Gateway games...

I play a lot of games with people that don't play a lot of games.

Over the years I've become  a bit of an evangelist for board games and as such,  I think I've got a bit better at recommending games to people that don't consider themselves big fans of board games. 

There are a few games, that I think, have just the right level of depth and accessibility, that they can act as a gateway to more board games and a solid introduction to the hobby (because it definitely is a weird little niche). 

So, if you're only exposure to board games is Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble and Monopoly. Here are my top recommendations. Many of the games I've listed are considered classics of somewhat, and with good reason!

They're in no particular order,  but I've given them a bit of an explanation as to what they're about and why they make it in this list. I've also tried to include different types/styles of games, the idea being that each game is different enough you won't feel like you've played something similar and that each is worth owning on it's own merit. 

Having said that if there's one thing these games all share it's that they have a good blend of luck and strategy. Meaning you have just as much chance of winning the first time you play them or the hundredth.



Players: 2-5

Play Time: 30-45 minutes 

Carcassonne is a delightfully simple game of tile laying. Essentially you're making the board as you go, matching each piece to a piece already on the table. This makes the game sort of like a puzzle that's different every time you play it. It also introduced meeples! Little wooden pieces in the shape of a person. 

Get it because it's really easy to grasp regardless of age or ability. There's also pretty much zero set up involved. 


Settlers of Catan

Players: 3-4

Play Time: 1 hour

Catan is a classic. It has a similar look to Carcassonne but pre-dates it by a few years. It's a game about scoring points by trading in cards, which you get based on what the dice rolls, to build towns, roads and cities. 

But what really sets it is the trading. You can trade your cards between players on your turn, this really brings out a cut-throat element. As you try to work out what your opponent needs, how you can stop them, whilst also trying to get the cards you need.

You should get it because once you've figured out how the game works you can mess with the board set-up making it more challenging and creative. Plus wheeling and dealing is loads of fun. 


Ticket to Ride

Players: 2-5

Play Time: 1 hour

Ticket to Ride is the game that I find appeals to most people. I think it has something to do with how easy it is to explain the premise. You're building train lines. Catan and Carcassonne are a bit more abstract in their theme and art style.

Ticket to Ride has you collecting cards to trade in to complete a train lines. You'll select some cards at the start which will determine the overall routes you're trying to complete, the more routes you complete the more points, simple.  

You should get it because it's such a passive aggressive game. Once you've played a few games you'll be able to work out what routes people are going for. In doing so you can try to ruin them, at the risk of costing yourself points. 


One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Players: 3-10

Play Time: 5 minutes  

Games like werewolf have been around for absolute ages, you've probably played something like mafia in drama class. It's a game of secret identities and bluffing.

In truth you can play this without needing the game but what makes it so good is the app. The app explains everything you need to know to play the game, which works especially well when you're playing with a large group, and honestly the bigger the group you play with the better. 

Get it because it lasts 5 minutes and is perfect for parties and the more games you play the better it gets. 


Camel Up

Players: 2 - 8

Play Time: 30-45 minutes

Camel Up is one of the newest games on the list but makes it in by virtue of being such a fun game that works well with small and large groups. 

In Camel Up you're betting on a camel race, both the overall winner/loser and each leg that the game is broken down into. The game is dice based with a great looking pyramid that you shake up to choose dice. The camels will piggyback on each other which looks great and can have some shocking upsets. 

Get it because gambling is fun. Shocking upsets and turnaround victories make this truly enjoyable. 



Players: 2-4

Play Time: 45 minutes

What makes Pandemic so special is that it's co-operative. It's you and your friends against the game. You're trying to find the cure to four diseases infecting the world. Each player takes on a different role with a special ability. You'll have to work together using your skill to your advantage while you try to do damage control as best you can.

Get it because not all your friends are competitive. Plus you can modify the difficulty once you're comfortable with it and the game does such a good job of creating tension and escalation. 


Exploding Kittens

Players: 2-5

Play Time: 20 minutes

Exploding Kittens was a bit of a phenomenon when it Kickstarter back in 2015, since then it's gone on to sell over a million copies and now has an app. Exploding Kittens is a card game that's about trying to survive. 

You have some cards that do cool stuff but other times your options might be limited. The key is to avoid drawing the exploding kitten card. If you do you're out, unless you can defuse it.

Get it because you love screwing your friends over. I introduced this game to a group of friends at work when it first came out. Since then they've played it pretty much every lunch time and all own copies of it. 


So there you go, that's my list. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or what games you've introduced to your friends that have gone down a storm.