New to the world of board games? Turns out there are more games than Risk, Monopoly, and Uno. Like…a lot more games! I had NO idea just how many games are out there…and it is overwhelming. So, what are the best board games for beginners? Let’s talk about that.
New to the hobby of board games? Welcome! A seasoned vet looking for ways to get your friends and family into the hobby? You’re in the right place.
The worst thing you could do is introduce your friends/family to the wrong game, making them erroneously decide that board games aren’t for them. So what makes a good board game for beginners?
It needs to be fun!
Obvious right?!?! But seriously, what ingredients are guaranteed to provide an experience that will make the players hungry for more? The best board games for beginners need:
- Accessibility – short, easy to learn rules. No one entering the world of games wants to sit through 20 minutes of instructions before actually starting a game.
- Meaningful Decisions – how fun is it to have the person next to you tell you the best thing to do every turn of a game? I’ll answer for you – not fun at all! A game should allow players to make decisions on their own, where there isn’t necessarily a right or best choice.
- Memorable Moments – this can come from those decisions we just mentioned. Or they can come from unique mechanics of the game or intriguing player interaction.
Enough theoretical chit chat – lets get to the list!
10 Best Board Games for Beginners
- Ticket to Ride – Forge a path across the country by collecting colorful train cards.
- Azul – The tiles are beautiful, the decisions are interesting, this is a surefire hit.
- Kingdomino – Lay domino-type tiles in a grid, striving to earn more points than your competitors.
- Splendor – Collect and spend beautiful gem tokens to buy victory points and attract nobles.
- Carcassonne – Connect square tiles to grow and build a kingdom – careful or others may sneak in and share or steal those points.
- Catan – Roll the dice to earn resources to grow your settlements. Hoarders beware: the robber will show no mercy.
- Wavelength – A group/party game that is sure to leave you with lots to talk about, and maybe even sore sides from laughter.
- Bohnanza – A game of negotiation, trading, and bean farming, great for up to 7 players looking for fun interaction and strategy.
- Pandemic – A cooperative board game where you’ll find you and your friends working as a team to save the world from an impending infectious doom.
- Majesty: For the Realm – A quick game of collecting cards and taking actions, Majesty is one of the best board games for beginners.
1. Ticket to Ride
In an online poll, this game is by far the highest rated “gateway game” to get people into the hobby.
Ticket to Ride has you collecting train cards to forge a path across the country completing objectives. But each path can only be taken by one player – who will get it first?
Alan R. Moon, the board game creater himself said “The tension comes from being forced to balance greed – adding more cards to your hand, and fear – losing a critical route to a competitor.”
Lay your cards too early and give away exactly where you are going. Hold onto the cards for too long, and discover another player has stolen your path. Ticket to Ride stands out as a best board game for beginners for a reason! While it is easy to learn and play, it still heavily features meaningful decisions – where there isn’t one right way to do things.
Ticket to Ride America is the classic, the Vanilla. Feeling a little more adventurous? Check out one of the other versions – Europe and Africa are my 2 favorites.
This game checks off all 3 of my boxes for best board game for beginners.
Accesibility – Short rule book. Quick to teach and learn. Anyone can pick up the rules lickity-split.
Meaningful Decisions – You are collecting tiles from center draw piles. But each time you take tiles you are also making other tiles more availble for other players. Simple actions, with meaningful decisions attached.
Memorable Moments – Choose carefully which of the 5 rows of your player board you will lay these tiles on. The order and timing of where you lay the tiles is the crux of this game.
A perfect game for the newbie and the old-timer alike. More detail on Azul here. There are two additional versions of Azul beyond the original…so once you’ve gotten into one, you have more options to choose between down the road.
This game uses tiles with two sections, similar to Dominoes. Each turn, each player will select a new domino to connect to their existing kingdom, making sure at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play.
Select the cream of the crop tile now, and get stuck being the last one to choose your tile the next round. Talk about meaningful decisions each round!
Each game will provide unique objectives – ways to earn more points based off of which tiles you lay where. Kingdomino is easy to learn and fun to play. And it literally will play in 15 minutes.
When it comes to the best board games for beginners, Splendor tops my list. While it may not top my list of all time favorite games, I have yet to teach it to someone who doesn’t instantly love it.
Splendor has amazing little poker chip style tokens; gem tokens. You will use your turns to collect these tokens. Upon growing your collection, you can now spend them to buy development cards – which give you points and also award you a bonus gem – a permanent discount on any future purchases.
Maybe there is one card out there that is really calling your name, but your neighbor almost has all the gems needed to buy it before you… No problem! You can reserve the card so no one else can take it.
Splendor is one of the easiest games to learn, and offers fun decision making.
This game has a few unique concepts for the beginner to wrap their minds around, but that doesn’t mean it is difficult to learn.
Players will take turns placing tiles in the center of the table. Unlike most games where you play pieces on a board, you are actually creating the game board as you go, laying more and more tiles to create a French landscape.
Connecting roads to roads, cities to cities, players will grow and shape this central “playing board,” earning points along the way.
Not only will you lay tiles, but you will also play little wooden people (meeple) on the board, claiming stake of that road or that city. And here is where it gets really interesting – you can join or close off cities depending on if you play your tiles right – getting more points for you, or stopping another player from completing a city and earning any points at all.
Full of great decisions and introducing unique mechanics, Carcossonne is one of the best board games for beginners!
At what point does a game hit the status of “a classic,” cause Catan may be there. Catan, previously known as Settlers of Catan, gives players the opportunity to build settlements around hexagagonal tiles. New settlements and roads don’t appear out of thin air, they require lumber, ore, brick. Players will gain resources if they have a settlement built around a tile that has its number rolled.
This is a great board game for beginners because there is such a fun sense of growth as the game progresses. While there are decisions, they are not overwhelming so it is easy for the new player to catch on quickly.
I was torn putting a party-style game on a list of games for beginners…isn’t that like one step back? I wondered. But hear me out. You’ll split into 2 teams, one person will give a clue based off of a card, and the team will twist a dial to make their guess. While it is basically your classic 2 team party game, Wavelength stands out in its freshness. There isn’t quite as much riding on the cluegiver – making players less prone to dread the idea of being the cluegiver.
Wavelength also has a nice spinner and markers to keep score, not totally unlike other party games, but I think these things really get non-gamers more comfortable with tallying score and having more on the table than just a deck of playing cards or clue cards.
If you ask me what strategy game the whole family can play – I’ll point you to Bohnanza. This easily makes it on my list of best board games for beginners. As a bean farmer you are trying to collect beans – the more of a type you collect the more they are worth.
The catch, you can’t reorder the cards in your hand…and you can only have 2 types of beans at a time that you’re collecting. So how do you get cards that you want? Negotiation! And that is where this game shines. Some games are played on the table – Splendor for example. I feel like there isn’t much chit chat going on in Splendor, just a bunch of people staring at the pieces of the board game. Bohnanza is the opposite – you will spend more time looking at and talking to players than you will looking at the cards on the table.
And Bohnanza plays up to 7 players, so for a bigger family or larger group of friends – Bohnanza is my game of choice!
Like Catan, Pandemic at this point is a Classic! Pandemic is a cooperative game – that means you are playing as a team trying to beat the game. The deck of cards and the clock are working against you as your team tries to cure a deadly disease that is threatening all of mankind…and womankind. Humankind?!?
Each player has a special ability, and if you can work together effectively you will be able to eradicate the disease by moving your characters around the board sharing information and curing disease outbreaks. This game works wonderfully with new players, because if they are confused they have no information to hide – you’re on a team, they can ask any question they like.
Just beware of the alpha-gamer. You know the kind, that one guy who knows what is best for everyone and isn’t afraid to tell you exactly what to do. Pandemic is a great board game for beginners!
10. Majesty: For the Realm
One of the most underrated games I have ever played. I said you don’t want to take 20 minutes to teach a game to a new player. In Majesty you can explain AND play this game in 20-30 minutes.
Each turn is as simple as take an available card. That is it! Each card you take will award you points for the character card you take, along with the combination of other cards you have already acquired. The points earned are straight forward and easy to tally – no degree in accounting needed. And don’t be decieved. Just because your only option is to take a card doesn’t mean that the game is simple or boring – plenty of meaningful decisions here!
Like I said, Risk, Monopoly, Uno…that’s just the tip of the iceburg. These 10 games are surefire hits for you as a new gamer, or your friends who aren’t (yet) into the world of board games. Now, stop reading and start playing!
Article Written by Kyle. With 7 siblings, all with varying interest in board games, Kyle is well acquainted with what games work well for “newcomers” in the board game hobby.