TableTop gaming is a veritable sea of choices. No matter what your interests are, no matter how long you have to play, there are myriad games out there just waiting for you to play them. For those of us who have already discovered our passion for TableTop, that’s just the best kind of news! For the unindoctrinated however, it can feel a little daunting.
If you’ve ever been stymied in your attempts to introduce the magical world of TableTop to your non-gamer friends, this here’s the list for you. We’ve picked out ten awesome games that are just as fun for the unseasoned as they are for all of you dice-hardened card sharps out there.
Each of the games we chose for this list is easy to pick up, has a fairly short play time, and is guaranteed to produce smiles from winner and loser alike. After all, rare is the TableTop virgin who cut his or her teeth on a 60-day round of The Campaign for North Africa. Oh, and we should mention that we straight up nixed the holy trinity of gateway games (Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne) from this article. Those three are so popular that we can’t really consider them a harder sell than Monopoly or Risk anymore. On to the list!
1. Zombie Dice
Roll dice to see how many brains you can eat before taking three shotgun blasts to the face. First to 15 brains wins. This one’s so easy to explain that I just did in two sentences.
Play time: 10 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It’s like Yahtzee with zombies. Who doesn’t like zombies?”
2. Grave Robbers from Outer Space
Compact and ridiculous, this quick-playing card game seats you in the director’s chair of your own B-list sci-fi flick. Players take turns casting characters, setting scenes and sabotaging each other in the hopes of creating the best bad movie science fiction has ever seen.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “Hey, did you like Sharknado?”
3. Tsuro of the Seas
Lay tiles to navigate across choppy seas, all the while avoiding falling off the board’s edge, the rest of the players, and hungry #&%@$ dragons. The constant threat of your imminent demise is what makes this game so fun. Bonus: play without the dragons and you’ve got the zen garden-esque original Tsuro.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It has more dragons than Game of Thrones, which I’m pretty sure is over. Put down that remote!”
This visually-stunning social game is a great way to get people of all ages into the wonderful habit of telling half-truths. Basically you win by describing each picture you play juuuust poorly enough.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It’s about bunnies and lies. Bunnies and lies, Diane!”
5. 221B Baker Street
Pre-dating Cumberbund Babberpatch by a couple decades, this traditional look at Sherlock Holmes merges an board reminiscent of Clue with massive replay value. Each play through, players are tasked with solving one of 20 cases taken directly from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original short stories.
Play time: 60 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It’s like actually being Sherlock Holmes, without the opium addiction.”
6. Ladies and Gentlemen
Aimed at the social set, this card-based game splits players into pairs (one “lady” and “gentleman” in each pair). They are then tasked with out-doing the other teams by becoming the most affluent, arrogant couple at a dinner party. Role playing is highly encouraged.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It’s just like reality TV, but less scripted!”
7. King of Tokyo
Take the reigns of a massive monster and wreak havoc in this hybrid dice and card game. While it may be marginally less intuitive than some of our earlier entries, this game is a knock-down, drag-out brawl of a good time. You only win by either all opposition or the city of Tokyo itself under your massive heel.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “It’s Rampage, only with more players. I defy you to find fault in that concept.”
8. Forbidden Island
In this cooperative game, you’re tasked with finding four treasures and escaping before the game board self-destructs and kills you all. You’ll seriously need to work together though, because this is one game with a serious death wish.
Play time: 30 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “Think of us as Indiana Jones, and this $#!+ here (gesture at game) as a massive boulder.”
9. Mice and Mystics
Another of the more complex entries on this list, this cooperative game gains its spot because for two specific reasons: it changes every time you play (evening the learning curve), and it opens the door to more complex dungeon-crawling games—you know: the paper-based kind people tend to think are “too out there.” Only attempt the non-gamer conversion here if your victims are ready for a longer haul.
Play time: 60-90 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “Hey, listen. Before I let you join my guild, let’s see how you handle a quick quest. You liked Redwall, right?”
10. Betrayal at House on the Hill
Similar to #9, this game is cooperative—to a point. You’re a member of a rag-tag group of morons who elect to explore a clearly haunted house. Players build the board as they go, eventually triggering a haunting that turns one of their number into the game’s villain. After that, exploration flies out the window as players battle for survival.
Play time: 60 minutes. Non-gamer pitch: “I have no idea what this game is going to throw at us, and I’ve played it a bunch. You in?”
Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to learn about your favorite gateway games too!