Gateway Games
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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This is a list of "gateway" games that are excellent examples of the strategy / designer game genre and are also accessible to people that are new to the genre.

The list is sorted by the rank of the game, based on user ratings, and includes some of my personal comments to help provide some context and background.

Last Update - August 2018
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1. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:37] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
Dwight Powell
United States
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Illinois
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Looks great on the table, the individual tiles are well-made and fun to handle and the rules are easy to learn. Each player is building their own board, but everyone is competing for the same resources (drafting), so there is a lot of interaction between players.
 
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2. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:43]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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A "classic". Each player is building their own civilization, by drafting cards one at a time and building them using resources their civilization can produce. Lots of different scoring categories (a "points salad"), so there are many paths to victory. Plays well with 3-7 players and a typical game with experienced players lasts less than 30 minutes, even with 7 players.
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3. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:51] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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Hugely popular "party" game, where two teams square off against one another using simple word clues to contact their team of secret agents in the field. But this is designed by one of the most well-respected designers in the world, so it's definitely not "simple". Plenty of great strategy and tension, as both teams are racing against each other. Works well for groups of 3-12 people.
 
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4. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:54]
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Illinois
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One of the best introductory worker placement games around. The theme and mechanics are perfectly married and the graphic design and art are excellent.
 
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5. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:74] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
Dwight Powell
United States
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Illinois
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A classic "deck builder", where each player starts the game with the same ten cards in their deck and then uses those cards to buy more cards to upgrade their deck and create their own customized engine. The base game has tons of replay value, but there are many expansions available to add more variety. Plays equally well with 2, 3 or 4 players.
 
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6. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:75]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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The quintessential "cooperative" game. It can be very difficult to win, but the rules are simple.
 
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7. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:112]
Dwight Powell
United States
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Illinois
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Two player set collection. Teaches tactics, hand management and action valuation (making the "best" decision at any particular moment).
 
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8. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:124]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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A standard gateway game which I've taught to a wide variety of players. It's a simple economic game, with an engine-building mechanic, that can be taught in 10 minutes or less and has tons of replay value.
 
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9. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:132] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Dwight Powell
United States
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Illinois
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One of the classic gateway games. Very easy to learn, with simple mechanics and lots of indirect competition. Teaches set collection and area control mechanics, as well as some “mission” concepts.
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10. Board Game: Sagrada [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:134]
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Illinois
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Sukodu concept, with dice. Beautiful design and quick to play.
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11. Board Game: Takenoko [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:218]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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An absolutely excellent gateway games, for a number of reasons:

1. It looks great on the table (great art, bright colors and cool pieces).
2. The theme is family-friendly and appealing to gamers of all ages.
3. It's easy to learn, but has a fair amount of depth.

Takenoko features action selection and "missions" mechanics.
 
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12. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
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Illinois
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Simple auction game, but the art in the game is great to look at and the experience of running your own art museum is rich and enjoyable.
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13. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:220]
Dwight Powell
United States
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Illinois
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VERY simple mechanics, but the depth is in the social aspects of the game ("why did you play that card? What are you holding?") A good beginner social deduction game that can be played quickly on a very small table.
 
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14. Board Game: Ethnos [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:229]
Dwight Powell
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Illinois
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This is an excellent gateway game because of the simple mechanics and quick play and it accommodates up to 6 players very easily. But it also has a lot of replay value, as there are a variety of different ways to set up the game (10 different races to choose from) and the strategy is surprisingly deep.
Features set collection and area control mechanics.
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15. Board Game: Quadropolis [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:257]
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Illinois
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Board building, point salad, with many paths to victory. Includes drafting and action efficiency concepts.
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16. Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:258]
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Illinois
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17. Board Game: Biblios [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:298]
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Illinois
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18. Board Game: Century: Golem Edition [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:320]
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19. Board Game: Camel Up [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:393]
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Illinois
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20. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:409]
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Illinois
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21. Board Game: Junk Art [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:437]
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Illinois
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More of a "party game", but it includes several game variants that use several mechanics that are common in other games (drafting, risk mitigation).
 
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22. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:442]
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Illinois
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23. Board Game: Formula D [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:450]
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Illinois
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24. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:468]
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Illinois
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25. Board Game: Between Two Cities [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:501]
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Illinois
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