Hey Hey GT - What are your "Essential board games" for people just starting off in the hobby?

This is one I get asked a lot, and I never really know what to say. There are games like Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert, Cards Against Humanity (if you are awful people), and the like, but we should come up with a comprehensive list. What do you guys think are the must-haves for a rookie in the Tabletop world?

Ron Burke
Editor in Chief

Xbox Gamertag: Gaming Trend
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  • EngineNo9
    GT Member
    I think it really depends on how "deep" they want to go. After all, some people find anything beyond Sorry to be too complicated, haha.

    But in general I usually recommend Settlers of Catan as a first dip into the more German-style boardgames. It has some more rules and interaction than a classic/normal/"American" board game, but still simple enough that people from tweens on up can get the gist.

    Others might be SmallWorld, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne. Some of those are easier to pick up than others, but that also depends on the makeup of the group and whether at least one person has played before.

    Risk is always a classic for a reason, but it can also drive tons of people away because of the old rules that made for very long games and limited player interaction at times.

    Similar to Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples is the obvious choice for families with a broad age range.

    I also like King of Tokyo as a faster paced game to appeal to a family audience. Games are pretty fast, overall easy rules, and it's a good introduction to character-based games with action points and such.
  • EngineNo9
    GT Member
    Ooh, a couple others I thought of. As usual the appeal depends on the person/people playing.

    Zombie Dice is a nice and easy game that is small enough to bring with you pretty much anywhere.

    Another really fun dice game is Liar's Dice. You don't even need any true game for it, all you really need is cups and dice. Really broad appeal (not super intimidating for grandparents, etc) and fairly fast games.

    Munchkin is pretty widely regarded as well, though I think I've only ever played it once ages ago.
  • Lordnine
    GT Member
    Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are fine of course, but I feel like they are a bit tired at this point.

    Isle of Skye – This is basically 10% more complicated than Carcassonne but about 100% more fun. I think it’s a great intro game, but unlike Carcasonne, has some real player interaction and long term strategy which makes it more appealing to more experienced gamers as well.

    Lords of Waterdeep – This is a good “first” worker placement game. It’s better with the expansion but that adds extra complexity that may be unwelcome for newcomers. Plays fast even with 6 people.

    Codenames – Super simple game that is a great party game. Break into two teams and learn how your friends think.

    Secret Hitler – A social deduction party game with more strategy than the typical werewolf type fare.

    Mysterium – A co-op game where one person gives abstract hints to other players to solve a murder

    While they tend to be slightly more complicated, I’ve also had good luck introducing new players to games like Mansions of Madness. Since the heroes are working together to complete a goal, the added complexity usually doesn’t matter as long as one person has played the game before.

    While I’m not a huge fan of it personally, Betrayal at House on the Hill is probably the easiest of this type of game to get into.
  • uxFOOL
    GT Manager
    I second Lords of Waterdeep and Secret Hitler. Also add in Joking Hazard which is basically Cards Against Humanity but with Cyanide & Happiness cartoon panels.

    Mike Dunn
    Executive Producer & Editor-at-Large

  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    My personal favorite and probably my all-time played game as an adult is Letters from Whitechapel. It's solo/team deduction for the newbies while the experienced player gets to be Jack the Ripper. The rules are light, there are very few special actions, and all of those are on Jack's side. If you come out next month, I'll run a game.
  • KronovanX
    GT Member edited June 2017
    Late to the party on this, but...

    Arkham Horror Living Card Game - it's selling like hotcakes and is often sold out, for good reason. IMO it really nails the Lovecraftian vibe and does so well enough that it appeals to players with no exposure to it. It adds a few nice RPG-like elements to the LCG genre and supports campaign play, but is perfectly enjoyable just playing a single scenario. Did I mention the nice artwork. ;) The only knock against it is that need 2 of the core sets if you want to play with 3 or 4 players.

    Pandemic with On The Brink expansion - it's sort of the 1st real hit in the expanding-epidemic boardgame type. I've yet to come across a player that didn't enjoy playing it, albeit you have to appreciate co-op play to have a fun time with it. The rules are quite simple and the core game is great for kids, but I've found you need the expansion to make it challenging enough for adults. Don't bother with the betrayer game mode for the expansion; my gaming group has found it clunky and awkward to play it that way.

    Last Night on Earth; the Zombie Game - Even people that don't like the whole Zombie-Survival horror thing seem to enjoy this game. It's Human Vs Zombie team play with up to 3 players on each side, but IME it works best with 3 Human Vs 2 Zombie players. It's also perfectly enjoyable with 1 on 1 game play. In terms of rule crunch I'd say it's light -to- medium. There's lots of great expansions available for it and I can say from personal experience that the manufacturer -Flying Frog Productions- is a fantastic company for support.
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    K_D, this coming weekend is the next DGM event. If I can get my crap together, I'll be running Letters from Whitechapel with the expansion.
  • coopasonic
    GT Member
    If the Dragon makes the drive, I will try to get off my ass too.

    Now that I have posted in this thread I guess I should address the OP.

    Letters from Whitechapel - 1 vs many - Isgrimnur introduced this one to me. It's pure deduction, with minimal frills. Fury of Dracula gets lots of Love, but it's way more complicated.

    Flash Point: Fire Rescue - co-op - it's along the lines of Pandemic but you are fighting a fire rather than outbreaks of a virus.

    Gravwell - racing game - it's semi-blind drafting, screw everyone, come from behind racing with a sci-fi theme. My real racing choice is Powerboats, but it is basically impossible to find. No, you can't have mine.

    Evolution: Climate - evolve your species to survive against the climate, predators and starvation

  • katamaris4ever
    GT Editor
    Being a novice in the genre (but having friends that are more experienced than I), I tend to glaze over complicated board games, so anything under an hour is great for me. I love things like Munchkin (due to the abundance of themed decks) and Pandemic. For parties, Cards Against Humanity/Apples to Apples works wonders, Quelf is crazy, and Spyfall is a pretty neat deduction game as well. Crowd favorite is Mafia/Werewolf (which only uses cards), so that isn't too bad.
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