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E24 | Games | Gateway Games, Trap Your Friends in the Hobby!

Hey man… got any of those gateway games…? Well we do! In this episode we dive into games which are excellent at bringing people into this wonderful hobby of ours! Gateway games are so important because they introduce new players to mechanics they probably have not seen before and then, before you know it, they end up like us with more boardgames than shelf space! But before we dive into the main topic we spend our time discussing not one, but TWO, whiskeys, talk about what we played over the holidays, and answer a phenomenal icebreaker submitted by one of our listeners!


What's on our Flight (01:18)

  • Dalton’s drinking: Isaac Bowman Straight Bourbon Whiskey with Port Barrel Finish. This distillery opened the day after Prohibition ended in 1934 and remained the only legal distillery in Virginia for many years. I picked this up over the holidays while shopping with my dad as we once lived in Fredericksburg, VA where the distillery is located. Earthy fruits in the nose, a sweet port-candy/plum flavor balanced with charred oak and black pepper. I most enjoyed this drink with ice as the strong flavors hold up against the water and cold. 3 cheers!

  • Nelson's drinking: Horse Soldier Premium Straight Bourbon Whiskey, purchased exclusively for its super cool stamped metal label. The distillery is founded by a group of Green Berets who rode wild horses during invasion of Afghanistan, giving the distillery its name. Smells of apple and tastes of caramel and vanilla, Nelson claimed this is the first whiskey he found not only enjoyable, but tasty as well! 3 cheers!


What's On Our Table (12:20)


  • Twilight Imperium is hitting the table this coming weekend! I am very excited to try out the new Prophecy of Kings expansion, which continues to add APP elements to the game as well as 7 new playable races. It feels like Christmas all over again!

  • Picked up Trekking the World over the holidays, and I am excited to try it! The sequel to Trekking the National Parks by Charlie Bink (interviewed in Gamemaster) involves card drafting and hand management with point soup scoring in a roughly 45 minute time slot, I am excited to try it!

Nelson: Less than normal, given the holidays.

  • Blank Slate, a word association game that is essentially the opposite of "Just One." This game hit the table multiple times over the holidays, which is very common for word association games at family gatherings!

  • Steampunk Rally, a goofy racing game with dice placement and card drafting mechanics. When not taken too seriously, the fun interactions and low downtime makes for an enjoyable, low stress experience.


The icebreaker question for this episode was submitted by Matt (32:46)

If you could add player powers to the original Monopoly player pieces, what would they be?

  • Wheelbarrow: When moving past another player, you may take the player with you. They land on whatever space you land on.

  • Battleship: Anytime they need to pay a player they instead challenge that player to a game of Battleship and if they win they don't have to pay.

  • Racecar: When moving, roll 3 dice and pick 2 to use for the movement.

  • Top Hat: Players pay 5% more to this players properties. This player pays 20% more in Luxury Tax.

  • Thimble: Draw 2 cards from Community Chest

  • Cat: Automatically gets out of jail free.

  • Scotty Dog: Collect $10 when landing on the same space as another player.

Matt, thank you so much for the submission! We very much enjoyed this question! If you are looking for us to answer a question, submit your question here.


Discussion starts at 38:18 in the episode

If you are reading this post, you likely experienced the effects of a gateway game. Some crafty board game hobbyist tricked you in to trying a game that expanded your understanding of the hobby and piqued your interest, causing you to spend way more money than you ever intended to on boxes of plastic and cardboard. In this episode we are discussing how you can do that same thing to poor, unsuspecting players at your tables!

For a game to be a successful gateway game, it must first and foremost be approachable. The game must be easy to teach and interesting to new players. Generally, we say if the game can be taught in under 5 minutes, it is a good candidate to be a gateway game. Good theme and table presence will also help generate enough interest to bring the player to the board. Second, the game must generate further interest in the hobby. It is critical that the new player be interested in that all-important next step. Word association games and social deduction games, while often approachable to new players, generally fail to generate further interest in the hobby and therefore make poor gateway games.

All of the following recommendations are low complexity, given the definition of gateway games. Therefore, Nelson and I decided to split the 6 mechanics we discussed in previous episodes to give you a recommendation for each category!

Note: In general, the following recommendations have lower MEC ratings than our typical recommendations. Nelson and I gravitate towards complex games so as a result the ratings of less complex games suffer. These are good games and excellent gateway games, the scores reflect that they would often not be our first choices but we are happy to play them.

Recommendations start at 57:36 in the episode

Cooperative - Dalton

Pandemic. A classic gateway game for many, Pandemic benefits from cooperative play making it easy to bring new players in without pressuring competition. It also introduces asymmetrical player powers as a bonus! MEC: M - 7, E - 6, C - 4, Overall 5.9.

Deck Building - Nelson

Quest for El Dorado (a.k.a. Dominion with a board). The simplicity vs Dominion is how this game wins the recommendation. Cards in the deck help players cross territory as they search for the legendary city, so new players do not need to understand the interactions between multiple cards to play the game. The theme and introduction to the mechanic make this an excellent gateway game. MEC: M - 6.5, E - 7, C - 7, Overall 6.8.

Asymmetrical Player Powers - Dalton

Tokaido (the travel game, not pandas and bamboo). Players travel across rural Japan looking to have the best vacation by eating the best food, collecting the most souvenirs, and seeing the best sites. Actions are simple, just move and score points from a myriad of options. Players choose a traveler with APP, introducing them to the mechanic and guiding them through the point soup scoring. MEC: M - 6.5, E - 6, C - 8, Overall 6.6.

Worker Placement - Nelson

Lords of Waterdeep. Players play the role of a quest giver to heroes within the Dungeons and Dragons setting. Overall the game is limited in complexity compared to other worker placements, though it still reaches outside a 5 minute teach. There is a touch of asymmetry in scoring which gives players some direction through the options. MEC: M - 5.5, E - 5.5, C - 7.5, Overall 5.7.

Area Control - Dalton

Bosk. Players play the role of trees in a park. Admittedly, this game struggles on theme. However, the table presence is warm and inviting, helping cover that weakness. The game has a very short teach and simple mechanics and scoring. Players will be introduced to 2 types of AC scoring within a 20 minute game. MEC: M - 6, E - 5, C - 7, Overall 5.7.

Engine Building - Nelson

Splendor. Nelson was very happy this game has not been claimed in previous episodes! Splendor is a very strong gateway game and is the only one on this list we consistently play. Players build a simple engine using gems to buy cards that discount buying further cards and double as the primary source of victory points. An excellent gateway game, especially at the low price point. MEC: M - 6.5, E - 6, C - 4, Overall 6.0.

Thanks for reading! Let us know what your favorite gateway game is in the comments!


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