I have been asked a few times now about what games we play and what should people get to start out with. I tell them we started out almost blind, I say almost because Board Game Geek is a wonderful resource with lots of info on games and useful video reviews and playing help.
So I think back on how we started and where we are now, what games we introduce people to and the situations. From this I have compiled a short list of games with some notes on why they are good and what situations they are best in.
The lists are not intended as a ranking of the games, just my thoughts on what are good games to start out on because they are good games with concepts that can be built on to play other games of greater depth or complexity. Some of these will also be good in other categories so I shall note that in the description.
Ticket to Ride is a great way to start family gaming. Players are competing to take train trips. There are two base versions of the game, the original USA or Europe. The Europe set is more competitive, so if starting out get the USA version. Play is by collecting sets of cards that make up the routes of your trip. You then place small rail cars in your colour on the track sections of the routes you claim on the board. Fun, a little competitive, with good replayability. Many expansions now available.
This is a great introduction to cooperative games, where all players are playing as a team against the game. This game is themed around recovering 4 ancient treasures from a sinking lost island. Players have different roles and abilities and they use these to keep the island afloat, collect clues about finding the treasures, then recover the treasures and escape the island. The game is quick playing and easy to learn. It is good where children are competitive to get them working together. This is a well presented game with good replayability. It has the ability to increase the difficulty level as you get more experienced.
Monopoly Deal (The Card Game)
Monopoly might seem dull with many bad memories, yet this card game version is the complete opposite. Fast playing, it plays 2-4 quickly, having enough of the theme and flavour of Monopoly harnessed to a whole new mechanism. Fortunes can fluctuate quickly, and even if you are losing you can still cause pain to the loser. Games are quick, 15-20 minutes each. This game is inexpensive and portable, could be played in the car, on a plane, over lunch at work.
This is the original 2-player version of Lost Cities. A fast play card game with an optional board, players are trying to collect sets of cards. As easy as this sounds the strategy behind how you collect and place cards while deciding what to shed from your hand will keep you playing over and over. This game is clever, simple, and portable.
This game is a regular favourite. It plays 3-10 people, 5-7 being probably the ideal. You play like a cooperative game, yet in your ranks are traitors trying to sabotage your digging of a mine for gold nuggets. Players use a hand of cards to place on the table top to dig the mine. The cards have various types of tunnel depicted, some helpful, some not. The traitors start to reveal themselves by blocking tunnels with cave-ins, breaking tools, and creating dead-ends. The game is simple to play, plays in around 15 minutes for a round (a complete game is 3 rounds if you want). This game is fun and introduces bluffing, deception and intrigue in a fun and light way.
The original game played 3-6 players, the new Dixit Odyssey plays up to 12 players. In short, this game is about getting to know how others think, a little creative thought is required to play well. The game comprises a large deck of over sized cards, each with truly unique and unusual art works on them. Players try and understand how each other thinks in a fun and light manner. This is a wonderful game which can test your knowledge of other players, your creative thinking and your observation skills. Excellent fun.
Do you dislike competitive scrabble players? Do you like having to think of impossible words?
Bananagrams may be for you. It is a word game, yet unlike scrabble it is quick and tests your creativity under pressure more than your knowledge. Players start with a number of letter tiles, the remaider are upside down in the table centre. All players at the same time you are trying to make a crossword of all their letters. If you finish everyone draws an additional letter tile randomly. Want to get rid of a letter put it in the centre and grab to other random tiles. Need to change your puzzle to fit in new letters or see a better way, no problem just do it. Play finishes the moment their are no tiles in the centre and one player has finished his puzzle.
There are no points, no time to look up dictionaries, it is first player finished. I like this game.
Strategy & Euro Games
This is a very simple game, yet the strategy is very suitable for adults as well as children. Themed around Penguins getting fish for dinner, the play is quick, easy to learn, and the game short and rewarding. See my review.
This was one of our first euro games, and is still a favourite. The game is based around tile placement to create a series of roads, cities plus farms to place your workers on to score points. The game is simple, with lots of strategy, yet it has the visual appeal of an unfolding jigsaw puzzle. Gentle in style of play, it is competitive. Play is usually quick and games last 30-60 minutes for 2-4 players. Many expansions available.
Considered one of the first of the modern euro games, this set a standard which is still used to measure games up against. Players take the role of leaders of colonists of an island, Catan. They must collect 10 points to win by developing roads, towns and cities, maybe building an army or building important buildings. To do this dice are rolled and resources of Wood, Wheat, Clay, Wool and Stone are gathered to build things. Players may barter with each other, players can create interaction through a Robber or various cards that can be collected.
This is still a great game for 3-4 players, expansions are available to expand the game in many ways yet at best the original game is hard to beat. This game is naturally competitive as players compete for resources and space to grow their settlements.
Dominion is a card game unlike traditional card games or collectible card games. It started what is called “Deck Building” games where each player starts with the same cards, and as play progresses he collects more cards to facilitate acquiring the victory point cards. The game has a simple engine, easy to play, lots and lots of replayability, and can be addictive. The base game plays 2-4 players, and although this can be expanded to 5 or 6, 2-4 is still best. The game lacks theme, yet despite that it is a card game unlike anything before and a must if you are into card games. Lots of expansions to feed your addiction.
Stone Age is a great place top start into resource management games using worker placement. Set in the formative years of mankind’s development, tribes are competing to grow, gain knowledge and gather resources to build. This great game is well themed, well presented and fun to play. Reasonably easy to learn, with good replayability, it works for 2-4 players, 3-4 is best. This game will take a few to get to play well, you need to plan ahead, seize opportunities, and manage your resources including feeding your tribe.