Top 10 – Gateway Games
First, what’s a gateway game, before I get into my list? These can also be call introductory games or family weight games. Basically, these are games that you can pull out and play with mom and dad or your cousins or anyone who isn’t that familiar with gaming because the rules are easy enough and there’s something familiar about them and they can learn them. It’s what some people like to use to get people into heavier games over time, but I think that they also are games that have enough going on that they aren’t completely boring to a heavier gamer, but not so difficult that they can’t wrap their head around them. So let’s see the list.
10 – Ascension
Now, a lot of people would have Dominion on this list, but I have an issue with Dominion as an intro deck building game. An experienced player can look at the combination of cards and quickly see the best combo, a new player will not get that strategy for a while, and therefore can be stomped. In Ascension because there isn’t a fixed market of cards, I think it works better as an gateway game. And the fantasy theme is as interesting to new gamers as a middle ages theme, so either works for that. In Ascension you are building up your deck of cards and creating combos, and while Ascension’s combos can be complex if you chain things together or remember to play cards in a certain order, the game is also pretty forgiving with that, and someone can simply focus on combat and killing monsters if they don’t want to try a combo strategy and do just fine. That’s the other thing about this compared to Dominion that works better, you kill monsters, which is a mechanic that people can understand for gaining points instead of the more abstracted set-up of adding provinces to your deck that at the end of the game will give you points.
9 – Century: Golem Edition
An engine building hand management game, you could also do Century: Spice Road, but the Golem Edition is cuter and has more interesting artwork. In this game, you’re just buying cards that will help you get the gems you want, playing those cards to turn gems into other colored gems and hope to get the right combination of gems or plan to, to get a Golem, after someone has 5 Golems, the person with the most points from the Golem and coins wins. The game can have an advantage to someone who understands strategy better because you can customize your engine more so for being able to play cards to get the most gems possible and better colored gems, but a quick explanation or why some cards, especially ones that produce gems are really good, and everyone will be on a pretty even playing field. Plus, the game is fast, so after a play the strategy should make more sense and it’s one that people will probably want to play again.
8 – The Grimm Masquerade
A simple deduction game where you are all characters from Grimm Fairy Tales trying to get what you need, figure out who other people are, and be the last one standing to get points. It’s pretty simple, if you are a character you want to get three of one item, the rose of your The Beast from Beauty and The Beast or the slipper if you’re Cinderella, but then you also have something that you don’t want to get. If you get two of those you’re out of the round. The game works on two simple mechanics. You get two cards on a turn, drawing one you decide to keep it or give it away, then you draw another one and do the opposite thing. Then, if you have a pair of matching cards in front of you, you can spend those cards to take a special action, and the special actions are simple, and most of the time it’s accusing/guessing which character someone else is. If you get it right, you get points, if you’re the last one standing, you get points, and after three rounds, whomever has the most points wins. It’s a lot of fun, and you can accuse other people, which is fun, especially when you’re accusing them of being a fairy tale character.
7 – Homebrewers
The newest game, I think that’s going to be on the list. Homebrewers is a quick engine building game, but does some things that really work well. It gives you an easy mode where everyone is the same and you don’t have special powers. For brand new players, this would be how you teach it. The player board has player aides on it, so even though it’s symbols it’s pretty simple. And, the game has dice. Dice are oddly one of those things that make a game seem more familiar, and make it more gateway often because the dice are going to take away from the amount of decision making you have to do. In Homebrewers, it certainly does that as you roll your dice, and you can pay to change dice faces or trade dice, but you roll them once, unless you get 3 of the same side, then you can roll again, and that’s what you can do on your turn. Plus, for an engine building game, it plays very fast, and the theme is fun.
6 – Dice Throne (Season 1 and 2)
One of the classic games that people know well is Yahtzee. You roll three times keeping dice each time, and then whatever you end up with, you use that to score some points. Dice Throne is a slightly, very slightly, more complex version of that where it adds in some card play to it as well, very simple based off of combat points for how you play the cards, and has a nice cheat sheet. You’re going to see and probably have already seen me mention cheat sheets a lot. Dice Throne also works because while it does have a fantasy theme, which can be a turn off for some people, it’s a pretty quick game, and there’s good back and forth to it. Now, when introducing this to people, I’d probably either do teams or do 1 vs 1, because targeting becomes tricky otherwise, though, you can just do king of the hill style targeting for whom you fight. It’s also fun because they do a good job of laying out difficulty level for characters, so you can start off teaching and playing with simpler characters and then move to more complex.
5 – The Lost Expedition
The highest cooperative game on the list, and this one does have a fair number of symbols to keep track of. I try and keep that at a minimum because that can be tricky for some people. However, in The Lost Expedition, they have one of the best cheat sheets (player aides) out there, so it makes it much easier to teach. The only odd thing that can trip people up is hiking difference between morning and evening, basically when you put the cards in numerical order or not. But because cards are laid down from your hand without it being discussed, it’s just the person’s own choice, that means that you can correct how things are done if you are the person who knows the game. This is also nice because if you find out that one of the people you are teaching might be an alpha player, the lack of discussion of playing cards for the hike keeps everyone engaged in the game and the alpha player from being able to alpha game.
4 – Sushi Go Party!
A lot of drafting games on the list coming up, though not all of them card drafting. Sushi Go Party! is a great intro game because you can level up the difficulty as you go. There are some cards, especially in the specials, that are just more difficult to explain, so you can leave those out. But the game is extremely cute with the anthropomorphic foods, and it stands out on the table. The scoring, like I said, can be a little bit funky, but if you go with the base set of the game, what came in Sushi Go!, you’ll have a pretty easy to teach game. And the fact that everyone is playing at the same time is helpful because it means that for the people who aren’t the biggest game lovers they don’t have time to get bored between their turns.
3 – Point Salad
A simple little card game that plays fast, but plays differently and encourages people to think about their strategies and adjust them each game. But it’s a cute game, and that is part of what makes it a good gateway game. You’re making a salad, it’s a silly theme, but it’s one that people understand. And it teaches some card drafting. But, because, the cards rotate as much as they do, you can’t build the biggest strategy. It’s also one, with the concept of either taking a scoring card or taking two veggies, that people can understand how that works. The game play is as simple as that, and all the cards are up on the table, so there’s no hidden information that if someone doesn’t fully get something, it can’t be explained without giving the “expert” in the game an advantage.
2 – Welcome To…
This one is probably the most complex game that I’m putting on the list, and it’s not that complex. It’s mainly that the player aid for helping you know what cards do isn’t that great. But when you can teach it by using a city building, neighborhood building example, it’s again something that people recognize, and they can get the hang of it. In the game all you’re doing is putting house numbers in numerical order and then fencing off neighborhoods, building parks, and putting in pools. Again, all concepts that are pretty straight forward, and when you’re done, you have your little town. Now, some of the rest of them are a bit more complex, but overall, it’s not difficult to explain and play.
1 – Sagrada
This dice drafting game has one important thing going for it for being a good gateway game, it looks amazing on the table. The translucent dice just pop and turn what would be a good looking game into an amazing one. Why this one works well is that the rules are pretty simple, you grab out 5 dice (in a two player game) you roll them, you take one and put it on your board, the next person takes one and then it snakes back with one die being leftover at the end. You’re just trying to fill in a pattern that you’ve been given. Now, the powers can be a bit more difficult to explain, but there are some easy ones in there, and I start with those. And the scoring is simple, plus when you’re done, you have something that is familiar to most people, a stained glass window.
Now, I know this is a top 10 list, and I want to talk about why some games weren’t on here. Ticket to Ride, Catan, Carcassone, and Smallworld are all amazing gateway games, however, this is based off of the games that I like, and they just missed the list. There is also the fact that a lot of people have already played at least some of those games so they are somewhat familiar with them. These are other games that you can play to branch out from those slightly older though still good gateway games. You’ll also notice that as compared to my Top 10 games of all times or games that are showing up on a lot of other lists, most of these have more mundane themes. Stained glass windows, building a town, or food. And while that might not lend itself to that much story, it is something that doesn’t seem as nerdy to a lot of people and something that they can more easily grasp onto.
So what are some games that you’ve had success with as gateway games? Are there any that you’d really recommend?
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