My mom really likes playing board games with the family, but, of course, the games she wants to play are the same old games that we’ve been playing forever. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been trying to introduce them to more and more games. Let’s face it: playing board games with non-gamers can be… well, frustrating. They’re used to games like Life, Monopoly, or Sorry where the rules of the game are basically “Roll, move, complete anything that must be done on the space you have landed on.” Anything more complicated than that can be confusing for them if you try to introduce it too quickly. But there are a lot of games that make for great introduction games for people who never have ventured beyond Clue and Scrabble territory. Here are some of my favorite games to play with my own family of non-gamers.
Settlers of Catan
Somewhere down the line, gamers pretty much unanimously decided that Catan is the game to play when introducing non-gamers to the world of board gaming. The reason for this is that it is incredibly simple to understand, but also surprisingly very strategic, making it fun for both newbies and more experienced gamers. Over the course of the past two decades, Catan has sold nearly 25 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular games since Risk or Monopoly.
In Catan, each player controls a group of setters trying to develop their settlements on the island of Catan. Players gather resources then use those resources to build their settlements and cities. The first person to gain ten victory points wins. Simple, right? I promise it is! I have even played Catan with my family before and I think it was one of the quickest games that they managed to pick up. There aren’t very many rules or actions that you need to complete on your turn, which makes it perfect for people like my family.
Carcassonne was my introduction to gaming and I didn’t even know it at the time. One of my good friends in high school owned it so we would play it frequently when we hung out. I certainly wouldn’t call most of my high school friends “gamers” so Carcassonne was perfect for our group. The idea behind Carcassonne is that players are taking on the role of the founders of the historic city, Carcassonne. Players use tiles depicting parts of cities, roads, fields, and monasteries to build the city. They place their “followers” (aka meeples) on the tiles to help with development.
The concept of Carcassonne is even simpler than Catan. All you need to do is pick a tile at random, place it on the table to connect it with the rest of the board, then deploy one of your followers and score points. The player with the most points at the end wins. This is the only game on this list that I haven’t played with my family of non-gamers (aka, my very own guinea pigs for this post), but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we play it together.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games. It is yet another simple concept with a lot of strategy involved. The board is set up like a map of the United States and your goal is to connect different cities through a train route using cards that you receive in the beginning of the game. On your turn you are doing one of three things: picking up cards, placing trains, or choosing a new route. You score points based on the length of your trains in addition to the point value of your routes. Any routes you do not finish at the end of the game is worth negative points. And if you ever get tired of using the United States map, Days of Wonder has created several other maps that each add something new to the game.
The first time my family came into the café I taught them Ticket to Ride. They liked it enough that we bought it and took it on our beach vacation last summer. My brother, Ridge, was acting very overconfident throughout the game, claiming that he had the greatest strategy. He even kept taking new route tickets. We get to the end of the game and, as we’re going through his routes to double-check that he completed them, we realize that he didn’t finish a single of his routes. In each one, he forgot just a small section, but ultimately never finished any of them. We were all laughing as we subtracted his points and his response was “why are you all laughing?” He ended up with negative forty-one points.
Perhaps the simplest of all the games on this list is Tsuro. Tsuro is a game in which the last man standing wins. In it, players place tiles on the board and follow the path on it until they reach the end. If your path takes you off the edge of the board, you lose. If you run into another player, you both lose. The catch is, you may only place tiles in front of your piece. You must strategically place your tiles in a way that you can not only defensively play and avoid the other players, but also offensively play and try to connect your path with another player’s path in a way that forces them to run off the board.
When I taught my mom and grandma Tsuro, the strategy part of it simply went over their heads, but it was still a simple enough concept that they didn’t ask very many questions while I was explaining it. I think one of them may have inadvertently run herself off the board due to a combination of bad tiles and not thinking ahead, but I think they still enjoyed it.
If you are new to gaming, but want to learn more, try one of these games! I can guarantee that everyone on staff knows how to play at least one of these and would be more than willing to teach you.