In the first six entries of the Board Game Concierge, I’ve introduced you to a number of games of different genres that make great introductions to the hobby of board games for your pre-gaming friends. I say “pre-gaming” because some people truly are non-gamers, and there’s nothing I can tell you that will convert them. Just accept them the way they are, or cut them out of your life, because there’s no game out there that will make a true non-gamer into a gamer. But pre-gamers are those people who just haven’t met the right game yet. They are the ones who need that first spark to ignite the same passion that you and I have.
So what’s next? By now you’ve introduced your friends to some of the approachable games I’ve suggested in earlier columns (or else why are you here?), and some of those friends really enjoyed them and are now eager to try whatever games you have to offer them. Congratulations, those friends are now gamers!
It’s possible that your efforts have also revealed one or two of those true non-gamers in your crowd. Be grateful they were willing to give it a go at all, and make plans with them for a movie night, or a fondue party or something, and just move on. There’s no point in trying to make these people enjoy your hobby. Maybe ask one of them to introduce you to their hobby. They’ll be just as excited to share kite surfing or geocaching with you as you were to share board games with them.
But what about those friends who are still on the fence? The ones who had fun with the approachable stuff, but whose eyes still glaze over if you start trying to explain some o fthe beefier games you love? These are the people that can still be coaxed into the hobby, but could be forced into the non-gamer box if you aren’t careful with them.
It’ll take patience. You may have to stick to playing (with them, at least) the simpler fare like the games I’ve already suggested (Hey! That’s My Fish!, Battle Sheep, Just One, Cahoots, Ghost Blitz, Marrakech, Las Vegas, and Banned Words) for a while. You’ve found parts of your hobby that they enjoy, so don’t push your luck. Keep enjoying it with them.
But gaming is supposed to be fun for everyone involved, and just like you used approachable games to ensure that your pre-gaming, or new-gaming friends were having a good time, you will eventually want to lead your friends down the path to the crunchier games you love so much.
The thing that all the games I’ve suggested so far have in common is that they make a tight mechanical focus. They basically do one thing, and do it very well. There are lots of other games that are focused on one thing, so expanding the circle of tightly focused games is a good next step. No Thanks, Cockroach Poker, Skull, Love Letter, Coup, Indigo, Qin, Can’t Stop, Manhattan, and Coloretto are all games that focus their game play on one key element, and don’t have much in the way of frills or distractions.
Another way to go is to move into “approachable plus” games, that will broaden your friends’ gaming horizons, without pushing them out (or at least too far out) of their comfort zones. These games aren’t so tightly focused on a single element, but they aren’t the sprawling sandbox or point salad games that can overwhelm some newcomers to the hobby. Looking to the Spiel des Jahres award is an obvious choice. So obvious that most hobbyists already use their favourites to convert their friends, but in case you don’t, some of the most popular and successful Spiel des Jarhes winners at the cafe include Azul, Rummykub, Dominion, Camel Up, Qwirkle, Catan (of course), Dixit, Just One, Carcassonne, Codenames, and Ticket to Ride (although, I highly recommend the New York City version of Ticket to Ride, because it’s smaller, faster, and better than the original).
If we stopped here, and you had each of the games suggested in the Board Game Concierge series, you’d have about 20 games that are all great for converting pre-gamers into gamers. But we aren’t stopping here. Future Board Game Concierge columns will dig deep into my experience at Snakes & Lattes, to suggest more games that are very successful at entertaining those who are not yet board game savvy.
Until then, happy gaming, thanks for reading, and best of luck in your attempts to convert the masses!