Board Game Basics - Where to Start
Almost everyone liked to play board games as a kid. You may have loved crushing your friend's empires in Risk, becoming a world famous sleuth in Clue, or amassing a fortune in Monopoly, but chances are you've had some great experience playing games in your youth. However as you get older these classic games that you loved as a kid lose their shine faster then you can say "roll and move". If you're feeling nostalgic though I've got some good news for you, board games are designed for and played by adults now more than any time in history.
This new breed of "designer" game focuses more on skill than luck and is aimed at an audience who can grasp more complicated rules. In addition to this, the popularity of tabletop gaming has made it more accessible than ever. Target carries a growing selection of "advanced" games and Amazon has everything you could ask for when it comes to games, the only problem is knowing where to start. There is a great resource in BoardGameGeek.com, but it can be overwhelming looking at the thousands of games listed there, even if you only focus on the "top 10" rated games.
That's where I come in. This series of articles is intended to give you a starting point if you've never played a game more advanced than Sorry. I've picked out five great games below to jump you into the hobby. In future articles I'll go more in depth in the board game world explaining terminology, what different types of games are out there, and where to go after getting your feet wet. So read on and welcome to the world of board gaming!
What is it: Catan (also known as Settlers of Catan) is the granddaddy of gateway games and the reason a whole generation got into gaming. Players take turns building settlements and cities on the island of Catan in a race to score 10 points, which are gained from the aforementioned cities. You build using resources that are randomly generated with each roll of the die and various locations on which each player's buildings are located.
Why you should play it: This may seem like a straight forward game of "roll and build" but the real fun comes from the fact that you can trade resources with other players at any time. This can lead to some shrewd negotiations and lead to either a game of friendly trading or cutthroat alliances depending on your group's play style. When you factor in that there is a plethora of expansions, Catan is a great place to start.
What classic game is it like: Monopoly
What is it: The biggest gateway game next to Catan, Ticket to Ride is quickly becoming a favorite for introducing people to the world of board games. In this one, you take turns trying to build railroad lines across the US by collecting sets of colored rail car cards that match the color of tracks you want to build. When one player uses all their train pieces up, everyone scores points based on how many of their rail lines they finished.
Why you should play it: Combining the strategy of finishing railways before your opponents and not knowing if their routes will conflict with yours make this a simple yet rewarding experience.
What classic game(s) is it like: Traditional playing card games
What is it: This one might be a little sillier than the first 2 games on the list but it's just as fun.
Each player controls a giant monster attacking Tokyo. Each turn players roll 6 dice (with 2 re-rolls allowed) that let them either score points, attack other players, heal themselves, or gain energy to buy various upgrades.
Why you should play it: First off, if you're a fan of giant monster movies this is a no-brainer. It
lovingly plays homage to classic giant monster tropes. The game is also played pretty quickly even with 6 players, so if you get knocked out by Bob's atomic fire breath you won't feel too bad.
What classic game is it like: Yahtzee
What is it: In a dystopian future a small band of freedom fighters plan to take down Big Brother, but what they don't know is that there are spies in their midst. Everyone is dealt a secret role at the start of the game either resistance or spy, then players take turns sending groups of players on missions where they secretly choose pass or fail. One fail sinks the whole mission, so it's vital to figure out who is a spy (or keep other players from guessing if you are a spy). First team to win three missions wins the game.
Why you should play it: If you like social deduction party games like Werewolf or Mafia this one is for you. Players get to make a case for their team each turn and then everyone votes on whether or not to let them go, so expect a lot of tense arguing to convince everyone that you are not a spy and have the group's best interest at heart (just kidding you really are a spy, don't let tell anyone else).
What classic game(s) is it like: Werewolf, Clue
What is it: A global contagion has broken out across the globe and it's up to you and your friends to stop it! In this game players work cooperatively against the game to move around the world collecting cards to cure the outbreak. The game has a built in AI in the form of a deck of cards that act as both a timer and indicator of when and where new outbreaks happen. It's vital players use each others' special skills and work together or everyone loses.
Why you should play it: Most likely if you are unfamiliar with current board games the concept
of a co-operative game might seem foreign to you. However, if you've gotten tired of blowing up your friends with eye lasers, accusing them of being filthy liars, or just crushing them under the weight of your economic empire, you might enjoy actually working with them for a change.
What classic game(s) is it like: Those terrible team building games your guidance counselor made you play in grade school, except actually fun.