Six To Get Started (and one to IGNORE): A Beginners Guide to the new Golden Age of Board Games.

Board gaming is happening.

All over the place people are having tabletop game nights. People are having board gaming meetups. Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop Day gathers more and more steam every year. Kickstarter’s biggest backings are now board games, by a long shot. You’ve seen all the articles and Facebook posts and tweets heralding this new age of board gaming.

“Board Games: It Ain’t Just Monopoly Anymore”

It’s a party!!

But how do YOU get in on it!  What games should you try out that’ll expose you to this wild and newly invigorated world of board gaming? Well, Aunt Susan and Uncle Mike are gonna help you out and walk you through a few games that are sure to give you the board gaming bug. Fun, easy, and widely playable! You can even bring the kids in on the deal!
Most importantly, you can do something better with your nights than watching The Bachelorette!

Come along, we’ll show ya six of our favorite easy-to-learn but lots of fun games…

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Ticket To Ride
2-5 players
Ages 8 and up

Mike: This game is the gateway drug to the board gaming’s new golden age. It most closely resembles the games you remember playing as a kid while introducing several of the concepts that are key to many of the newer board games. You score points by securing train routes between cities. The farther the distance, the more points you win. The more routes you secure, the more points you win It’s really simple and lotsa fun. I can even get my wife to play this and she hates games! Go ahead and try’ll like it, but be warned, you may eventually head to the “crystal meth” of Arkham Horror!

Susan: Something I like about Ticket to Ride is how awesome the iPad version is! If you play this game and get hooked and can't wait until the next game night, the mobile version will be a great fix - complete with fun sound effects. Choo choo!!

Sushi Go
2-5 players
Ages 8 and up

Mike: In this card game, you and your opponents are competing to create the most sushi rolls, and sashimi dinners. Multiply your score with wasabi and stockpiled desserts! The artwork is hella cute and the gameplay is very kid friendly. As such, it makes for an excellent non-taxing but still satisfyingly competitive game to play when heavily drunk, or debilitatingly hung over!

Susan: It's a really cute game that everyone seems to like. It will introduce you to a nifty game style called “pass and play” where each round you choose a card to keep before passing the whole hand along. This strikes a nice balance of easy to play while also giving opportunities for plenty of strategy - or sabotage! My only complaint is that this game makes me hungry. Time for a snack!

Monopoly (played correctly)
2-5 players
Ages 8 and up

Mike: Yeah I know, you’re all “MONOPOLY??? WTF is wrong with this dude!!” But bear with me.

The reason you don’t like Monopoly is because you’ve ruined it by not playing correctly. It takes you 5 hours to play because you’ve ignored the rules and have felt free to do whatever the hell you want when you play. Play by the rules. It’ll take 90 mins and you’ll understand what finely tuned game design is about. This will help you enter the new age with the right attitude. And you need that, because your attitude needs to change. Here’s a quick guide:

  • When you land on a property you must either purchase it or it goes up for auction. You’re not allowed to just leave it there!
  • You don’t get money for landing on Free Parking.
  • If you run out of houses, you can no longer build houses until more are available when they are turned in for motels! It’s called a housing shortage! Deal with it!  
Those three things alone will change everything you feel about Monopoly! Learn to play by the rules, and you’ll be welcome with open arms in board gaming’s brave new world!

Susan: Mike is right - it's a much better-designed game than you think if you play by the original and correct rules. But that said, it's not one we pull out given our ginormous trove. BUT if you've got a copy (and who doesn't?) give it a try the way it's supposed to be played.

Tsuro Of The Seas
2-5 players
Ages 8 and up

Susan: This game is quick, easy, and can handle up to 8 players easily so it's a great start to a game night. This game follows from the original game, Tsuro, but it's well worth it to just jump in the deep end (pun intended!) with the nautical version. Each player begins at the edge of the board and then play progresses with players laying tiles with twisted routes down to create paths for their ships to safely navigate, while hoping to send opponents’ ships careening off the ends of the Earth. This version adds the complexity of fearsome sea dragons who you're also maneuvering around.

Mike: Well there, Susan has put you on the flying trapeze without a net! Tsuro, the original, is elegant and simple. The classic “easy to learn but hard to master” title. The addition of the sea monsters in Tsuro Of The Seas however, is a pretty significant uptick in difficulty that might prove frustrating for younger players to start with. Don’t get me wrong, after you get to know the mechanic of the game, the changes in “seas” are great fun. I just think you start with the original, and that’s what we agreed on when we decided to write this piece, but my partner has gone rogue!
Susan:  Argh, matey! They can handle it, me thinks! (And if they can't, you can take out the dragons and you're back to Tsuro while you get the hang of it.)

2-8+ players
Ages 14 and up

Susan: This game was voted Best Party Game of 2015 in many places and it's easy to see why. It's a simple, competitive backwards version of “Password” - with spies! Divide your group into 2 teams and assign a spymaster to each team. Lay down a 5x5 grid of cards, each with a simple word on it. The spymasters collectively draw a grid card, which tells them which words are the codenames for each side’s agents. The spymasters then give one-word clues that they hope inspire their team to guess as many spies in one go as possible. The twist is that some of the codenames are for innocent bystanders, which stop the turn and one in the grid is a dangerous assassin that will end the game for your team.  It's quick and fun - good for drunks e and kids alike (but probably not at the same time or the kids will lose patience.)

Mike: Perfect party game especially because the length of the rounds of play are conducive to changing team roles and teams altogether! You get the full range of interplay in a single sitting. So well designed you can use it out of the box as an gathering or even corporate icebreaker!

Forbidden Desert
2-5 players
Ages 10 and up

Susan: As with Tsuro, my recommendation is that you jump over the lower bar - in this case Forbidden Island - and right into the slightly more challenging but also more interesting version that followed. These games are great examples of a really fun board game style - the cooperative game - which is perfect for newbies and kids alike as either you all beat the game or you all lose. In this version, you're all trying to uncover the pieces of a flying machine that will carry you out of the swirling, menacing desert sands before the scorching heat and dwindling water supply spell your doom. Like its big cousin, “Pandemic” (which is probably our #7!) this game allows each player to take on a special role while formulating the best group strategy.

Mike: The fact that this game is a co-op game is great for newbies because it removes the humiliation of losing to a person. This also makes it great for kids who get to follow adult leads and use their own deductive abilities to beat the desert. Great fun, but I’m inclined to suggest starting with Forbidden Island. Forbidden Desert is definitely the better of the two games though!

...and one to ignore:

Cards Against Humanity
4-30 players
Ages 17 and up

Mike: Oh you’ve heard sooo much about it

“It’s so much fun”
“We laughed our asses off”
“It’s so raunchy”

It’s the party game that’s sweeping the nation.

You and a bunch of other people are given some cards with insultingly provocative statements on them and missing words a la 70s game show “Match Game”. You fill in the missing word and then one your your dunderhead friend’s judges the answers.

This game sucks. For one thing, your friends are awful at judging comedy (I promise you, they are) and in all honesty if this is what you’re gonna play, then you should go back to The Bachelorette, because it's essentially the same thing. Hollow titillation. No happy ending!

Susan: I couldn't agree more. It was fun at first - as in that first moment when you knew you had an awesome answer - but Mike is right, your friend had horrible humor and thought “Harry Potter erotica” was the perfect hysterical answer to a joke that only they get.  Get The Metagame instead if this is the kind of thing you want - and you won't have to give the kids earplugs. Or, do what Mike says and just watch “The Bachelorette” but then hey, back to the earplugs.

So now you’re clued in. You’ve been given the information, now go out and join the revolution! We’ll see you there!

Good talk guys...