I've been trying to introduce my parents to different Euro games over the years, bringing something new home everytime I go back to visit.
Unfortunately, I kept bringing back something different everytime, and they couldn't keep the rules straight in their head, so my Mom said "just bring the one with the boats and the dice!"
I've found that Manila has been something of a gateway game, more so then Settlers and Through the Desert, and I've successfully introduced it not only to my parents but to other non-gamer friends and light-gamer friends. I think Manila's excellent presentation and components have a lot to do with it, but it's also the dice rolling and betting aspects. There's a kind of tension there, and it's always the harbourmaster's fault if a roll goes badly.
One stumbling block for non-euro gamers has been the auctioning of the harbourmaster role, and I've had a hard time convincing people that they shouldn't let the role go cheaply and easily, especially to my parents. The harbourmaster role just seems a little confusing at first (the "stock" part of the game seems to be overshadowed by the "gambling" part) and just the idea of an auction is pretty foreign to non-euro gamers.
My parents are both big fans of Aquire, so I'm hoping that by making comparisons to that game, I'll be able to get them to understand Manila's stocks.
With this session, my second game of Manila with my parents, my Mom seems to have started to pick up on where the money is to be made with the bets and is starting to realize the importance of getting stocks and the small/big pilot positions. My Dad still isn't cluing in, as he didn't persue the harbourmaster role at all during the game. (He ended up coming in last because of it; my Mom in second, with me in the lead)
I'm hoping that by the third time we play it, things will start to sink in a little more.
All the same, even if they don't really *get* the game yet, both my parents had great fun rolling the dice, pushing the punts up the river, lamenting the "strong current" that was keeping one boat behind and groaning in anguish as pirates dumped the sailors into the ocean.