Many people don’t realize, but the world of board gaming expands way beyond your average game of monopoly or scrabble. I’m not saying these are bad games, but there are so many other games out there that act as the best gateway board games. These types of gateway games make it easy to introduce new players or involve non-board gamers into the ever expanding world of board gaming.
When having a game night with new players or people who consider themselves “non-board gamers,” I like to have a list of a few games that I feel will ease them into gameplay. My hope is that these games will make great examples of gameplay and bring a level of enjoyment that will lead to more board gaming in the future. In the board gaming community, we like to call these types of games, “gateway games.”
WHAT ARE GATEWAY BOARD GAMES?
Gateway games is a term used to describe board games that are simple, accessible, and most likely to provide enjoyment to new players and non-gamers. These games should be above your basic, average board game and should provide a level of interest that will intrigue a player to want to come back for more.
The experience of playing these gateway games will hopefully lead a new player or a non-gamer into wanting to play more board games in the future, and either start or expand their library of board games.
If you are a seasoned board gamer, then you should act as the “gateway handler,” and provide these players with the best gateway board games to introduce these new gamers to the world of board gaming and the experience of game nights.
What to Look for in Gateway Board Games
When it comes to gateway games, there are a few criteria I follow in order to choose the perfect gateway game. See below:
1. A GATEWAY GAME SHOULD BE EASY TO LEARN.
This comes as a no brainer as you do not want to overwhelm a new player with an essay of game instructions and various moving parts. The game should be simple enough that it will be easy to start playing and the player should get the hang of it after a few rounds.
This doesn’t mean that you have to play a “boring” game. A lot of simple games still involve a lot of strategy and great gameplay. I’ll put a few games on this list that are a bit more complex than others, but they shouldn’t make your friend’s heads explode.
2. A GATEWAY GAME SHOULD NOT BE TOO LONG TO PLAY.
As a board gamer, you should know that certain games can last a really long time. We are talking about hours and hours of gameplay. Once again, you do not want to overwhelm a new player.
Therefore, you should choose a game that will only last about 60-90 minutes. Any more than that, the new player or non-gamer might be turned off to board gaming just because they get the impression that the games are too damn long.
3. A GATEWAY GAME SHOULD BE STRATEGIC AND PEAK INTEREST.
The last thing we want is for a new player to think board gaming is boring. Therefore, we must choose a game that is both simple and interesting, providing just enough strategy to really get someone to be a part of the gameplay experience as a whole.
4. A GATEWAY GAME SHOULD BE AFFORDABLE.
I say that a gateway game should be affordable in case the new player wants to grow their own game collection. Yes, you may own the game, but if the player enjoys the game and wants to have it for themselves, then you don’t want them to be turned off by the price.
They may get the initial impression of “wow, board games are expensive” when in fact most of them are not. This may make them hesitant to play more board games as they might feel like it could be way too expensive of a hobby.
THE BEST GATEWAY BOARD GAMES FOR NEW PLAYERS
You may already have an idea of which games you would like to introduce to new players or non-board gamers. There still may be a few games out there that you might have not thought would be a great gateway board game.
The Game Night Gods have generated a list of the best gateway games to play for game night with new players or non-gamers. We have had an overwhelming amount of success playing these games.
Here is our list of the best gateway board games:
Carcassone is another great gateway game as it offers a great pace and approachability for new players. Gameplay consists of turns where each player draws and places a map tile. They must choose whether or not to place one of their game piece “followers” on that tile.
Tiles can consist of objects such as roads, fields, or cities. Each tile must match up with the edges of a tile it is placed next to. There are other rules to the game, but they are very simple to learn. A new player will be able to get the hang of the gameplay after just a few rounds.
The game is scored at the end by how your “followers” were placed on different valued tiles. Gameplay can last about 40 minutes, which is the perfect duration for a gateway game.
As a board gamer, you may know that Carcassonne has many different expansions. I recommend starting new players with the base version of the game. If the player enjoys the game, then feel free to introduce them to the expansions for more variety and replayability of the game.
Carcassone serves as a great gateway game as it isn’t so dense that it will scare away non-gamers, but it’s also simple enough that you feel you have mastered the game after only a couple of rounds.
2. 7 WONDERS
7 Wonders is a board game that is quick to learn, quick to play, and addictive in the beginning as you adjust your strategy. You can play this game with 2 to 7 players, adding or removing players without losing quality of gameplay. You can typically play through the full game in 45 minutes which is perfect for our gateway game criteria.
Basic gameplay consists of players playing cards to build up their civilizations through a series of three rounds. Strategy comes in when players must manage their cards accordingly in order to play production building cards, victory point building cards, and action building cards.
Every round, each player plays one card simultaneously and then must pass the rest of their hand to the person next to them. This mechanic forces you to balance your cards between playability and cards you do not want your opponents having for themselves.
The ultimate goal of the game is to acquire victory points. At the end of the 3rd round, the player with the most victory points is the winner.
I love having access to 7 Wonders to use as a gateway game. It’s gameplay is delightfully simple, yet the variety of cards forces players to be strategic. The duration of the game is perfect for new players, and they may find themselves wanting to play more rounds.
7 Wonders will be sure to have new players and non-gamers wanting to come back for more.
Catan is probably one of the most popular board games on the market for serious board gamers. Catan’s simple structure of building and trading also involves a lot of strategy. I must admit, Catan may be an overwhelming game for new players. It might be best to start with some of the other gateway board games listed on this article before tackling Catan.
The foundation of Catan consists of players trying to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn, dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players collect these resources (cards)—wood, grain, brick, sheep, or stone—to build up their civilizations and expand using roads.
Points are accumulated by building settlements and cities, having the longest road and the largest army (from some of the development cards), and gathering certain development cards that simply award victory points. The game is over when a player hits 10 points during their turn.
It may sound like a lot, but Catan is one of the best strategy games out there that is actually so much fun to play. Where else could you trade sheep for wood!?
If your new board game players are enjoying simple board games and want to dive deeper into the rabbit hole of board gaming, then you should definitely introduce them to Catan.
4. TICKET TO RIDE
Ticket to Ride is one of the best gateway games out there for people who have never played anything beyond roll-and-move games. It’s a fun and simple game, as players either pick up a card or play a card.
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn.
Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.
This game is downright fun and can be played with 2-5 players. The rules are simple enough to write on a train ticket – each turn you either draw more cards, claim a route, or get additional Destination Tickets.
Ticket to Ride has become so popular, they have come out with many expansion packs that map out the entire world. It’s easy to learn and quick to play, while still involving some light strategy.
I guarantee that after playing a round of Ticket to Ride, new players will be wanting more. This is why we think it makes a great gateway game for game night.
Pandemic is a great introduction to co-op board gaming, which may be a pretty weird concept for people who aren’t already involved in the hobby. I feel as though it is a great gateway game because it’s cooperative aspect may be a huge selling point to new players who may be hesitant to play competitive board games against others.
The main goal of the game is to prevent the spread of deadly, contagious diseases. You must work together to stop a shared threat and save humanity. Each player has their own specific roles that grants them a special ability in the game to help the team.
Turn by turn, players move across the globe squashing diseases and working to find a cure. The game can either end when the disease is cured or the disease takes over the world and cannot be stopped. As players are working together, their end result will be either a shared loss or a shared victory.
The main reason I love to use Pandemic as a gateway game is that it is both cooperative and fun to play. It may take a few rounds to get new players to understand the overall concept and gameplay, but new players will pick it up fast, especially if they are playing with people who have played before.
Our last gateway game that we will be talking about in this article is called Kingdomino. It was released in 2016 and has made it on our list as a strong goto gateway game and many others in the board gaming community seem to agree.
Kingdomino makes a great gateway game as it is easy to learn, has a short play time, and an affordable price tag in case new gamers want to have their own copy. And trust me, they probably will want their own copy after playing.
The game also offers great artwork and gameplay. All of these aspects make Kingdomino a great game to introduce to friends or family who have yet set foot in the board gaming community.
The basic gameplay consists of each player having their own castle where they must use “dominos” with varying terrains to make a grid around their castle. These game pieces allow players the ability to create lakes, fields, plains, mines, and more. The goal is to combine similar terrains together in order to gain more points.
This game is simple to play, yet involves some strategy where you must strategically pick tiles that will enhance your kingdom or prohibit players from enhancing their own.
All in all, Kingdomino is a great gateway game as it is easy to learn and can be played in about 15 minutes. It also has great gameplay and is strategically rewarding. I feel that Kingdomino could really be at the top of the list for one of the best gateway games on the market today.
With beautiful tile playing pieces, Azul is one of the most visually pleasing board games out there. Azul can be played with 2-4 players in about 30-45 minutes.
The premise of the game consists of players taking turns drafting colored tiles from their suppliers and placing them on their player board. Players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles to decorate their own palace. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets with your tiles. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Azul brings an air of simplicity, elegance, and beauty, making it a great game to play on those nights you just want to relax and is perfecting for introducing new players. It’s a great gateway board game!
8. King of Tokyo
King of Tokyo is a great board game that is easy to learn and fun to play! The name does a great job of explaining the premise of the board game, as each player must fight to become the one and only King of Tokyo. Also, if you love mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens, then you will sure love this game! You will get to play as one of these monsters, robots, or aliens.
Gameplay consists of rolling six dice, with symbols showing a 1, 2, or 3 Victory Points, Energy, Heal, or Attack. Players then must decide to keep or discard each die in order to win victory points, gain energy, restore health, or attack other players. Remember, you are working towards being the one and only King of Tokyo.
In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended. King of Tokyo is a pretty simple to play game for 2-6 players that can be played in about 30 minutes.
Wingspan is probably the most well known engine building game to a lot of people, and most likely the first game that you will play in this genre of board games. It’s a competitive, medium weight, card-driven, engine building board game that is a must have tableau building game!
This one is a little more complex than the other gateway games listed in this article, so use with caution!
In this board game, you are a bird enthusiast who is researching, watching, and collecting birds with the main goal being to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves.
A player’s actions consist of creating powerful combinations of birds and habitats that will gain you food tokens, lay eggs, and draw from hundreds of unique bird cards. You must use strategic gameplay to plan ahead and choose wisely when playing these unique bird cards.
The winner is the player with the most points after four rounds. Wingspan is a great engine building game that will be sure to take flight at your next game night.
Santorini is a simple game, yet it has so many levels. It is an accessible strategy game that aims to provide gameplay depth and content for hardcore board gamers to explore. Gameplay consists of either moving your builder to a neighboring space or constructing a building level adjacent to the builder you moved.
A player wins when their builder reaches the third level. We especially love this game because it has beautiful components that is quick to learn, but really challenging and addicting.
INTRODUCING NEW PLAYERS OR INVOLVING NON-BOARD GAMERS AT GAME NIGHT WITH GATEWAY GAMES
After reading this article, I hope you have a better understanding as to which board games will be the best to use to introduce to new players or non-board gamers into board gaming hobby.
These gateway board games are great for introducing new players into the world of board gaming or involving non-board gamers at game night.
We like to choose games that are simple to play, but also involve a little strategy in order to keep things interesting. Hopefully after playing these games, players will want to keep coming back for more, or expand their own library of board games.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!