Starting Your Game Collection - A Guide for Advanced Newbies
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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It can be a daunting task for the new boardgame player to cross the line and start building his own game collection. After several months of relying on other folks at the local game club to supply the games, I'm just now making that transition to 'game owner'! Here are some thoughts from the perspective of a newbie, not by telling you what games to get, but by giving some tips for building a starter collection (as well as some suggestions to consider as you read through the treasure trove of information known as 'the geek').

The list is open, so if others have tips on starting to build a game collection (not just a game suggestion) they can chime in. This is my first geeklist, so feedback and comments are definitely welcome! This new hobby and the BGG have been tremendous so far.
(Maybe someday I can even get an avatar?!)

=== Ten suggestions for starting your game collection ===
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1. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:164]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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1. The 'gateway' game that got you interested in games

A key step in making new friends and in growing interest in your new hobby is to introduce non-gamers to boardgames. What better choice than the one that got you hooked? 'Gateway' examples:

Settlers of Catan - my own gateway to boardgames, a great intro
Ticket to Ride (/Europe) - fun, easy to learn (look ma, no dice)
Carcassone - engaging tile laying game, also fun and easy to learn
Blokus or Ingenious - excellent games, easy to learn but tricky
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2. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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2. A 'step-up' game that got you completely hooked!

Settlers opened up to me the brave new world of Eurogames, but it was Puerto Rico that truly got me hooked. A 'step-up' game is still fairly easy to learn but has more depth, options, strategy than your average gateway game. People you teach these games to will start to see there are different 'mechanisms' in games. (Majority control, area control, auctions). If possible, having a common theme or genre with the first game may help the transition (San Juan to Puerto Rico, TtR or Transamerica to Railroad Tycoon...)
Ideas for a step-up game:

Puerto Rico - highly ranked on BGG for a reason, it's superb
Ra - fascinating game, great gateway to auction style games
Through the Desert - fun, quick, medium-light, pastel camels!
China/San Marco/Samurai - medium-light (area-)majority control games

(See also: Ultimate Next Step List - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17146 )
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3. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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3. A game your spouse/GF/friend/coworkers will like

Given how much time (cough, and expense) your new hobby may involve, it sure makes sense to help your significant other understand it, or even better, actually come to like it! Getting one or several games that match *their* interests and in which they can whoop you is extremely helpful for your long term happiness! These are often (though not always) lighter and faster to play. Some are 'only' 2-player. Some ideas on this front:

Lost Cities - my wife loves this, as do many geeks, so-so for me
Ballon Cup or Jambo - fun light weight games for 2
Alhambra or Attika - excellent tile laying games, multiplayer but good for 2
Carcassone: the City, or the Castle - these version are great for 2-players
Battle Line / Battle Lore - excellent games, depending on partners mindset
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - Stratego with theme and magic (fun!)

P.S. Several good geek lists on games for non-gamer spouses, e.g.:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16912
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/19059
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4. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:370]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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4. A good 'party' game for larger numbers of players

Sure Charades and Pictionary have their place, but there are excellent games for six or more people that will encourage folks towards gaming. In my mind a good choice here won't be one that shines in complexity or depth but will improve your reputation with friends as someone who recommends games that are fun (even if no one has heard of them!)

Wits and Wagers (finally a trivia game where no one has to feel stupid)
Time's Up - caution: can lead to outrageous laughing!
Why did the chicken... - a big improvement for those who like Balderdash
Bohnanza (2-7 pl) - quite interesting trading game with an unusual theme
Tichu and Category 5 are good card games for several players

P.S. Some great lists for seeing what games are best for a given # are:
Optimal # of players - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/13674
Ultimate Optimum # players list - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/18661

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5. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:20]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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5. A meaty "gamer's game"

So many good choices here, these may form a bulk of your collection later on.
These are the games that show why the hobby is so great - depth, strategy, tough
decisions. Pick one here you've tried, liked, and feel that you will continue
to like it for some time to come (replayability). Several good choices are:
Caylus - Another huge favorite, there's so much going on here
Goa - Great variety of options and pathways, auctions, resource management
Age of Steam - excellent train based game (Railroad Tycoon good, lighter)

There are many other great meaty games, but being a newbie, I've not tried
them all yet! For these, try before you buy is probably a good idea.

Almost a separate category (but dropped to keep this at '10') was "Something designed by Reiner Knizia". A master designer, even a starter collection isn't complete without something by Knizia. Most (not all) are marked by solid mechanisms, complex scoring and multiple ways to win, rich tactical play, and just a hint of theme. There are whole lists on this (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/9332) and I mention some of his elsewhere in this list, but some excellent top ranked are:

Tigris and Euphrates / Through the Desert / Samurai - Tile laying trilogy
Ra / Modern Art / Medici - Auction trilogy
Taj Mahal, Amun Re, Lord of the Rings... - the list goes on and on
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6. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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6. Easy to learn, challenging to master

Since you're just starting, and your friends are just starting, it's great to start with several games that are not hard to learn and that don't take four hours to play. Still, that doesn't mean the games have to be lightweight or devoid of strategy. Several excellent games are highly accessible to new players but that have tremendous depth under the surface. While not the first game you would play with a non-gamer, these will hit the table often:

Power Grid - I love this game, very popular, for 2-6 (best with 3-5)
El Grande - several friends love this, though I've not quite 'gotten' it yet!
Liberte seems to fit the bill here (I've not tried it yet)
Chess, Bridge, Go - game lifespan measured not in years but decades (love 'em!)
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7. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:502]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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7. Cooperative - or at least non-combatant

Let's face it, a large fraction of non-gamers simple hate direct confrontation in a game. They have bad memories about how their brother slit their throat in a game of Monopoly when they were 7 years old and have never fully recovered. With such folks, *please* be sensitive, and add a fun game with low direct confrontation, no 'take that!' factor, or perhaps even a cooperative game.

Lord of the Rings - excellent and tense co-op game with a great theme
Shadows over Camelot - another excellent cooperative game
Thurn and Taxis - award-winning game with low confrontation, good family game
GiftTRAP - this one looks fun, non-threatening, works for 3-8 and as party game
San Juan - interaction is very indirect, nice game and a gateway to Puerto Rico
Bohnanza - interesting game where playing nice often works well
Vanishing Planets - haven't tried but looks interesting (good review by Tom Vasel)
Transamerica, Cartegena - not cooperative per se, but you do help each other indirectly
(Arkham Horror is another co-op, though Lovecraft's theme isn't for everyone)

P.S. See also: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/5182
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/4489

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8. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:155]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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8. Visually enticing game with some "Wow" factor

Not everyone is going to judge a game by how cool its scoring mechanics are, or by how elegant the game is. Some will be talked into the game or love it mainly by how cools the game bits look! The nice thing is - there are lots of *great* games that also just happen to have some great eye candy inside.

Tikal / Mexica / Java - a trio of great games with stunning game pieces
Reef Encounter - a surprisingly deep game that also quite pretty
Maharaja: Palace Building in India - complex and rich game that looks really cool
Niagara - especially if you have kids, this unique game is a winner
(Also, Web of Power, China, Nexus Ops, Princes of Florence are appealing)
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9. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:153]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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9. Learn from Reviewers and make some Geek buddies

To build a great collection and not break the bank it's best to try a game before you buy it, but that's not always possible. Two tips for improving your chances of buying a new game you really like. First, "Board Games with Scott" is a super video blog that gives in-depth but entertaining reviews of games (snicholson at the BGG). Check it out at http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/
Also, I'm really enjoying Tom Vasel's reviews both here at the geek and via the Dice Tower podcast. (Listen at 1.4x to 2.0x speed to save time!) The other tip is to look at the reviews for games you already love and look for reviewers who praise the game *and* who explain why they like it. Then add these as a 'geekbuddy' and use the BGG tools like "analyze game" to get recommendations from reviewers with similar tastes as yours, instead of simply going by the top 100 list. Some games I've been alerted to by these reviewers:

Battle Lore - http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/?p=54
Blue Moon City - would never have heard of this if not for Scott's vlog
Blokus - fun game, family loves it - I heard of this on the Dice Tower
Die Baumeister von Arkadia, Primordial Soup - more 'would never have heard about' games

P.S. I have to give a nod to happycamper, known for his GamerDad reviews
and a friend who introduced me to boardgames! Props also to 'Fawkes'
for his excellent reviews and strategy guides (Princes of Florence)

Sample episodes I really liked: a "Board Gaming 101" video by Scott, and
a Dice Tower episode that gave the top ten lists (and 'why') of several reviewers:
http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/?p=5
http://audio.funagain.com/thedicetower/TDT000-TheDiceTower-E...
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10. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:219]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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10. A nice filler game (aka a "Free shipping" game)

I want to support my FLGS but when they sell Carcasonne for $25 when I can get it from Thought Hammer for $15, a 66% mark-up is more than I can stomach. I like to 'cluster' my orders to get a handful of games at once to get the free shipping. (Fair Play and others have similar offers) There are many good budget games that work very well as fillers. Use these to just get over the minimum amount for free shipping. I would *not* recommend building a collection however by getting something you've never heard of on clearance for $3.95 from Toys-R-Us. Keep high standards for what you actually buy, there's no prize for the biggest collection!

For Sale - My favorite quick filler game, under $10
Bang - a lot of fun for the right group, only $7
Bohnanza - a neat trading game, $11
David and Goliath ($6); Hey That's My Fish ($16) - great family games
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11. Board Game: Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:328]
Larry Baxter
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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Parting thoughts...

That about wraps it up for my suggestions on starting a quality and diverse game collection. My next two steps would be: i) get something similar to one you already love; ii) get something completely different in terms of mechanics to broaden your experience. Step up to the plate and buy something that your local gaming group has never played but has expressed interest in. That will complete the circle of life as you graduate from childhood (one totally reliant on others) to becoming a gaming 'young adult' - starting to provide for others and reproduce meeple

I'm currently debating some of the following for my own 'next step' in the evolution of gaming - all ones my local gaming friends have never seen:
Princes of Florence, Traders of Genoa, Taj Mahal, Maharaja, Tikal/Java, Princes of the Renaissance, Tigris and Euphrates, Blue Moon City. New additions at this point will start to increase depth, and I'll see how non-gamer friends respond to the lighter games and will add more gateway games on occasion.

One last comment on the game suggestions above - don't feel like you have to get every game of interest! Go for breadth first across these categories of suggestions, see what you like, what your friends like, and expand later. I particularly like Scott Nicholson's comments about the goal of a good collection and being a good host: "someone with a diverse enough collection and the knowledge of that collection such that they can walk into a group of people, assess them, and produce a game from their collection that is good for the occasion." A diverse collection of great games frequently played will be much more effective than a larger number of games that are lower quality or all the same in terms of theme/mechanics/#players.

Have fun with gaming, and welcome to the club of 'game collector'!
Larry Baxter


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12. Board Game: Stop Thief [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:2583]
Frank McGirk
South Korea
Pohang
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A BLAST FROM THE PAST

I'd add this category to snag some players. My gaming odessy started with, yes, asking around to find out who liked to play Risk and Monopoly. Although you can use other "better" games to lure back people who couldn't care less about "Boardwalk", people who like these, will most likely play other games as well.

There's also a safety in familiarity, and pulling out a game without the daunting task of having to learn the rules can help.

I've had good luck with
Risk
Monopoly
Stop Thief
Family Feud

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13. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:430]
Frank McGirk
South Korea
Pohang
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Dumb Fun

You want to show people that games can be fun, easy, and loud.

Loopin' Louie is as good as they say.

Also
Midnight Party
Crocodile Hunter/Fraidy Cats
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14. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:84]
Jeffrey Babb
United States
Millersville
Maryland
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Everyone "gets" this game pretty easily, and the pieces, colors and game play lend themselves really well to pull some non-gamers into the mix and get them interested. I think it works better as a gateway game than "Settlers".
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15. Board Game: A House Divided [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:630]
Paul Franklin-Bihary
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Try a Wargame

The only thing lacking on this list is an introductory wargame, my personal favorite. A House Divided is a great starter, as are these titles:

Memoir '44
Combat Commander: Europe
Hammer of the Scots
Bonaparte at Marengo
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16. Board Game: A House Divided [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:630]
Paul Franklin-Bihary
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Try a Wargame

The only thing lacking on this list is an introductory wargame, my personal favorite. A House Divided is a great starter, as are these titles:

Memoir '44
Combat Commander: Europe
Hammer of the Scots
Bonaparte at Marengo
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17. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:49]
Christian Wunsch
Germany
Fulda
Hesse
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Not to Forget Command & Colors:Ancients.
If you have ever brought your fellows gamers to play anything like a wargame or some related strategic game, this encounter into the sytem of Richard Borg will serve very well.
It´s resistable package enriches even the smallest collection and provides the possibility to play even if only two people are present and willing to play.

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18. Board Game: Zombies!!! [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:2696] [Average Rating:5.99 Unranked]
Rick Murphy
United States
Richardson
Texas
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Theme Game

When we meet near a holiday, we like to pull out some theme games, like a monster game near Halloween, or a wacky game near April Fools. Not the first things to put in your collection, but nice to have a couple eventually.
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19. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:357]
Orion Auld
United States
San Francisco
California
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The Six-Player Middleweight

Most games are designed to be optimal for 3-5 players. Unfortunately, this isn't the best social organization for many of us. If you're part of a couple, and many of your friends are coupled, as is true for me, then "having a few people over to play games" means sending two invitations, which means having six people.

What's also unfortunate is that many games recommended for six players are either party games (e.g., Apples to Apples), lightweights (e.g., For Sale), or long-plays or heavyweights (e.g., Diplomacy, Dune, Twilight Imperium). What's a Eurogamer to do?

I find that my collection is starting to revolve around trying to find middleweights that play well with 6 and wrap up in 1-2 hours. I'm considering the following games:

Mare Nostrum + Expansion
Acquire
Medici
Antike (have this one, haven't played it yet)
Showmanager/Atlantic Star
Wildlife
Princes of the Renaissance
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20. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:44]
Have faith
United States
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Another great gateway game. Cooperative play.
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21. Board Game: Carcassonne: The City [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:356]
Don Thiess
United States
Suisun City
California
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Surprised this wasn't already on here (unless I missed it). This was actually my first "gateway" game. I think this would also be a better first choice than Settlers.

I've only played this version of Carc, though, so I can't comment on the original and its expansions.
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22. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:40]
Mike Sherwood
United States
Arundel
Maine
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Dexterity Game

Games for the beer and pretzel kind of nights. Also captures a category of gamer that might not enjoy anything else in your collection.

Also:
Bandu
Hamsterrolle
Pitchcar

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