More players, that’s what we want. Every new gamer we can add to the
cult fandom makes it just that much easier to call people up and throw a game night together. Just imagine how good it will feel to post on Facebook, “I want to play Dominion” and get a full table’s worth of responses before you can get caught up watching a trending YouTube cat video. Players, gamers, tabletop fanatics… we need them all. Here’s five games that are easy to teach and have basic mechanics new players can expect from other games. If you want more, there’s a list of 10 here. Plus five more right here. Now let’s get to converting er… teaching some new players!
Authors Note: Each game on this list is designed to teach not only a love for gaming but a specific game mechanic that’s found in some of the best games ever. Yes, these are gaming gateway drugs. You’re welcome.
In Mascarade, each player is dealt a role card with a special ability. Then you turn those cards face down and spend some turns trading your card for one of your opponent’s cards. You do this behind your back, so maybe you really trade and maybe you don’t. After a while, nobody knows who’s actually playing which role. Then you take turns choosing from 3 actions. You can peek at your card, you can trade cards with someone else, or you can claim to be one of the roles and use that power.
For example, I might say that I’m the King and as a result I take 3 coins from the bank. If someone else is the King (or is at least sure that I’m not the King) they might contest my claim and then, per the rules, we show our cards. The real King gets his money and the false Kings pay a penalty to the bank. Each role has different effects, often involving money. The person who can get to 13 gold coins first in the winner.
Secret role or traitor mechanic games are some of the most fun to play. Before you whip out Battlestar Galactica or other more advanced games, try something easier like Mascarade. You might think Werewolf is the ideal starter for secret role games, but Werewolf teaches more about how terrible humanity can be then game mechanics. Mascarade is a better teaching tool and it’s also fast and fun.
What it teaches: Secret Role and Bluffing style games. Variable Player Powers.
NOTE: Yes it is spelled Mascarade. Perhaps Masquerade was already taken?
Quadropolis, a competitive city building game, involves players trying to grab the best buildings from a central supply and put them into their city in such a way that they score maximum victory points. Parks like to be surrounded by apartment buildings. Apartment buildings like to be built as high as possible. Industrial buildings like to be near docks or businesses. There’s a limited amount of any given type of building and everyone is trying to get the same results so you have to make the best of your limited moves. Should you take the civic building now? Should you take another floor of that apartment building? Who amongst your opponents is trying to collect the same stuff?
This game is a little hard to teach for the first 10 minutes, but once everybody gets some experience. It goes incredibly fast and is deeply strategic and fun. There are plenty of other set collection and tile placement games to move onto after your new players master this, and after a few wins most folks will want to prove they have what it takes to take their skills to the next level. Tell them it’s like Sim City, that’s an easy hook.
What it teaches: Set Collection and Tile Placement
Never has selling produce in Italy been so fun. In Cinque Terre, players take on the role of produce cart vendors who drive from market to market across five famously beautiful coastal villages in Italy. On your turn, you can pick up cards, trade cards for goods or sell those goods (hopefully) in the village that’s willing to pay the best price. You can also take specific orders that must be filled by taking certain goods to certain villages and earn you massive victory points. There’s only a limited time to sell your wares so don’t waste any time. The last thing you want are unfilled orders when the game is over, because they count against you not for you.
This game is a great example of “pick up and deliver” gaming that’s easy to teach and hard to master. The simple mechanics shouldn’t throw off new players and they will probably see some early strategies right from the start. Of course, there is a lot more depth that you can’t really explain but there’s nothing quite so addictive in gaming than figuring out a winning scheme organically through gameplay. Once you have them on the hook with this game, try Xia Legends of a Drift System or one of the other much more complex “pick up and deliver” style games and you have a gamer for life.
What it teaches: Pick-Up and Deliver and Set Collection
Age of Empires 3
This game might seem like an odd choice, after all it’s the board game adaptation of the third installment in a video game franchise, but trust me, Age of Empires 3 is a great game and a great introduction for new gamers to the mechanic of “Worker Placement.”
In this game, the players are all imperialistic colonizing nations racing to create a foothold in the New World. The board is separated in half with one side being a map of the American Colonies and the other half being the action tracks. Each player has a number of workers in their hand at the start of a round. You then take turns placing your workers on various action tracks. These are essentially bids as you’ll have less workers than things you’d want to do in a round. There are also less spaces for any specific action than there will likely be players wanting to take that action.
So where do you put your limited workers on a given turn? Will you send colonists to the new world? Will you convert some of them into missionaries? Will you collect trade goods to try and make money? You’ll only ever be able to do a little less then you would want to and that’s the key dynamic of worker placement. Some of the best games in the world are worker placement games and this random video game adaptation happens to be one of the easiest to teach and most fun to play.
What it teaches: Worker Placement and Area Control
If you know 7 Wonders, you’re probably already thinking that this is a little complex for new players and you’re not wrong. I still think 7 Wonders is one of those games that once you get things moving you can really teach people some advanced game mechanics and also a love of games. This is last on the list because you might want to try one of the earlier games first. Age of Empires 3 actually leads into this rather well. Card Drafting and Worker Placement are cousins in the world of game mechanics so this should be easy to move over too.
7 Wonders is an multi-award winning game that combines a lot of mechanics into something really exciting and interesting to play. Card drafting may be its main mechanic but you also have aspects of variable player powers, resource management and set collection. In each of the games three ages you’ll be drafting cards to expand your civilization and hopefully build levels of your national wonder. Each upgrade offers your people either victory points or the infrastructure to take cards that give you more victory points later. Be warned this may be a great teaching or tabletop player converting game but it’s not much fun if there are no experienced players to guide that development. Somebody has to be teaching this game or it becomes so much soup. Of course that’s not a problem because the teacher is you right? Right?
What it teaches: Card Drafting, Variable Player Powers, Set Collection
What kind of games do you use to teach? We’ve done 3 of these lists now, which game is a glaring omission? Did you check out our list of game teaching hints? That’s helpful. Leave your thoughts in the comments.