New to board games? Try one of these three excellent gateway games.

In a recent chat about gamification with Dr Jason Fox on his podcast The Cleverness we got talking about board games.

I love board games.

For me they offer an opportunity to get together with friends around a table, catch up and interact without outside distractions and technology.

Board games can be a great learning tool as well. They can also teach us how to strategise, cooperate, engage and communicate with each other. Skills useful anywhere from the playground to the office.

Now you may think you know board games, but I’m not talking about games like Monopoly, Risk or Mouse Trap.

No, no, no.

These classic board games have their place, but they pale in comparison to some of the many hundreds of deep and interesting board games out there.

However, if all you’ve ever played are these more traditional dice rolling games, then knowing where to start can be difficult.

Never fear! As promised on the podcast, I’ve listed 3 different board games below that I like to refer to as Gateway boardgames. They should be deep enough to pique your interest but not too complicated that they overwhelm you and your friends.

When playing one of these games it always helps having at least one person who has played it before. If you can’t manage this then I recommend heading to your closest board game cafe and asking someone who works there to give you an overview of the rules.

Alternatively head over to YouTube and find a video of someone talking you through the game and rules… it’s just a bit more engaging than listening to someone read directly from the rule book.

Okay, enough preface. Onto the games!

Settlers of Catan. Image from  ginnerobot on Flickr

Settlers of Catan. Image from ginnerobot on Flickr

Settlers of Catan

3-4 players, competitive gameplay, 60-90 minutes

Settlers of Catan is a great transitionary board game. Like Monopoly it still centres around dice rolls and has trading. Unlike Monopoly, Settlers of Catan is fun. This is because there are a lot more interesting choices you can make during the game and the board is set up differently every time you play, so it stays fresh.

In this game, everyone is playing as a new settler on the land of Catan. Your goal is to build the biggest settlement before the other players and become the ruler of Catan. To do this you need to carefully choose where to place your settlements as this will determine what resources you have access to throughout the game.

The core mechanic is to gather resources through dice rolls and trading with other players and use the resources to grow your settlement by building new settlements, cities and roads. You gather resources every time the total dice roll is the same as the number on the resources your settlement is touching - so there’s still an element of chance to the game.

To say this game is popular is an understatement. It has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide and has multiple expansions.

If you like competitive games with elements of chance and trading then this game is a great gateway board game for you.

However, if you’re over competition and want to try a board game where you have to work together, then read on…

Pandemic Game. Image from  Quirky Rambler .

Pandemic Game. Image from Quirky Rambler.


2-4 players, co-operative gameplay, 60-90 minutes

Did you know not all board games are competitive? 🤯

That’s right, in Pandemic you actually have to work together in a team to beat the game, which I really like.

Pandemic is a 2-4 player game where each player takes on an expert role with special abilities (such as Scientist, Medic, or Researcher) to help contain and cure not one, but FOUR diseases that have broken out across the globe world wide.

This game will see you work together as you individually move around the globe trying to stay the virus outbreaks.

This game is stressful but fun.

You draw different coloured country cards and then use these to either move around the board and cure the diseases.

At the end of your turn you advance the spread of the diseases which can make for some tense moments. Will you draw a country that has too many disease tokens on it already that it causes and outbreak and spreads to neighbouring countries?

The nice thing about this game is that you can easily adjust the difficulty by increasing the number of epidemic cards in the country deck. Draw one of these and that city has an outbreak!

If you’re into a more co-operative style of play then Pandemic is the board game for you.

If you’re playing with kids try Forbidden island instead, it’s a little easier and shorter.

7 Wonders. Image from  Board Game Quest .

7 Wonders. Image from Board Game Quest.

7 Wonders

3-7 players, competitive, 30-45 minutes

This last board game on my list is one of the ones I still play the most. I currently use this game as a gateway board game as I still manage to find it fun when playing.

One of the reasons I really like this board game is that it can support up to 7 players, which is a rare treat. This means if you have a larger group of people you can still all play together. Not only that, but everyone takes their turn at the same time so there’s very little waiting down time.

It also manages to capture the feeling of building a civilisation in 30 minutes, another rare quality for a civilisation building game (one civilisation board game I infrequently play requires at least 12 hours to complete!).

How 7 Wonders works is at the beginning of each game you’re given one 7 ancient wonders.

You’re then given a hand of building or resources cards from which you pick one, then pass the rest on to the player next to you. You then build your card, and receive another hand of cards and repeat this process until you’ve run out of cards. Different cards and combinations give you different points. You then repeat this for a total of 3 times and at the end of the game you tally your points and the person with the most points is declared the winner.

It sounds simple but it’s a lot of fun and different every time I play it.

If you’re playing with kids then try Sushi Go instead. It captures the card drafting element well but is easier to play.

Right, that’s it. Go play a board game!

So those are my three recommendations. You should be able to find them at all good board game stores near you or on Amazon.

I also mentioned in the podcast that there are more and more board game cafes appearing around the world.

These cafes can be a great place to try a game before you buy it, and often they have very helpful people who can teach you to play.

Just search for ‘board game cafe’ in Google maps to find one near you.

If you’re a current board game geek, drop me a line and tell me about your favourite board game and what you enjoy the most about it.