Play These Games First: Other Recommendations

What games would we recommend that aspiring (but wholly inexperienced) gamers play first?  This is the final article in a three part series, and today we discuss our other recommendations that didn’t make the top 10.

We ran through details of the project yesterday, but as a reminder, we had 13 Opinionated Gamers vote in a shared spreadsheet, with 46 different games receiving votes.  We decided to write about our findings in three articles, discussing the top ten games.  Monday’s article discussed #10 to #6 (i.e. the second-highest vote getters).  Yesterday’s article discussed #5 to #1 (i.e. the highest vote getters).  Today’s article is everybody’s chance to discuss games that didn’t make the top 10, plus offer thoughts on the list.

Chris Wray’s Other Recommendations

I really enjoy all of the games that made our top 10, and I voted for most of them.  I have a few recommendations that didn’t make the top 10:

  • 7 Wonders – Antoine Bauza’s card drafting game about building a great city in the ancient world is one of the big hits of the past few years, and it is one of my most-played games of all time.  I suspect my fellow Opinionated Gamers didn’t vote for 7 Wonders because of its complexity — it is more challenging to learn than any game that made our top 10 — but for somebody looking to get into gaming, this is just middle-of-the-road in terms of learning difficulty.  
  • Splendor – Marc André’s engine building game is tense and engaging fun.  Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points.  Early decisions in Splendor can have a big impact later in the game, and it is one of my favorite “engine building” games.  Though Splendor seems to be losing its sparkle (pun intended) amongst many in the hobby, it has been wildly popular for three years, and I’m still a big fan.  It is one of my most-played games of all time.  
  • Hanabi – Few games reward repeated play with the same people, but Hanabi does.  This cooperative game about building a fireworks display requires you to be able to read the signals your fellow players are giving you, and after 100 plays, I’m still having fun with it.  The game is a true original: a few games have attempted to replicate Hanabi’s formula over the past couple of years, but none have been successful.  The game is fun, family-friendly, and approachable, and if you like logic puzzles, Hanabi is likely to be a hit with you.

Larry’s Other Recommendations

My top four picks made our top 10, so I have no real complaints about the games we chose.  But there are a few others I think deserve mention:

  • Bohnanza – This was my fifth-place pick.  I know the rules are a bit involved, but I’ve seen this work so well with casual gamers.  The forced interaction, the enjoyable trading, the great artwork, the funny theme–they all work to draw inexperienced players in.  Plus, there’s the surprise of what can be done with a deck of cards.  Still one of the first games I think of to show to newbies.
  • Qwixx – The fact that this is a dice game where all the players can participate on everyone’s turn makes this a good choice to my mind.  Again, it’s good to show less experienced players that there are dice games other than Yahtzee.
  • Deep Sea Adventure – In many ways, this is the perfect gateway game.  It’s dead simple, the concept and components are charming, it’s great fun to play, and always leads to tons of laughter.  The only downside is that it may not be as readily available as some of the other games we’ve discussed, but there still seems to have plenty of ratings on the Geek, so even that shouldn’t be a deterrent.


Matt Carlson’s Other Recommendations

When I placed my votes, I was trying to find a list of games that would introduce a possible non-gamer into the hobby.  One or more of them would be a “good fit” for any gaming group to help prod them along the way to appreciating our community’s favorite style of games.  Had I been listing games I thought appropriate for a new gamer who is already a fan of the hobby, I would have picked a heavier depth of game.

It would be hard to fault any of the top recommendations and I voted for 7 of the 10 listed.  I have to give a shout-out to my number one, No Thanks!.  I use this all the time for short, quick games with non-gamers.  It is simple enough to show and fast enough to play so that players have a clue how to play the first round.  The game introduces the idea of a reverse-auction, giving players a taste of something old and something new.  Repeated plays give players a chance to quickly discover depth to the game, as they start to weigh the risks and rewards of chaining runs and hoarding betting chips.  Bonus points to the game as it has the smallest footprint on the list, and I can fit the entire box in my pocket

As for those on the list for which I did not vote: Carcassonne is great, but personally, it just doesn’t capture my imagination.  Catan is also a great game, but I feel most of its luster comes from its pedigree of being the first game of its kind to hit the big leagues.  I appreciate the trading aspect, but so much depends on good starting locations.  Unless beginners are given plenty of advice before making their first move, the game is apt to turn off a gamer due to a bad experience.  I didn’t vote for Incan Gold, mostly because I forgot about it.  Not sure what I would have knocked off my list, but I would have found some room as I get it out for non-gamers all the time.  I don’t fiddle about with cards, though.  I simply call out 1-2-3 and we slam our hands down on the table to declare in or out.  This keeps the game moving along at a brisk pace and I can force people into making quicker decisions (if you don’t indicate “out” you’re automatically considered “in”.)

My three that didn’t make it:

  • Hanabi – My fifth-place pick.  I love cooperative games and this one is a sure fire hit for any group that enjoys a bit of a logic puzzle.
  • Galaxy Trucker – My fourth choice.  I admit that this is “on the edge” for complexity vs simplicity but its real-time action combined with its goofy turn-based resolution is often a great fit for new gamers.  It isn’t perfect for every crowd of new gamers, but it is a great way to show off yet another possible style within our hobby.
  • Cartagena  – My last pick also garnered a votes from two other members.  I love this game as it has a great elevator pitch.  I call it “Advanced Pirate Candyland.”  Everyone knows (or knows of) Candyland and how it really isn’t a game.  Cartagena turns this on its head by providing strategic depth even though the goal is entirely familiar.  I can get players up and going on this game as fast as or even faster than any other game on this list.


Mary Prasad’s list of missed everything:

I was out of town and missed contributing but wanted to add that I agree with most of the ones that made the top 10, except I would probably have subbed in Qwixx and Bohnanza, rather than Dominion (which can be a bit too intimidating as a first game) and For Sale (mainly because it’s all auctions and these other two would likely hold more interest as a first game). Deep Sea Adventure and Cartagena are two I’d probably show people before Settlers or King of Tokyo but that’s just because I like a little less meanness in my games. These are all fine first games though.

Tery Noseworthy’s Other Suggestions

I found it a little bit hard to vote on our list, because the game I would recommend or teach to a non-gamer would depend on what I thought that person would like.  A non-board gamer who loves Magic would do well with Dominion, but I would never start with that for someone who hasn’t gone beyond Monopoly. Pandemic worked great with a group of physicians who weren’t necessarily excited about learning a game, but were interested in the theme. I’ve had good luck with King of Tokyo with a wide variety of people who were maybe a little intimidated to play a game, but relaxed when they saw they just had to roll dice; once they were comfortable with how the dice work the choices in the game didn’t seem so overwhelming.

I voted for 6 of the games in the top 10; here are 5 other games that I would recommend:

  • Finito – This is a game based on the number slide puzzles I loved as a kid. It takes 2 minutes to explain and  less than 10 minutes to play, and it works well with a wide range of ages.
  • 10 Days in the USA (or Africa, or Europe) – This is a game based on Rack-O, but you travel to places rather than put numbers in order. It’s easy to explain and fun to play.
  • Sushi Go – A cute little card game that is easy to teach and learn. It’s really a set collection game, but it includes card drafting, a good introduction to that mechanic.
  • Pickomino – This is the game I have most frequently taught to non-gamers, since we often play it at our local pub, where it garners a lot of interest from those around us. It’s a push-your-luck game where the rules can be explained to just about anyone in 2 minutes and then you are up and running.
  • Alhambra/ New York – This is a bit more complex than my other suggestions, but I think it is a good option. It’s a tile laying game.  The rules for playing the tiles are simple, while balancing your choices between card drawing, buying tiles and placement are excellent introductions to common game mechanics.
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3 Responses to Play These Games First: Other Recommendations

  1. I’m surprised at the lack of 1) actual BOARD games in the list (the majority of the one’s listed are card games); and 2) no mention of Ticket to Ride! My list would probably begin with TtR (yes, you could argue this is a card game, but it is actually a board game that uses cards). I do not think card games gives a person the best picture of Euro’s. (I suppose that’s what we’re talking about.) Further, Settlers of Catan should definitely be listed. This is the one that got most of us into the hobby. Another Board game that will appeal to ‘non-gamers’ is ‘Union Pacific.’ I’m sure you’ve noted that most of these are older games. Perhaps that tells us something. Is the hobby Euro group changing? Are our ‘board games’ of preference getting heavier? Certainly many lighter card games exist, but it seems the ‘favorite’ board games are on the heavier side. I can be wrong, of course.

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