The 10 Best Board Games for New Players

Published: November 19, 2013

If you're looking for a list of board games that are fun, engaging, and easy to pick up, read further. I list some of the top games that I believe are easy to learn, and have a ton of replay value. I will go over a brief description of how the game is played, along with a quick list of pros and cons. The list is in reverse order, so the best game on this list is number 10.

  1. The Settlers of Catan

    Settlers of Catan is a dice rolling and resource management game. The goal is to reach ten victory points before your opponents. For many non-gamers, this game is often used as an introduction to the world of serious tabletop gaming.

    There are quite a few things that merit Settlers of Catan's place on this list. First, it is probably one of the easiest games not named Monopoly or Battleship to pick up and play. The game has been enjoying a sort of renaissance as tabletop gaming has, once again, been picking up popularity in recent times. The mechanics are very easy to learn and the strategy is complex enough to allow for tons of replay value.

    However, there are some elements that detract from the overall game. For the initiated, and just about every applied math major, The Settlers of Catan is basically an illustrated version of craps. When there is a disparity of skill among the players, the experienced players (or again, anyone who understands the probability of dice values) will always have a leg up on the new players. 

     

    I don't particularly enjoy the game's mechanics, but I do recognize the game's high replay value and enjoyability for those who have yet to begin their adventure into tabletop gaming.

  2. King of Tokyo

    King of Tokyo is a fun, easy to learn game that mostly focuses on dice rolling. The object of the game is to earn 20 victory points, or to be the last monster standing in the game.

    Because there are two ways to win, King of Tokyo offers different strategies and methods toward achieving victory. Games will go relatively quickly, and the game is great for introducing new gamers to games with complex dice mechanics. Even if your monster is defeated in the course of the game, you probably won't have to wait long until the game ends so that you can play again. 

    The game has a heavy emphasis on dice rolling, so part of King of Tokyo is based on luck. There are ways to mitigate the effects of poor dice rolls with good strategy, but those blessed by the dice gods will often win, whether it's because they roll a ton of Energy early or because they claim Tokyo and then roll 6 punches a turn.

     

    Bottom line, King of Tokyo is a lot of fun, easy to learn, and has some expansions that are worth looking into. The artwork is pretty good and I definitely recommend it.

  3. Castle Panic

    Castle Panic is a cooperative board game that requires players to work together to stave off a horde of orcs, trolls, and goblins. Players earn victory by defeating the entire horde and lose the game when all the walls have been breached.

     

    One of the most attractive aspects of cooperative games is that experienced players actively assist new players in achieving victory. Since the entire group is working as a team, new players have the luxury of an experienced player's guidance.

    The difficulty of the game, however, is largely subject to luck. A good round of pulls in the early game will make earning victory relatively easy and stress free. However, a spurt of bad luck or a terrible early game will notch the degree of difficulty to a very discouraging height.

    I highly recommend Castle Panic for those looking to pick up a great cooperative board game at a reasonable price. There is a good amount of replay value, and the difficulty will vary from game to game.

  4. Hanabi

    Hanabi is a cooperative card game that challenges players to create the best fireworks show possible. It is similar to the popular poker variant "Blind Man's Bluff" where players will know everyone else's hand but their own.

    Hanabi requires players to have good communication skills, as you are allowed to give hints to players about which cards that they have. Extra hilarity ensues when someone forgets what information they have been given. There are also different variants available to play without having to purchase additional cards, which adds inherent replay value.

     

    Hanabi isn't for those who are looking for a action packed board game, but is definitely great game to start off a game night, especially when there is a mix of experienced and inexperienced players.

  5. Fluxx

    Fluxx is a card game where the objective for victory changes from turn to turn. There are many different thematic variants, including Zombie Fluxx and Star Fluxx.

    The game is very simple- all players need to do is follow the rules laid out on the table. The first rule of Fluxx will always be "Draw one, play one." As the game progresses, limitations will change as will the conditions for victory.

    Fluxx can lose a little replay value over multiple playthroughs, but the expansions have their own twists and variations that keep gameplay fresh. The game is no bigger than a deck of Uno cards, and is highly recommended.

  6. Munchkin

    Munckin eschews all of the theme and story of role playing games and tasks the player with one simple objective: get to level 10. Players will fight monsters, earn treasure, and even bargain with fellow teammates to achieve victory. There are many different expansions available for players to enjoy, as well as standalone expansions with thematic differences.

    Munchkin is very easy to learn as is often a hit at game nights. Role playing can be difficult for the unwilling or the unimaginative, but this game allows all sorts of players to enjoy the thrill of going through a proverbial dungeon and beating monsters. Additionally, a key aspect of Munckin is assisting and backstabbing fellow players, which gives a great twist to the overall gameplay.

    Too many expansions in Munchkin can detract from the overall value of the game. Although there are many expansions available, I highly recommend only playing with 2 or 3 add ons at the most. Otherwise players will become too strong to be beat by any monster, and the game becomes a race to the finish line.

  7. Magic: The Gathering

    Created by Wizards of the Coast, Magic the Gathering empowers players as powerful Planeswalkers that can cast spells and summon giant creatures. The object of the game is to reduce your opponent's life to 0 from 20.

    There is a lot to enjoy about Magic the Gathering. Many game shops host Friday Night Magic, where Magic players, new and old alike, can play against other Planeswalkers. Wizards of the Coast offers new expansions and sets for Magic players to enjoy every few months, which keeps the product fresh and adds more to the game. There are also tournaments available to play in for the very experienced players, often with cash prizes.

    For those not used to the mechanics of a game like Magic the Gathering, I highly recommend purchasing an introduction deck from any of the recent set releases. Having a friend or multiple friends available for you to play with can definitely help sharpen your skills as well. As far as Friday Night Magic is concerned, I highly recommended Limited or Draft play as opposed to Constructed play. In limited and draft play, you are given a set of cards to create a deck with. In constructed, you bring your own deck to play against other pre-made decks. Limited and draft play requires even the most experienced Planeswalker to adjust to the cards that are in their pool and often has much more parity than constructed deck play.

  8. Shadows Over Camelot

    Shadows Over Camelot is a semi cooperative game with an important traitor mechanic. The group plays as Knights of the Round table, completing important objectives in order to achieve victory. However, a traitor lurks within the group, and will do everything in their power to foil the groups attempts at victory.

    Shadows Over Camelot is a great game for a larger group. Even if you are new to the game, the traitor role is a lot of fun. Those that are inexperienced can often feign ignorance to upper level strategy as an excuse for sabotaging the group's efforts.

    The game has since been overshadowed by Fantasy Flight's Battlestar Galactica, but still remains a great game to play overall. In fact, I highly recommend anyone who wants to play Battlestar Galactica to first play Shadows Over Camelot because apparently Fantasy Flight Games has something against explaining rules clearly, and the Battlestar Galactica board game can be overly complex.

  9. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords

    Pathfinder is a popular role playing game, and Rise of the Runelords is one of the most well known campaigns available. However, not everyone has a particularly imaginative or descriptive game master, and many people tend to attach a negative stigma to role playing in general. The best answer for those detractors is this game. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game takes all of the role playing game elements into card form. It is a highly recommended tool for introducing role playing to friend who never have role played before, and does not require a game master.

    The set comes with expansions that further the story along, and in order to complete the entire Rise of the Runelords campaign, you will be require to purchase those expansions. One thing in particular to keep in mind as well is that the card game does contain terminology associated with role playing games like "d6" or "d12". I highly recommend at least one player be familiar with the terminology before beginning the campaign.

  10. Takenoko

    Takenoko is, by far, my favorite game of all time. You play some sort of divine force controlling an emperor, a gardener, and a panda, strategically using each character as a means to complete objectives. The game is easy to pick up and play, and is highly recommended to players of all ages.

    Takenoko is by far one of the simplest, yet strategically diverse games on this list. The cards that you draw outline which objectives you are required to complete in order to score points.

    There isn't a heavy equalizer for experience in this game, so experienced players will often win over the inexperienced players. However, I believe that every player has an equal opportunity to win the game because the strategy is easy to internalize after one or two playthroughs. There is also a heavy emphasis on not drawing too many land (or Emperor) objectives since the cost and reward balance is heavily skewed towards cost.

    All that being said however, Takenoko is my favorite game to introduce to new players. For those that are not familiar with board gaming, Takenoko is often the first game I will play when I host game nights. It is a cornerstone of any gamer's collection and a definite must have.

One of the key aspects of board gaming that I encourage players, new and old alike, to look for is that attractive quality that will draw in more board gamers. My personal favorite game is Takenoko, but I believe that every player can find that game that they can introduce to their friends to create some fantastic game nights.