This Saturday, April 11, thousands of people around the world will take part in International TableTop Day. There are events at libraries, cafes and local game stores for you to go and see what this board gaming malarky is about.
International TableTop Day is an event started by Geek and Sundry as part of their Youtube series, TableTop. The idea is simple: play board games. That's it. Get your friends to come round and play something or go to a nearby event. It doesn't matter how you take part, just get out there and give it a go.
Board gaming is going through a golden age. Gone are the days where you roll a die, move your pawn and do what the space you land on says. Now we have starving French farmers desperately trying to build a family and knights of the round table going on quests for King Arthur as a traitor lays siege to Camelot. Games where you can't look at the cards in your hand and games where you turn gears so your workers can appease Mayan gods. Modern board gaming is a treasure trove of interesting ideas and mechanics.
One of the great things about International TableTop Day is that it allows newcomers to visit their local game store and not feel intimidated by the regulars. This isn't a group of friends you're intruding on, it's a group of people who want to welcome you into their hobby. Last year, I spent the day at The Gamers Guild in Dubbo and played Caverna with complete strangers. It was fantastic. This year, I'm hoping to play a thirty player game of 2 Rooms and a Boom.
Maybe you'd like to join in and don't know what to play. Maybe you'd like to host your own event with friends but all you have is a battered copy of Monopoly and a deck of cards that's missing the eight of clubs. Here's a list of some popular entry level board games to give you an idea of where to get started.
Ticket to Ride
2-5 players The quintessential entry level board game, Ticket to Ride sees you and your friends trying to build a rail empire by connecting cities across America. Multiple maps exist for this game, many of which add interesting twists or additions to the original Ticket to Ride formula. Ticket to Ride: Europe is great for groups of three to five while the Nordic Countries and Switzerland map allow for more cutthroat two player action.
2-4 players You and your friends have to work together in this co-operative game to cure the diseases that are plaguing the world. Pandemic has a very clever infection mechanic to constantly keep the pressure on players as they race to save the world. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert also feature similar mechanics and are accessible for a younger crowd.
2-4 players The origin of the iconic meeple, Carcassonne is a tile laying game where you and your friends build up the countryside while placing followers in the towns, chapels and roads that pop up in the hopes of gaining the most points. Things can get cutthroat as you battle for control of the largest farm or work to build a giant town even though there is no direct conflict.
Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan)
3-4 players You and your friends will collect, trade and use resources to build settlements across the island of Catan. The game is dependent on dice rolls, so poor luck can leave a player stranded or propel someone to a decisive victory. Catan is the prototypical modern board game and like Superman - the prototypical modern superhero - can be a bit dull compared to more recent offerings.
2-5 players A quick and clever game where you and your friends try to create a fireworks display from the cards in your hand. The twist? You can see everyone's cards but your own, so you must use limited hints to work out who can play what cards.
3-6 players Playing on RPG tropes, Munchkin is a game where players race to level 10 by fighting monsters and collecting loot. While incredibly popular among newcomers, Munchkin is a half hour game that stretches into two hours. Be wary of diving into the many expansions too quickly as Munchkin can wear out its welcome.
The Resistance/The Resistance: Avalon
5-10 players Do you want an excuse to bicker endlessly with your friends? The Resistance is a social deduction game where secret saboteurs are trying to foil missions that everyone else desperately wants to succeed. This is a game where there's limited information to act on, so you must work to convince the rest of the group that you're definitely not a spy and can be trusted (even if you're definitely a spy and should not be trusted in the slightest). The Resistance: Avalon adds some additional roles, allowing for more depth and even more bickering. A great game for people who don't hold grudges.
Terror in Meeple City (formerly Rampage)
2-4 players Chaos, destruction and searching under the couch for lost pieces, Terror in Meeple City has it all. In your mission to eat meeples, you must demolish Meeple City in this dexterity game where you flick, blow and drop the pieces to cause as much damage as possible. It's stomping through sand castles in board game form.
Qwirkle 2-4 players A combination of Scrabble and Dominoes, Qwirkle is a simple tile-laying game with a low skill ceiling. People won't feel left out just because someone else at the table has a more cromulent vocabulary while still enjoying themselves. Qwirkle is also encourages you to say the word "Qwirkle" often which is a surprising amount of fun, especially if you feel the urge to affect a terrible German accent.
2-4 players Splendor is a engine building game where you buy gems in order to be able to buy even more gems. Often ending in games where someone else gets everything in place just before you do, Splendor is incredibly satisfying when everything comes together.
What are some of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!