Confession time: A gateway opportunity...ruined
AB
United Kingdom
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There is no need for a geeklist on games that are NOT suitable as a gateway game, but I was lucky enough to gather 5 friends (all definitely NON-GAMERS) together to play a game several years ago and I ruined it.

It still haunts me to this day. I'd just gotten into the hobby and it was my first chance but I was naive, I was dumb and I well and truly messed it up!

I ask your forgiveness and feel free to contribute your own misdeeds/mistakes.

Come on 'fess up, I'm sure its happened to others...yeah...yeah???


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1. Board Game: Junta [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:949]
AB
United Kingdom
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What did I choose for them to play:
A card game? No
A party game? No
A quick simple board game they'd want to play again and again? No

I picked JUNTA! shake

While I'm confessing I should also add that I hadn't even properly read the rules, so kept checking the rule book especially for the revolution that occurred in the first round (boy those revolutions are confusing). I was just so excited at getting the game I was in a hurry to play it.

Needless to say the game didn't last too long. I tried to save something from the situation by getting lots of alcohol out. It worked to a point, they are still friends (who remind me of "Junta Day") and maybe in time (10, 20, 50 years?) they will let me show them a 2nd game?

I know, I know....I was SELFISH.
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2. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Captain Spaulding
United States
California
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Yep. Just the other day, too. Three new non-gamers. What the hell was I thinking? My wife warned me, too, when she saw me setting it up... "Ticket To Ride," she said, "start with Ticket To Ride." Did I listen? Not a chance. What is wrong with me?!
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3. Board Game: Kunst Stücke [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:5257]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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I don't recall all the details...

It was back in about 1995 or 1996, when I still hosted the Three Day Frolick over Christmas. I had a house and 1000 games and no one else in said dwelling, so I invited gaming friends to come over for three days at the height of holiday season. I'd cook. Some of them would order pizza. About 10 minutes every day, the TV was on. But otherwise, we just played games.

So, I mentioned this to a fellow at work. He said he was game for trying out this gaming thing. So he came over on a light day (just four of the 'gamers' there plus this newbie). I don't recall what else we played, but one of the games was Kunst Stucke, which scares some hard-core gamers away from all fun games for the rest of their lives.

The guy still works in my office, but the word 'games' hasn't crossed his lips in the intervening decade.

For the record, I still think this is a great game. Just not one to push on a noob.
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4. Board Game: Aladdin's Dragons [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:839]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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It took me awhile to understand that what gamers think is simple and straightforward is a nightmare to non-gamers. The upper end of complexity for a non-gamer should be Can't Stop. Sadly, I didn't know this five years ago.

My wife and I used to play games with another local couple (before we each started procreating, slightly out of sync in age of children). He was a gamer from long ago, she not so much. So we brought them along slowly. Eventually, we were up to the Puerto Ricos of the world. But one night, they brought along a third--a woman finishing her doctorate in some esoteric field, before moving to Saudi Arabia.

We figured she would be up for good games if they had gone to the trouble of inviting her to someone else's house for gaming. So we selected Aladdin's Dragons.

She didn't fare too well, though the rest of us played on to the bitter end. She hadn't said anything like, "I don't get it" or "This is too hard" or "Stop!" She just made her moves and played along. At the end, we asked her what she thought of these newfangled games.

Her response: "I have a headache now."
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5. Board Game: Barbarossa [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2215]
Dominic Crapuchettes
United States
Bethesda
MD
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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First there was Hearts, then there was Spades, and now we bring you Clubs. The suit of clubs finally gets some respect!
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I thought I was being good when I tried to introduce Barbarossa to some non-gamer friends even though Princes of Florence was my favorite game at the time. Boy was I surprised when this game fell flat! It was vastly too complicated.

This event was a huge turning point in my life. It is what started me on the path of trying to create a game company that could appeal to both gamers and non-gamers. Our first game, Cluzzle, is basically a simplification of Barbarossa.
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6. Board Game: BANG! [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1016]
KK Su
Australia
Melbourne
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(This was me teaching Bang! to other non-gamers during a company "card game party".)

Non-Gamer Girl#1: (she's the Sheriff) What am I supposed to be doing again?
Non-Gamer Guy#2: I don't understand what my character card says. What does "Draw 1 card" mean?

(Some time later. I have to re-explain the rules each time someone takes his/her turn.)

Non-Gamer Girl#2: (holds up the Renegade card for everyone to see) What is this card again?
Non-Gamer Guy#1: (meaningfully to Non-Gamer Girl#1) I'd like to Bang you.

(Several more turns later, Non-Gamer Girl#2 excuses herself from the table to get a drink and doesn't come back, leaving me to play her turn several times so that the game can continue.)

Non-gamer Guy#1: (looking over to the next table) Are they playing Poker? Hey, guys! Save a place for me for poker!
Me: (resigned) Maybe we should play something else. Anyone got any suggestions?
Non-Gamer Girl#1: (branishes an UNO deck) Let's play UNO! Anyone know UNO ATTACK? It's like normal UNO except that instead of drawing 1 card, you keep drawing cards until you can put something down!
Me: (inward groan)
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7. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Dominic Crapuchettes
United States
Bethesda
MD
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The last entry is similar to something on our publisher page:
----------------------------------------------------------------

The following is a dramatization of a common place event that finally lead to the founding of North Star Games:

Relative: "You like to play games! Why don't you bring a game for us play on when we're all together."
Me: "Ok. I know several fun gateway games that you're sure to love!"
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8. Board Game: Fearsome Floors [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:908]
L. Stitz
Germany
Lüneburg
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Tee-hee-hee-hee-hi-hihihi-hu-hua-huar-huarrrRRRrrrrrr.
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I should have been forewarned, as Citadels met a, well, cold reception with that group before, but no, somebody came along and asked: "Well, what's that game?" as Fearsome Floors had a prominent position on my shelf. So I explained, and people agreed to give it a try.

Now, you can play this game in two ways: analysis paralysis mode or party mode. We were seven, so I gave up from beginning and moved my pieces quickly and chaotically. But as everyone else did the exact opposite and tried to overanalyse the board situation in search for a best move, the game became a long-winded, downtime-ridden, boring match. In the end, nobody concentrated anymore.

What wrapped it up completely was the fact that I carried of the win. Note to self: Never win any games when you introduce them to other people. They instantly want to play something else with more luck, so they can outluck you...
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9. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:97] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Troy Adlington
United States
Dallas
Texas
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This one killed me.

As most of you are aware, women are in short supply on the geek side of the force.

So there we were one Thursday night at Half-Price Books and a lovely lady by the name of Denise just pops in and asks to play.

John and Chris insist on starting her gaming off with Railroad Tycoon. I implored them not to, but they asked her and bravely she said she was up for anything. Of course, she's never been seen again.

Perhaps I should have let my 'Alpha' have full reign and vetoed it.

Anyways Denise if you're out there. I failed you! SORRY!!
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10. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Farid Widjaya
United States
Lancaster
Pennsylvania
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Which one is worse: Power Grid or Puerto Rico? ninja Power Grid was the first Euro game I actually purchased myself.

Having just started jumping into the gaming scene, I was excited to bring as many of my friends as I can to the wonderful hobby. Many of my friends who I play online games with instantly love power grid. This time I invited a couple of my friends and a couple who lives across the street who have only been playing American games before (whom I successfully introduced Carcassonne too the week before. )

The game goes likes this:

** as I was explaining the rules **
Neighbor Husband: "zzzzzzzzz...."

** as someone else was making a move **
Neighbor Husband: "this game is so boring!! this reminds me of a game our daughter introduced to us sometimes ago that's just as bad..." and he proceeds to describe a game of "trains" who 100% matched the description of Ticket To Ride: Europe.

** as we finished the game **
Neighbor Husband: "phew!! finally!! We could have played multiple rounds of mexican train!!"


By the way, we played Citadels next and he also complained throughout the game about how lame & terrible the game is. Needless to say it wasn't a fun night. I dont quite understand: he found Ticket to Ride boring yet he enjoys carcassonne. I guess if we ever invite them over again for game night there wont be games with significant downtimes.

P.S. the picture I use is actually a group of my friends who do like Power Grid.
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11. Board Game: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:390]
Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
London
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Most of these entries are about pitching it too high. But sometimes you can pitch it too low.

I've been sharing my current termtime house in Ealing for rather more than a year. During my first week it was my birthday and the two girls in the house gallantly offered to play a game with me. Remembering that non-gamers need to be brought in gently, I brought out the simplest game in my (Ealing) collection: this one. I explained the game and we played the game, and I had this feeling as we played that they were thinking 'kids stuff'. They were after all Cambridge graduates with high-flying jobs in the financial sector, making pretty pictures wasn't their idea of intellectual stimulation...

Anyway, they never offered to play a game with me again and have now left. On the other hand, I got one of the guys to play Power Grid with me when I had a couple of old gaming buddies over and he (also a Cambridge graduate) is now a semi-regular games partner for Reef Encounter and Twilight Struggle.meeple
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12. Board Game: Fluxx [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:6614] [Average Rating:5.69 Unranked]
The Grouch
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Believe it or not, a game as inanely simple as this one fell flat when trying to teach it to a group of graying realtives a few Christmases past.

surprise

Whoever said in the comments that "some people have no gamer in them" was spot on. Hard to believe I was related to those people.

shake
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13. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:500]
Ron Pfeiffer
United States
Surfside Beach
South Carolina
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A similar story from a long time ago. I invite 2 couples over for a game night. Both couples are friends and are card players so I assume that having a game night might be fun and so what do I choose ....DIPLOMACY is what I choose. Probably the worst gaming decision I ever made and it lead to the worst gaming night of my life with none of the couples able to write out orders and none of the couples ever able to meet or agree with any one but their spouses. I spent the night correcting erroneously written orders, and trying to show why helping out your spouse instead of the player who might better help you wasn't a good idea. After a couple of hours with all couples simply working with their significant other and ignoring the rest of the players I gave up and convinced every one to play cards. To this day I still can't convince both couples to come over to try gaming again. Its a shame since I know that they would love the games of today.
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14. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition): Shattered Empire [Average Rating:8.62 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.62 Unranked]
Ian Madsen
United States
Kearns
Utah
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Trains!
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The first board game I tried to host on my own was an 8 player TI3 with expansion. Only 3 of us had played the game before, but it had been very heavily homeruled. Myself and one of the players that had not played the game before were the only ones to have fully read both rulebooks. To add to that, I tried to use most of the varants from both the base game & expansion.

We were to meet on Saturday morning, but the last player to arive was about an hour and a half late, but we were able to fully set up the board while we waited. We were able to get through 2 rounds (we even had a few space battles; Jol-Nar attacked Sol and then retreated only to be incinerated by Muaat's War Sun) in about 4 hours. The stress of trying to teach 7 other players a very complex game made me physicaly sick.

It was not complete falure though, I managed not to chase anyone away from trying other boardgames (far simpiler though).
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15. Board Game: Pax Britannica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2445]
Ludwig Seitz
Sweden
Lund
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Not quite a gateway opportunity or not quite ruined, but close enough (I think).

I had a group of 5 gamers that where quite hardcore (having been 'gatewayed' to gaming with Titan and 1830). I needed two more players to fill up the 7 'required' for a
'proper' game of Pax Britannica. So I selected two vaguely game interested fellow studends and promised them we would play a 'fun' game. Now to my defence I need to mention that I consider it fun to play such monsters and at that time I lacked the social skills to guess that this would not be the case for everyone.

After some quite painful hours, one of the hardcore gamers managed to sabotage the game by exploiting some rule loophole, resulting in one of the 'non-gamers' winning prematurely and ending the pain. Needless to say it was an utter fiasco ...

... or was it? I am now married to the non-gamer who won and she still plays games with me occasionally (and I have learned to judge better what others may consider 'fun').

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16. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:851]
Esteban Fernandez
Spain
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More than 10 years ago while I was in university living in a house with four more people, I went home for a weekend, play some Kremlin with some friends, and I decided to take it to my university-shared-house just to learn the rules properly.

One night after dinner, I take the game out and started reading the rules to myself again, and wait for the obviuos questions; What is that? A game? Is it fun? Can we play?

So after 20 minutes of showing them the rules, we started the game. Oh boy! What a nightmare, we played like one hour and a half, mostly like playing alone, moving all the tokens, and telling them what to do, and when, until one suggest to leave the game, so we did.

For me it was so easy and the rules so clear, that I cant understand why they dont get it, and the harder I tried to make them play and have fun, the worse it was.

So now I learned the lesson, and I have now a copy of Cartagene here at hand, behind the glass with the "Break In case of non-gamers arrive" sign.
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17. Board Game: Dungeon! [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:3534]
Roland Volz
United States
Piscataway
New Jersey
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The year was 1984 or thereabouts, and I had discovered RPGs and board games in all their glory. The young game designer inside my mind suggested some great alternative rules to the classic Dungeon game, among them rules for PvP play.

A neighbor's son, with whom I'd played Monopoly and Payday came by and we were all playing Dungeon with my alternate rules. Sure enough, the situation came up where I used the provisions of the alternate rules to eliminate him from the game just when he was about to win. He stormed out and that was the last time we played board games. My stupidity in mutliple ways.
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18. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:91] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
Laurence Koehn
United States
Champaign
Illinois
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Not all failures are as bad as they first seem. A couple years ago, my nephews (on my wife's side) got TTR:E for Christmas. We all played the game and loved it. What's more, we were able to play with one read-through of the rules and just had to double check a few rules while playing.

So, we got our own copy of the game, and took it along when we went to visit my family. My family aren't exactly gamers, but we played plenty of games growing up, and they're always very gracious about trying whatever new game I bring. Given our experience with my wife's family, and knowing that TTR is considered one of the best gateway games, I thought it would be a sure hit.

I think everyone picked up the rules, alright, and since my wife and I had played a few times, we were able to answer questions as they came up. The problem was that my sister and her boyfriend, Josh, just didn't seem to "get it". We had to remind them when it was their turn, and then they took forever deciding what to do. The game stretched on and on, and I was sure it was becoming a horrible experience for everyone.

Last Christmas, I seriously considered leaving TTR:E at home when visiting my family, but the chirpy optimist in me decided to take it along, anyway. Boy, was I glad I did! Josh, who seemed to be having the hardest time of it the first time we played, actually asked if I had brought "that train game". He'd been looking forward to playing again the whole year. This time the game went much better. Everyone was into the game, and they were experimenting with new strategies.

So, don't give up. You may think that you drove a new player away by trying the wrong game at the wrong time, but you might have just made a new convert to gaming.
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19. Board Game: Labyrinth [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1425]
Am I having fun yet?
United States
Wisconsin
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This was a bad one for me when I tried to teach a 9 year old, an 11 year old and their mother. I still don't know what went wrong with this one, maybe I was trying to help them all at the same time. They just couldn't see the ways to get anywhere. It took forever for each person's turn and I had to hold back or I would have blown them out of the water. So we all agreed to stop and try something else. We did Ticket to Ride next (with a few rules simplified) and they loved it. They loved Cluzzle too.

Unless someone really hates games, you should be able to find one that fits them, just don't give up with the first one.
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20. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Chris
United States
Cheektowaga
New York
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Up until this My wife had only ever played MB / PB board games and Uno / Skip-bo and other card games. I was SOOOOO excited to finally have this that I got her to play a game with me (4 hours later) she said she enjoyed it but my games are too complicated. I can't even get her to try Carcassone now. shake Oh how do I fix this mistake
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21. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Mateusz Wilk
Poland
Warsaw
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Well, a classic case of pitching too high I guess.
I loved the rules at the first sight of them, as they seemed (heck, for me they still do) very simple. I also love the strategic depth of this game.
Sadly, this was about the first boardgame I showed to my wife. While she had no problem getting the rules right, she seemed overwhelmed by the multitude of choices (which is precisely the thing I like the game for ; ) ) and the certain abstractness (to this day she says the game is dry and that it has nothing to do with kingdoms or Mesopotamia).
Well, my story is not nearly as dreadful as some presented here, as my wife played some three games of T&E before finally deciding that she hated it and she can still ocasionally be persuaded to play Citadels or even Twilight Struggle (I don't think she will ever be much into the hobby, though). She tends to say that she just isn't a natural-born gamer but I can't help but wonder what would have been, had I introduced another (possibly lighter) game to her.
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22. Board Game: Wizard's Quest [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:2935]
Nick Reed
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Having lived somewhere as a child where the only real boardgame shops were major toy retailers (and, as a result, a lot of our home boardgames were of the complexity level of Game Of Life and Monopoly, which we still actually enjoyed as a family), I was pleasantly surprised when I went to university and found a great shop selling tons of games I'd never heard of. Wow!

Roll forward to just before Christmas 1993/94, and I thought I'd go looking for a game for my little brother (who was 10 or 11 at the time) as a present. Well, my family were quite into fantasy roleplaying at the time, so I hit upon the brilliant idea of hunting out a fantasy based boardgame for him. What genius! Combining everything together, it'd be a surefire hit! So:

Wizard's Quest!

Okay, I'd never heard of it, but look at the details: Aged 12 and above (well, about the right age range - shouldn't matter), got the words "Wizard" and "Quest" in the title, even mentions dragons and orcs on the back! Perfect! I could give it to him and the whole family could play it around the table over Christmas!

...

I think it was about the third turn on subsection 3)b)iii)seven) of the dragon orc attack reinforcement battle sub-phase...... aw heck, even now I've got no idea what we were doing in that game! Gameplay lasted about 15 minutes until we all gave up, and then we boxed everything back up and it's been in the back of a cupboard in my parent's house ever since. Surprisingly enough, my brother didn't take it with him when he moved up to Scotland last year...

blush
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