Board Games for Newbies

We often get asked, “What are some recommended board games for newbies?”

As of this writing, our board game library has just a little over 200 titles on the shelves. While it’s still a modest collection compared to larger more established board game cafes, it’s still overwhelming to new gamers who have only ever played Monopoly and Uno.

I have compiled a small selection of popular titles that we have often used to introduce board game newbies to this wonderful world of ours, based on a few criteria.

First, the rules must be easy enough to teach. I have found that board games that take over 10 minutes to teach tend to be overly complicated for newcomers. People just want to sit down and start having fun as fast as possible.

Second, the game must be relatively short. At the end of a gaming session, I hope people will look at each other and say, “That was fun, let’s play again!” Conversely, if they end up not liking it the game should finish quick enough so that they could move on to something else.

The last criterion is language-independence, largely because English is not the primary language at our location. Therefore I often prefer board games that require little or no reading at all.

Enough of that, on to the recommendations!


Loonacy // Image: Parents at Play

This is a card game of fast reflexes for 2-5 players. Players start with a hand of 7 cards, each of which has two different pictures. On the table will be a number of open cards. If you see a picture on the table that matches one of yours, play your card on top of it. Do it quickly before someone else does. The first person to completely get rid of all their cards wins the game! This game is quick, fun, very easy to teach, and is suitable even for younger children.


Tsuro // Image: Brian Holaway

In this simple tile-laying game for 2-8 players, you are laying down tiles with squiggly tracks of various patterns in front of your marker stone. Your stone then must move through the the newly-laid tile, following its track until it reaches the end. If you go off the map, you are eliminated. The last person remaining on the map wins the game! Dead-simple, Tsuro is one of the easiest introductory board games for newbies.

Hey That’s My Fish!

Hey That’s My Fish // Image: Shut Up and Sit Down

In this game instead of adding tiles you will be removing them from the board. The board is made up of hexagonal tiles depicting one, two, or three fish each. You choose one of your four penguins to move. Pick up the tile he is standing on and move him along a straight line to a new tile. You cannot jump over any gaps in the board, so don’t get trapped in a corner. The person with the most fish is the top penguin! 


Splendor // Image: The Board Game Family

This is one of our favorite board games for newbies. As gem merchants, you take turns acquiring gems from the supply. You will use them later to buy cards which gives you a discount on future cards as well as some prestige points. Splendor is one of our favorite games for 2-4 players to introduce to new gamers, as it only takes about 5 minutes to learn. What’s more, this game perfectly teaches the concept of engine-building and victory points.


Dixit // Image: Boardgamegeek

If you like a board game which exercises your imagination then Dixit may be a good fit. From your hand of 6 picture cards you choose one of them to play face down. You must then give out a hint to help other players to guess your card. Other players then choose one of their cards which most matches your hint, and add it to form a pile top of your card. From those shuffled pile of cards everyone else tries to figure out which one was your original card. However: you only get points if some—but not all—other players guess your card.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride // Image: Hobby Lark

For a slightly longer game lasting about an hour, try the ever-popular Ticket to Ride. In this game for 2-5 players, you compete against other players to build train routes by paying cards matching the color of the routes on the map. In addition you also have objectives that you must fulfill by connecting various cities on the map. If you’ve got a little time to spare, Ticket to Ride is one of the best medium-length board games for newbies.

Which other titles do you think would be a good introductory board game for newbies?

1 comment

Trent Howell

Those are great recommendations.
If you’d like to throw a dice game in the mix, we’d recommend That’s Pretty Clever (one of our most-played games of 2020).