People frequently ask me what the best board games are to get started. I usually say that it depends on the person and what they think they’d like. Lots of websites have similar lists, like “best board games of the year”, or “top 10 best board games.” Instead, I am listing games that are easy to pick up and play and yet are very engaging. That means they can be learned in less than five minutes, and they are not intimidating to look at. These are not necessarily my favorite games, just great games for people to start with. You will notice that Ticket to Ride and Catan are not on the list. That’s mainly because you find them on most lists like this. I wanted to highlight a couple equally good games in their places. So without further ado, here’s my picks for best board games for beginners.
Takenoko is the game I’m using to replace Ticket to Ride. It’s a perfect substitution for the latter. The game is simple. Every player starts with three objective cards. One for tile layout, one for the gardener, and one for the panda. When you complete the objective shown on the card you score the points listed on it. For example, if the panda card shows three pieces of bamboo, one of each color, then move the panda and eat those bamboo. Once you do the card is done and you score the points shown. The first player to complete a certain number of cards triggers the end of the game. Then you count up the points and whoever scored highest wins. The pieces are all high quality and durable, as well as cute and fun. Takenoko is an easy to play and strategic game that belongs in every family’s collection.
4. Rivals For Catan
My pick in place of Catan is its two player dueling card game spin-off. Catan has been hailed by many websites as the game that kickstarted the modern day gaming renaissance, and for good reason. With easy to learn rules and game-play that offers vast replay potential and strategic depth, it’s a game that everyone should own. However, I personally prefer the almost chess-like competitive duel that is the Rivals for Catan card game. First and foremost is the fact that Catan requires at least three people. This isn’t always possible for many busy gamers with families. It’s also quicker and easier to set up, with fewer pieces to mess with. Every aspect of Catan is present in the card game, just modified. The biggest change is the new cards, such as the lumber mill, which makes any adjacent forests produce extra wood. If you already own the original but don’t always have three players, or if you are new to gaming and want an easy to pick up and play game to start off your collection, you can’t go wrong with Rivals for Catan.
This is one of the best examples of card drafting and set collection games on the market. Splendor never fails to impress both new and veteran gamers alike when I bust it out at gatherings. It’s incredibly simple to learn but it will keep you enthralled for game after game. You collect gem tokens and use them to buy cards, each of which has a point value from 0-4 and a gem in the top right corner. The gems on the cards can be used to reduce the cost of other cards you buy. For example, if you have a ruby and an emerald card, and a card you want to buy costs a ruby, two emeralds, and a diamond, then you only need to pay one emerald and a diamond token for that card. The new card is added to your collection, which increases your buying power. There are also nobles who will visit you when you have enough cards, thus gaining you even more points. The cards are high quality, and the gem tokens are thick and heavy. This game just screams quality all the way. No surprise I guess for the game that won the Golden Geek board game of the year in 2014.
Very few games have had the staying power and overall influence on gaming in general that Carcassonne has had. The concept is incredibly simple and yet so deeply strategic it’s almost unbelievable. You draw a tile, place it according to some basic rules, then choose to place a meeple or not. That’s the game in a nutshell, one sentence. Yet this simple game has remained a bestseller for over 20 years. It has spawned close to a dozen expansions, been converted to a mobile game, and even coined the term “meeple”. The game can be set up in a couple minutes, only takes about 20-30 minutes to play, and will engage you in a way few other games can. Carcassonne is a must own game for anybody wanting to call themselves a tabletop gamer.
This is not a game you just simply play, it’s an experience you live through with a group of friends. Cooperative gaming is my favorite kind of gaming. Working together with a group of people to achieve a common goal is so satisfying to me. No game on the market better exemplifies this than Pandemic, in my opinion. There are four diseases spreading around the globe. The player’s goal is to stop the spread and find a cure. Few games do as good of a job as Pandemic at building tension. When you draw an epidemic card and outbreaks occur it’s intense. You will not always win this game. It is a challenge to be overcome, but it is a challenge absolutely worth accepting. Everyone should own this game.
So that’s my list for the best board games for beginners. As stated before, there are other games that could easily go on a list like this. We live in a gaming golden age that just keeps getting better with new games regularly being released. However, I feel these are games that anybody can pick up and easily learn. Games that are great introductions to those who are new to the hobby. What are some of your favorite games? What would you pick to put on a list like this? Please let us know with a comment.