1 – Ticket to Ride / Ticket to Ride Europe (Card Drafting, Set Collection)
This is a great intro game for a lot of different crowds that can be taught in about 3 or 4 minutes and provides quite a bit of strategy. It works well for 2 players and is fairly simple. You’re trying to collect sets of train cards in various colors so that you can turn them in to claim routes across America (or Europe). You have destination tickets that will give you a bonus if you can complete “San Fransisco to New Orleans” etc. There’s some risk though, because if you can’t complete the destination tickets you choose, at the end of the game the points for that ticket are deducted instead of added. It’s a lot of fun.
(Side note the company Days of Wonder that makes this game is a safe bet for any board game. They have made a smaller amount than most companies their size but the games they have made are all fantastic)
These are around $40 on Amazon right now, Target sells them as well.
2 – Machi Koro (Dice Rolling, Civilization Building)
This is a game for 2-4 players that has lots of strategy but also relies on dice rolls so there is an element of luck which can make it really fun. The basic premise is you are building a city. The first one to build a set of major landmarks wins. You can buy smaller buildings that have numbers on them from 1-12 along the way. When the number of your building is rolled by you or others depending on what type of building you have, you get money. You use that money to build more buildings until you can build the ones you need to win. Essentially you are trying to maximize the chance that your building’s numbers will be rolled by as many people as possible to get the most money. This one plays 2 well and has some great expansions that add a ton of depth to an already fun game (the harbor expansion is particular adds so much and many say they didn’t like it until they played with the harbor expansion, I am not one of those people) It’s $19.79 on Amazon right now and is also at Target.
3 – Catan (Hand Management, Route Building)
This game is a classic and is a solid choice to start with as well. It plays 3-4 players (or 5-6 with an extension they sell) and is a great mix of strategy, resource management and civ building. You essentially roll dice that will activate certain tiles to give you resources if you are next to them on the board. You use those resources to build roads, towns, and cities. Those towns and cities will give you victory points (also having the longest road, biggest army etc will give you victory points) The first person to reach 10 VP wins. It’s a good one. They have it for $36.14 on Amazon and it is also available at Target.
4 – Takenoko (Tile Placement, Grid Movement)
This a great game where you are trying to complete objective cards you have. The board will continue to grow as you lay down tiles. When you lay down tiles of a certain color bamboo of that color will “grow” on the board. The cards that you have are either telling you to lay down tiles in a certain way, grow bamboo in a certain way, or eat bamboo of a certain color with the panda figure. It’s a very family friendly 2-4 player game that actually has quite a bit of strategy involved and is fairly simple to pick up. It’s a cool theme for the game and is one that lots of people will enjoy. (Also the rule book has a comic strip telling an intro story, how great is that?!) It’s on Amazon right now for $31.02.
5 – Lords of Waterdeep (Worker Placement, Resource Management)
This one is the nerdiest on the list and one of the more involved to learn but it’s far and away my favorite game right now; my wife loves it too. This is a worker placement game. You have quests that you are trying to complete and a “Lord” that you are playing that will give you bonuses for certain types of quests (there are 4 types total). You have a certain number of agents that you can use per round (there are 8 rounds) and when you place an agent on a certain location you get “adventurers” (cubes). When you get the number of adventurers you need to complete a quest you can turn in the quest and get the points. There are also some other interesting places on the board that let you interact with other players but that is the basic concept of the game. There is a ton of strategy to this one and once again a fantastic expansion available that adds an incredible amount of depth to the game should you end up liking it. It’s on Amazon right now for $36.47.
So I also wanted to mention a couple of others because all of the games I put above are head to head games where you are trying to win against someone. These next 2 are cooperative games that you all win or lose together. This is personally my favorite type of game because there seems to be more interaction when you are working together and trying to accomplish a goal. The following games are easy to pick up, but once again provide plenty of depth and interesting choices that could effect the team in a number of different ways.
1 – Pandemic (Coop Play, Variable Player Powers, Set Collection)
This is a very cool game where you are agents from the CDC trying to prevent and cure diseases across the globe. You will play specific characters that have special abilities that will help in the game. Basically you will move around the globe “curing” disease cubes that will spawn on the board based on an infection deck that you draw cards from. You will also draw cards from a player deck after every turn that will give you cards displaying a city and a color on them. If you collect 5 cards of the same color, you can go to a CDC research station and cure the disease that matches a particular color (there are 4 diseases total, red, yellow, black and blue). You have to be careful because the player deck also contains epidemic cards that may cause an outbreak in a city, which could potentially cause a chain reaction. It’s $29.74 right now on Amazon. This game is also available at Target.
2 – Forbidden Desert (Coop Play, Variable Player Powers)
This is a game where you as a group of adventurers have gotten stranded in the desert and must find the parts to a steampunk flying machine to escape. You have to fight sandstorms and the elements to survive and work together to find the parts you need to escape in the flying machine. Once again you will have characters that have special abilities and can help in certain ways. It’s about $17.00 on Amazon right now.
More Complex Games That Are Very Good—
So these games are going to be on the starter list but they are a bit more complex than the other games listed. These games could be used to start any collection and you would probably love them, they might just take a bit more effort to learn. The good news is there are tons of videos on YouTube showing how to play these games which is very helpful in most cases because not all rule books are crystal clear (I’m looking at you Mysterium). So if you are feeling adventurous and want a somewhat deeper gaming experience pick these up!
Five Tribes (Area Control, Set Collection, Auction/Bidding)
This is a fantastic game by Days of Wonder (the company that makes Ticket to Ride. Notice a pattern? They make fantastic games).In this game you pick up a wooden person, move them to another tile and based on what tile you land on and what color person you move you get a bonus. These bonuses can include the ability to purchase a Djinn (genie) that will give you certain powers throughout the rest of the game; the ability to collect resource cards from a market that will give you gold etc. The person with the most points will win. This game involves quite a bit of strategy and is very engaging. Anything that Days of Wonder makes is a quality product but this game is one of their best. It’s $35.70 on Amazon.
Smash Up (Hand Management, Area Control, Variable Player Powers)
This is a great card game. The basic premise is you have 8 different decks of cards that represent things like Ninjas, Pirates, Dinosaurs, Aliens etc, and you pick two of those groups and shuffle the decks together to create a “Smashed up” fighting force. You then play king of the hill with cards essentially and try to capture bases. You can have Pirate Dinosaurs or Robot Zombies and these combinations will give you different powers and abilities because each deck plays differently. It’s a great game for 2-4 players that can really become interesting with the strategy used. It’s on sale on Amazon for $19.99. (One cool side note for this game is that it has 5 or 6 expansions that can each play by themselves for 2 players. So if you want a little bit of a different experience you can buy an expansion and play head to head with someone without having to own the original game)
Mysterium (Cooperative Play, Acting, Hand Management)
This is a spooky game where up to 7 people can play to try and solve a mystery from the 1890’s in Scotland. It is now the 1920’s and a group of Psychic investigators have entered a haunted mansion to try and piece together the events that ended in the murder of a manservant. One person plays the ghost who was murdered years ago. This player cannot talk or make gestures. He/She can communicate to the (up to 6 other) psychics in the game with “Visions” in the form of cards. The psychics have to find clues in these vision cards that match a Person, Place, and Thing that will be on the table (think Clue). Once each person has successfully determined the items, places and people the ghost is trying to tell them, the ghost will lay down 3 vision cards that will match one of the player’s grouped cards. If a majority of players guess the correct group (Person, Place, Thing) based on the vision cards the ghost picks at the end everyone wins and the spirit is laid to rest. This is a great cooperative game that really requires some creative communication and is a ton of fun to play. This game is also one where you can really get into the theme and make it fun. There is a QR code in the rule book that allows you download background music that you can play while the game is going on. This makes it a fun spooky experience that everyone can really enjoy. It’s available on Amazon for $44.95.
Whether you like to build cities and amass resources, attack your opponent head on, plan chess like moves for 3 turns in advance or help your group survive a disaster of global proportions this list should give you a good place to start. I’m fairly new to the hobby as well and am still learning new things about the games I love and the styles that keep me coming back to the table, but these have all been winners as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or want to hear about a certain topic email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the table!