Starting out in any hobby can be daunting. There is so much to learn and understand. The modern board game hobby is no different. There is terminology that will be unfamiliar to people who have not played much other than Monopoly or The Game of Life. Even the idea that you do anything other than roll and move can be alien and lead to analysis paralysis. So in this article, I want to look at how you can introduce people to our hobby.

Recently, an article by Adam from Punchboard and one by Ian from The Giant Brain have made suggestions for newcomers to the modern hobby. However, I want to approach this topic from a different angle.

My assumption is that you are already familiar with modern hobby games. I am saying that, because my blog is aimed at people like yourself. Someone who is completely new to modern board games is unlikely to enjoy my reviews or get much benefit from my topic discussion articles. So, given that I’m aiming this at people who are not complete newcomers, I want to talk about what to look out for when choosing games that could be suitable for people who are not familiar with our hobby.

Make Light of It

A good place to start is to think about what sort of games people might get on with. Generally speaking, I think you should be looking for anything with very little rules overhead. Even if someone has played Monopoly, which has a fair amount of rules, whether they are written down or are agreed upon as house rules, you probably want to start somewhere relatively straightforward.

It’s never easy to say at what point a game has too many rules. You will have to gauge from your audience what they will feel comfortable with. I know nobody likes the concept of “light” or “heavy” games and many of you will think that BGG‘s complexity rating is heavily skewed in a certain way. However, as a rough guide, classifying games as “light” or “heavy” or taking advantage of a game’s complexity rating is useful. For anyone who is new to our modern hobby, starting with a light game or a game with a low complexity rating is probably a good place to start.

Of course, you will have to make your own judgement whether a particular game will be suitable for the people you want to introduce to our hobby. Not every game that is “light” or has a complexity rating of 1.5 is going to be a good fit for all people.

an illustration of Jonesy from the Alien film
modern games can take you anywhere

Space, Earth, Past, Future or Fantasy

Another good way of helping people get to know modern hobby games is to find a suitable setting or theme. If someone loves Star Trek and is familiar with card games, then there is a fitting version of Star Trek Fluxx that could do the trick. If someone loves haunted houses, then there are also many options. Just don’t forget to find games that are light with a fitting theme. There is no point to try and teach someone new to our modern hobby an 18xx game, just because they like trains. Something like Ticket to Ride might be a lot more suitable.

Saying that, a game that perfectly blends rules and setting can make it easier to learn. So you could potentially select a slightly heavier game. I found that with Clans of Caledonia for example. It’s a relatively heavy game, but given how well the mechanisms, rules and setting mesh, it made it feel pretty easy to learn and teach to others.

At the end of the day, selecting a game with a setting that players really enjoy is a good choice. It’s going to be much easier trying to teach people the rules when everything is skinned with their favourite IP or when it’s dripping with the right atmosphere. I think some of us will have noticed that when we bought a game with our favourite IP and happily ignored how bad the game itself actually was. Setting the scene can often make us happily gloss over other parts that aren’t quite as good.

A look at some of the cards in Brian Boru: High King of Ireland
a hand of cards in Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

Modern Hobby Mechanisms

Something else to consider is mechanisms. I sort of touched on it earlier. Someone who is familiar with card games might prefer to play a modern card game. You can even use that as a stepping stone to introducing them to mechanisms that they might not know. For example, anyone familiar with trick-taking will find it easier to learn Brian Boru, where trick-taking is but one mechanism in the game among many others. If the other person also loves Ireland, you’re onto a winner.

Another way of helping people get familiar with modern hobby games is by playing cooperatively. It won’t suit everyone, but the idea of learning and playing together towards a common goal might feel less daunting than having to learn a new game while also being expected to compete. Even the simple concept of playing cooperatively will often be new to people. Yet, if you also consider everything I mentioned above, you could find a suitable candidate to play with newcomers.

One other thing to think about is game length. Often, lighter games will be shorter, but not always. Choosing a shorter game is usually better. People normally are happier to commit to something new when they know it won’t last an age. On the other hand, if you’re happy to not play a game to the end, then feel free to suggest a longer one. Just make clear that it’s all right to stop at any point, if people don’t get on with it.

What About You?

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration. I know you might have preferred a list of games to choose from, in which case you should check out Adam’s and Ian’s articles. However, I felt that you probably have one or two suitable games in your collection already. If not, then you can probably find something that you can all learn together.

Whatever you do, I would love to know what you do. How do you introduce people to the modern hobby? What sort of games do you play with people who don’t know modern board games? What are your tips and tricks? As always, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you go about bringing more people into our hobby.

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