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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Variant: The Gateway Game


Somewhere along the line, the board game hobbiest goes from board games like Monopoly (::shudder::) and Parchisi and finds the world of real games.  Getting past the hurdle of the boring or the kiddie type games, and finding the fun, interactive, and challenging ones starts somewhere.  It's hard to imagine that you set Candy Land down and pick up Power Grid.  Usually, the player starts with a so-called "gateway" game.  Something that is interesting and fun, adopts mechanics not found in simpler games, and convinces the player that board games are not all bad. 

Several games usually pop up as potential gateways.  Carcassone and Ticket to Ride are favorites.  For me, it was Settlers of Catan.  Having not played much in the way of good board games, the negotiation aspect ("I need brick!  Give me sheep!") was great.  The random rolls also kept the game interesting so that you would never be guaranteed production.  I enjoyed that game so much, that I bought the expansions.  When I did, I went to a local game shop that carried a number of challenging, adult oriented games. (Note, every time I want to write "adult" games, I'm worried someone will think it's an XXX endeavor.  Stupid pornographic euphemism).  That's when I saw there was a whole world of goodness out there. 

If you are an entrenched hobbiest like myself, what was your gateway game? What was it about that game that got you into the adult board gaming hobby?  Alternatively, what games do you bring to non-gamers because you think it would make a good gateway game for them?


  1. For me, it was Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. I still use Carcassonne as a gateway for others, though it's actually been a long time since I've played Settlers myself. Depending on the game player, I've also used Bang!, Fluxx, Ticket to Ride, and Diamant—differering levels of difficulty and strategy.

  2. I can't believe I forgot about Bang! I've used it a couple of times and it's a good one for larger groups, too. It's been a while since I played Fluxx, but I imagine that would work well.

  3. I think my big gateway was Risk. Once I found the group of people that played it well and made it a challenge, we eventually expanded to Axis and Allies and Shogun. With a different group of friends nights of Uno led to games like Clue:Master Detective and Acquire. The only problem we tend to have is some of us want to try a few other more challenging games, but some of our group not so much.

  4. My group played Axis & Allies a TON for a while. I think its easier to win as the Allies, though.

    I've run into the same problem on occasion. Half the group wants the old favorites and half the group wants to venture out. What we've done is set up a time for the venturers to play a new game. Then the next week, they'll talk up how awesome it was (or how horrible) and convince everyone else to play it.

  5. I think we hardly ever had the Axis win, and the few times I can remember it kind of came down to the touch of dice leaving an Ally player or a bold strategic move that unexpectedly worked.

    It is just with the basic set up of the board there always seem to be a few opening moves that almost always *have* to happen, such as Germany trying to quick strike and gain control of Moscow or Japan taking out the US Navy at Pearl Harbor, then everything else is kind of reacting to combat results.

  6. "(Note, every time I want to write "adult" games, I'm worried someone will think it's an XXX endeavor. Stupid pornographic euphemism)"

    I keep searching BGG for XXX "Endeavor"... but it's not there... I think a game about "colonizing the Mediterranean and shipping {porn} to all parts of the world to increase the empire's glory and status in Industry, Culture, Finance and Politics", would be awesome. lol

  7. Hmm... somehow I don't think the XXX Endeavor, shipping pornographic materials between Spain, Italy, and Egypt while avoiding the local puritanical authorities, would have a broad appeal as a board game. :)

    Then again, maybe that'll be the 2011 Spiel des Jahres winner...