***Originally Posted April 2016
International Tabletop Day approaches this Saturday. Are you ready? International Tabletop day is the day where everyone plays board games all day!
New to board Games? Want to try a different kind of board game? Want to know where to start or what to suggest to a friend? There’s only so much someone can learn, and in fact, there are only 24 hours in International Tabletop Day. So here’s a couple of great intro board games. While these are generally popular games, I would recommend this article for beginners as well as more avid board gamers to know which games to introduce to beginning board gamers.
Resource Management: Settlers of Catan
Resource management games go like this:
You have resources –> You use those resources to get other resources and/or points –> You use those resources/points to win the game.
The rules of Catan are easy to learn. You place settlements on different intersections of resources; those settlements get you resources depending on what section you’re on; and you buy more structures with those settlements/resources which give you points. First one to ten points wins. You can trade or steal from other players. The mechanics are simple, giving beginners a chance to figure out how to use their resources well. This game can be a great starting point for friends who haven’t played resource management games, also sometimes you can play it on a jumbo board (I played it last year at Gen Con; it was pretty fun).
Deck Builder: Dominion
Deck Builders, have a similar fancy diagram like resource management games, which goes like this:
You have a hand of cards –> You use that hand of cards to get other cards –> You use those cards to get the most points to win the game.
If you want to try a deck builder, I recommend this game for its good structure. In fact, Dominion was my first deck builder. I’ve also had a lot of success teaching it because the rules are streamlined and easy to explain. Basically you have gold and points in your deck to start. Each turn you have one action and one buy unless you have a card that states otherwise. The cards you buy generally have an effect that will boost your actions, buys, or give you points.
The thing that sets this game apart from some deck builders is that the card pool is static. In Dominion, everyone has the same cards to choose from, however, they can craft their own deck based on their selections. In addition, this is great for beginners because they only have 10 cards to comprehend versus other games, like Ascension, which has a rotating center board.
Now, I love teaching Ascension, but the game can be somewhat daunting to someone who just learned about deck builders because the center pool is about 100 or so cards with some duplicates. It’s a lot easier to teach Ascension when someone knows how deck building mechanics generally work. For example, I always explain that the mechanic “trash” in Dominion is “banish” in Ascension.
Cooperative: Forbidden Island
This is a really great cooperative game. Cooperative games don’t have a fancy diagram like resource management and deck builder board games. It’s just you and your friends against the board. In Forbidden Island, you play as adventurers trying to grab treasure before the island sinks. If you’ve ever seen Aladdin and the King of Thieves, imagine the final scenes in the giant turtle island.
What makes this a great intro game is that the mechanics are, again, very simple. You have a limited number of actions per turn and a limited number of options for those actions depending on what the board looks like. While the actions are limited, this actually makes the game a lot more streamlined and easy to comprehend. Forbidden Island is also a great jumping point because players can negotiate what combination of moves they might want to make. For example, one player might uncover a tile (and possibly treasure) and then the next player goes to pick it up if it’s a treasure.
Paying Attention to the Rules: Fluxx
I know a lot of players who refuse to play Fluxx because of its randomness and Monopoly-like length, but I really like it as a way to introduce new players to the concept of resolving what the cards say.
If you’re not familiar, Fluxx is a game where the objectives/rules constantly change. The whole point of the game is to change the objective at such a time that you win. That’s it. You can play cards that increase hand limit, change the objective, or play special cards to keep in front of you to get you toward that goal… whichever goal that is at the moment. But the turns are very straightforward.
I agree to some of the negative criticism of this game (that it is long, luck-based, and hard to win), but it’s a fast-moving game and a great way to introduce players to card games in general. Players learn how to resolve cards and in what order and how it affects the game, which is essential to most card games.
So I hope everyone has a great International Tabletop Day this Saturday!