Boardgaming is easily one of the fastest growing hobbies about at the moment. So much so that many mainstream outlets are now claiming it is the "new" cool. Of course we always knew it was cool. Maybe we're ahead of our time? Well, whether you're an enthusiast, a collector, a newbie or just curious, we all started out somewhere with gaming. The first game we played may not have always been our gateway game, but if it was easily approached it will have helped!
The following five games are some which, after a fair few years of gaming, we now believe to be easy access. This means anyone can approach and play them to some degree. They're all very different, but still easy to pick up within their own genre of game. We've avoided your stereotypical gateway games as these can often require a big wow factor from the off. These are games we see as approachable and easy to engage with - regardless of your depth in the hobby!
The Mind is a cooperative card game for 2-4 players that plays in around 15 minutes, however it comes with a big twist. You'll need to work together to play cards face up as a group in ascending order. As you progress in the game, you get more cards. It's a really simple concept until you realise you can not communicate. No speaking, no eyebrow lifting, no coughing, no suggestive eyes. Your objective is to be in tune with your cooperators. This is easily the most accessible game here, but also l the hardest one complete. The game doesn't present itself as a massive game, it's a deck of cards and a rule set. The cards contain a few extra elements, but these are there to help you and add depth to the gameplay.
We found The Mind to be more of an experience than a game. You're going to stare at people a lot. Intensely. This game has made me make eye contact for more than a long enough time for it to be deemed uncomfortable, but it paid off. There is no perfect system to win The Mind, you just need a few rounds and you will be in sync. The tension is high, the stakes are higher, but you can guarantee you'll play it again! It always ends with a good chuckle and it sets up in next to no time at all!
Kingdomino is a pattern placing game for 2-4 players where you earn points based on crowns in a set area. It takes about 20 minutes to play and has lovely table presence. Imagine it's like dominoes across a kingdom (like in its name!). You'll take turns to take 2x1 tiles and place them appropriately within your 5x5 grid with your castle in there somewhere. It has to make sense, so lakes touch lakes, swamps with swamps etc. The game ends when all tiles are taken, and then you score. You score for every different section of the map and the system is always the same. You score for crowns in your area, e.g. If your lake contains 6 tiles and 2 crowns, 2x6=12 points. Your cumulative score is your overall score and whoever has the most points is the winner.
This is one of the heavier games on this list but is still accessible due to its simplicity. I mean, you're just matching patterns and trying to get as many crowns as possible! The trickiest bit is ensuring it all fits into a 5x5 grid, which does take a certain level of planning. Kingdomino is a game we have introduced to our families over social gatherings and it has always gone down a treat. Even our most reluctant members had a go and could do it. It's not a guaranteed gateway game, but it's a lovely accessible start!
How To Rob a Bank is a 1vMany programming game for 2-4 players that takes about 30 minutes. One player plays as the bank's security, and the others are robbers. The bank is set up by the bank player and players play cards face up in the order they want to play them. Then the card stack is flipped over and players reveal them in the order they were laid. Things get very chaotic very quickly as no one's plan will go into action perfectly, and you can't be prepared for every eventuality!
It's a tremendously understandable game, but a tricky one to master. 1vMany games can be quite tricky as you'll feel outnumbered, but it's not so simple. The bank will have less turns than the robbers of course due to numbers, however the cards they have are very powerful. After three rounds, if the robber players acquire so much cash they win. Otherwise they lose and the bank wins!
We love How To Rob a Bank, both as an easy access game and as an excuse to have a great laugh. It runs very quickly, and requires an ability to communicate without giving the plan away. If one robber does one thing, it inevitably impacts the next. And because all cards are initially played face up, everyone knows what's coming - but they won't remember it! Of the games listed here this is our personal favourite. Again, it's not the easiest to access but we're yet to play with a non-gamer who couldn't manage a round or two!
Scrawl is a party game for 4-8 people that plays in about 30 minutes. It requires literally no skill level for access other than a bit of an imagination. You get something to draw, draw it, pass on the drawing. The next player looks at your drawing, tries to write down what they think it is and passes it on. Then the next player draws that. It continues full circle until it gets back to the original player. You win based on how awful your artful interpretations are! The thing here is that the game is absolutely NSFW. You'll be drawing X, Y and Z doing all manner of questionable things.
We found Scrawl to be a better choice than Pictionary or other standard party games when you need to get creative. Because everyone is drawing at the same time, there's no down time between rounds. You draw, you pass, you guess, you pass, you draw. There will always be that "I can't draw!" hurdle you may have to get people over, but that's inevitable. No matter how poorly you draw or how well you Van Gogh, your art is interpreted by someone with their own ideas. Scrawl is genuinely hilarious and an excellent choice for anyone going to a social gathering, but again, it's not child friendly!
Not only this, but there is also a new Green Box Edition which is just as fun and exciting to play!
Coup is a social deduction game for 2-6 players that takes about 15 minutes to play. To win you need to be the last player with any influence left in the game. Influence is represented by cards with characters on, and each character can do something unique. You'll start with two and keep them face down. The beauty here is that you don't need to tell people who your influence is. You might have two of the same card, but can use the ability of one you don't own. Telling lies is the cornerstone of this game, and telling unbelievable truths is equally as powerful. There are multiple paths to victory, but only one victor.
This is our least accessible of the games set in this list, but is still worth mentioning. Being able to talk the talk is an important skill in any social deduction game, however walking the walk when needed is so much more important. Any false moves in Coup will lead to a loss of influence, and although you can change your influences, you can never regain them. Our favourite element to this game is that all you need to do to win is to tell the truth. If you falsely call someone out on a lie, you lose influence instead.
We would deter from this one if it's you're starting out fresh in gaming, as it includes player elimination - a game mechanic where players are out of the game. Coup never stays on the table longer than it has to, and the game does end no matter what. Actions will force players to collect coins, and the easiest way to eliminate an influence is to pay to coup them! We really enjoy Coup and it's a superb starting point for social deduction games (so a good starting point for games requiring an argument!).
Editors note: This blog was originally published on January 09th, 2020. Updated on July 13th, 2022 to improve the information available.