Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Ask 10 gamers and you will get 10 completely different lists of starter games. They are likely to have some cross overs, but with so many amazing games in the world there wouldn't need to be. This is our list of recommended first games. We wanted this collection to be well rounded with many themes and game mechanics covered. Hopefully you will find a few you would like to try.
This game is a classic and probably on most starter game lists. That is for good reason. In Catan players are building settlements, cities, and roads using resources that are gathered and traded. We still play this game often and even brought the travel version to play while in labor, with the tot, in the hospital. It has many expansions that can change or upgrade the game too.
This is an engine building game about gems. The theme is not terribly heavy but the game play is so enjoyable. We have yet to find someone that has had a hard time learning this game and also loving it. Splendor is one of those games that is played again and again. It is simple and elegant.
Card drafting games are quite popular. This one is very accessible and has adorable artwork. In the game players are selecting items from the sushi conveyor belt. The goal is to collect sets of specific types of sushi. The game plays quickly and is a lot of fun. If you want more variety from the get go, get Sushi Go Party. The party edition has more cards to choose from, allowing you to mix and match for a different game every time.
As we are in the middle of an actual pandemic, this one seems like a strange choice. Pandemic is one of those classic games that will never fall from our collection though. You will play as a team, cooperatively, to find the cures to various diseases before the world is over run by illness. Given the current situation, it is a way to feel like you have a bit of control over what is happening, even if the feeling only lasts as long as the game does. There are many versions of the game available, so you have some options. The original is our favorite though.
This was our first hobby board game and it is still in our collection. It is a bit rough around the edges, but we have had it for about 10 years. Carcassonne is a tile placement game. It is like building a map puzzle one piece at a time. As you build you will try to get points by making cities and roads. This one would be in the line of simple to learn, difficult to master.
Bang! The Dice Game
The dice version of this game is super simple to learn and the game plays so quickly. There is less language involved, making it easier to use in multilingual environments and with children that can often take forever to read cards. This is a wild west battle between the cops and the robbers. Players roll the dice and take the actions that come up. Each player has a hidden role card that brings a bit of deduction into the game.
This one is a bit of an area control game. Players place settlements into various terrains types. The goals to get points change with each game, as well as the bonuses for in game use. Kingdom Builder is a great game to play with varied skill levels. There is enough strategy for more seasoned players but new players can get into the game without feeling like they don't have a chance.
Coming back to the wild west, we have a game about a train heist. This is a programming game. The actions are played out on a 3 dimensional train and are often hilarious as your actions don't always go according to plan. While this game does have some strategy, it is mostly a game of silly fun.
Colors of Paris
Worker placement games are often difficult to learn, but this one is easy and it will open the door to this genre for any player. In Colors of Paris players are obtaining pigments and painting paintings. It is short and easy to understand. This is a new game to our collection and we have loved every play.
There are many roll and write games to choose from, but this is one of the best. You can choose between blue, which has a rivers and lakes expansion, or red, which has a meteors and lava expansion. You don't even have to take our word for it on this one. You can come play it with us live (and for free) on Wednesdays at 10 am EST. Check out our play with us page for the board download and link to the livestream video. Then you can see if you want to add it to your collection for yourself.