We’re a camping and picnicking family, and we like to pack a game or two in case things slow down. We’d much rather play a game when waiting in an unexpected line or at a restaurant; it keeps the noses out of the phones.
How do we pick a portable game? First, it needs to have a small footprint. After taking away the box and rulebooks, the remaining pieces need to fit neatly into a small space. This is especially important in the camper, where space is at a premium. Second, it needs to to play on almost any surface. We may find ourselves on a picnic table, but we’re also likely to be sitting on a beach blanket or around a neat sheet near the Washington Monument. Minatures and counter cubes are not right for that environment. Finally, it needs replay value. Games that can be played repeatedly and still be entertaining are key.
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.
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.
From the box: “You and your adventuring companions have spent all day slogging through the Dungeon, killing monsters and taking their stuff. Now you’re back in town, healed up, cleaned up, and ready to party at the Red Dragon Inn. Drink, gamble, and roughhouse with your friends. But don’t forget to keep an eye on your Gold. If you run out, you’ll have to spend the night in the stables. Oh. and try not to get too beaten up or too drunk. If you black out, your friends will continue the party without you. after they loot your body for Gold of course! The last conscious adventurer with Gold wins the game! Take on the role of one of four heroic fantasy adventurers — Dierdre, Fiona, Gerki, or Zot — and enjoy an evening at the Red Dragon Inn!”
Loy says “If you like the idea of Cards Against Humanity, but it’s a bit raunchy for you, then you’re going to love this game. Love 2 Hate works on the same premise of Apples to Apples or CAH, but splits the difference between the two. It’s more risque for the teen / young adult crowd, but not anything beyond rated R. This is a great bridge game for that teen who wants to play a mature title but isn’t quite ready.”
From the box: “In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten, at which point they explode, they are dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a Defuse card, which can defuse the Kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the Exploding Kittens.”
Loy says: “Another cool entry in the Fluxx category. If you’re not familar with Fluxx, it’s a bizarre card game loosely based on rummy – you’re trying to create and lay down matching sets. However, the game rules, and even the conditions for winning, are played as cards during the game. And, changed just as often. Fluxx can last ten minutes or two hours depending on how you play, and is fun at any length. This one is Pirate-flavored.”
Loy says: “Another cool entry in the Fluxx category. If you’re not familar with Fluxx, it’s a bizarre card game loosely based on rummy – you’re trying to create and lay down matching sets. However, the game rules, and even the conditions for winning, are played as cards during the game. And, changed just as often. Fluxx can last ten minutes or two hours depending on how you play, and is fun at any length. This one is Zombie-flavored.”
Loy says: “Having been out of print for some time, it’s good to see Pit make a comeback! This has been a family favorite since some of our Game Guides were young’uns. In this game of trading, you try to collect a complete set before your opponents can do the same … but, you can’t see what anyone else is trading! Jumping up and down, waving wildly, and yelling yourself hoarse is half the fun. It’s easy to learn and play, loud, fun, and will get your blood pumping. It’s okay with three people, but you really need five to seven before this game shows its true worth. We have three copies; so expect lots of trade calling!”
From the box: “Snorta! is the family game where everyone acts like an animal! The race is on to get rid of your cards. After each player hides an animal figure in their barn, everyone starts flipping over their cards and the BARNYARD BEDLAM BEGINS! Whenever two cards match, players must blurt out the sound of each other’s hidden animal – and whoever squawks last has to take their opponent’s cards! First player out of cards wins! Snorta! comes with 12 fully painted animal figures – a cat, a cow, a dog, a donkey, a duck, a frog, a mouse, an owl, a pig, a rooster, a sheep and a snake. Each player chooses one of these animals from the cloth grab bag then hides it under one of 8 plastic barns. Finally, the deck of 96 cards, featuring quirky illustrations of each animal, gets dealt to all the players. Simple as that and you’re ready to play! Snorta is quick and easy to learn, but as players start turning over their cards faster and faster, the game quickly becomes more and more challenging. Can you spot a match before your opponents do? Will you remember what kind of animal is hidden in their barns? Get ready to laugh as tongue-tied players stumble and stutter to blurt out the sounds of each other’s undercover animals – it’s a real HOOT! SNORTA! will have you HOWLING with laughter!”
From the box: “Zombie Dice is a quick game for any zombie fan (or the whole zombie family). The 13 custom dice are your victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop before the shotgun blasts end your turn! Includes 13 custom dice and dice cup, to carry the game in. Fast to learn, games are 15 minutes or less to play.”