Games recently introduced to my group of non-gamers...
Sunny Fox
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Since discovering the wonderful world of non-mainstream boardgames in the summer of 2003, I've made a truckload of carefully researched purchases. Most have worked out well with my group of 3-to-5 gamers, who are have been fed for years on a diet of Monopoly, Careers, Sequence, Scrabble and Payday.

Dec/10 - edited with new game updates for A Dog's Life and Villa Paletti.
Dec/13 - played Settlers.
Dec/17 - played Metro & Peanuts.
Dec/28 - finally got a chance to play Zapp Zerapp and San Marco.
Jan/25 '04 - updated TransAmerica, Zapp Zerapp, Pirates Cove, Bohnanza.
Feb/12 '04 - Added Mamma Mia, Frank's Zoo, China Moon.
Feb/28 '04 - Updated Frank's Zoo, Bohnanza, TransAmerica. Added Clans, Medina, Giganten.

Additional suggestions for 3-5 players, based on what I have, would be very much appreciated!
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1. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:367]
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Bohnanza - Despite the odd rules, this hilarious game was an immediate success - everyone grasped it surprisingly quickly. Fun, challenging, and the option to play mean or nice... what's not to like? A good starter to get everyone in the mood.

Jan/25 - after a couple more playings, this one remains high on the "favorites" list. It seems to work as well with 3 as with 4 players - even without removing cards as suggested.

Feb/28 - A few more playings in the past week. I think we're finally starting to get a bit more "strategic" in what we trade, give away or hold onto.
 
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2. Board Game: Fluxx [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:6635] [Average Rating:5.69 Unranked]
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Fluxx - I know this one has received rather severe reviews for its completely random and unpredictable nature, but once again my group (used to games of luck rather than pure strategy) really liked it. Plenty of laughs as someone played a completely insane "rule" - mix four or five of those together and half of your turn can be spent figuring out exactly what's supposed to happen! Great ender to the evening.
 
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3. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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Carcassonne - This was the first new game I introduced to the group, and it has been played many times since. After the first session I immediatly went and got all expansions - more of a great thing can't be bad! The only issue is the rather difficult task of scoring farmers at the end (the river can create HUGE territories - they should consider adding a bridge). Always eager for another game.
 
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4. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:393]
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Alhambra - I tend to prefer games that are mostly unique from one other, so I was pleased to see that this tile-based game is quite a bit different than Carcassonne. A couple of members had initial difficulty figuring out the different currency types or that tiles can't be rotated, but had it down pat by the end. Overall a success, but a bit more multiplayer solitaire-like than some of our slightly more popular choices.
 
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5. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:3149] [Average Rating:5.90 Unranked]
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Apples to Apples - Fantastic party game that my group ALWAYS wants to play. Alas, the base set soon became repetitive, so I went and got all 4 expansions - lots of variety now! I've never laughed so hard playing a game!
 
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6. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1018]
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Pirate's Cove - Great theming and buckets o' fun - especially when two players kept selecting the same island as each other! Some of the rules take a bit to get used to, especially when certain cards can be played, so I think this is at the far end of how complex the group can handle. Group hasn't figured out the cooperative "gang up on a pirate" move...

Jan/25 - played this one a couple times over the past few weeks and have become familiar with the process, and overall it seems to be working out well, however I'm finding a couple of problems - the Battle/Volley cards are rarely played due to their typical strong negative impact, and no one EVER wants to go fight the pirates as they're so massively strong. The one that regains two health between turns is basically impossible to beat unless you all gang up, and even then no one really wants to run the risk of being damaged. Are we playing this wrong?
 
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7. Board Game: Alibi [Average Rating:5.43 Overall Rank:14259]
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Alibi - One of the group members loves Clue, so I thought I'd try this. I'm not overly thrilled with the card passing (eventually you'll see all cards without any skill) or question asking (almost useless) aspects, and there's a LOT to keep track of. Not sure this one will make too many rounds... probably a good thing as it doesn't come with too many score sheets! Any other "mystery game" suggestions, without religious overtones?
 
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8. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:207]
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Acquire - The second introduction to the group. Complicated - yes, a bit dry - yes, but we all seem to like it now and again. Quite a bit of strategy is involved in when to place a specific tile and when to buy stock - plans often foiled by an opponent's move to merge two corporations! After playing Acquire I learned about several other "similar" games that might have been a bit more themed, but this seems fine for now.
 
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9. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:893]
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TransAmerica - A nice quick game, but for some reason I was expecting a bit more to it. It seems that less strategy is involved than simply the luck of the draw: how far apart your particular goals are, or how close they are to another player's. More playings are in order before I can make up my mind, however. Any suggestions for other train-themed games? But no 18xx length stuff!

Jan/25 - Got to play this one again... and again, and again, and again! Man, this time with 3 people went FAR better than the first time playing, and we really started to feel out strategic oppertunities on how to get someone ELSE to build the track you need. One of my opponents made the mistake (four times!) of building through an unneeded city just to get where he was going, and ended up helping me out instead. We REALLY liked this and after the first 2 games mixed in the cards they suggested removing for 3 people and didn't notice any adverse problems - just more variation.

Feb/28 - Another couple of playings; the group REALLY seems to like this one. What other games have similar playability? Unfortunantly, disaster strick as one player spilled their full mug (about 24oz) of hot tea onto the table and carpet, completely soaking about 12 "leftover" cards that were nearby. They're pretty much shot, going to see about getting replacements.
 
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10. Board Game: Metro [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:1453]
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Metro - Despite being one of the first games I bought, it took quite a while to eventually play it. No issues with this one - nice, simple track laying game. Only not-so-simple part is following the twisting and weaving lines! Record was 26 points for one line (not doubled).
 
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11. Board Game: Nur Peanuts! [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:6250]
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Nur Peanuts - Monopoly without the tedium? Wish they could have thought up a better theme, though - even something tacked on would have been better than essentially nothing! Overall not bad, an odd mix of luck and strategy - but it seems like the bank has too much power in a 3-player game. Gets the award for the simplest rules explained in the longest way possible.
 
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12. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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Settlers of Catan - Finally got a chance to play this one - took a fair bit longer than I thought it would. I read the rules completely beforehand (why did they put everything of interest in *three* separate documents?), so I believe the game was played flawlessly (via the "starter game" setup). Despite the dice-based resource portion, there's a lot of strategy in here. The Robber adds just enough to keep it from being "dry". I'm sure this one will be played much more.

Considering adding the 5-6 player expansion for our 4-player games (just felt a bit too cramped). Not sure how well the expansions would work for us, though.
 
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13. Board Game: A Dog's Life [Average Rating:5.54 Overall Rank:12395]
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A Dog's Life - This one looks the most like an "American" boardgame and seems to play most like one as well - quite long and not too many difficult decisions to make. The pound is a pain, even with a reduction to the number of turns in it. Piddle markers are fun, hunger didn't prove to be a problem, replaced the dog catcher cardboard marker with a Micro Machine. No one was really "impressed", but probably would play again.
 
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14. Board Game: Villa Paletti [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1391]
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Villa Paletti - After received a request to get rid of Jenga, I purchased this. Finally had a chance to play with it - much better! The little grabber tool is very useful. Only tried it with 3 players, so instead of having a "neutral" color we simply used the pieces for 3 players. Despite the reduction in columns, we still managed to get the top floor placed!
 
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15. Board Game: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:512]
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San Marco - Read many good reviews one this one and, after determining that I didn't have anything like it, purchased it. This simple concept game balances luck-of-the-draw with a clever division rule that ensures equal cards are offered to the players.

Although we initially had trouble figuring out the relative worth of cards and how to bundle them, things got easier as the game progressed. One turn in particular was quite interesting as I determined that by taking the far less attractive offer I'd push my then-leading opponent over 10 limit points, thus securing an additional round of play for everyone else. Lots of interesting strategy to be found on future playings.
 
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16. Board Game: Zapp Zerapp [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:4435]
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Zapp Zerapp - After playing a game of Sorry! with the adult rules at a friend's house, I figured this might be a nice variation - and it is. Although it's fondly called the "headache" game, this one is great light fare where strategy is limited, but you really don't care.

Before playing I was concerned that the rather strict "bump a player back to start when you pass or land" would prevent the game from ever ending, I was misstaken as the game lasted the almost perfect length of time. The initial leader to get 2 pawns home ended up being second place, while the initial loser managed to get all her pawns to safety zones, then brought them home in just a few turns to win.

Jan 25/ Have now played this one twice more and it's turning into a group favorite for times when the brain is tired and you want something with no hard thinking. I'm finding the harsh "knock your opponent back" rule makes the game the PERFECT length (longer than expected) and never becomes annoying. Also, the rule where you can't knock someone back on your first move from START makes for some interesting strategy. Overall a very welcome game with neat bits that is on my "must keep" list.
 
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17. Board Game: Mamma Mia! [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1277] [Average Rating:6.48 Unranked]
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Mamma Mia - This one was purchased (along with Frank's Zoo) as an "eh, they're cheap and I need some light games" purchase. Tonight I finally got to play it - not bad! Certainly a memory heavy game, but often you only need a "sense" of what's in there to do well. The person in my group with the worst short term memory actually won!
 
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18. Board Game: Frank's Zoo [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1195]
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Franks Zoo - Like Mamma Mia, was purchased without incredible hopes, but so far it seems pretty good. After clarifying to players that the small pictures on the cards in the player's hand AREN'T the items that that card can replace, the game went smoothly for two hands. A simple trick playing game, more deluxe and better themed than the same thing played with a standard deck of cards, with an interesting twist with the group play option.

Feb 28 - Had another game - the group does like this one. However, we have yet to play through to 19 points - typically 2 or 3 hands of this seems enough.
 
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19. Board Game: China Moon [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:5911]
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China Moon - a game for the girls... but oddly the two guys won! Hop around collecting flowers. Interesting strategy in who and in what order to move frogs to maximize your potential of collecting flowers and making others drop them. The little technicolor rubber frogs went over well!
 
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20. Board Game: Clans [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1136]
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Clans - Although a bit dry, this one looks promising. Most of the time in our first game we wern't sure WHY we were merging certain huts, although better strategies became clearer after the game ended. Have to try this a few more times.
 
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21. Board Game: Giganten [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1490]
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Giganten - This one turned out to be real fun, if a bit long. I've already had requests to play it again. A bit of exploring, the suspense of the markets and planning when to sell your oil, the "nastiness" factor of setting your opponents trains back... what other similar (but DIFFERENT!) games are there out there?
 
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22. Board Game: Medina [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:731]
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Medina - Turned out to be a bit more complicated than I planned, mainly as folks couldn't quite figure out where to place their pieces. A few more playings needed for a verdict.
 
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23. Board Game: Domaine [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:647]
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Domaine - After playing this once it became apparant that our strategies were completely wrong - we all ended up building on the same side of the board, squabbling with each other, and completing our first domaines far too late (so no mine income). We're all ready to try again, but one complaint was that too much of the first part of the game was spent selling cards for money - I might try solving that by dealing out more money at the beginning. Oddly, Alhambra did not receive the same complaint.
 
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24. Board Game: Pick Picknic [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1433]
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Pick Picknick - Although the others seemed to like this simple little game, I felt that there was far too little strategy or even player interaction - most of the time it seemed that everyone got the cubes they were looking for without issue... keep repeating until all cubes are gone. I almost felt as if fewer "pens" would have been better, in addition to greater variation among cube scores (for more incentive to go to certain places).
 
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25. Board Game: Quiddler [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:2876]
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Quiddler - As we're all big Scrabble players, I thought I'd try to find another good word game for us to play. Alas, it doesn't look like Quiddler will be it. Throughout the game there was not a single instance where someone wasn't able to put down the required number of cards on their first turn - so no one got to "build" their hands. In the end it felt like Scrabble without the neat wooden tiles and board.
 
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