5 Great Gateway Games


5 Games that are just great if you’re starting out.

 I’m not one for doing top ten lists and the like, because it’s all very subjective, and tastes change, and my tastes aren’t going to be your tastes and so.  So what follows is in no particular order (in fact there is a good chance that one of these games is what drew you into the hobby in the first place).  As the title suggests this is just a list of 5 games to check out, they all have a few key things in common:

  1. As rules go, they are pretty easy – if you’ve come from the likes of Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit etc. there will be an adjustment process, but the rules are pretty straight forward to get your head around.
  2. These are big titles, so you should be able to pick these up in every gaming store, online, and in some good bookstores and toy shops even (actually one of these; No#5 isn’t quite as big as the others…yet).
  3. They are all very reasonably priced, you’ll be paying around £30 for one of these (less on auction sites any you’ll find plenty of these game on these)
  4. Playing time, just to warn you some tabletop games can take a few hours to play, these won’t. You should make it through any one of these in under an hour.
  5. Player count, these games are decent games when playing just two players, but also with 3 or 4 (or even 5, and in the case of one game, up to 7) people, also all of these are suitable for younger gamers.
  6. You’ll also find most of these games on every top X list of games for new gamers.


Each game listed here has a link to the boardgamegeek.com website which is the internet mecca for table top gamers.  If you want more information, or just to see some of the awards these games have won, or even just to look at some pictures just click on the link, just remember to come back and finish reading the article.

Game One: Pandemic

By Matt Leacock (there are a few versions of this game available these days, but you want just plain ol’ Pandemic)

pandemicThis is the game that got me hooked one winter night back in 2010.  After playing, we immediately wanted to play again.  And again.  To this day I will gladly, happily take this from my shelf and have another go – just on a slightly higher difficulty setting (that’s right, just like video games, some board games have difficulty settings now too).  This game has the players acting as agents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or the CDC), as they rapidly travel from city to city curing 4 deadly diseases that threaten all of humanity. (If you’ll be playing this with younger gamers there is no death or any other gruesomeness, it’s all done in a very abstract way, so it won’t cause nightmares).

This game does something that you’ve probably never encountered before: it’s co-operative, which means that it all the players versus the game itself.  You’ll either win or lose as a team. No more tables being flipped, no players sulking because they are falling behind.  None of that.  This game is also very dramatic and is full of surprises.  The tension about revealing an epidemic card can, and at some point will make you hold your breath.

The mechanics: in a nutshell, you are set collecting; trying to gather 5 cards of the same colour, and your trying to do this four times, once for each of the diseases.  It is nowhere near as easy as that sounds and is tremendous fun.

Read the full review here

Game Two: Catan

By Klaus Teuber (sometimes called Settlers, or Settlers of Catan; if you are so inclined there is a Star Trek Version too)

This game is generally considered to be the game that broke the industry into the catanmainstream and it’s easy to see why with sales in excess of 18 million copies worldwide (fascinating article in the New Yorker here about the designer) since its release in 1995.

This game is one that came to the table a lot when I was starting out, and as I have spread the good-board-game-word, it has become a regularly requested game.  The board is modular (it changes every time you play), and the player interaction is very high; lots of bartering and haggling, it even uses a set of dice so you won’t feel completely out of your depth in new-gaming-land.

The premise is simple; each player takes on the role of a mayor type who is trying to build the biggest and best civilisation on the island of Catan.  To do this you’ll need to build villages, roads and up to cities, each of which requires different resources like stone, brick, wood etc. You’ll collect these resources from one of the tiles that make up the game board providing that you have a settlement on one of the hex’s 6 corners and its number is what has just been rolled.

A little note: this game requires at least 3 people to play, sure you can play it 2 player but it doesn’t come into its own until there is a third person at the table.

Read the full review here.

Game Three: Splendor
By Marc André.

This game has the shortest running time on this list and is also the cheapest at around £20.  It is also one of the youngsplendorest games on the list and is great.  This game is a very regular feature in my house, with its short set up and run time this comes to the table when you have an itch that can only be scratched by a good game, but not loads of time.  The rules are simple and the gameplay is, as the theme would suggest; elegant.

This game has each player as a jewel/gem merchant in Renaissance Europe, who are vying for control of gem mines, transportation and stores from which to sell their wares, all of these are all beautifully represented on three decks of cards (Levels one, two and three).  This is a resource management (where the gems are the resource) and a set collection game (sets of a resource are usually very good) where players are trying to gain Prestige, as soon as a player reaches a Prestige score of 15 the game ends.  Unlike Catan and Pandemic, there is no direct player conflict, it’s all done indirectly, by which I mean every player keeps all their cards face up on the table, so you can see what they’ve got and work out what they are trying to do.

Game Four: Ticket to Ride

By Alan R. Moon (there are a host of these; Europe, UK, Asia, India and so on, any of these is worthy of space on your gaming shelf).ticket-to-ride

This is another multi-million selling game that you can pick up in pretty much any shop that sells anything remotely similar to games, like jigsaws.  It’s everywhere.  And rightly so, it’s a cracking game that again is really simple to learn and fun to play.  The board will take up quite a bit of space on your table, as a game about traversing all of North America should.  All you have to do in this game is complete the routes indicated on your tickets (you’ll get three at the beginning of the game), let’s say: connect Miami to New York.  Easy, you just have to gather the right number of coloured cards for the route you want to take.  This game is so very simple and it is brilliant in its simplicity.  Player interaction is low, sometimes you’ll end up racing for the best/easiest route to a certain city, but that is part of this game’s charm.

Game Five: Mysterium

mysteriumBy Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko

This game is the one that won’t appear on most people’s list of great games for beginners, and I don’t know why.  It is very accessible (most people say “Oh, it’s like Cluedo then? When I explain the rules), it’s very simple (after all; it is a little bit like Cluedo), it has a boatload of player interaction and it is so much fun.  Even after the game, you’ll be discussing it.  However; although this game can be played by just 2 people (as I and the Mrs often play it) it really is best with more.  In fact, this is a perfect after dinner game.

This is another co-operative game, where players are all working together to solve the mystery of who committed the murder, where and with what (yes, yes, I know, it sounds like Cluedo).  But the difference and the big twist here is that one of the players is the ghost of the departed victim who is not allowed to speak for the duration of the game and can only communicate to the other player’s (the mediums) by giving them beautifully designed abstract dream cards.  This game is stunningly beautiful, particularly the tarot-sized dream cards.

And that’s it.  If you only ever play these games you will have a great time, and if you’ve missed one or two of these get down to you friendly, local gaming store and pick one up, or if you’re lucky enough, sit down and play.

Think I’ve missed one or five?  Let me know.


Thanks for reading folks


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