Best Gateway Board Games For Beginners (With Reviews) 2017

If you haven’t played board games in a long time, say, since you were a kid, a lot has changed. Gone are the days of when Monopoly, Sorry, or Scrabble are the most popular board games among players. Yes, those are some great games, but nowadays there is a lot more to choose from when it comes to board games.



There are all sorts of different genres, difficulty/strategy levels, and styles of games. If you are looking to learn more about the current state of board games, you might be interested in Everything you need to know about board games.

If, however, you are a beginner looking to get started into gaming, we have compiled a list of the best board games for beginners that is perfect for people just like you.

What is a Gateway Board Game?

These games are sometimes referred to as gateway board games simply because they are the gateway to more complex board games in the same genre. Also, these can be the perfect ones to pull out for those non-gamer friends of yours to get them sucked into this wonderful and vast world of boardgaming.

In our list we will list and have mini reviews on games for a bunch of different genres of board games. Having a bunch of games that all have similar mechanics and lead to the same types of games would be somewhat pointless, so we tried to find the best ones from all over. This means that even if you are an experienced gamer, that likes a certain type of game, we might have something on here that you may not have tried before. Keep in mind here that many games can fall into more than one category.

What Makes a Good Gateway Board Game?

We should further define what we consider a gateway board game, so you have an idea if these are the games you are looking for as a new board game player.

We define these as games that are very easy to get into. What do we mean by that? Well, for one they are very easy to set up out of the box. This could mean that there are very few components, or the components are easy to understand where they would go, or maybe there is a very good set up guide included in the box.

Another way these games are easy to get into for newbies is that they have very few rules or very straight forward rules. Just to give you a frame of reference, there are games like Agricola that have a 12 page rule book and a 12 page appendix… for a beginner, it is possible to read this and understand, but wouldn’t lead to a good first impression into strategy board games. More or less, you will be able to play these games once and totally get it.

In order to make our list, we also want to make sure these games have an overall good theme, as that can be an important factor in making a game a good one. As partially mentioned earlier, we also wanted to make sure these games were accessible to everyone. Both in the fact that anyone of any skill level can jump in, understand it, and have a good time.

We chose games that were competitive so that you get a taste of that aspect, but made sure they weren’t cut-throat to the point of not being enjoyable. This will hope intrigue you enough to want more.

One of the last factors is price. If you didn’t know, these strategy board games can get pricey. There are games that are over $100. We chose games that aren’t too expensive (though this is a relative term for everyone). We made sure there is a good amount of replay-ability in these games so that you can get your monies worth.

What Type Of Games Did We Exlcude?

A note for this list is that we excluded party board games, since those aren’t really the ‘strategy board games’ we are aiming for, and also games like Sorry or Yatzee since they don’t involve too much planning/critical thinking or lead to other games.

The main thing to remember here is that we are looking for games that will make you or your friends say “Wow, that was so fun I need to go buy that tomorrow!” or “The was a great game, what other board games are like that?”.

It would be almost impossible to cover every game in our best gateway board games for beginners list, but hopefully you find something that peaks your interest!

Best Gateway Board Games For Beginners Comparison Table

(Click the thumbnail to jump down to the review)

Image

Game 

Players

Time

Price

Our Rating

3-4

60-120 min

$$$

2-5

30-60 min

$$$

2-5

30-45 min

$$$

2-5

60-120

$$$

2-5

15 min

$

2-4

30 min

$$

2-4

45 min

$$

2-4

45 min

$$$

2-6

15 min

$

2-8

20+30 min

$$$

Top Ten Gateway Board Games For Beginners Reviews

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

The most common and probably the most popular gateway game out there is Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan). This game has been played on popular TV shows like Big Bang Theory, has been frequently featured in memes, and if you ask some of your friends, chances are they have played it or heard of it.

Catan is a resource management game in which you have to collect resources in order to pay for building out your empire via roads, settlements, and cities. You have your buildings on the game board (more specifically on certain terrain hexagons with numbers on them), and if your number is rolled, you get some of that resource.

As the game progresses you get Victory Points for building structures or having the largest army or longest road. To win the game and/or the goal of the game is to be the first person to 10 victory points.

The game comes with a simple starting set up that you can use or you can choose to randomly place the tiles in any order you like (though this may lead to some inequalities which might not be fun for beginners).

Each player also gets a very handy cheat sheet/board that shows you exactly what you can buy with your resources so there is no worries about trying to remember.

Throughout this game, you will be constantly faced with decisions on what you should do with your resources. Should you hold on to them and risk losing half of your stash if you have more than 7 cards and a 7 is rolled…or should you build a road but that might alert your competitor to try to build an establishment to block you…or should you spend it on a resource card to hope that it helps you in the future.

The rules for this game can be taught to new players in about 5 minutes, with the mechanics being very simple (collect resources then build stuff). The game is competitive, with a good theme that really stands up to the test of time. We still play this one from time to time and is a fun game for everyone, not just new players.

The concept of collecting some sort of resource and then managing it is a mechanic that is wildly popular within the board game world, and something that should be learned early on as it transfers into so many other games. Where the term of ‘resource’ is used loosely here as it could range from the wood and sheep in Catan to the Gems of Splendor or something along those lines. Likewise ‘managing’ could be dividing for purchases, or trade, or to help you build something.

Hexagamers

The Ticket to Ride Series are great board games for anyone from beginners to experts. One of our favourites in the series is the Europe version, which is why we put it on the list, but any of them are pretty good.

This is a game that has trains, which you must use to connect routes between cities for points. A little deeper than that, you will be given a few ‘route’ cards (of which you choose to keep as many as you like), each route has a number of points assigned to it. Harder routes are worth more points.

As the game progresses you will collect train cards of different colors which can be used to purchase different routes on the game board. The routes between cities are one color, but vary throughout the map.

The complexity and strategy of this game come from the scarcity of routes between cities, as more than one player may be going for the same section.

This gateway game doesn’t fall into one distinct category, since you must use resource or hand management as well as card drafting when selecting which train card colors to select. The other strategies present in this game are being able to keep you route secret (so you don’t get blocked) and being versatile as well (in case it does get blocked). It is a good game for learning a planned strategy while managing your hand and adapting on the fly with an optimal path decision making mentality.

This game is very quick to set up and start so you don’t have to worry about intimidation or someone losing interest while they wait. It is a very easy game to teach to someone and also to learn as well, a couple key pieces to a good gateway game.

There is also something about they cute little trains that gets people excited and wanting to come back for more.

Within our group alone, we played this game with 4 other couples that have run out and bought it the next day, and we still aren’t tired of playing it!

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Carcassonne is a tile flipping board game that is set in the old French city of its namesake. The point of the game is to build out the landscape, while placing your Meeples along the way in order to score the most points and win the game.

This gateway board game is great for introducing players to the concept of a game that doesn’t start with a central board, but you must build it out along the way, as well as the tile flipping mechanic, and of course… Meeples!

The game starts with 1 central tile. You must then flip over tiles and place them where they fit adjacent to existing tiles (i.e. roads connect to roads or fields to fields, etc.). You gain points by completing roads such that they come to an end (at a castle or intersection), or by completely closing a castle, or surrounding a monastery. Of course your Meeple must have been place on that structure in order to get the points.

This game literally couldn’t be any easier to set up, and the ability to learn/understand it is quite high (i.e. really easy to learn).

There isn’t a tonne of strategy to this game, especially in the area of advanced planning, since you must wait to flip your tile before you can decide where you will place it. This can eliminate the experienced players advantage since there is a bit of ‘luck of the draw’ happening.

This game has an age rating of 6+ on it, so that should give you an idea of how difficult this one is. On that same note, this game works very well if you want to play a game which you can help each other out. A person can flip their tile and the group and show that person potential spots that they could place it, possibly even helping them to find the optimal placement.

This game is very quick to play, but doesn’t have the planning ahead if that is what you are looking for.

It also has a bunch of versions/expansions if you find that you really like it, though we suggest trying out a different genre before sinking too much money into one game and its expansions.

Another tip for the beginner gamers with this one is to play the first couple of rounds without the farmers to help minimize confusion and also add a tiny bit of longevity to your board game.

Hexagamers

Lords of Waterdeep (aka Lords or Waterdeep), is a great gateway board game into worker placement type of games. This game comes in as one of our favourite worker (or people) placement games in fact. If you are unfamiliar with what we mean by this term, to simplify it, you start the game with a number of ‘workers’ or Meeples that you will place on the game board. Depending on where you place them, you will get resources, or buildings, or some other thing that will help you to achieve your goals in the game.

In Lords of Waterdeep, you are set in a medieval time again and you must use your assigned ‘Lord’ as the guiding factor in the direction you play the game. You will accumulate gold, cards, and other wares in order to help you complete your quest cards, and ultimately gain Victory Points. Winner being the player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game.

This game has a few more complexities than some of the other games. Mainly stemming from the worker placing mechanic, but partially all the options you can take. It might not be the best choice for your very first strategy game, though if you do decide on this one, we have total faith you can fully understand the game and have a good time. There are easier games is all we are saying here.

Players may take a few turns to fully understand how they should strategize themselves in the game, and may even take a full game to realize how they should be placing their Meeples to help themselves. That said, it can get you hooked really fast. People who play this one will now fully understand most worker placement type of games, or at least the mechanics of it because rules vary from game to game.

This one is played over 8 rounds, and games go fairly quick. It is a good intro to board games that make you think about “what is the best thing I could do right now to help me” along with “if I do THIS now, then I’ll do THAT next round” mentality.

It is a really fun gateway board game that will test your ability to think, plan, and adapt on the spot. Even if it’s not your first game, we highly recommend this one.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Sushi Go! is your gateway into the card drafting genre of board games. We have an article coming soon with the top rated card drafting games. To summarize what these games are, in general everyone will get a hand of cards each, each person will take one out of their respective decks and (once everyone is ready) play it. Then you take your remaining cards and pass them to the person next to you (direction is determined by the individual game rules). This process continues until all the cards are used.

Sushi Go! is, as you guessed, about collecting different types of sushi. Each player will try to get a variety of different dishes, and in many cases more than one of a dish, in order to score points. Dishes have different point values, where some stack/combine to get you more points.

It is played over 3 rounds, and the person with the most points at the end wins.

This game is very simple to understand, and the mechanic of card drafting is used in an assortment of board games, so it is a great way to get used to how it works. The art on the cards are simple and cute, and also include the point value/how to score those points written on each one. This way beginners can read the card to understand what they need to do (again, ask questions along the way if you need to as a beginner!).

There is an aspect of planning to this game, but you can only plan so far in advance since you don’t know what cards your neighbour is going to give you! It is rated for ages 8+, though younger ones can grasp the concept, so that gives you an idea of the complexity.

It is a game that is accessible by nearly everyone, can be played anywhere, and introduces some important concepts. Plus, you’ll find that a game will end and people will “want to try it again right now”. All components of a top gateway game for beginners.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Dominion is a good gateway board game that falls into the Deck Builder genre. In fact it is one of the, if not the best deck building games out there.

This game has a great medieval theme too it which can be found on the many cards. The point of the game is to build out your deck so that you are able to purchase victory points and thus win the game.

Everyone starts with the same cards and must use those cards with coins/money value on them to buy other more powerful cards. As the game progresses you will be constantly upgrading and growing your deck. This will allow you to buy more cards (workers and coins) down the road. You will try to buy cards that have good synergies so that you can eventually stack up some combos and be able to afford the coveted Victory Point cards.

Every card has its value and actions written right on it, so there shouldn’t be a need to reference the rules. Also, the actual game play mechanic can be simplified to ABC (Action, Buy, Clean up), which should be simple enough for even the newest of board game players.

For beginner board game players this one will feel different than most games they have played before in that there is no central board, and you may not fully know who is winning until the end of the game. This is something you will see among more complex board games.

Not only does this teach players about deck building board games, but it also will show new gamers about the concept of creating an ‘engine’ that you must use to help drive you some points.

This game is still fun for us years after buying it, so if you are worried about the price, don’t worry it will more than pay for itself in entertainment value. Also, note that there are a lot of different role cards in the box, but you only choose 10 of them (randomly), so every game can feel different and it has massive replay-ability.

You will understand how to play in your first game, but it will take you a few to really understand the best way to build your deck. This is part of the beauty of the game. Check this one out for something a little different in your gateway game collection.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Pandemic is a game in which all players get to work together against a common enemy, in this case it is the board, which is breaking out in different diseases that you must contain. This type of game is called a cooperative game (or co-op), and pandemic is one of the best co-op board games there is.

This game has a few more rules that you must know before starting than some of the others, but by no means is it harder to understand or harder to play. We have simplified the rules of Pandemic here to help you understand game play more.

Essentially, though, this game start with a few diseases (colored cubes) spread across the map/game board in varying densities of cubes. Each player is assigned a random role (there are more roles than players so it will be different most games you play), which will help you to battle against the diseases.

Each player can do 4 moves on their turn, then the diseases will spread. The good thing for beginners here is that the game board literally has the process you go through on your turn, and there is also a little cheat sheet card of the available ‘moves’, that each player gets to reference whenever they want.

This game has a lot of replay-ability because the roles and infected cities change every time you play. It is easy to understand (though we recommend trying it with an experienced player), has a great theme, and is a good looking game.

This is a great gateway game for new player because everyone is working together, so you can discuss what you want to do, which allows players to understand different strategies. Also, you can increase and/or decrease the difficulty level of the game very easily by adding/removing ‘epidemic cards’ from the deck.

Again, this game has some good longevity, as we still play the original years later without even using the expansions! It is a perfect game for someone who might be intimidated about their individual skill level since they get to work with others along the way. Check this one out.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Takenoko is a game which is set in imperial Japan and you are tasked with job of looking after a panda and some bamboo fields. As you can imagine the theme of this game is awesome! It even includes little figurines of the panda, the gardener, and the bamboo, something that will surely draw in new board gamers.

In the game you will be given 3 objective cards (you can get more during the game), which you must complete in order to gain points. Players will take turns doing actions, which include things like moving the panda, irrigating the land, placing new tiles, and a few more.

As a group you will continue to grow the board and play, trying to complete your objectives, with the game ending when a certain number of objectives are met (depending on the number of players). The winner being the person with the most points at the end.

This game comes in as one of the top gateway games for beginners because of a few factors. First is that the game is cute, for lack of better word, second is its simplicity. Yes, there are a few more rules and things to remember than some of the others on the list, but none of those rules are complicated.

The other things that makes this game great are its mechanics and genre. The mechanics are simple, and they involve starting with almost no board, then slowly improving it over time. Something that is common among deeper games. The genre is tough to pinpoint with this game, since it is a combination of a few (again, like a lot of popular board games). It involves resource management in a way, worker placing in a way, dice rolling in a way… you get the point. All of which will help to introduce new board game players into the feel and structure of modern board games.

This one is fun for people of all ages. It is competitive, but not cutthroat, which is something we look for in a good gateway game. Its price can be has come down dramatically since its release, and is easily worth its price. It is one of those games that you can confidently take off the shelf and play with anyone after taking the 5 minutes to explain the rules!

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Coup is your gateway game into the bluffing and social deduction board game genre. A social deduction game is one in which the players have secret identities and the object of the game (or part of it anyways).

This is a game of survival, where each player is dealt 2 cards (aka influences) and must be the last person with cards in their hand in order to win the game. We have a simplified how to play for coup which is a quick read if you are interested in this game.

In this one, players can chose to tell the truth or bluff (or some combination of both) about which character cards they are holding. Other players must try to decipher if you are telling the truth or not as one of the means of eliminating one of your influences. As the game progresses (and cards are eliminated), players will deduct which roles each other has in order to gain advantage and ultimately win the game.

This game is considered a micro-game because of its short duration. Games usually take 15 minutes or less with this game, which makes it a good game for beginners. You can jump right in on this one, or preferably watch a round be played, a pick up on the rules very quickly. In fact, there is even a cheat sheet of watch each character and do as actions, so you don’t have to be caught asking lots of questions (…nothing wrong with asking questions though, remember!).

Coup takes around 5 minutes to learn, and way less to set up the game. That coupled with its short duration and you should be able to get beginners into the game and wanting more in no time.

We have played this game with a variety of age groups and demographics, and it is constantly a hit. This genre has a lot of fun games if you like deception and possibly lying to your friends, which is why it made it on our list of highest rated gateway board games.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

While we focused mainly on strategy games for this list of the top board games for beginners, we did want to include one that is a little lighter and has a lot less thinking. This way you can see that these new board games aren’t always about pitting your mental strength against your friends. Camel Up is just that type of game. It comes close to being a party board game, but didn’t quite hit all the qualifications for it in our opinion.

Camel Up is a gambling type game, that dare we say it, could be fun for the whole family. We know gambling is bad and shouldn’t be taught to your kids, but this game is rated 8+ and they might enjoy it.

Camel Up is a board game which you will be betting on camels as they race around the track. You can gain coins in various ways such as picking the correct winner of a leg of the race or by rolling the dice. You can also gain coins by correctly predicting the overall winner of the race (more coins if you guess earlier). The ultimate winner of the game is the person with the most coins at the end of the race.

This game has a fun theme, and is really easy to set up and get into. It also has a really fun dice roller pyramid, not to mention the awesome camel animeeples that stack perfectly (note here if a lower camel moves, any camels on its back get to move too).

There is a lot of luck in this game in the dice rolling and the order they come out of the pyramid, but you still have to make strategic decisions/guesses in order to gain coins. It is a calculated risk vs reward type of game which will allow beginners to realize board games are fun again. They won’t be intimidated by their skill level or ability to plan in advance, and will probably be begging for another round or even “what other games are like this?”.

There are a lot of lighter board games, including some party games like Codenames, which will be right up their alley if they don’t want the more intense games.

Conclusion

We tried to vary our top gateway games across many different genres so that beginner board gamers will be able to get a taste of the variety and depth of the games in this world. Some have more strategy than others and some are longer duration than others. The best thing about these games is that they don’t expire, you can put them on your shelf and try them with different groups from your parents to your co-workers. What they do have in common is that they should make the people who play them get a taste of new board games and have them asking for more.

As always, it is impossible to hit every game out there, which is why we narrowed our list down to the top 10. If you think there is a game that deserves to be on this list, let us know which one it is and also WHY in the comments below. It helps us out and also our readers.

About the author

HexaGamers

We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: