A Brief Hiatus!

Hello out there!

Just stopping by to let you know SBP is going to take a brief 2 week hiatus to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

There will still be plenty of gaming, so we’ll be sure to provide you all with a recap, but that will be in a couple of weeks.

So be safe, have fun, and play more games!!

d20: Drew’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

Part 2 of our “Top 18 Games for New Players”

I have been under the weather, so forgive me this week that Ryan and I’s posts have been split in two.

With my approach to games for new players, I tried to select a group of games that covers a wide variety of mechanics.  Also, remember that these aren’t my top 18 games, just ones that I feel are the best for new players. This can be based on how the mechanics are implemented, how easy the games are to learn/play, or just based on personal experience.

So, in no particular order, my top 18 games for new players.

Carcassonne:  One of the classic gateway games, Carcassonne (or Carc) is a great introduction to tile laying games and if you play the base game, very easy to learn.  It also has always come off as a very laid back game (unless someone steals the perfect spot for your next tile).

Lords of Waterdeep:  This has become my go to worker placement game for new players.  It has a bit more of an exciting theme and the rules are straightforward with little to no edge cases or exceptions.

Memoir ‘44: This is my go to introductory wargame.  It has eye catching pieces and the base game is not super rules heavy (and there are reference cards available in the game to help players remember).  This is actually one of the first games that I ever played when I was getting into contemporary gaming, and it will continue to be a part of my collection.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf: This is a quick filler of a social/hidden role game.  I hate these games, but this is one that I’ll play if asked because it’s quick and there is an App that walks players through how to play the game.

Splendor:  This is a good entry level game for people who have at least played games before, or maybe are familiar with one or two other games.  It has a straightforward rule set as well as nice components, even if the theme is a little lacking.

Ticket to Ride: Another frequently mentioned gateway game, this again has low density rules, good physical components, and plays relatively quickly.  There are many different versions of it, but I recommend the one that a) will support the number of players you will have in your group and b) you are most familiar with, geography wise.

Kingdomino: This is another quick, light tile laying game that has a lot deeper gameplay than one might think.  I think the biggest thing in its favor is the components, which are brightly colored (it can be easy to catch other players eyes to get them to join in!)

Kingdom Builder: This is a good introduction to area control that, with its many different boards, gives a lot of replayability.  It presents some difficult choices for players and is a good introductory “thinky” game as well.

Sushi Go: This is my go to introduction to card drafting.  The art is silly, personified sushi rolls and the gameplay is quick and straighforward.  It is also a game that teaches you to think about other players which can be very important in some games.

Alhambra: This is another great tile laying game that is a step up from Carcassonne.  This was one of the games I used to get my wife into board gaming, and we still enjoy it after 10 years.

Boss Monster: If you have people in your group who are old school video game fans, this is a great game to use to introduce them into board gaming.  You are building an old school dungeon that you are attracting adventurers to venture in, but not come out. The art is done in an 8-bit pixel style and there are other references to video game culture.

Elder Sign: This is a cooperative game based in HP Lovecraft’s Cthullu universe.  It plays quick and has mechanics that can be compared to Yahtzee, so that can be used as a selling point for people who may be unsure about the game.

FITS: This is essentially Tetris, the board game.  The great thing about this one is that a new player can just focus on getting their score better, instead of worrying about what others are doing.  The components are also great and can catch the eye of gamers.

Forbidden Island: This is a co op game that is in the same vein as Pandemic, only lighter.  This is my go to co-op game, since sometimes that concept can take a second for people to adjust to.  The great thing about Forbidden Island is that there are amazing components and there is tons of replayability if the easiest difficulty gets to be too easy.

Love Letter: This is another  social deduction game.  The components are simple, but the rules are easy to pick up, and even if people don’t like it, it is over quick.  There are different variations if the original theme doesn’t sit well with you.

Takenoko: This is a game about growing bamboo and a panda eating it.  It’s a fun, easy game that has some amazing components and I haven’t encountered many people who say they hate this game.

Tales of the Arabian Nights:  This one gave me some pause.  I tend to describe it more like an experience than a game, but essentially it is a choose your own adventure game set in the Arabian Nights Universe.  It’s definitely worth a play or two, especially with people who will enjoy sitting back and letting the story unfold, regardless of the outcome.

Tsuro:  This is a tile laying game where you are almost forced to interact with other players.  It plays quick, and the rules are essentially match up a path on a tile to the existing path you are on, and don’t go off the board or run into other players.  Seriously. That’s it. This is great as a filler or a warm up game while you are waiting for people to arrive.

So there you are.  My personal top 18 games for new players.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction series.  Starting next week, we’ll be back to our once a week posting reviews, session reports, top 10 lists, or who knows what.  Thanks for reading!

d20 List: Top 15 Tips for New Gamers

Last week, we talked about advice for long time gamers to keep in mind to help bring people into the hobby. This week, we look at the other side of the equation, and provide our top 15 tips for gamers looking to get into the hobby.

Drew’s Tips

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a once size fits all list. Some of these ideas may not work for you and that’s okay. This is just meant to be a starting point.

Get Out There: There are tons of ways to get involved with a game group. There may be game days at your local library, a Facebook group that posts events regularly, local game stores, or (and the way I orginally found my group) a meetup at meetup.com.

These are all great ways to find gamers and get a feel for the group, as well as get more information about various things.

Go to a Public Gathering: This is a way for individuals to be more comfortable. Meeting in a public setting for the first time playing with a group is an easy way for you to get to know other gamers in a more open environment, and also does allow you an “out” in case you don’t gel with other players.

Read the Room: Try to get a feel for the group you are playing with. This might prevent you from having a different idea of what a gameday consists of than what the group regulars do.

Relax: Gamers are a relatively welcoming and friendly group. No one will judge you for not knowing about the vast world of tabletop games (or if they do, that’s them being a jerk, not a fault of yours). Relax and remember you are there to have fun.

Be Yourself: Let the group members get to know the real you. Pretending to be someone you are not to gel with a group is only going to lead to frustration later on down the road.

Be Friendly: This one is pretty self explanatory, but if you show up with a friendly face and engage people in conversation, a better time will be had by all.

Pay Attention!: If you are new to a group and to gaming, then you will probably be listening to quite a few rules explanations or introductions. During these, put your phone away (I’m really guilty of this, I’ll admit) and pay attention. It can be distracting to the person teaching the game and it can be frustrating to others if you have to ask questions after someone has taught since you were distracted.

Ask Questions: If you aren’t clear on a rule, though, don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is how you learn rules, as well as can learn about different games. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples too; most people teaching rules are happy to get out pieces to demonstrate an example of play so everything is clear.

Don’t Be Afraid to say No: If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t want to play a game where you’ve been invited or even if you don’t want to play a game with a specific person, don’t be afraid to say “No thanks”. Be polite, but it’s perfectly fine to know your preferences and ensure you are having fun.

Find Games You Like: Gamers love making comparisons. If you find a game you like, ask questions like “What other games are there like this?” or “What mechanic is this?” (A mechanic is the main way the game works, like worker placement or card drafting). This might help you find other games in the same vein that you might enjoy.

And Games You Don’t: If you find a particular mechanic enjoyable, you can use that information to avoid games that have that mechanic. This will allow you to focus on games that you may enjoy more.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Don’t always shun games with mechanics you may not like. I hate (and I mean HATE) social deduction games. However, the first time I played One Night Ultimate Werewolf I actually ended up enjoying it a lot more than any of the other games in that vein. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone of games to try new ones!

Be Mindful of Gamer Etiquette: Gamers have some weird idiosyncrasies. Some prefer a specific way of shuffling cards, some are very strict about cell phones at the table, some care how specific games are put away, and others may have certain expectations of taking moves back.

Be mindful of these, and it never hurts to ask “Are there any house rules on redos?” or “Do you care how I shuffle these” when playing someone else’s game.

Don’t Give Up: It may take a few tries to find games you like, or people you gel with, or it may take a while for you to adjust and figure out the strategy for games. This is okay. Don’t get discouraged. Keep searching/playing and eventually you’ll settle in to this wonderful hobby.

Don’t Worry About Being the Best: At some point, you will probably learn the name “Reiner Knizia”. He has a quote about gaming:

‘When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”

There has been plenty of discussion on what this means, but to me it means that while we should all try to win while we are playing a game, it’s the act of playing the game that is important instead of the victory itself.

Play games to have fun. I lose more games than I win. And yet I keep coming back to play again and again and again.

Ryan’s Tips

This was a large number of suggestions to have to write, so please excuse me if some of them feel like they could have gone under one single category. So here are my 15 suggestions for new players.

Don’t be shy: It’s not easy to find games you might like. So don’t be shy to talk to people. Talk to your local game store owner or ask the guys you see playing about their game. I’ll gladly talk your ear off about my passions. That kind of leads to…

Ask Questions: Again, people love to talk about their passions. But also ask about terminology that you are hearing. Ask for game suggestions. Ask about rules or strategies when you’re playing a game. Don’t be afraid to annoy folks with questions, if they get annoyed, go find someone who won’t be, there are more like that out there.

Speak Up: This is one I struggle with even today. Don’t be afraid to join a game. If people are looking for players, everyone should be welcome, and just being the new guy shouldn’t matter. I’ve had some great games I’ve joined at a Con or game day with people I barely know. Make small talk, which is again something I suck at, but it helps pass the time.

Don’t be Afraid to Give Opinions: If you love a game, feel free to let people know. If you don’t like one, say so. You don’t have to agree with everyone, don’t feel bad if your opinions differ from other gamers, we all have things we don’t agree with the masses about.

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover: This one can work a couple of ways. Great game art doesn’t mean great game, and vice versa. The same goes for gamers. Some people seem intimidating, boisterous, or creepy, but they can be the nicest and most fun folks to play games with.

Find a Group: This isn’t exactly required, but it enhances your enjoyment a lot. It might be you drag your friends into gaming with you, or you join an already existing group. Having even a semi-regular group makes gaming so much more enjoyable.

Solo Gaming: But, if you can’t find a group, or aren’t able to game regularly, know that there is a thriving solo board game community. Many new games are starting to have solitaire rules with them now. You can find some additional resources on BoardGameGeek.com (More on that later.), including advice on playing many games that don’t have actual solo rules. You can figure out ways to play games no matter what your situation is.

Cooperative Games: Another fairly recent trend in gaming is Cooperative games. Basically it’s you and the group against the game itself. Sometimes it’s killing monsters, sometimes it’s solving puzzles, or even racing to a group goal. They are various and plentiful, but can really be a great way to get into gaming, when you don’t need to worry about competition. Although they are often difficult to win.

BoardGameGeek.com (BGG): Ok, here is where you can get sucked down a rabbit hole. It’s a huge, daunting, intimidating, and not always friendly place to get board game info. But it’s amazing once you know how to get the most out of it. There are a TON of things a new gamer can utilize to get info on gaming, find new games, convention info & advice, and even find gamers in your area. It’s worth taking the time to learn to navigate the site, and you likely can get whatever out of it you are willing to learn.

Facebook Groups: These can be a bit overwhelming also, but there are many groups based on board games on Facebook. They are often helpful, and interesting to follow. Again, you need to research which ones are for you, but they can also be a very useful resource.

Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS): Another great resource can be your local FLGS. Besides just a convenient place to look at new games, they often have game days or gaming rooms to play games, and help you locate some of the local gamers. The employees are often very knowledgeable in gaming, and can provide helpful info too. Sadly, they don’t often make enough money to stay in business for long, so if you have a good one, do everything you can to help support them.

Buying Games Online: Eventually there will be something you need to have now that your FLGS doesn’t, or the price is too good, and you go online to get games. THere are tons of good places to get stuff, so compare prices and availability. Typically there is some kind of free shipping threshold, so if you can get others to join your order, larger amounts is always better.

Retail Stores: Believe it or not, big box retail stores are also starting to carry games. The selection isn’t huge, but Walmart and Target do have some gamer games. And there are occasionally mass market games that are quite good. This may be where you pick up your first few games in fact. Barnes & Noble also carries a pretty good game selection.

Don’t go Nuts: This is more a general guideline, I don’t know your financial state, but try not to go too crazy buying new games at first. It’s not the expense per se, but it can be very easy to go crazy buying every game you want. Take it easy, be selective, build up a small collection. The same can go for gaming in general. Don’t go to every con, or play for several hours every night. You can burn out if you play too hard. And don’t stress if you end up not gaming often, we all go through lulls, it will balance out in time.

Have Fun: The obvious conclusion right? We all need some fun and relaxation in our lives. If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right. And that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every game or even like every person you play with, but if you don’t end the night feeling like you had a good time, something was wrong. If it happens too often, then maybe you need to look at what’s going on and make changes, or just take a break.

Here you have it. Our top 15 tips for new gamers on how to get into the hobby. Are there any we missed? Any you want us to go into further detail? Let us know in the comments!

Next week, we’ll finish this series on “New Players” with providing our “Top # Games for New Gamers”. We’ll then go back to our normal back and forth posting schedule, with more lists, reviews, and maybe a session report or two.

Happy Gaming!

d20 List: Top 6 Pieces of Advice to Existing Gamers for Helping New Players

We all have friends we would love to come play games with us. For many of us, it’s a very social act, and that includes many of us who aren’t particularly social in the first place. Whether it be at a small gathering or a convention, there are often new players who might be intimidated by these games that have so many pieces and 10 pages of rules. Drew and I have some suggestions for how help these folks out as experienced gamers.

My 5 yr old rolled us a 6 this week, so here are my (Ryan) top 6 suggestions.

Keep it simple: All of us can be overeager sometimes. I’d love to get my new gamer friends, who have played Catan and Cards Against Humanity several times in the last 5 months, to play Power Grid with me. And while PG isn’t a difficult game, it can overwhelm people with the sheer amounts of math and strategy. Stick to simpler games to break them in. Modern boardgame mechanisms are getting more familiar, but there is no need to overwhelm them at first. Play a few games, or game days to get a feel for what they may or may not enjoy, then ramp things up a bit.

We once had a hardcore gamer come to a game night. and only 2 of us had played many games, and almost everyone else was newer to the hobby. The player brought out Carcassonne, which is a good idea, but he threw several expansions in too, which was not. He then suggested RoboRally, which is a fantastic game, but set up a super aggressive 4 board track, and he was the only person at the table who had played. We lost a couple of players that night for several months.

Know your Audience: This one comes from help I see on a lot of message boards. If I’m asking for a new boardgame for a 7 yr old who has only played kids games, that kid will probably not be served very well by someone seriously suggesting Race for the Galaxy. Ok, I haven’t seen that suggestion exactly, but I have seen many where I shake my head and think “Seriously?” Even something like Lords of Waterdeep is probably overwhelming for many. Just because you see a game as simple, know that you are also well versed in reading these instructions, and new players might be freaked out by a long rulebook, and anything over a few pages will seem long. Heck, I even look at an 8 page rulebook as too much sometimes, even though I should be used to it by now.

Don’t Play your Best: I don’t mean lose intentionally. But when you have a great strategy that will work as long as somebody doesn’t do X to counter it, new players probably aren’t going to do X. And if you win in a dominating fashion, they may not want to play that game again. Try some kind of new tactics, or help them with suggestions on what options they have. Don’t play the game for them, but politely show them a couple different options occasionally, and explain why it’s a good move. Probably keep the trash talk to a minimum too.

Relax: Many of us aren’t the best at socializing. I know I am awful at it. Try not to be nervous, talk slowly, and take your time explaining things. I know I especially like to talk fast when I’m nervous, so trying to relax will help me out. It will also help the folks you are teaching/playing with feel at ease too.

Sample Turns: As someone who tracks plays and time playing, this one goes against everything I stand for, but don’t be afraid to show a couple of sample turns. You can always start over, or at least offer to, maybe the players are fine just seeing how this all plays out, but leave it up to them. Also ask if they want to see another turn, sometimes one will be enough.

Don’t be a Dick: Be polite, be nice, don’t scoff at the fact that they like Apples to Apples or consider Monopoly a gamer’s game. It only takes one negative experience to spoil the whole thing for some folks. It’s fine to joke around, but don’t go overboard. This one may seem obvious, but I’ve seen folks do it anyway. A little polite conversation is probably a good idea too, although i suck at that personally.

Drew’s Tips

Ryan picked which of the 3 d20 Lists we were going to do this week, and I think this is a great one to start on. We were all beginners once, and whether we became gamers because we ran into people following these tips or in spite of people who ignored them, remembering this info could help grow the hobby.

Be Welcoming: Walking into a room full of people you don’t know getting ready to engage in an activity you may know nothing about can be stressful. Help eliminate some of the stress on the new gamer. Take the initiative to talk to them, find out what games they have tried out, and invite them to join in a game getting started. By taking the pressure off of them to find someone to connect with, you are giving them one less thing to worry about.

Gauge Comfort Level: This goes in with my above point. As you are getting to know a new member to the game group, find out what games they have played, even if those are “just ones like Monopoly and Clue”. Use that information to help get them into a game without a steep learning curve (or into one if it seems like they would be comfortable). Be the bridge to help gap the knowledge divide and get them playing with something they’ll be more likely to enjoy. Use theme to your advantage too: If they like a certain movie, TV show, or book series, see if there is a gateway game that has a theme similar to their interests. It’s another way to keep them comfortable and having a great time.

Keep Things in Reference: Gamers like to compare and categorize things. “Oh! You’ll love Game X! It combines the action selection mechanic of Game Y with the Scoring Mechanic of Game Z, but it’s more like a Knizia than a Feld.”

That sounds like Greek to me, and I’ve been playing games for a while now. Focus on keeping things limited to the game you are playing, or to something that the new gamer has a frame of reference for. It ensures that you are keeping table talk and conversation accessible. After you finish a game, by all means mention that there are other games that use mechanics like what we just played, but don’t go into detail.

Forget about “The Hotness”: The debate will rage on forever whether it’s better to play old classics or belong to the Cult of the New. This sort of ties in to the above point about keeping things in reference, but be sure you aren’t rushing to play a game just because it’s new if you don’t think it’s a good gateway game or if it will gel with newcomers.

We have, on occasion, done “theme days” where we try to play Roll and Writes, or dice games, or things like that. Maybe hold a “Gateway Game” day. A lot of the “What games are good for beginners” threads on Boardgamegeek reference the same games over and over; there’s probably a good reason for that.

Don’t Finish a Game for the Sake of Finishing It: I think this is my most controversial point here. If you are finished explaining the rules and everyone at the table has sort of that glazed over eye look, or just doesn’t seem to be feeling it, then DON’T PLAY THE GAME!

Life is too short to play games where people aren’t enjoying themselves. Don’t be afraid to (with the agreement of all players) put a game up and get something else out. The only thing you’ll have lost is a bit of time, and it still won’t be as much as if you all suffered through a game no one was enjoying.

When I teach games at a Con, I always start it with “I’m gonna go over the rules and maybe we play a round. If it’s bad or not enjoyable, we can put it away, no questions asked”. I think this is something that definitely has it’s place at any game table. (But beware: The more setup there is, the more frustrating this can be, especially if you are the one who set up the game.)

Follow Up!: If you enjoyed gaming with someone, tell them. Exchange contact info, and invite them to your next game day. Make sure they know they are welcome to join. I have really bad social anxiety (which I’ve discussed here before). If someone reaches out to me letting me know they had a good time and I was welcome, I don’t get as nervous going back to another game night.

That’s it, our 6 suggestions. We both had more trouble with this list than expected. Most of these things may seem obvious, but they are worth reinforcing. We get in our gamer bubble and forget what it was like being the new person, who had a cursory interest but wasn’t ready to commit to the hobby. We know we both are often shy about getting into new games with other gamers, let alone being someone who has no idea what most of these games are. So take chances, make a new gaming buddy, and most importantly, play more games.

Grow the Sport

Among board gaming, another one of my hobbies is Disc Golfing. One of the many mantras of disc golfers is “Grow the Sport” which can be used in many different ways: as reminders to people to extoll the virtues of disc golfing to others, as ways for people to stay active in local leagues to drum up interest, or even as a reminder to people to be kind, friendly and welcoming to new disc golfers, in an effort to ensure that the sport will flourish. But, despite the mantra and best efforts, there are still jerks out there who exclude newcomers, who chide them for asking questions or for making comparisons that may seem way out of the norm, or who generally make disc golf courses terrible places for new individuals looking to share in the experience.

Boardgaming isn’t all that different. How many times have we heard stories of someone playing a game that piques the interest of a passerby. Polite conversation is had up until the new individual mentions Monopoly, Risk, or some other mass produced game. It can be met with a snort, a scoff, an unkind “oh, we don’t play that” or any other reaction. But in any of these cases, it can make the onlooker feel unwelcome and excluded. I should know. I have been both the scoffer and the scoffee (In fact, when I founded the Board Game Society at my undergraduate university, I included a clause in the bylaws that Monopoly would not be played. It was meant as tongue in cheek, but boy did it provide a rude awakening when I presented it to the Student Senate for approval).

To most boardgamers, those mass market games are no fun to play at all. And that is perfectly fine! But instead of meeting this potential player with derision, why not engage in further conversation? Why shut them out? Why not describe why the game you are playing is similar or different? Why not try to explain about the game you are playing? Why not try to introduce the world of gaming to someone, especially someone who shows at least a little bit of interest?

The only thing I care about when I am playing a game is if the person is fun to be around while gaming. That can vary on the game. I know there are some games that I would never play with specific people, including my wife. And that is okay! But to exclude individuals because they may not meet any preconceived notions of how much of a gamer they are is ridiculous. We all started gaming somewhere. Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

My gaming resolution this year is to step out of my comfort zone and be more inviting to those who are just learning the hobby. Greet them with a smile and an open seat at the table. We hear over and over how gamers don’t like cell phones at the table because they like the social aspect; I’m going to put this into practice. I’m going to be more social and ensure I highlight the social aspect of the hobby.

In the coming weeks, Ryan and I are going to write about some tips for “growing the sport” of boardgaming. We’ll talk about some of our favorite introductory games to non-gamers, some tips for individuals who are just starting to game, and some tips for us gamers who have been doing it for a while but want to do better about including others, especially newbies.

I’m going to help grow the sport this year. And I hope you will as well.