Let’s face it, board games don’t have the best rep. Many folks think back to childhood, only to remember awkwardness or – even worse – frustration, anger, and flipped tables. Monopoly seems to be a regular complaint. But modern board games are different! How do you convince your friends to come and enjoy a terrific night out?
One excellent way to bring in a new gamer is to tie in a current interest. Does your friend like sewing or quilting? How about Patchwork – a two-player game where players pay for Tetris-like quilt pieces with buttons, then use them to create the best 7×7 square.
Maybe your friend is an adventure seeker; try Forbidden Island – a cooperative game where players race to collect four archeological treasures before the cursed island sinks beneath them. This board game can be pulse pounding as you turn the cards that determine which parts of the island sink each turn.
And who doesn’t like Sushi? Sushi Go Party is a card passing game where each player tries to create the best menu. The rules are so simple, they’re printed on each card. It has an added benefit of some of the most adorable Japanese style artwork we’ve ever seen on a game.
These days, there is a board game for just about anything. Stock market? Check. Zombies? Check. Gem traders? Amusement Parks? Virus Outbreaks? Mystery? The Wizard of Oz? Trivia? Space Aliens? Making fun of gaming nerds? Check and double-check. In addition, many popular games offer ‘themed’ versions – Cthulhu Fluxx, Star Wars Catan, or Alien Clue. Somewhere there’s a board game that will interest your friend.
Simple Rules, with Humor
New gamers are often confused and overwhelmed by the sheer number of pieces and complexity of modern games. So keep it as simple as possible.
For example, 5 Minute Dungeon has five decks of cards (one for each player) and five monsters to defeat. Defeat the monsters by matching up symbols on your cards with the symbols on the monster card. The hardest part about this cooperative game is that it’s on a five minute timer. But at least you can assure your friend that each round only takes five minutes!
Apples to Apples, the racier Love 2 Hate, and the extremely racy Cards Against Humanity all work on the same simple premise – one person lays down a card and everyone else picks a card that matches (or doesn’t, which can be even more fun). I say potato, you say vodka. Everybody laughs and we move to the next round.
Codenames is a set of 25 words, of which your team’s spymaster is trying to get you to guess nine. But the spymaster can only give a single word as a clue. There used to be an old game show called Password that worked similarly. Simple rules, but this game is challenging, engrossing, and rewarding.
Let Them Play
So you managed to get your friend to come out and play. Now what? Let them play. It’s very easy for an experienced board gamer to see possible outcomes of any given decision. Remember the fun you had figuring out a game for the first time? Bottle that and let your friend figure it out for themselves. There is no greater buzzkill than having someone else play your moves for you. No matter how silly the decision, let your friend make it!
Don’t Play to Win
I used to think there were two kinds of gamers out there – those who play to win and those who play to enjoy. Now I know that the same person can play both ways. So play to enjoy. Your friend is just learning. Chat about their choices, poke some gentle fun at game-changing moves, but don’t decimate them. You can even play open-handed (with cards visible on the table) to help the learning experience. Be cool and play for fun the first time; the next game will be the one that “counts.”
Keep Them Coming
Finally, listen to your friend. Every game is not for every player. If they don’t like a particular game, find out why and suggest something else. Be willing to play the games that they like, rather than your favorite all the time. Who knows? Eventually they may appreciate more complexity and realism in a game and ask for something more complex. You’ll never know if you don’t start small.
Bring a friend to the next Decks, Dice, and Meeples event; we’ll help you pick out a game or two that might suit.