment, Chris. I'd never put it in those terms before, but that does an excellent job of summarizing the way the particular games "work".

I'd add Around the World In 80 Days, Midnight Party, Niagara & Lord of the Rings (Knizia) to my personal "true gateway" games list.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I like Chris's list better than the Apple Pickers' list, with the exception of the overrated duo of Settlers (lose the dice) and Bohnanza (hard to guide newbies thru the hand management rules). Ingenious, Samurai, Modern Art and Blue Moon City are excellent introductions to modern boardgaming. I'll toss in Traumfabrik and the vastly underrated Pueblo as two more games that open eyes to the possibilities in boardgames.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I ironically forgot another really important gateway game: Adel Verpflichtet. It seems that Americans who got sucked into German games at various times, possibly as converts from Avalon Hill-style games or RPGs, came in waves, brought in by one popular game or another. Puerto Rico was the most recent phenomenon. Before that, it was Settlers. And before that, it was Adel Verpflichtet, when it was published by Avalon Hill without even changing the name (it later went by "By Hook or by Crook" when they realized that an unfamiliar and virtually untranslatable German name might not have been the best choice).

Other games I can think of are Basari (now with a US edition from Out of the Box) and ZERTZ. ZERTZ being themeless really isn't in the same category, but most people I've played it with are really amazed by its simplicity and cleverness.

Settlers certainly has its fair share of people who loathe the dice element, but there is no question that it also appeals to a ton of people, and if you knew absolutely nothing about a prospective gamer's tastes and had to take a shot in the dark, Setlers has to be considered a good percentages play.

Bohnanza is a touch fiddly, I agree, and it doesn't go over with everyone. But if people get into the deal-making, it can really suck them in. I've had as much success with Bohnanza as anything else.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

As I told Mark when he announced this category, I don't see our goal actually as being "introducing non-gamers" to "the hobby." The people I introduce to the games I like are *already* gamers; they're merely unfamiliar with most of the games it has been my privilege to know about.

And goodness knows I don't want to introduce them to "the hobby," a phrase which to me calls up the endless stream of internet chatter. Not that I don't enjoy the internet chatter myself, but that's not the point. What I want is to share the joy of sitting down and playing a game together.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

My goal is to get an idea where the person is coming from and then show them something they'll like but didn't imagine existed.

Settlers of Catan is the game that has most often brought about a response in the "Where can I get THAT GAME?" range from the people whose past experience had been limited to the standard American games.

Res Publica, with its unorthodox trading protocol (and resultant potential for laughter), always makes people realize they're thinking in a way they've never thought before. It also has the advantages of minimal set-up time and space needed to play.

Cartagena is so simple to learn and yet reveals its unconventionality in a very charming way. It's a good game for easing people in when they're not confident about tackling a lot of rules. Tsuro is another excellent and even lighter choice for this approach.

Around the World in 80 Days is a big favorite of mine and comes out when I think people will have the patience for it. Like Fabrik der Traume, it's a game where the storyline makes it a snap for new players to internalize the rules and enjoy the atmosphere.

Enjoy,
Stven Carlberg

9:56 AM  

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