Ten great Tabletop games you can use to introduce your friends to gaming

Via Reddit, I saw this fantastic list at Board Game Geek, detailing the top 100 “gateway” games, which is how we describe a game you use as an infection vector for tabletop gaming.

Here’s the top ten, as voted on by Board Game Geek members:

1 Ticket to Ride/TTR Europe
2 Carcassonne (all)
3 King of Tokyo
4 Dixit
5 For Sale
6 Diamant/Incan Gold
7 Can’t Stop
8 Pandemic
9 Love Letter
10 Settlers of Catan

As I’ve written before, different games work for different people, and someone who loves Ticket To Ride may not like King of Tokyo at all, so ask your non-gamer or tabletop-curious friends questions, and choose their gateway game carefully. All of these games have a high ratio of luck to strategy, which makes it a lot of fun for experienced and new players alike to play together.

And, as luck would have it, a lot of these games have been played on Tabletop, so you can get an assist from Your Old Pal Wil Wheaton when you introduce one of them to a new gamer. Just use the links above.

Have fun, and PLAY MORE GAMES!

39 thoughts on “Ten great Tabletop games you can use to introduce your friends to gaming”

  1. I got Tsuro as a Belated Christmas present from my sister (I had bought Hyperbole and a Half already.) It was great because there was nothing for my little guy to read, and he enjoyed moving around a dragon. In fact he won! Tabletop has really been awesome because I had no idea where to start with gaming, and watching each episode helps me figure out what would work for our family or not.

    Thanks for the awesome show, and play more games!

  2. After watching the episode on Tsuro,with my son, he seemed really interested so my wife and I bought him the game for his birthday. He has epilepsy (7 months seizure free) and the medication has done a number on his brain. But this game should be perfect for him and the rest of the family. We’re looking forward to game night!

  3. Munchkin was our gateway game. After seeing it on Tabletop, our daughter wanted to play it. She now eagerly awaits new episodes of Tabletop, wrote an essay for her English class about Wil Wheaton, and asks nightly if we can game (she just turned 10).

    Our sons weren’t quite as eager to embrace gaming, but they participate regularly. Their favorite is Smash Up. (I’m an Elder Signs person myself). All thanks to Tabletop :)

  4. Thank you so much for playing Tsuro of the Seas on Tabletop. After I bought the game and introduced my 18 y/o daughter to it, she became hooked. She asks me to play at least twice a week. Finding a common interest between us is getting harder as she gets older. Thanks again.

  5. A solid list that mostly mirrors my own, though I would recommend Flashpoint over Pandemic. It’s more readily accessible and it’s got tons of varying difficulty.

    No Thanks and Coup are two other solid choices that we regularly play as lunch games in my office.

  6. I can vouch for Can’t Stop – that game is awesome.

    I would also recommend Tsuro (either) and Fluxx (Which version? Depends on the group) for gateway games.

  7. We have just bought Ticket to Ride Europe and sat down last night for our first game.
    Historically, board games have always been played between myself and my son on his bedroom floor, but last night we cleared the dinning table, removed the cling film from the box and my wife joined us for a game.
    We had to introduce a house rule that every time someone swears they loose a point, but after previously watching the videos on TableTop, we were soon enjoying the game and the evening together.
    In the end my wife….who never plays board games…won…and won by at least 50 points more then either myself or my son; we are already planning the next game.
    Thank you for introducing us to Ticket to Ride and for publishing such great videos that allow us to jump straight in rather then spending the evening reading through the rules.

    Thank you :-)

  8. I would say that for at least some of those games, the luck to skill ratio isn’t quite as high as it appears at first glance*. However, luck certainly exists and is clearly a component of their suitability.

    *Ticket to Ride in particular includes a lot of skill, higher skill players will win pretty consistently, with an occasional skewed game where the cards just hate you.

  9. I bought Tsuro based on TableTop and my 6th grade boy students LOVE to come in during their lunch and play it! It’s quick and they can sometimes get two games in!

  10. Hey Wil,
    Speaking of “gateway games”, My friends and I are thinking about going all in and trying to play D&D for the 1st time. None of us have ever played before. What are some good starter D&D modules that we could tackle in a day? I feel a little intimidated by it.
    Thanks in advance!

  11. Thanks, Wil!

    Finding time for gaming is hard these days, but I watch every episode of Tabletop. I wanted to find a game to play with my wife, and after seeing the Carcassonne episode and your recommendations for good two player games, I used Christmas gift cards to pick up a copy. We’ve played it a few times so far, and we’re really enjoying it. It’s simple enough that we didn’t have to spend too much time on the rules, especially since I’d seen how to play on Tabletop, and games are quick enough that we can play after we get our toddler to bed.

  12. May I suggest Tikal as a game worthy of your attention? I love how each time I play it the map looks different, and there are many different strategies for playing the game.

  13. I think a good starting place for games is Germany’s “Family Game of the Year” award (Spiel des Jahres). Here is a link with all the winners from 1979-2011 … many of Wil’s list are on there. The Germans love their board games.

    A different style game that is on that list is Villa Paletti (2002 winner). It is more of a Jenga-style dexterity game but it has real strategy as well. This game works with new gamers and is quite entertaining to watch as well.

    Might make a good TableTop episode (just sayin’).

  14. Recently bought Ticket to Ride, and my wife who never plays board games loves it….she’s even invited her friends round to play.

    Keep up the great work on TableTop and DEMONSTRATE MORE GAMES!

  15. I am not a huge tabletop gamer myself, so I look to entries like this to find my own ‘gateway’ games. I have watched your show, and they always seem like so much crazy fun. Here’s my problem in a nutshell: the folks I really want to get to the table to game with are my children who are 4, 5, and 3 months. Are there any games beyond the standard Candyland and Memory that I could try to hook my kids into that wouldn’t also be mind-numbing for us geek parents? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

  16. So, after the Tabletop ep with Ticket to Ride, I went looking for the game to buy to get my kids to play with me. It was a LOT more expensive than I had anticipated. I settled for the original Munchkin’s game instead, since the illustrator was on the Tabletop episode I felt that it was a good enough connection to go with!

  17. Wil, I hope you’ll show Love Letter and Diamant on your show, they’re both great games! And what ever happened to Rampage, wasn’t it supposed to be shown?

  18. It would be cool if you could use a classic game you like to let you know what other games you might like. i.e. – if you like Risk and/or Monopoly then you might enjoy Settlers of Catan. Not sure if all games can be associated to a classic game or not but just an idea. I was able to get my girlfriend to play Catan (on my birthday, as a birthday wish) and she liked it, too bad it took over a year from the time I bought it to actually play it but all that’s in the past now.

  19. I took a number of games with me on my Christmas trip last year. The family went to my mother’s twin sister’s place and I packed several games into a back pack to take with me. Ticket To Ride, Tsuro, Zombie Dice, Wits and Wagers, and Qwirkle. I even printed off a set of 12 Days cards since it was out of stock. Qwirkle was the big hit of the week. My aunt really like that one but did seem to stumble over the scoring the first couple of games. She liked it so much that I ended up leaving the game with her as a thank you for hosting Christmas.

    BTW, never play Wits and Wagers with twins. 3 questions in a row my mother and her sister gave the same answers. It made for a very short game.

  20. Wil, stop adding games to our wishlist, dang it. πŸ˜‰ It’s so out of control now I’m not sure I’ll ever get them all. I gotta say, though, that I played Small World with my grandparents and mom last year and my Grams refused to be aggressive at all until I took over a bunch of her stuff… then she completely changed her tactics and destroyed all of us (mostly me) and it was so fun and hilarious. Best loss ever. All thanks to Tabletop as I probably never would have bought it without seeing it played there first!

  21. So far, our family has picked up Ticket To Ride, Qwirkle, Monster Fluxx, and recently, Tsuro of the Seas. We have enjoyed them all thoroughly, and it’s a lot of fun when the whole family gets involved! My son is now a confirmed Qwirkle addict, and the train battles on TTR are epic. Thanks for demonstrating such fun games!

  22. I’m really struggling to create my own gaming group, but I find it very hard to accomodate everyone’s taste, time schedules and so on.
    Aside for the gateway games, do you have any suggestions on how to form a stable gaming group?

  23. I can’t find the post again, but I followed your recommendations on another medium of Qwirkle & Blokus as good intro games for Valentines Day. Equally romantic wife got me the Big Bang Theory version of Clue, so apparently we were both thinking some thing. Perhaps there will be an update of the results.

  24. [email protected] says:

    Hi there!

    My husband and I just discovered TABLETOP, which is right up our alley, as we loves board and video games….we have been binging on it all week and have already wishlisted several from favorite episodes! Could you please recommend a great 2 player Table Top game? We already own Carcassonne and have introduced many a friend to it over the years, but now have a toddler and having friends over as often has become difficult. If this helps, my fav video games are: Dragon Age Origins, Fallout 3, FFXIV ARR, FFX, and Fable 2. Oh, and we are actors, so we arent scurred of rpgs (if they even exist for 2 player action)

    Thanks so much for any advice, and for years of entertainment. :-)

    Train dodge, dig it.

    1. there’s a bunch of lists on boardgamegeek that can give guidance on 2 player games: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/172443/done-before-but-here-again-games-for-couples-mar and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/85572/best-worker-placement-games-for-2-players-may-2013 and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/48986/recommended-with-two and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/48970/best-with-two Also, Kosmos has a 2 player series – games designed ONLY for 2 players exactly. I believe many (but not all of them -are out of print) you can still pretty easily get your hands on many of them, the best (IMO) is ‘perry rhodan: the cosmic league’ (but i love things set in space), jambo and tally-ho are pretty popular too. if you like silly – fairly recently a 2 player classic was re-released called “awful green things from outer space”

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