Over the years, I have played a wide variety of board games and have a lot in my collection. I have pure Euro games and bit dice chucking Amerithrash games. This got me thinking about the different types of gamers that people are and which …
Tag: Ticket to Ride
When buying gifts, sometimes I do that to try and improve someone’s collection of games, and by that, I mean to move beyond the likes of the Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland that most househoulds have had, and take those people who like games, but give them some more options to play. I’m going to be skipping Catan, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Carcassone for this list, because those are the most obvious options, and I highly recommend them all. But what are some other games that offer some interesting play?
Escape Room Games
With this, I’m mainly talking about Unlock and Exit, because I’ve played both of those series, and I really highly recommend Unlock. In fact, Unlock has a new Star Wars box that is out, so a theme that will even standout. These games are basically little escape rooms in a box. Now, that doesn’t mean that they are easier than an escape room since they are smaller, they can be really tricky with hidden clues and figuring out how to use the information that you’ve found together. But this is a great family activity sort of a game. You can only play each of them once, but they work really well for casual groups and are really engaging throughout. Unlock is nice because you could play it in your group and then pass it to another group because you don’t destroy anything. Exit you do often destroy part of the game to figure out a puzzle or two or three. I also like Unlock because while both of them are time based for how well you do, Unlock has an app with a count down timer that just makes it smoother, versus Exit where the time is counting up.
I’ve talked about a lot of roll and writes, and this actually isn’t one, but it has a bit of that feel to it. In this game, you are drafting a dinosaur meeple from a handful of them that you have, and then based on how a die is rolled placing it on the board into a pen. Some pens want all different dinosaurs, some want all of one type or pairs of dinosaurs. It’s a fast little game that works really well for drafting and is pretty easy to keep track of because everyone will end up with the same number of dinosaurs on their board. There are other drafting games out there that are solid as well. I always recommend Sushi Go Party! as well, but that one can, at times get muddled because if people don’t draft at the same speed someone can end up ahead or behind and it’s harder to count it out. Draftosaurus doesn’t offer the variety, but it is a very simple game that can be played with a wide variety of ages.
I was torn on this one between Splendor and Homebrewers, I actually prefer Homebrewers by a fair amount, but it’s just a bit more complex and the theme won’t be for everyone. In Splendor, you are renaissance jewelers who are going out and getting the best jewels. You start out by taking one time use jewels, and then you can buy a jewel card for a cost of your one time use jewels. Those jewel cards then give you a permanent jewel of that color that you can use to buy more jewels. And your goal is to get the jewel cards that score points and be the first to fifteen. The game is simple and it works well. Generally, there isn’t anything that stands out as making this game amazing, but there is also nothing to knock about it. Something on par with it would be the city building game of Machi Koro that would work as well. If the people you know already have those games (or one of them) and might be looking for a step up, Homebrewers is great, or Century: Golem Edition, of the brewing theme doesn’t work.
King of Tokyo
Sometimes you just want some dice chucking fun, and King of Tokyo is that. In this game you take on being a Kaiju who is battle other Kaiju. Think Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Here, you are trying to be the king of Tokyo by either knocking out the rest of the monsters or by winning via victory points. While I have seen people win via victory points, most of the time, it’s smashing. If you are outside of Tokyo you can only hit the monster in Tokyo, if you’re in Tokyo you can hit everyone else. But the downside to being in Tokyo is that you can’t heal, so as you are getting hit by everyone, you need to know when to drop out and let someone else go into Tokyo so you don’t die. It’s a fun push your luck dice chucking game. You can also buy upgrades that allow you to do more damage, or a one time boost to victory points or something like that, so you have a lot of different strategies depending on what cards show up. They also have some expansions that add more monsters and more things to do in the game.
This could be Silver Amulet, Bullet, Coin, or Dagger, you can take your pick. If you have a bigger group of people you can play with, Dagger would be very good, if you’d mainly just be playing with with two, I like Amulet and Bullet better for that. This game is a push your luck type and take that type of game, so it might not be for everyone. Everyone starts with a village of five cards face down in front of them. They can look at two of them, and the goal is to go down in the number of cards and have the fewest cards when a vote is called for. To do that, you will either draw a card or take a card from the discard pile on the turn. If you draw it and it has a flip ability, cards 5 through 12 have them in every game, you can either add it to your village or use that ability. Cards 0 through 4 have a flipped up ability, so if they are in your village facing up, you can use their ability. But how do you get down in cards, you can trade in two of the same number for another number. So you do try and rush that, if you can figure out you have decent cards so you can call for the vote before other people can change up their village too much. It’s a fun game, plays fast and all of them can be mixed and matched together, so get two and you have a ton of different combinations that you can play.
Now, there are a lot more games. I realized that I could have easily mentioned games like Marvel United, which I mentioned before by a list, Dominion or Ascension for a deck building game, Small World, Deception Murder in Hong Kong, a whole slew of roll and write games and more. There are plenty of really good options that can help encourage and engage new gamers to maybe look beyond the standard games that were a part of a lot of our youths, and that aren’t too intimidating.
We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find here): These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100 If a game you love isn’t …
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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We’re in a new year, so I want to talk about New Years sort of things at least for the next two days. With the new year, we often want to pick up a new hobby or a new good habit (or end a bad habit), so how do you pick up a new hobby?
Now, there are plenty of things that we can start as a new nerdy hobby, maybe you want to start playing Dungeons and Dragons, get into board games, or read more Sci-Fi books. But where you jump into them can be pretty tricky for some of them. So how do you pick that starting point of joining into a hobby that already has a lot of people in it?
Let’s use, what I know well, board games, as an example. In 2019 there were thousands of board games that were published, and that’s just last year. And in that, there were thousands of bad board games published, so if you are getting into the hobby, what should you be looking for? Is there some proper starting place?
It is going to be overwhelming to jump in, but thankfully, there are a lot of articles out there about good starting places for board games. So to start with board games or any hobby, I’d use Google and simply research, “Introductory…” and it’ll give you some good options. Now, that might seem off, because you want to play the best board games, so maybe you would go to somewhere like Board Game Geek, which will probably come up in search results, and just buy games in the top 10, but a lot of those are much bigger and heavier games, and the same with picking the most popular Sci-Fi or anything, it is going to lean more into what those who are already steeped in the hobby like.
The other reason that you want introductory is that while the games aren’t always cheaper, they are going to be teach you about the hobby. So something like Carcassone teaches you tile placement, how games can have various ways to score, and generally gets you to a point where you can understand board games better, and the different introductory games are going to be good at teaching different things. Catan can teach you about probability and resource management. Ticket to Ride is about set collection, route building, and there are so many other intro games that teach other things.
But, maybe you won’t like all of the introductory games, so should you really go out and get all of these games? You will probably find some that you don’t love, so did you just waste money? Thankfully, if you’re in a larger town/city, you might have a couple of options. A lot of larger cities are going to have gaming stores. These places often has games that you can just try or the employees should be willing to open up a game and teach you how it’s played a little bit so you have an idea before you purchase the game. Also there are other spots that you can try and game. A lot of breweries are going to have some games, and while you might mainly find Cribbage and Cards Against Humanity, I’ve seen Catan at a lot of them as well. And who knows what gems you might find there. Also, you can look on Facebook or other places used to schedule Meetups (again Board Game Geek could help) and you can find a public one in your area that you can join. I’m in a city, so there are more options, but in more rural areas, you might be able to at least connect with people who are already in the hobby. But use these ways to start playing the introductory games and then when you have a better idea of what you like, you can get some.
Now, that section seems fairly specific for board games, but it works well for D&D as well. For something like Sci-Fi, this would be the library. Get a library card and check out books that are different types of Sci-Fi to see what sort you want, maybe you want the hard core scientific Sci-Fi, or maybe you prefer one that focuses like on the science aspect and is more a grand space adventure. Who knows, maybe your library even has a Sci-Fi book club or would have up a poster for one. There are always groups around for various nerdy things, whether it’s in person or an online forum that you can join as well and ask questions. Now, it’s the internet so there will be people who get annoyed because you aren’t already into the hobby like they are so you’re stepping on their turf and wasting time by asking questions, and while it’ll seem like they stick out more than anyone, it is really less people than those who want to grow the hobby, so ignore the trolls.
This is all a good way that you can start and it helps get rid of some of the chafe that might be less than ideal stuff to dive into to start. But any hobby, unless it’s something with technology that is brand new, is going to have a lot to dive into. So it’ll seem intimidating when you’re jumping. And you’re going to run across games or books or DM’s or whatever it is that you don’t like. Don’t let that drive you off and don’t let those people who feel like it’s their hobby and because you’re just joining keep you from joining the hobby. It might take you time to find the area of it that you like, so the last piece of advice is patience. And with that, if you don’t like part of it, move on and try another part of it, if you don’t love heavy Sci-Fi, go and try some more adventure type Sci-Fi, if you don’t like deckbuilding, try area control games, if you don’t like playing a wizard try playing a fighter. Experiment until you find something that you like more. And maybe the hobby won’t be for you, but there is so much diversity in all of these hobbies now in different types of things that hopefully there will be something for you.
I could talk more about this topic, but I don’t want to overwhelm someone who wants to get into a new hobby. To summarize, try and find an existing local community that can help you or a good online community. Try a wide range from the hobby you want to join, and while everything might not be for you, find what is for you.
If you’ve already gone through this process, what other simple tips do you recommend?
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