Remember the good old days when families gathered ‘round the kitchen table? You know the one – that Formica thing with knee-slashing metal legs and little boomerangs all over the top. Everyone from young to old came together to play cards. But these days, the fam is looking for the best tabletop games.
If you’re trying to get your non-gaming friends into board games, you need to know which ones will get them hooked. While some tabletop games are pretty involved, most newbs need something a bit simpler with easy-to-understand rules. But the storytelling still has to be top-notch.
New Resurgence of Board Gaming
It seems we’ve all had to sit through an agonizing game of Chutes and Ladders or some other dull board game. What makes “tabletop” gaming any different?
Tabletop games are big now because they deliver an opportunity to strategize along with the imagination of role-playing games. The best part is that the new generation of tabletop games delivers it in a neat and ready-to-play package. No more memorizing eight books of dungeon monsters and dice tables.
This simplicity makes it perfect for introducing your favorite non-gamer to tabletop games. They require more creativity than, say, Monopoly. But your non-gaming friends won’t have to sink a fortune into little pewter playing pieces to have a good time.
Another advantage is quicker gameplay. While a dungeon campaign can take weeks to conclude, most tabletop role-playing games come to a satisfying conclusion in a few hours. That means that your non-gaming friends don’t have to make a long term commitment.
The Best Tabletop Games for Non-Players
Looking for the right board game to lure your unsuspecting friends and family into tabletops? Here’s our list of the best tabletop games for passing the time with non-gamers.
1. Catan (or Settlers of Catan)
Settlers of Catan has rewritten the whole book on family game night. Created in Germany in 1995, it has sold over 22 million copies since.
Catan is mainly a strategy game, where players imagine themselves as settlers in a colony, who must work the land of Catan to survive and thrive.
Everyone works for “resources,” some of the products the settlers mine, make, or cultivate. It’s up to the players to establish their legacy and build a small empire on Catan.
Many expansion packs have been created to make the world of Catan bigger, more interesting, and more intriguing. But first things, first – use the basic game to get your non-gaming friends hooked.
For 3 to 4 players, with gameplay lasting 1 to 2 hours.
If you’re looking for an easier introduction than even Catan, consider Carcassonne.
In Carcassonne, players lay tiles to create the board as they go. You’re creating a medieval city as you play, a fortified medieval town in France.
There’s very little strategy involved, although good tactics always come in handy. Best of all, the gameplay is well-paced, and no one ever gets eliminated from the game. That means it’s perfect for that holiday family gather.
For 2 to 5 players, with gameplay lasting 30 to 45 minutes.
Pick a genre, any genre!
While not exactly D&D, Paperback does require that you play a role.
You’re the paperback writer (of the song fame), and your goal is the win at Nano and pump out a paperback novel. Compete against others or play cooperatively – you get to choose.
For 2 to 5 players, with gameplay lasting about 45 minutes.
4. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Looking for the best tabletop game for fans of the occult? In One Night Ultimate Werewolf, you get to choose your role: werewolf, seer, or some other creature with a special ability. Then slip into secret night phase when you must find the werewolf – and then the whole terrified village wins.
For 3 to 10 players, with games as short as 10 minutes to play.
5. Monty Python Fluxx
Not all geeks are gamers – some are just into that comedy vibe. If you like to bring the yucks to game night, Monty Python Fluxx might just be the thing.
Random, chaotic, and fun, Fluxx is focused on The Holy Grail. Players get a hand of three cards, then draw and discard as the rules and conditions change. You’ll just have to go with the flow.
For 2 to 6 players, with gameplay lasting about 40 minutes.
6. The Resistance
Which side are you on? Are you a resistance operative or an imperial spy? Either way, you’ll have to work with your team for success in your mission against the Empire.
The Resistance works both as a board game and a party game. Players will have to guess the others’ identities and gain their trust. When your Leader gives you a mission — you can support it or sabotage it.
Do you know who your enemies are?
For 5 to 10 players, with a 30-minute playtime.
7. Stone Age
This Neolithic adventure game lets the whole family get into character as hunters and gatherers, farmers, and tool makers.
You’ll need to work hard to evolve to the next level of civilization. Introduce new concepts of work placement, delegating your tribe to hunt, trade, or find flint in the quarry.
If you plan things right, your people will have enough food to survive.
Suitable for 2 to 4 players, with a 1 to 1.5-hour gameplay.
Pandemic may be the best tabletop game for those who swear they hate board games. Why? Because it’s cooperative rather than competitive. The whole family can solve the mystery of what’s killing people across the globe.
Together, you’ll need to travel to disease hot=spots, treat the infected, build research stations, and find a cure. Cure all the diseases in time to save the world.
Supports from 2 to 4 players, with a one-hour gameplay time.
9. Small World
If your family has ever played Risk before, Small World will feel like a slice of home, but without the rage, fistfights, and boredom.
This game will let you conquer a fantasy world with armies of dwarves, orcs, and amazons. Players choose from 14 different fantasy races to expand around the globe and conquer territories.
For 2 to 5 players, with gameplay taking about an hour.
Who doesn’t love the idea of taking care of adorable pandas by managing a bamboo harvest?
In Takenoko, players take on the role of Japanese courtiers as they vie for the Emporer’s goodwill by caring for his precious pandas – a gift from the ruler of China.
You’ll need to grow, cultivate, and irrigate green, yellow, or pink bamboo. The Imperial Gardener will offer assistance, but you have many hungry pandas with voracious appetites.
For 2 to 4 players, with 45- minute playtime.
Choosing the Best Tabletop Game for Gateway Play
Avid players recommend all 10 of these board games for introducing your friends and family to game night. However, remember to choose something that you’ll love to play too.
What are your recommendations for the best tabletop games for non-gamers? Tell us your suggestions in the comments.