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I love board games and don't mind sitting down for 10-15 minutes with some experienced players to learn how to play a complex game. However, I don't think most of my friends are as tolerable of complexity as I am. I have a feeling they might get a little spooked at seeing a shadows over camelot board, but might be able to handle something like dominion.

What are some good games that newcomers can get started at quickly and feel proficient within a couple turns? I love games where brand new people can start developing good strategies within a few minutes.

related: How can I recognize games I should avoid buying if I only play with non-hardcore gamers?

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closed as not constructive by Pat Ludwig Jan 8 '12 at 6:32

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and many of the listed items here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/1039/… –  warren Nov 17 '10 at 0:15
    
@warren no luck doesn't mean its easy to play. I'm looking for stuff I can play with my friends who haven't realized board games are fun yet. If any of them tried to play go, chess, or stratego they would probably be overwhelmed quickly and never want to touch a board game again. –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 3 '10 at 0:27
    
that's true. However, many/most of the games in the other question fit the bill, in my experience :) –  warren Dec 3 '10 at 14:31
    
There is a community wiki question partially covering this one, with light strategy party games. boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/2050/… –  Krišjānis Nesenbergs Jan 6 '11 at 17:43
    
poker and chess :) –  Christoph Schiessl Jan 16 '11 at 21:04
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24 Answers 24

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne are the two games that we generally use. We have been so successful with Ticket to Ride Europe that not only have friends bought the game but they have taught it to friends of friends who have also gone and bought the game.

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I think Ticket to Ride is much easier to grasp. "Run a train between these two cities" is a nice concrete direction to give someone. Carcassonne is more abstract. It's hard to achieve "score the most points" when you don't know ahead of time what will definitely net you more points. –  Kristo Nov 15 '10 at 15:12
    
Links, links, links :) –  Jon Hadley Nov 15 '10 at 21:04
    
Ticket to Ride is perfect for meeting the questioner's needs, I think. The mechanics are SO simple, yet after a while one realises there's a fair bit of strategic depth as well. And there are several other Ticket to Ride games (at my house we are quite fond of Nordic Countries) that add even more strategy through simple mechanics like ferries and tunnels... the perfect gateway drug to boardgames addiction! –  thesunneversets Nov 18 '10 at 19:48
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Dominion

The base set for Dominion is really simple to teach. I find that non-gamers are able to grok the rules a bit easier than gamers. The mechanics are simple although I think people can get hung up on the discarding your entire hand at the end of your turn. It's pretty easy to see the strategic options, not very easy to get it working in your favor.

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it helps a lot if you leave out certain cards that make things a little more complex. Its very easy to teach, but resolving 4 card combos can be difficult for some people. This is easily counteracted by leaving out cards that give more than one action, and maybe attack cards as well for your first round. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 4 '11 at 1:06
    
it also helps if you play a little nicely the first time. The absolute most annoying thing about dominion is when you see other experienced players working through 8+ card combos where all you get to do is play one smithy. Its really easy to get over when you show people some strategies, so just get them drawn in enough so you don't scare them away early. –  Gordon Gustafson Feb 1 '11 at 2:27
    
I give this a somewhat hesitant +1. This is true only if you structure the card set to avoid some of the more brutal/crippling combos; this is a game where even if you know what you're doing, a superior strategy (or sometimes just a bit of luck) can result in one player absolutely running away with it. And that's no fun. –  BlairHippo Dec 8 '11 at 15:43
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Settlers

We usually introduce new people with Settlers, which lets them see that games can have different mechanics than the usual family games they're used to, but is still pretty simple to learn.

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I disagree, takes ages to teach my parents Settlers! –  Ian Nov 15 '10 at 13:57
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I love settlers, but I've had friends balk at playing it since it looks complex to them. It's not a quick game to teach people. –  ICodeForCoffee Nov 17 '10 at 18:03
    
Explaining the ports, robber, and different development cards I usually leave until after the first few turns, but you can definitely do far worse. You usually need to play a game or two before they grasp the strategy. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 4 '11 at 1:03
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I find it easy to learn new friends to play Settlers. I usually just explain the basics and then its learn-as-you-play. –  BurningIce Jan 6 '11 at 3:48
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I've always had the phenomenon happen that Settlers is hard to explain in words, but people seem to pick it up quickly once they start playing. –  GSto May 27 '11 at 18:37
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Pandemic

In general, cooperatives are easy to teach because there are no issues with advising players on what to do. With Pandemic, it's really not a problem to look at another player's cards and help them make decisions.

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forbidden island is a bit simpler, but pandemic is fine too. Cooperatives are awesome for beginners because there's no risk of being the only one who loses and you can all share strategy. :D –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 4 '11 at 1:04
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On the other hand, you risk one player playing at random makes everyone lose (as opposite to just him losing), or you risk a single player actually taking over a lazy player and telling him everything to do. –  Lohoris Jan 16 '11 at 17:16
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Small World

We've taught several people Small World as their first game outside the regular realm of Monopoly and Sorry, and almost everybody wants to play it again.

Small World is an area control game dressed up as a wargame. People understand the point and the theme right away.

It's really only got one mechanic which makes it easy to teach, and a zillion combinations of race / special power which makes it eminently replayable.

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Dixit & Dixit 2

I played this last evening with my family which included my kids whom are 6 years old and my grandma who is 92. None of them knew the rules beforehand.

I think I spent roughly 3 minutes covering scoring and how to play. It's not overly strategic perhaps but it's loads of fun for everyone including people who normally do not play much games.

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Wonderful games and very much suitable for all the family. Not really a Eurogame in the Settlers mould, but one of the prettiest gaming options out there. –  thesunneversets Nov 18 '10 at 19:45
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Go

My 7yo got the hang of go's mechanics in a few turns (you take one of your pieces, put it where two lines intersect on the board, surround opponent pieces or empty space to capture), however there is a great deal of strategy to go, and I've played it for years without learning it all.

Also, Go's built-in handicapping system makes for challenging games even when players have a great disparity in skill.

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I would expect a 7-year-old to like Go if a parent was teaching them. I would not expect the same from an older non-gamer if a friend was teaching them. In my experience, non-gamers that are significantly older than 7 do not enjoy perceiving large amounts of strategy that they do not understand. –  Brett Widmeier Aug 21 '11 at 19:00
    
@BrettWidmeier That's something of a tautology. Replace "gamer" with "person who enjoys learning different games, especially those involving a certain depth of strategy or role play" and you'll see what I mean -- if you enjoy it, you get classed as a "gamer", if not, it's "non-gamers wouldn't like that". –  HedgeMage Aug 22 '11 at 13:34
    
I think I agree with you. However, by that definition the OP's friends are given to be non-gamers. Importantly, your definition allows some non-gamers to be interested in occasional more-simplistic gaming (let's call that group "partial gamers"). My point was only that I consider Go to be intimidating for the partial gamer. –  Brett Widmeier Aug 25 '11 at 17:19
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I like No Thanks, a small little game from Z-MAN. The rules take about 3 minutes to explain and games go in no more than 10 minutes, and while there's a lot of luck, there's also a lot of strategy.

If you want something more involved, my single favorite card game to date is Wizard. It's fast-moving (but a bit long to play the whole game), and is familiar to players of Hearts, Spades or other trick-based card games. There's enough luck to let beginners get in the door, but enough strategy you can't win by accident.

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Khet

Fits the bill perfectly. Stratigically similar to chess but without much less complex rules. Most people pick it up after a few turns

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You forgot the most important point - It's Chess, with fricken laser beams! –  Jon Hadley Nov 15 '10 at 21:04
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Tsuro

This is the absolutely simplest game I've ever had when it comes to teaching people how to play it. Tsuro is an abstract strategy game where players lay a tile and following the path through the tile. The object is to be the last person on the board.

I can describe the rules of the game in under two minutes, and have people playing shortly afterwards. This isn't a deep game, but it's fun, and people quickly learn it. I've used it as a warm up game when I've had friends over for game night before diving into something more complex. It plays well with 2-8 players and plays fairly quickly.

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its definitely an awesome quick-start game. Its hard to find anything with simpler rules. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 4 '11 at 1:00
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Carcassonne : I've found that Carcassonne is very easy to teach in a few minutes by simply demonstrating the game. Shuffle up the tiles and play a few sample turns, explaining what the optimal move for each tile would be and why. This will give players a basic understanding on the various ways to score points, and they can discover advanced strategies (adding additional meeples into fields or buildings, blocking other player's moves to freeze meeples on the board, etc.) as they play the game.

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Hive

This game is made of bakelite tiles showing different insects. On your turn, you play a tile touching the others or move one according to its specific move. The goal is to surround the opposing queen bee.

The tiles are very sturdy, and there is no board, so the game is very easy to play anywere (I've played in the sand on the beach).

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Blokus

Dead simple rules, probably takes 30 seconds to explain, but the strategy really gets interesting. As you get better the game will evolve with you. :)

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Roll Through The Ages (Both the basic version and the Late Bronze Age expansion).

Quick to teach, quick to play, and many paths to victory.

Granted that it may take a new player one game to really grok the options, but it plays quickly enough that it's not a big loss/investment of time.

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forbidden island

The rules are fairly simple, and like other cooperatives its a great first time game because you're not worried about losing alone, you're worried about your entire group losing. I've gotten several groups of friends addicted to this game after one play, and soon they all knew the rules better than I did and were able to correct mistakes I didn't even know I was making.

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Power Grid

Has very few rules to get to grips with, but strategically quite varied. It does not take long for someone to realise that money and resources is key to winning the game, but the change of turn order, buying the right power plants at the right time, give a great mix of strategic fun that is quick to learn.

My group introduced a new player using power grid, and he was up and running in minutes, and has never looked back!

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Wow, I love Power Grid, but I thinks it too heavy for an intro game. –  Lance Roberts Nov 15 '10 at 4:45
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Dog/Tock/TAC

Most folks should already be familiar with Pachisi style games so explaining the rest to them is easy and the game is a lot more fun that the more traditional versions.

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Puzzle games like Ricochet Robots, Eleusis and Zendo seem to me to be easier to explain than a typical Euro game. Eleusis might not be that simple, but there's Eleusis Express to introduce the game to new players who can then try the full game next time.

Ricochet Robots is a fun series of small puzzles, a real brain burner and very stressful as you race against the other players to find a solution. Eleusis takes longer to investigate and solve each puzzle. It's got much less time pressure, so it feels more relaxed. Still, you are trying to get rid of your cards before the other players, and you can declare yourself a prophet if you think you've figured out the rule.

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Good call on Richochet Robot, anyone who has an interest in puzzles can get into this game easy. –  Pat Ludwig Dec 2 '10 at 15:50
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Qwirkle

Fun, puzzly tactical decisions and people pick it up almost instantly. While it's not one of my personal favorites, I've introduced it to many groups of non- and light-gamers to great acclaim.

Print out this scoreboard (or one of the others) or use anything besides their suggested method of tracking scores with pen and paper: not only is the pen and paper a hassle (everyone scores every turn and turns are fast) but knowing who's in the lead at a glance allows for a little leader-semi-bashing, making the result more fun.

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Qwirkle is awesome - and so simple to grasp! –  Peter Schofield Oct 18 '11 at 20:07
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Bohnanza

The mechanics are very simple, and everyone I've played with makes all great decisions after the first round. Remembering which cards are still in the deck takes some focus, and the social aspect of trading keeps things interesting. :D

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Alexandros

I think the best way to describe this game is that it's a combination of Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. It's far more reliant on strategy than it is on luck, although the element of cards invariably means some luck is involved. The strategy, however, while very simple to learn, is rewarding and presents you with endless possibilities. It's a divide and conquer game with many twists.

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Jungle Speed

Very nice game revolving around turning cards with similar symbols and grabbing a wooden totem in the middle of the table if cards match up. Very easy to learn!

Caution: you might get injured, especially when playing with people with long fingernails - you are warned!

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Terrace

There are only a handful of very simple rules, yet in either the two- or four-player variants, it can take hours of skull sweat to play. Or you can be done in under an hour - it's truly up to the players how much time and energy they want to expend.

Originally created in the 1950s, it was sold and simplified in the 1980s and became a prominent prop on Star Trek: The Next Generation

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A good rule of thumb is that if you spot a game you like at a place that DOESN'T cater to hard-core gamers (like Target or Barnes & Noble), you may wish to consider it as a gateway game. Somebody with a lot of money at stake is certainly wagering non-hardcore folks will enjoy it, at least.

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Our local Target now carries Ticket to Ride, Blokus, and Settlers of Catan, but that's about it for their eurogames. Can't really expect them to do much more though for exactly the reasons you've stated. :D –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 9 '11 at 2:10
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