It seems like every month we get a new "best gateway game ever" that the board game evangelists immediately flock to, purchase, play once, and forget about. It's a constant deluge. Publishers keep producing light games that are "single core mechanism you know, BUT SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT" and we keep treating them like they're significant and innovative. They aren't.
The very concept of gateway games is condecending to prospective players. A game with a thin veneer of strategic choices that tricks first-time players into feeling clever for making obvious plays is not how you get someone into board games long-term. Any game can be a gateway game for someone if it captures their attention and makes them want to come back. Most people have played some kind of complex game before. Whether or not it's made of cardboard is irrelevant. Game "weight" is impossible to truly qualify and a topic for another day, but almost everyone has played a video game. The only major difference is that board games don't do the upkeep or cleanup for you.
To be clear, games with the gateway label are not inherently bad or lesser. Games like Alhambra, Bohnanza, Carcassonne, etc. are considered evergreens for a reason. They're genuinely well designed and fun to play regardless of how many other games you've played. And there are phenomenal new ones too, like Sushi Go Party, Smile, and Junk Orbit. What is unacceptable is assuming that prospective players are too stupid to play anything outside of designated gateway games. If a player has genuine interest in the Cold War I would bet you could teach them Twilight Struggle. If they come from an RPG background Roll Player will absolutely enthrall them. They may take longer to teach, but people are far more willing to learn when you provide them with something they actually want to learn. Not yet another game of Century Spice Road.
Treat your new players with enough respect to show them games that are tailored for their interests. Don't mindlessly lurch towards the glut of designated "intro level" games just because someone doesn't play a lot of board games on their own time. Board gaming does not require an associate's in Ticket to Ride before you can get your masters in Russian Railroads. Play what you want. That's the entire point of games.
"Strong enough to win the Mr. Universe Beauty & Muscles Pageant."
02 Jul 2018
- [+] Dice rolls