It's clear from the start - this game is great.
Paul Smith
United Kingdom
Ventnor
Isle of Wight
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There are many great games. But games are great in different ways.

Some require multiple playings and some teaching from experts to realise their depth (e.g. Go).

Some appear initially confusing and bring a feeling that you don't entirely know what you're doing, but by the end of the game you immediately want to play it again now that you know what you're doing. Age of Steam comes to mind, as does Power Grid perhaps.

But some games are clearly great right from the very start. Some games are so compulsive that within minutes of starting the game with a new player, they *will* declare "This is a good game, I like it"

I only have a few examples in my collection, are there others?
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1. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:93] [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked]
Paul Smith
United Kingdom
Ventnor
Isle of Wight
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I've taught this game to many many people - just about everyone I've ever played a game with. It never fails to get people telling me what a good game it is just when the first track starts to get laid, about 5 minutes into the game.
 
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2. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:136]
Paul Smith
United Kingdom
Ventnor
Isle of Wight
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The game that inspired this list. I taught it to 2 new players last night, and it was only my second play of the game. On my first play, I immediately knew this was an amazing game. 1 or 2 invocations of Ra into the first epoch my opponents agreed. Sheer brilliance. Makes me want an 11 on the rating scale.
 
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3. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:15]
Paul Smith
United Kingdom
Ventnor
Isle of Wight
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I haven't noticed it so much with PR, but I did recently teach this game to 2 friends, and whilst initially bewildered by the array of options open to them they couldn't help but tell me they were enjoying the game by about the 3rd governor round. I also loved it from my first play, which helps
 
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4. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:46]
Nick Fisk
United Kingdom
Stoke on Trent
Staffordshire
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That's weird. This bit used to mention Shire Games, and tell you all how wonderful we are. But it seems to have got deleted. Let's see what happens this time ....
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I know it's an obvious choice, but who cares

A friend picked this up for me in Essen, and we happened to have an mini-games day organised for the very next day.

Three of us playing, and by the time we were building the walls, we'd all said how great the game was.
 
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5. Board Game: Carolus Magnus [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:942]
Jon David Faeth
United States
Hilliard
Ohio
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It started with my brother and myself playing a 2p game. I had gone over all of the rules in less than 2 minutes, he grocked it, and by the time the third round was done, we knew we had something special on our hands.

A friend walked in about that time, watched us play, figured out most of the rules in two rounds or so, and was really into it. We immediately started a 3p game after my bro whooped me soundly.

Love this game. It never fails to satisfy.
 
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6. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Don't Panic!
United Kingdom
Sevenoaks
Kent
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It's obvious from the moment you open the box that this is going to be a classic, and the first game had me hooked - I think the time taken to set the board up just adds to the anticipation, and when the board is set up, I always use it as an excuse to play a few more games through.
Also, I've never known a first timer not enjoy this.
 
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7. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98]
Duncan Flint
United Kingdom
Wales
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First (solo) play of this I knew this was a winner - and I wasnt 100% convinced beforehand, so it's not like I was believing my own "hype".
 
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8. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:128]
Todd Walker
United States
Culver City
CA
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OH NO! It's one of those abstact-o-philes :-)

I suppose it’s a matter of tastes (i.e. you are asking for games that you love the second you start playing them). I'm posting here only because you mention Go, and for me, the game that earned my love and respect faster than any other game, was Go.

I taught myself this game in a coffee shop in college, and I was hooked without even playing a game. I quickly taught several friends just to try to find someone who’d play the game. A few friends liked it, and a journey of mutual learning began . . . anyway.

I think all abstracts fit your criteria for immediate payoff (well, I actually think Chess is hard to love in your first play, as its an abstract abstract. If that makes any sense). You just have to like abstracts, to like abstracts.

I would argue that great abstracts try to do away with any complexity that is not directly linked to providing deeper strategy and tactics. Great abstracts strive to be immediate pay off experiences, AND long term loves. The essence of a great abstract, at least to me, is that you can enjoy it your first game, and learn more and more each time you play. Try out YINSH as well, it's my most recent "first few plays, ah this is great" game. It too can be taught in just a few minutes.

In abstracts, like Go, you are "in the game" when you place your first piece. Placing your first piece in Go requires that you know only Two concepts and One rule (Freedoms, Groups, and that Groups that have no Freedoms are dead). I can almost teach the basic mechanics of the game in a minute, using only this image. The rest, well, you learn as you Go :-) Those who take too long, to teach, and attempt to explain the tactics and strategy of Go, rather than its simple mechanics, are over explaining the game IMHO. Teach Go like you should play it, observe and respond. Your student will ask the right questions when they are ready to learn the next level of depth . . .
 
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9. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.33 Overall Rank:5]
Paul Franklin-Bihary
United States
Seattle
Washington
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I just played through my first session (solo) last night, and I must say that this game falls into this category for me.

After reading the rules and setting everything up, I thought this one might be too fiddly, or too difficult to understand the strategy at the beginning, but after the first full turn, I felt like I got the hang of the game. By the end (The Soviet Union won in the 4th turn, buy a landslide...), I really felt like I understood everything, even though I hadn't even seen all the cards yet.

I can already tell that this will be a game that I will play a lot, because it is FUN. I don't normally have "fun" when I play a game solo to learn the rules, but I really felt the tension and the excitement while I was trying this one out.

Simple, yet deep enough for multiple plays and approches, Twilight Struggle is a classic, and I could tell after the first turn.
 
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10. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:352]
Dave Heberer
United States
Lake Stevens
WA
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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I read the rules, set up the game with 5, and entered into a 3 hour game that flew by. I loved every bit of it:

the ability to mitigate the luck if you are a cautious player like me.

the way you want to make sure you are ahead in turn order for the beginning of the round, but not at the end.

the alliances you pay dearly for.

The special abilities, most all of them useful in the extreme.

It's a great game, and I'm sorry I've only gotten to play a dozen times so far.
 
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11. Board Game: Wallenstein (first edition) [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:365]
Gregor McNish
Australia
Melbourne
VIC
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Played for the first time this week-- and was utterly surprised and delighted very quickly.

Part of my delight may have been that i'd expected something heavier.

The other that comes to mind is Adel Verpflichtet.
 
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12. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:212]
Rodney Loyd
United States
Sand Springs
OK
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Back in the early '70s, my Dad brought this home out of the blue. It looked complicated at first just by seeing the cover. It was around the time I had tried to play a couple of Avalon Hill war games with my sisters. They always gave up due to the complexity of the games. However, after we opened it and set it up, it was just too unique not to give it a try. So, we all played, my Mom, Dad, and two sisters, and loved it from game 1. We still have the original copy and play it on holidays from time to time. A classic mainstay for me -- love it! (Although I still HATE the Avalon Hill remake with all the weird names and cumbersome bits.)
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13. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:353]
nate ben-porat
Israel
Jerusalem
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after watching the episode in 'boardgames with scott' (thanks scott!) i decided i have to play it. i went on BSW and started playing it and from the first minute i loved it. mabye it was beacuse i played with such a nice guy that answered all my questions...
 
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14. Board Game: Patchwork [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:58]
Charlie Ringer
United Kingdom
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It took maybe a turn or two to realise how great this game is. It is really simple but replayable and with a neat theme.
 
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