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.
Learn more about game mechanics here!
In CATAN (formerly The Settlers of Catan), players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players build by spending resources (sheep, wheat, wood, brick and ore) that are depicted by these resource cards; each land type, with the exception of the unproductive desert, produces a specific resource: hills produce brick, forests produce wood, mountains produce ore, fields produce wheat, and pastures produce sheep.
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.
Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you're wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.
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.
In the super-fast sushi card game Sushi Go!, you are eating at a sushi restaurant and trying to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. Score points for collecting the most sushi rolls or making a full set of sashimi. Dip your favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value! And once you've eaten it all, finish your meal with all the pudding you've got! But be careful which sushi you allow your friends to take; it might be just what they need to beat you!
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.
In Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.
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.
Carcassonne is a tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it. The tile might feature a city, a road, a cloister, grassland or some combination thereof, and it must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, etcetera. Having placed a tile, the player can then decide to place one of their meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a cloister as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, that meeple scores points for its owner.
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 keeps the core of the Bang! card game in place. At the start of the game, players each take a role card that secretly places them on a team: the Sheriff and deputies, outlaws, and renegades. The Sheriff and deputies need to kill the outlaws, the outlaws win by killing the Sheriff, and the renegades want to be the last players alive in the 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.
In Kingdom Builder, the players create their own kingdoms by skillfully building their settlements, aiming to earn the most gold at the end of the game.
Nine different kinds of terrain are on the variable game board, including locations and castles. During his turn, a player plays his terrain card and builds three settlements on three hexes of this kind.
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.
In Colt Express, you play a bandit robbing a train at the same time as other bandits, and your goal is to become the richest outlaw of the Old West. On the 11th of July, 1899 at 10 a.m., the Union Pacific Express has left Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers on board. After a few minutes, gunfire and hurrying footsteps on the roof can be heard. Heavily armed bandits have come to rob honest citizens of their wallets and jewels. Will they succeed in stealing the suitcase holding the Nice Valley Coal Company's weekly pay, despite it having been placed under the supervision of Marshal Samuel Ford? Will these bandits hinder one another more than the Marshal since only the richest one of them can come out on top?
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.
You are a painter in Colors of Paris, and you've decided to participate in "Bateau Lavoir", a friendly competition between several painters in a workshop in Montmartre, Paris. The newspapers know about this challenge, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to become famous, following the path of Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, or Renoir...
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.
In the multiplayer puzzle game Railroad Ink, your goal is to connect as many exits on your board as possible. Each round, a set of dice are rolled in the middle of the table, determining which kind of road and railway routes are available to all players. You have to draw these routes on your erasable boards to create transport lines and connect your exits, trying to optimize the available symbols better than your opponents.
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). Check out our play with us page for times and a link to the livestream video. Then you can see if you want to add it to your collection for yourself. Or pull up Boar Game Arena and play on your own. More about BGA here.