Gateway Games: Bringing Non-gamers Around the Table

Gateway Games: Bringing Non-gamers Around the Table

When you talk about board games to ‘normal’ people, they often think of Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, or something similar. They may try to tell you about their board gaming friend or sibling who’s really into games because they own a copy of Settlers of Catan. For those of us gamers in the category of ‘we need to buy a new bookshelf’, we sometimes struggle to find how to expose our non-gamer friends to the awesomeness that is our hobby. We’re here to help.

Below you’ll find a list of games that you can use to get your friends, family, and co-workers to have a great time. Some work better for different audiences, and we’ll be sure to highlight who you should invite when this game hits the table.

Wits & Wagers (for the brainiacs & trivia nerds)

Ryan: We’ve introduced so many of our non-gaming friends to Wits & Wagers over the years. The game is perfect for a group of 4 to 8 people and the truth is, you don’t have to be super smart.

During the course of 8 rounds, players will answer questions with numerical answers. Questions like “What year did NASA launch the Apollo 13 rocket?” or “How many number one singles did Elvis Presley have?” Players write on dry erase cards and submit their answers then everyone has 60 seconds to bet on the answer(s) they believe is correct. Players earn chips after each round based on the outcome of the bet.

Wits & Wagers

Ric: That’s where you get those non-trivia people involved. Maybe you don’t like facts all that much, but you love to gamble, right? And there are moments at the end of the game which are wonderful. Everybody’s put in huge bets, the game is on the line, and you’re just waiting for the answer to be read aloud…. It’s wonderful.

Ryan: It’s so fun because it’s not just a trivia contest. Even the person who doesn’t have the exact number can do well by betting on the right card. This is a great party game and perfect for the board game skeptic in your life. There lots of versions of Wits & Wagers in the wild. Check it out and see which is best for your family and friends.

Ease of Play: 3 out of 10

Codenames (for the big party)

Ric: Describing Codenames is a difficult task, as you can never get across how great this game is. But I’ll try…. In Codenames, 25 cards with different words are dealt out in the center of the table. Players split into two teams. Each team selects a clue giver (SpyMaster), who tries to get his/her team to say their assigned words by giving them clues. For instance, if I wanted you to guess ‘star’ and ‘gold’, I might say “Fish, 2”.

Review: CODENAMES

Yeah, I don’t get excited reading that, either. But trust me! It’s a wonderful game! I have played the game with three different big groups, and each time, someone purchased it within 24 hours. And it only costs like sixteen bucks. If you find yourself hosting parties often, you need to go get this. NOW!

Ryan: Codenames is usually first to hit the table when having a game night with people who aren’t super tabletop nerds. The game is all about communicating well and having teams hash out what the answer is. It’s super fun to challenge guys vs. girls when couples get together.

No one has to roll dice, create characters or play cards in a certain order to score points. The game is just simple fun that scales really well when you have lots of players. I was able to introduce my non-gamer coworkers to Codenames and had a couple requests to bring it back into the office! Checkout our review of Codenames here.

Ease of Play: 4 out of 10

Pass the Pigs: Pig Party (for big family gatherings)

Ric: No no no no! Stop scrolling! Don’t just skip by this one because it looks ridiculous!

Okay, so if I still have your attention, let me try to sell you on this. Pass the Pigs involves four players (or teams, I guess). It’s incredibly basic. You’ll flip over a card that shows a position for your pigs. Your job is to roll your pair of little rubber pigs and get them to match the card.

When I first heard of this game, I was incredibly skeptical. And to be honest, I’ve grown a little tired of this game. But this game has been a HIT at my family gatherings. Last Thanksgiving, I brought this out on Wednesday afternoon, and it never left the table until the next day. Younger cousins love the concept, and it’s easy to get an aunt or an uncle to give it a try.

One note: I add house rules like crazy to this game. There are some rules that say that you’re out of the round if the pigs land a certain way – ignore that. There are also three cards that represent the hardest way for the pig to land, and the rules say that if no one obtains it after one turn, skip to the next. We instead play it as a ‘bonus’, and if anyone ever rolls the pig that way, they get the card immediately.

There’s no skill involved whatsoever, so if that is going to bother you, move on. However, if you want a simple game that’s going to get a few laughs, this is a great option at a good option at a cheap price.

Ryan: Our family has found that dice games or games like Pass the Pig are so accessible that people are will to give it a try. Often, fans of tabletop gaming stick their nose up at stuff like this. If we’re honest with ourselves, no one came into the hobby because of a 4 or 5 hour gaming session that required you to pour over the rule book. Bring this game to your friend or family member and see how much fun you have around the table.

Ease of Play: 1 out of 10

Incan Gold (for the inner gamblers)

Ric: You may notice that many of these games require little analysis from the players. While many gamers love this aspect of their favorite games, I think this is a good trait for an introductory game. Incan Gold provides an opportunity for some calculations, while still allowing for those who don’t care to succeed.

Incan Gold - Courtesy of Board Game Geek

In Incan Gold, you are cast as explorers of some ancient ruins. As you progress further and further into the temple, you can acquire more and more treasure. However, you might also run into some dangers in the form of snakes, fire, spiders, and more. These rooms are represented by cards, each flipped over one at a time. Before entering each room, players vote on whether they will continue on, or escape with the treasure they’ve already collected. If a room you enter shows a repeat of a danger you’ve already encountered, you are defeated and lose all of the treasure you collected in that round.

Basically, Incan Gold boils down to saying yes or no. However, there are lots of factors to consider. Different rules, including the inclusion of ‘special’ treasures, the removal of danger cards when they defeat you, and some treasure being left behind as you progress, can force you to reconsider all of your decisions. Any stats person can be constantly crunching the numbers on whether they should stay or go, but a person can win just as easily with blind luck.

We always bring this game along when we visit family, and everyone is always up for at least three games. The inclusion of cool gems and little foldable tents to hide your accumulated treasure add to the great theme. I would consider this a ‘must buy’ for anyone that serves as the game MC for their social groups.

Ease of Play: 2 out of 10

Pit (for the fast hands)

Ryan: My eye hand coordination is lacking but it doesn’t mean I can’t try games that require quick thinking. Our friends introduced us to the crazy, fast-paced game of Pit a couple years ago. This is another great group game that can have up to 8 players at a time. In fact, this game is the most fun at 5 to 8 players.

Each player is dealt a hand of random commodities that have values assigned to them. They can be sugar, corn, soy beans, coffee, ect. The game includes an old school “hotel desk” style bell that is hit when the game starts. Players then yell out a number representing the number of like cards they are willing to trade. Think about being on the floor of the stock market, it gets loud!

Pit

Players trade cards and swap items to try and get a full set of one commodity. The “Bull” card can be used as a wild and the “Bear” card will cause you to lose points. The first player to complete a set rings the bell to end the round. Whenever people are playing Pit, everyone around knows. The game is loud, frantic and fun. Even people who aren’t super quick enjoy the game. Ultimately it comes down to making decisions and modifying what you are trying to gather in order to win the game.

Ease of Play: 3 out of 10

So what are your favorite gateway games? If you came into the hobby through a gateway game, we’d love to hear what it was. Post your favorite gateway games in the comments below.