The number one question I see on the board game forums all over the internet is some variation of “how can I get my friends/family/spouse/significant other to play more games?”
And the thing about most of the answers on these forums is that, by the very fact that the forums are populated by gamers, the answers are BY gamers. And hobby gamers have a very different idea from the average member of the public of what makes a good game, so if a gamer is looking to turn a mainstream person INTO a gamer, they need to start where the would be gamer is, not where the asker is.
Having spent a decade teaching games at a board game cafe, I have a lot of experience recommending games to the general public. The general public at our cafe come to us and look to play Guess Who, Monopoly, Jenga, etc, and we have all those, but when they look for recommendations, we look to broaden their board game horizons.
The most successful games we have for these sorts of guests are what we call Breadstick Games. Hobby gamers might call them “filler games,” but for us the food metaphor is more apt. And our number one breadstick game is Jacques Zimet’s dexterity game Ghost Blitz, from German publisher Zoch zum Spiel.
If you know Ghost Blitz, and are looking to introduce a non-gamer friend to games beyond the classics, you may not think much of it, but I guarantee it will go over well. And a game that your would-be gamer will play, regardless of how much you enjoy it, is a billion times better than a game you adore but your friend will never touch.
If you don’t know the game, it’s a reflex game where you try to earn more cards than anyone else by grabbing the right item off the table before anyone else. There are five wooden objects, a green bottle, blue book, white ghost, red chair, and a grey mouse. Someone reveals the top card of the deck and it tells everyone what to grab. Whoever grabs it first, keeps the card. Each card shows two objects, and either one is the right colour and one is wrong, or BOTH objects are the wrong colour. If one of the items is the right colour, THAT is the thing to grab – see a green bottle on the card, grab the green bottle off the table – see a red chair, grab the chair, etc. However, if both items are wrong, you must grab the item that isn’t represented on the card. So if the card has a blue mouse and a red bottle, the item to grab is the white ghost.
This game makes new players think, without being too complex, or making them think too hard. Most gamers love to think, it’s why they like strategy games. But most non-gamers aren’t really looking for entertainment that makes them think, so if you want to make a non-gamer into a gamer, you need to start with games that don’t require a lot of thought, and gradually ramp it up. Ghost Blitz makes an excellent starter in this regard.
Our game wholesalers were astounded by how many units of Ghost Blitz we sell, and the secret is how many people we get playing it at our tables. People who play it immediately want to buy it, so it is invaluable at turning non-gamers into gamers.