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Subject: The Two Defining *Gateway* Games Out There Today.... rss

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Ryan Bretsch
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Back in 2004, a small boardgame company out of California, Days of Wonder, published what I now consider to be the greatest *Gateway* boardgame ever published-- Ticket to Ride.

Since 1933, when Monopoly was published, it was the boardgame that had "ruled the roost" in the vast majority of homes. Few families really ventured outside of the Hasbro offerings to be found in Target or Wal-Mart. Ticket to Ride with its millions of sales, broke through that ceiling and it is also my "go to" game that I bring out for friends who have never played boardgames outside of the Hasbro family offerings. What makes Ticket to Ride so special?

-- Great artwork, giving the game a strong branding position
-- The name is interesting sounding and generates curiosity to learn more.
-- Cool "toy-like" components.
-- Terrific execution of a great theme.
-- Very easy to learn how to play.
-- Game design offers lots of strategy without a great deal of complexity.
-- (NEW) Game design rewards smart play but an inexperienced player can still win. An ideal balance of skill vs. luck.
-- The game mechanics themselves are fundamentally sound and require no "house rules" to tailor the playing experience.
-- The game is innovative, immersive and interactive.
-- It never feels like the game has overstayed its welcome. An ideal length of time to play.
-- Appeals to the broadest possible market.
-- It scales well, regardless of the number of people playing it.
-- (NEW) It attracts fun people to want to play it.

For me, the interesting thing is that thousands of games have been created since Ticket to Ride but finding one, in my opinion, that has met the same ingredients for a *Gateway* success nearly as well as Ticket to Ride has been challenging. Until now.

Finally, in 2012... a game was created called Escape: The Curse of the Temple. What a fantastic game! It is the first game since Ticket to Ride that so completely checks off all of the ingredients to my definition of a successful *Gateway Game*. (listed above) It is just amazing that it took 8 years for a boardgame company to come up with the next "Ticket to Ride." I'm sure glad they did, but I'm hoping I don't have to wait another 8 years for the next Escape.

There are lots of good *Gateway Games* out there. Here is a list of some that I like.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/56743/25-hip-fun-gatew...

But Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Ticket to Ride are the closest to *Gateway Game* perfection.
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Neil Brooks
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I'm a great believer that its the people who make the gateway. A game's nothing without the right people.
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P.J. H.
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I absolutely agree on Ticket to Ride. I had a lot of success pulling my family in with it when I visited over the holidays. It's got simple enough mechanics but deep game play.
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Jason
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I intially found it insufferably dull (I think Arkham Horror was my gateway game!) but can now see the joy of it. It's become one of my daughter's favourites... and at least it's easy to teach.
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Vincent Perry
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The really great thing about TTR is, as much as it is easily accessible, but clearly a next step game, is that I actually enjoy playing it as well. I'm never one to be pushing to play it, but when it gets pulled out for some gaming neophytes, I absolutely have a blast.
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Ryan Bretsch
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xibxang wrote:
I'm a great believer that its the people who make the gateway. A game's nothing without the right people.


That actually is an excellent point. I actually have a motto that is a variation of that-- "A fun game starts with fun people."

And that really is another reason both of these games are so great-- they attract fun people to the game table... which then multiplies the fun of the game playing experience.

Great point; perfectly expressed.
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Neil Brooks
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Thank you. I do agree that TTR makes a great gateway game but at the same time I don't like to put pressure on one or two titles that I depend on to get my friends into The hobby. I've success with Puerto Rico and Dixit as well as TTR which I guess illustrates my point. You have to know your target audience to know what to pitch, and how to pitch it.

IMO, of course.
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Matt Brown
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Way too early to call Escape: The Curse of the Temple the next great gateway. There's four different versions of TtR ranked higher than Escape: The Curse of the Temple.
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David B
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I'm not sold on Escape yet either. I haven't played it and I do like dice when they are done right. So perhaps when I actually do get around to playing Escape I may enjoy it. But after a watched a play through video by Richard Ham, it just did not look like my cup of tea.

For me, the "gateway" game with dice was Stone Age. And I still enjoy it.
 
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TS S. Fulk
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rdbret wrote:

-- Appeals to the broadest possible market.


Here's where I disagree. A gateway game for me is one that I can use to bring friends into the gaming—that's a narrow, well-defined niche. Which is why I've never used Ticket to Ride (and probably never will) as a gateway. Escape, maybe. For me the ultimate gateways are epic games like Eclipse, Arkham Horror, etc.

For others that don't care who they play with, your point is probably good.

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Des Lee
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Right now, my "go to" gateway game is Dixit. I can bring it out in almost any group, you barely need a playing surface, you can explain it in under a minute, and it scales well from 4 to 10. New gamers aren't overly disadvantaged, and there's minimal things to keep track of - just your hand of 7 cards. It's not for everyone, but I've had an astonishing strike rate with it - even non gamers, and friends who I would have thought more suited to wargames or heavier strategy games have all enjoyed it.

Ticket To Ride is my second choice, for all the reasons articulated by the original poster.
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Chris Farrell
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I think you missed the one really critical thing about Ticket to Ride: it's very similar to many traditional melding card games that virtually everyone is already familiar with. If you've played Rummy or Mah Johngg or whatever Ticket to Ride is not only going to be fairly familiar already, it's probably less complex and less challenging than some melding games people are comfortable with. This is actually why I think Ticket to Ride is not a terrific "gateway" game in and of itself; people play it because it's already comfortable, and so it doesn't provide the same kind of hook into other modern games that Settlers or Modern Art or Forbidden Island does. It's more of a game that you can happily play with your non-hobbyist friends, but it doesn't really provide that much leverage to get them in to "our" games, in that it's more similar to traditional games than it is to modern ones.

And anyway, as far as gateway games go, Settlers is clearly the #1 modern one. In terms of numbers of copies out there, broad exposure to the wider non-gaming culture, being really innovative compared to its predecessors like Monopoly, and just being a better-designed game, Settles clearly dwarfs the impact of Ticket to Ride. Not that Ticket to Ride hasn't been a major success and an important game which lots of people enjoy, but Settlers has been around since 1995 and sold millions of copies.
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Kamille
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For loving Boardgames since i was getting old enough and able to play those i consider the SDJ Award as the gateway Award of Boardgames. You can´t do something wrong with an SDJ as a gateway Game. So here are my chronological List of the most famous Gateway Games since the breaktrought of Settlers. I will not consider older Games like Hare & Tortoise (1979), Scotland Yard (1983), Dampfross (1984) or Auf Achse (1987), etc. cause some of them are not that easy to get outside of germany i guess. Here we go:

1# Catan In 1995 this Game brought whole germany back to the board and then continued with the rest of the World.

2# Carcassonne In the footsteps of Settlers

3# Alhambra Sad it didnt make it against Settlers and Carcassone.

4# Ticket to Ride ...

5# Kingdom Builder "The Gateway Game of 2012"

greets Hessi


PS: My personal favorite SDJ is Torres (2000). It was the most sophisticated SDJ evar but too deep to being a Gateway and an SDJ.
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Carl Weinstein
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1) Ticket to Ride
2) Escape: The Curse of the Temple (got it for Christmas from my girlfriend and lord is it a favorite!)
3) Munchkin
4) Dixit
5) Forbidden Island
6) Pandemic

I would say settlers, but every time I've played it with new people there's a lot of blank faces and thoughts of "This is a lot of strategy to play well..."

I also have to point out that despite personal tastes going beyond the online show "Tabletop", they're doing a great job at showing some awesome gateway games shown to a larger audience of people. Any expansion of our community is a good expansion!
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Jason
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I'm having more and more luck with San Juan as a gateway game. And it sets people up for getting into more complex fare (if they wish to) such as Puerto Rico or RFTG.

It's a damn good game.
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Matt Clark
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I picked up a copy of TTR:Europe because I thought I needed a game that I could explain fairly quickly to new players (and because I enjoy playing it). It's definitely one of the games I would pick to introduce family members to gaming.

However, my friends who aren't board game players (but are still nerdy and frequently are video game players) need a little extra coaxing to play games. For this group, Lords of Waterdeep has been my gateway game of choice. It looks great, it's dead easy to teach, and I really enjoy playing it with new players.

I haven't had a chance to play Escape yet. It doesn't look like the kind of game that would appeal to me, but if I get the opportunity at a game night or a convention I will definitely check it out.

(edit: spelling)
 
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Steve S
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I'd say by far the game I've had the most luck getting non-game-geeks to play is Pandemic. Probably something about the theme that just draws people in.
TTR would probably be a close second though.

For the longest time it seems like everybody was firing off Settlers and Carcassonne as the "must have" gateway games.
I've owned Settlers for years and have never convinced anybody to actually play it (well, OK, it's been played once after a significant amount of whining to my wife), and Carc has gotten a few plays but is rarely a game that comes to mind when the question "what would you like to play" comes up.
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Ryan Bretsch
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matthean wrote:
Way too early to call Escape: The Curse of the Temple the next great gateway. There's four different versions of TtR ranked higher than Escape: The Curse of the Temple.


I need a ranking to tell me if a game is great? Way too much of a reliance on scoring and numbers and not enough on sizing up a game on its merits.

I mean what if there was no BGG that ever existed? We could never declare a game great because the "numbers" weren't there to support it?
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Tim Earl
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rdbret wrote:
matthean wrote:
Way too early to call Escape: The Curse of the Temple the next great gateway. There's four different versions of TtR ranked higher than Escape: The Curse of the Temple.


I need a ranking to tell me if a game is great? Way too much of a reliance on scoring and numbers and not enough on sizing up a game on its merits.

I mean what is there was no BGG that ever existed? We could never declare a game great because the "numbers" weren't there to support it?


I don't see too broad of an appeal for Escape. The real-time element is a big turnoff for many people.
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Ryan Bretsch
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tssfulk wrote:
rdbret wrote:

-- Appeals to the broadest possible market.


Here's where I disagree. A gateway game for me is one that I can use to bring friends into the gaming—that's a narrow, well-defined niche. Which is why I've never used Ticket to Ride (and probably never will) as a gateway. Escape, maybe. For me the ultimate gateways are epic games like Eclipse, Arkham Horror, etc.

For others that don't care who they play with, your point is probably good.



Actually, you have raised an interesting point to discuss: and that is on the exact definition of "Gateway" Game. I think two different points of view exist on how a "Gateway" Game should be defined.

The first camp is as you say it is: It is defined as a boardgame that is used to introduce people to all games, or to get people interested in the hobby of boardgaming itself. A slight variation of that is using lighter weight "gateway" games to serve as an introduction to building interest into potentially playing more heavyweight games down the road-- for example: Settlers of Catan might be a good way to introduce people to Agricola.

I am in the second camp, which defines a "Gateway" differently. In this case, a "Gateway" game is defined as lightweight game that appeals to the mainstream "mass" market. It's main purpose is to be simply enjoyed on its own merits. An ancillary purpose might be to expose someone to playing a boardgame who would otherwise not consider that form of entertainment and have them find it an enjoyable experience. But there is no expectation to introduce them to playing "x", so that they would be willing to play "y".

---

I will give you this: I think the name "Gateway" is actually a slightly more technically appropriate name for the first camp. But it is very valid for describing the second point of view as well. As it stands, it is used by both points of perspective to define that type of boardgame.

If you use the first definition, for instance, then you should add "Settlers of Catan" to the mix as one of the greats. A game I am not a fan of BTW... but I recognize its accomplishment in the boardgame world.)

If you use the second definition, like I do-- then you most likely wouldn't even consider Settlers of Catan as a "Gateway" game.
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Matt Brown
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rdbret wrote:
matthean wrote:
Way too early to call Escape: The Curse of the Temple the next great gateway. There's four different versions of TtR ranked higher than Escape: The Curse of the Temple.


I need a ranking to tell me if a game is great? Way too much of a reliance on scoring and numbers and not enough on sizing up a game on its merits.

I mean what is there was no BGG that ever existed? We could never declare a game great because the "numbers" weren't there to support it?


Take away the rankings and I don't even place Escape in my Top 3 gateways for 2012 if even that high. I think the real time element can cause issues for a player during their first play. If any issue comes up, they have a limited time to resolve it. Compare this to other games where things can be handled at an easy pace. Mice and Mystics taught by somebody knowledgeable enough with the rules, Suburbia due to how easy it will be for people to get, and Lords of Waterdeep due to ease of teaching it all to me fit as better gateways. Space Cadets would likely be placed before Escape as well. The biggest downside to Space Cadets is teaching all of the different roles so the initial play takes longer than normal.
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Kevin "Coop" Cooper
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Shadoglare wrote:
I'd say by far the game I've had the most luck getting non-game-geeks to play is Pandemic. Probably something about the theme that just draws people in.


I see Pandemic mentioned a lot. I guess it's been around longer, but I think Flash Point: Fire Rescue has a stronger, more relatable theme. What's easier to explain and relate to than, "You need to save people from a fire before the whole house collapses!"?
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Matt Brown
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coopasonic wrote:
Shadoglare wrote:
I'd say by far the game I've had the most luck getting non-game-geeks to play is Pandemic. Probably something about the theme that just draws people in.


I see Pandemic mentioned a lot. I guess it's been around longer, but I think Flash Point: Fire Rescue has a stronger, more relatable theme. What's easier to explain and relate to than, "You need to save people from a fire before the whole house collapses!"?


Panademic has cleaner mechanics although I do agree that Flash Point is more fun.
 
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Jason Hinchliffe
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When Escape sells 1/25th as many copies as Settlers we can talk about its greatness. I'm sure its a solid game, but mentioning it in the same breath as TtR or SoC is ludicrous. It's one thing to say "I think this game has potential to be the next great gateway game" but a very different one to say "It is just amazing that it took 8 years for a boardgame company to come up with the next "Ticket to Ride." Here's a hint...they haven't yet. When it becomes a near household name like TtR or SoC, then we can say that.

I don't understand how people fail to respect how important a game Settlers is and continues to be. Its like being critical of that cougar who taught you how to have sex when you were 18. Yeah sure you've had hotter and better since, but you'd never have gotten there if it weren't for her getting your no-experience ass up to speed.
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Carl Weinstein
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clockwerk76 wrote:
When Escape sells 1/25th as many copies as Settlers we can talk about its greatness. I'm sure its a solid game, but mentioning it in the same breath as TtR or SoC is ludicrous. It's one thing to say "I think this game has potential to be the next great gateway game" but a very different one to say "It is just amazing that it took 8 years for a boardgame company to come up with the next "Ticket to Ride." Here's a hint...they haven't yet. When it becomes a near household name like TtR or SoC, then we can say that.

I don't understand how people fail to respect how important a game Settlers is and continues to be. Its like being critical of that cougar who taught you how to have sex when you were 18. Yeah sure you've had hotter and better since, but you'd never have gotten there if it weren't for her getting your no-experience ass up to speed.


A great game doesn't have to be 8 years old for it to be great. I get where you're coming from kinda, but no need to be hostile about people's opinions
 
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