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10 Gateway Board Games To Get Your Friends And Family Hooked

Board games can sound boring to anyone who isn't accustomed to the huge breadth of games available on the market, remembering classic family games they played on dry, obligatory family game nights as kids. They can also appear intimidating, with so many high-level strategy games that push the limits of what a human brain can retain and handle while still attempting to have fun.

For those of us who love board games and want the people around us to get into them as well, this list is all you need. These are gateway games that you can use to introduce your loved ones to the wholesome world of board games, coaxing them into your world and gaining some more teammates and opponents for yourself.

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10 Codenames

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Codenames is a very interactive game with a simple concept, where players work together to compete in teams. For 2-8 players, it has a short playing time of 15 minutes, so there's little pressure to commit to a long night of one activity and it's a great gateway choice. This is a fun guessing game, where rival spymasters try to get their teammates to guess codenames of secret agents, without accidentally choosing the deadly assassin card or helping the other team.

Codenames are laid out on cards, and spymasters use one-word clues to hint at which cards their team should pick. This is an easy game to learn, but still challenging and fun. Because it's based on giving clues, it can get very silly and communication can get fuzzy. The mechanics prevent players from feeling intimidated, as it's more about laughing at friends struggling to convey information to each other.

9 Lanterns

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A beautiful game with colorful, gorgeous artwork is a great way to convince people that this pastime is something they want to get on board with (pun intended). This game comes with no board at first, then the board is formed as players lay down tiles featuring Chinese lanterns floating in formations.

Players match up colors to earn cards, then use their cards to dedicate a design to the Gods, earning points for their creations. This is a peaceful, calming game for 2-4 players and gameplay lasts 20-40 minutes. It's a great place to start with abstract strategy, as it doesn't take a long time to learn but is stimulating and addicting.

8 Ticket to Ride

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Similar to Settlers of Catan, this game involves claiming space - in this case, by laying down train cars on tracks across the board, attempting to complete trips between geographical locations. Each player is operating their own rail line designated by an individual color, and attempting to cover more ground than their opponents, while still accomplishing the goals on their cards by getting from designated point A's to B's.

This is a game that doesn't incorporate too much strategy, but is still challenging and goal-oriented. There are alternate routes to take when a player is blocked from their destination, so it lowers the frustration levels and keeps beginners happy.

7 Ghost Blitz

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Ghost Blitz is a ridiculously silly game that becomes more and more addictive and hilarious as you play. Reminiscent of the old game Spoons, this is a chance for players to get grabby and a little bit rowdy, as the objective is to grab the correct object off the table before another person beats you to it. Five objects are placed in the center: a chair, book, mouse, bottle and of course, a ghost. Cards are dealt one by one, featuring pictures that contain the objects.

Using colors featured on the cards, players determine as quickly as they can which object should be grabbed and try to get to it quicker than everyone else. This is a great game for beginners, as it's easy to laugh at and doesn't take itself seriously - there's nothing complicated except for recognition speed, and players usually dissolve into laughter within the first minute.

6 Anomia

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In this game, a player draws a card with a random category of person, place or thing on it. The card also has a symbol that may or may not match that of another player's card. If there is a match, both players face off and try to be the first to name something within the category on their opponent's card. The winner gets to keep their opponent's card and the player with the most cards at the end is crowned the winner.

This is a fun game that plays with how we react to pressure and how hard it can be to come up with the answer to a simple question when there is little time to do so.

5 The Game of Things...

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In this game, the people playing determine how wacky the content gets. For ages 14 and up, with 4 or more players, this is a game that pulls from the brains that are sitting around the table.  Each round, a player reads out a topic, then all players write down a response. The responses are gathered and read aloud by the same reader. The person to their left must then guess who wrote each response, without having their memory refreshed.

Correct answers gain points, while being able to fool the guesser earns even more points. The highest-scoring player at the end of the game wins. This is a great entry-level game, as it's very childlike and playful, with such a simple concept that there can be no stress around learning the game mechanics. And, as a plus, everyone is sure to laugh.

4 Dixit

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In Dixit, the focus is on creativity, storytelling and being inspired by works of art that depict dreamlike images of fantasy and magic. Each round, a player chooses a card from their hand, featuring one of many beautiful images. The player then makes up a creative sentence inspired by the card they chose, saying it to the group. Next, each player chooses a card from their own hand that they feel best matches what the first player said.

Cards are placed face down, then shuffled and revealed. The group votes for who they feel best represented the sentence. This is a low-competition, casual game that is about using your imagination and having fun looking at nice images. It's  an experience that mixes the feelings of campfire storytelling with strolling around an art gallery.

3 Spy Alley

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While this game has won many awards including Mensa select and Australian Game of the Year, it's uncomplicated and clear in its mechanics and anyone can catch on quickly. The game is centred around bluffing and deduction. Each player receives their spy's nationality at the beginning of the game. They then must collect objects corresponding to their nation, including a codebook, disguise, key and password.

The catch is that if another spy guesses correctly which spy you are, you are out of the game. Players must bluff by purchasing objects corresponding to false identities, while trying to logically guess the identities of their opponents. Bluffing games are fun as you get better at them as you get to know other players, but when a game centres around lying it's hard to take yourself too seriously.

2 Lotus

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This is another game that has such beautiful artwork, it's sure to charm any naysayer into believing they might be a board game geek at heart after all. Players hold cards that depict petals of different types of flowers. They then lay down their cards to contribute to the formation of flowers, building a garden with the other players. Insect pieces can then be laid on top of flowers to gain control of them.

When a flower is fully formed, players score by having their insects controlling the flower and by laying the final petal down to complete the creation. This is a meditative, light game and it's difficult to be too stressed out when your objective is to make beautiful flowers. This shows a beginner that games can be calming and not too charged.

1 Hanabi

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The mechanics of this game are the most creative aspect to it. It is a cooperative game, which can be an exciting new concept to people who haven't played too many games. For 2-5 players, the group works together to put on a gorgeous fireworks display, using colorful cards depicting different firework explosions. A twist to this game is that the cards in each person's hand face away from them, so that every player can see everyone's cards, except for their own.

This means that players must talk to each other, giving one another information and hints to influence which cards they place to create the display. This is a refreshing game and usually a new experience that can convert anyone.

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