There are currently over 100,000 board games listed on Board Game Geek, the tabletop world’s equivalent of IMDB. That’s a lot to choose from. Wandering into your local department store is going to give you some truly disappointing choices and browsing your friendly local game store can be overwhelming. Here are some great board games that anyone from veteran to rookie can enjoy.
Gateway board games are most people’s first experience with hobbyist board games. These are games that help you explore some of the ideas seen in modern board games without getting too bogged down in the rules. Think of them as kicking a ball around in a park as opposed to trying to compete in a sporting league.
Anyone can – and should – enjoy these games no matter how invested they are in the hobby.
Century: Spice Road
Engine building is a core concept behind many board games. The idea is that you collect pieces that help fuel future actions, collect more pieces and eventually turn those into points. Everyone loves points.
Century: Spice Road is a remarkable implementation of that concept and is so simple that I was taught the game by a 10-year-old. On your turn, you play cards that let you collect, trade or upgrade spices. These spices are used to buy more cards to give you more options or traded in for glorious points. That’s all there is to it and yet the engine building mechanic here is so well implemented that I’ve met plenty of seasoned board gamers that relish the opportunity to play Century: Spice Road.
If you find the art or idea of trading spices to be a little too drab, there’s an alternative option. Century: Golem Edition is a reskin of Century: Spice Road that has the exact same gameplay but has replaced the spices with gems and the point cards with beautiful looking golems.
A wondrous combination of Minesweeper and Articulate, Codenames pits teams against each other in a race to discover all of their secret words from a grid laid out in front of them. They do this by having their team leader – or ‘spymaster’ – give out one-word clues followed by a number about how many words relate to that clue.
It’s an incredibly simple game to learn to play and a complete riot as spymasters give clues ranging from magnificent to completely unhelpful. All the while, the opposite team can stress about choices they’ve made over the game, clues they’ve missed or they can heckle. At its heart, Codenames is a game about communication. About teams being on the same wavelength and piecing together clues. Messing with that makes it all the better.
Codenames is available in a range of versions including Codenames: Pictures, Codenames: Deep Undercover and Codenames: Disney Family Edition.
Pick up a hand of cards, choose an adorable piece of sushi to play and then pass the remaining cards on to the next player. You’ve just learned how to play Sushi Go, a delightfully simple drafting game designed by Australian Phil Walker-Harding.
Different types of sushi are worth different points and as you pass cards around, the best pieces are going to be snatched up by other players. A recent update to the game, Sushi Go Party, includes even more types of sushi that you can mix and match into the deck to create even more option. Yet the heart of Sushi Go is its simplicity so if you’re looking for games with more depth that play very similarly, you can look at 7 Wonders or Between Two Cities which handle more complicated decision making a little better.
Pandemic Legacy: Season One
Try your best to find a cure while you contain the rampaging diseases that infect the world in this co-operative game.
Strictly speaking, Pandemic Legacy is not a gateway board game but a variation of Pandemic that has an on-going campaign that changes based on your successes and failures in previous games. It’s also a far better game and you can play Pandemic Legacy a few times to familiarise yourself with the rules (that are otherwise identical to Pandemic) before committing to the game-altering changes that occur during the legacy campaign.
Each player will have limited actions to travel around the board and treat diseases as they try to complete a series of objectives given out by the game. Unlike the original Pandemic – which only requires teams to cure all of the diseases – these goals can be quite difficult and build upon previous goals and new abilities and rules unveil themselves. Few games have managed to capture the lightning in the bottle that is Pandemic Legacy.
Winner of the coveted 2018 Spiel des Jahres, a German board game award that means copies of Azul are flooding department stores across Europe.
The aim of Azul is to build a magnificent tiled wall for a Portuguese king. The reality of that means you’ll be collecting delightful tiles and placing them on your board in preparation for moving them over to the ‘wall’ where they will be scored based on their placement. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting concept in the world yet it is very enjoyable for the spatial reasoning, planning and overall polish the game has.
Like most of the other games listed here, the simplicity of Azul is one of its main draws yet the way everything comes together is a unique gaming experience that is anyone can enjoy. Don’t be put off by the dull sounding story behind the game, instead embrace the Starburst-esque tiles and revel in the simple joy of creating something beautiful.
There are countless wonderful gateway board games out there for you to play with your friends. Give them a try and find out which ones you love.