The Art of the Gateway Game

For some people, getting into board gaming was a very natural transition. Maybe you were introduced by friends or family, maybe you picked it up on your own. Once you do get involved, it very quickly becomes evident how much variety and opportunity for fun there is in the hobby. As the industry grows, new people are getting involved all the time, but it’ll be easier for some than for others. In your life, you probably know someone itching to get in to modern gaming, but they’re unsure how to take that first step.

Here are some tips to make sure you leave them with a positive first impression of the hobby and eager to come back for more.

Give Them Some Options (But not too many)

Selecting a few well thought out options is a good idea for a first gaming session with new people. Choose titles that you think will appeal to them but won’t be too tough to learn. Letting them make the choice of which games to play will make them a bit more invested in the outcome, but if you open up their choices to your entire collection you run the risk of overwhelming them or worse, they could pick something way out of their league as an intro game. Nothing will kill someone’s interest faster then being confused beyond the point of enjoyment.

You Can Win, Just Don’t Destroy Them

Keep in mind that this first experience is going to go a long way to deciding whether you’re creating a lifetime gamer or not. The more competitive they feel, the more addicted they will be walking away from the game. Your role as the teacher is not to win the game at all costs. You’ll have a natural advantage already, so help them out along the way. Make sure to point out obvious good moves for them and warn them against possible mistakes. Don’t play the game for them, but make sure they know their options. You can win, but try to make the newcomers feel as if they were at least in the running. It actually may work better to beat them just by a little bit to give them a reason to come back and try again.

Try Cooperation

A lot of people are turned off of gaming by the intense competition they associate with childhood games of Monopoly or RISK. They see gaming as a prelude to a flipped table and long silences at family gatherings. Cooperative games are a relatively new phenomenon that they may not have heard of yet. Working together for a common goal takes off all the pressure of trying to win individually. Some people are afraid of losing, but if you win or lose as a team, it’s a lot easier to swallow the outcome. Cooperative games can be great at introducing new mechanics, themes, and levels of complexity without the added element of direct competition. New players can explore the game itself without feeling like they may end up looking stupid or losing big time on their own.

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