Every now and then a hobby board game rises up out of the hobby and into more mainstream awareness. And it’s always a sign of quality - the blog authors and YouTubers and influencers who promote hobby games to non-hobby audiences tend to have good taste when wading through the hobby buzz. Sometimes, though, for non-hobby fans, these exalted games can seem complex.
So how does one go from hobby newbie to self-reliant board game fan? In a word: practice. It becomes much easier to learn new games, when you have practice learning new games. So let’s practice learning! Here’s some choice games, starting off easy, that can help hobby newbies get better at the hobby.
Lesson One – Learning Rules
The best way to start this journey is by learning a battery of small games. This helps people get used to the emotional states of learning, from confusion to clarity. Playing small games takes only a few minutes, so iteration is easy. Games we’d recommend for this would be Dungeon Mayhem, Love Letter, and Zombie Dice.
Lesson Two – Light Strategy
Now let’s play some games that reward a little bit of thinking. Planning is the spirit of strategy, so these games aren’t too complex, but will show you that decisions you make now will affect decisions you make later. For now, let’s play some Carcassonne, Sushi Go!, and Ticket to Ride.
Lesson Three – Short-term & Long-term Planning
Here strategy starts to really get interesting. These games will have players choosing between immediate benefits, versus developing stronger but slower strategies. This is a common sort of decision in heavier games, and there are plenty of less-complex games to practice with. We’d love to play Century: Spice Road, Azul, and Space Base.
Lesson Four – Objective Evaluation
A core component of Game Theory and strategy is assigning values to your different options. Discerning how many points you’ll get from each move you make is a critical part of a lot of Eurogames. To practice this mode of thinking, we can still play some moderately complex games, like Lords of Waterdeep, Bunny Kingdom, and Power Grid.
Lesson Five – Multiple Paths To Victory
At last, we’ve arrived. Mastering this part will equip you to play almost any 90-minute hobby game out there. The games we’re suggesting at this point will demonstrate a common feature: multiple victory conditions. Many strategy games use a system cheekily called “point salad.” The game provides a wide variety of ways to earn victory points, but not provide enough resources (coins, cards, turns, etc) to get all of them. So, developing a strategy to get as many victory points as possible is the order of the day. To explore this concept, we suggest playing some Scythe, Terraforming Mars, or the classic Agricola and its updated counterpart Caverna.
Lesson Six – Hic Sunt Belua Abyssi
This tier of games is actually mostly optional. Here lie the heaviest, most complex, and most time-consuming games. These games have their fans, and with good reason, but this is still kind of a fringe of the hobby. Playing these games, in terms of finding interested players, getting everyone to learn the rules, and setting aside several valuable free-time hours to play requires a dedicated effort. If you’re looking to plumb the depths of the hobby, check out Twilight Imperium, or a game by Splotter Spellen like Bus or Food Chain Magnate, or a Vidal Lacerda game like Lisboa or CO².