I spend a lot of time teaching board games to people who have never played a modern board game. Between running family family game nights at different schools and running games at open gaming nights, I have taught to a wide range of games. These are the top ten games I would suggest using to introduce someone to modern board gaming. I look at a few different criteria when decided whether I use games to introduce new gamers into the hobby. The first is simplicity of the rules, the second is the aesthetics, and finally how engaging they are for someone who is unfamiliar with the hobby. I tend to lean towards games with intriguing components, the rules can be explained in 5-10 minutes, and game play is a hour or less.
- Meeple Circus- This game is extremely simple to explain. New players can easily be explained the base rules in five minutes. Then as the rules change each round, the teacher can explain the differences. It also has a great table presence. The pieces are bright and welcoming. With the timer and the tactile nature, new players will be engaged without being overwhelmed.
- Potion Explosion- Similar to Meeple Circus, Potion Explosion is a tactile and simple to teach filler game. It has a sense of familiarity to most people, because it feels similar to phone games that have a “bubble popping” mechanic. It is easy to teach, and with the 3D cardboard marble holder it draws your eyes to the game. It plays in about 45 minutes, so it should be able to hold attention and keep new players engaged.
- Zombicide- This game I would suggest having an experienced gamer teach, but the concepts should be easily grasped if taught correctly. In the wake of the zombie, Walking Dead craze this game should grab the attention of those people who have secretly been planning their zombie apocalypse plan since they started watching Walking Dead in season one. As the board fills up with zombies, the sense of dread should keep players wanting to fight for their life.
- Century: Golem Edition- I was able to teach this game to my grandparents in about 10 minutes. The concepts are easy to grasp…play a card, do that action and try to get the cards worth points. Despite a simple premise, the gameplay is quick and engaging. I suggest the Golem Edition over Spice Road because of the bright colors and cartoony artwork. However, both are a good choice mechanically for a new player.
- Mysterium- This cooperative game feels reminiscent of Clue in that players are seeking a person, place and murder weapon. However it introduces this mechanic under a whole new light as players work together to find the killer. The hint cards and stunning visual imagery should capture the attention of a new player. It is also friendly to new gamers because of the cooperative nature. Discussion and assistance is a mechanic of the game, so players can help the new player as they get used to the mechanics.
- Love Letter- This is my go to game for teaching new players in a small space. The game overall is very simple..Draw a card and play a card. You hope to be the last one standing. When given a player aid, players can learn the game in about 2-3 minutes. It comes in a variety of themes, so find one that is fitting for the people you will be teaching. My personal favorite is the Hobbit version. The game only lasts about 15 minutes and takes up very little table space.
- Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu- This cooperative game is great to teach new players about modern gaming. I like the Reign of Cthulhu version of Pandemic for new players because I think that the rules are streamlined and easier to teach. The miniatures are a fun addition to the game as well. Rather than the small cubes players will have cultists filling up their boards. This game provides a challenge for new players, but because players work together those players can receive assistance throughout the game. It is another game that plays in under a hour, so it should keep attention.
- Unlock!- I would suggest any of the Unlock! games for a new gamers. The game combines technology and puzzles to create a unique experience. Plus, the game comes with a tutorial to help players learn how to play. The game is a hour long, but with no downtime at all in that hour. If a player enjoys puzzles or logic based games, you can’t go wrong experiencing an Unlock! game with them.
- Santorini- This simple to teach game has feelings reminiscent of Chess. Players are trying to outwit and outsmart their opponent and reach the top of Santorini first. The game’s 3-D components are eye catching, and the base game without the god cards can be taught in 5 minutes or less.
- 5 Minute Dungeon- This is another fast paced cooperative game. Players should enjoy this because it once again combines technology and board games. Plus, the game is at most 5 minutes long per round. The high stakes tends to bring out some silliness and laughing. Plus, while difficult the game is forgiving of mistakes because everyone makes them. Communication is key in this game, so players should be able to assist any new players. After 1-2 quick rounds, a new gamer should have a solid grasp of how the game is played.
Do you agree with this list? Are there games you would add or take away from it?