Taking Tabletop Games To The Next Level [Feature]


Last time you were playing Monopoly, did you think that you were ready for something more? Something different? And no, I don’t mean buying a video game version. Tabletop games still have their place, and you can take these games to the next level – it’s easier than you think.

I attended my first gaming convention (Origins) in my early twenties. I went mostly because of my interest in Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games, but I knew there were whole new facets of gaming that I didn’t know about. The vendor hall was stocked with the expected roleplaying games and accessories, computer games, miniatures, but also tons of board games and card games. Lots of companies were offering up fun things that you couldn’t find on a department store shelf, and they enticed attendees with demonstrations.

I was floored. The idea of small companies making their own way has always appealed to me with books and comics, and it was no different with games. Until then, my game shelf included standards like CLUE, Scrabble, Risk, and a mishmash of card games and some vintage board games. Those games are still in my collection, but at Origins I found a world I didn’t know existed. And I’m guessing other folks are in the same position now that I was then. This theory is proved by the fact that I saw Settlers of Catan on the shelf at Target. We want more games, and we want more challenging ones!

What type of games do you like best? Strategy, roleplay, cards, storytelling, boardgames with tokens? You can find all of these. I’ll try any game once, but my favorites are strategy games and card games. I mostly remember the games that I bought on that first visit to Origins – a chess-like game called something like Phlanxx and a card game from Looney Labs called Fluxx (the inclusion of the “xx” at the end of the name did not influence my decision). I played both of those games nonstop, and I foisted them on any visitor who was at my house for longer than ten minutes. Eventually I visited the Looney Labs website, and I bought some of their Icehouse pyramids and another card game, Chrononauts. I’ve played many more of their games since then, and I recommend them to beginners because of their playability, simple and fun designs, and because they range from very silly to challenging.

It doesn’t take much to get you hooked on finding new games. Once you experience one that you love, you’re eager to find the next one. Here are a few places to start your education:

Go to a gaming convention!
Attending a convention is a great way to find new games. Vendors with new games are bound to have demonstrations going all day. This allows you to try a game out to see if you like it (that game specifically or just that type of game), and you’ll learn from folks that created the game. They’ll probably give you some tips too! Sometimes you can get deals from companies if you purchase the new game along with one of the older ones. Fellow attendees are another resource. They are usually more than happy to talk about their favorites, make recommendations, or tell you the pros or cons of any game. Don’t ask them while they’re playing though! That won’t end well.

This list of gaming conventions will help you find one. For the most accurate information, grab the name from that list and then look it up it separately to verify dates and locations.

Visit a local gaming store
No, I don’t mean the board game section in Target. If you are lucky enough to have a store devoted to gaming in driving distance, check it out. Staff members can help you pick a game based on what you like about games you’ve played. They might just point out some general games that are good for beginners or that are popular. They are bound to be helpful. People who are enthusiastic about a subject typically can’t wait to tell anyone that asks all about it. Another neat thing about gaming stores is that they’ll probably have nights devoted to playing certain games or they’ll have regular tournaments. It can be more than shopping, it can be joining in a community.

Behold, the interwebs
If those options aren’t possibilities for you, turn to the vast internet. You can research any game and probably find multiple overviews and reviews. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are videos of entire play-throughs on You Tube. One of my favorite places to go for game reviews is Giant Fire Breathing Robot. Author Geek Insight is passionate about games and provides stellar overviews and rankings. If I’m in the mood to buy a new game, I go there first to narrow down my choices. You can find more general ideas by searching for “best board games for beginners” or a similar phrase.

Now that you’ve obtained above-average games, spread the love. I’ve found that even folks who don’t enjoy playing traditional board games or are seemingly content with video games are all in when you offer up something different.

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