The Art of the Gateway Game

For some people, getting into board gaming was a very natural transition. Maybe you were introduced by friends or family, maybe you picked it up on your own. Once you do get involved, it very quickly becomes evident how much variety and opportunity for fun there is in the hobby. As the industry grows, new people are getting involved all the time, but it'll be easier for some than for others. In your life, you probably know someone itching to get in to modern gaming, but they're unsure how to take that first step.

Here are some tips to make sure you leave them with a positive first impression of the hobby and eager to come back for more.

Give Them Some Options (But not too many)

Selecting a few well thought out options is a good idea for a first gaming session with new people. Choose titles that you think will appeal to them but won't be too tough to learn. Letting them make the choice of which games to play will make them a bit more invested in the outcome, but if you open up their choices to your entire collection you run the risk of overwhelming them or worse, they could pick something way out of their league as an intro game. Nothing will kill someone's interest faster then being confused beyond the point of enjoyment.

You Can Win, Just Don't Destroy Them

Keep in mind that this first experience is going to go a long way to deciding whether you're creating a lifetime gamer or not. The more competitive they feel, the more addicted they will be walking away from the game. Your role as the teacher is not to win the game at all costs. You'll have a natural advantage already, so help them out along the way. Make sure to point out obvious good moves for them and warn them against possible mistakes. Don't play the game for them, but make sure they know their options. You can win, but try to make the newcomers feel as if they were at least in the running. It actually may work better to beat them just by a little bit to give them a reason to come back and try again.

Try Cooperation

A lot of people are turned off of gaming by the intense competition they associate with childhood games of Monopoly or RISK. They see gaming as a prelude to a flipped table and long silences at family gatherings. Cooperative games are a relatively new phenomenon that they may not have heard of yet. Working together for a common goal takes off all the pressure of trying to win individually. Some people are afraid of losing, but if you win or lose as a team, it's a lot easier to swallow the outcome. Cooperative games can be great at introducing new mechanics, themes, and levels of complexity without the added element of direct competition. New players can explore the game itself without feeling like they may end up looking stupid or losing big time on their own.

Here are some titles that work really well as gateway games:

Potion Explosion- You compete as students in wizard school working on your final exams. You'll pull ingredients from the very cool slide dispenser to complete potion recipes for points and special powers. The theme of this game is really fun, the rules are quite easy to grasp, and the hook is the awesome slide dispenser that is visually captivating and mechanically unique. This is a great one for all ages and will introduce the idea of set collection.

Play Me- Based in the familiar Alice in Wonderland world, Play Me is a game that takes very little time to learn and not much more time to play. Everyone takes their turns at the same time, so there's no down time. There is a lot of luck in the game and that means anyone can win. It will also introduce new gamers to the concept of asymmetrical starting powers as each players gets to take on the role of one of the characters from Wonderland, each with their own abilities. Play Me is simple and short and perfect game to bring new people to the hobby.

Zombicide: Black Plague- This is easily the most complicated game on the list. Players band together as Survivors of a medieval plague sweeping across the countryside. The fantasy theme and highly detailed miniatures will make for a more narrative game experience. It may appeal to more creative types. The rules are fairly straight forward (although there are a lot of them), and as long as you have played it enough times, you can do the majority of the upkeep. Zombicide may seem like a lot to throw at new gamers all at once, but the killer theme, awesome components and movie-like feel to how the game unfolds might be the right combination to hook people in and make them thirsty to explore what else modern gaming has to offer. With the right group of people, Zombicide: Black Plague could be a big hit.

The Art of the Gateway Game

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