April 14, 2024
Gateway Games

More than Monopoly: Getting into Board Gaming in the 21st Century

Most of us have grown up with games like Monopoly, Connect Four, Candy Land and Clue. Recently, more and more people have started playing more unique board games. These are games that are a little more complicated, games we did not grow up with.

Getting Started: Who, What, Where, Why and How?

Getting started, you’ll need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Why: I have all of this extra money to burn

Start with why you want to get started in these more complicated board games. It may be because you have a friend who plays or you want to host a board game night. You probably are not choosing to get into this hobby because you have extra money and no way to get rid of it.

My husband and I started with this hobby a couple of years ago. A friend of ours would have friends over and then bring out games to play. From this our friends decided to host a board game night. We bought a “party game” to bring for that event and afterwards we visited a couple board game stores in Destiny USA. We left with several board games and no real idea where to go from there.

Who: Help! My friends only want to play Cards Against Humanity

You will need to think about who you will play these board games with. Do you have friends that already play? Are you joining an existing board game group? Will you play as a family with your children? Or will you be primarily playing solo? This is an option. There are existing board game groups you can join. Check out online apps similar to MeetMe to see what board game groups meet in your area.

When my husband and I play board games, it is usually just him and I. Unless it is a board game night with friends (they do love Cards Against Humanity) or a local board game convention (‘Cuse Con in Syracuse), we usually end up playing just the two of us. This does make it tough to play games that require more than two players.

What: What are Gateway Games?

What games will you start with? There are so many choices, maybe too many. There are some board games that are easier to get started with. These games are sometimes referred to as “Gateway Games”, meaning that they are easy to learn, and oftentimes the first games that gamers play before getting into the hobby.


Carcassorone is a tile laying game. The tiles show landscapes from Southern France. This may include cities, roads and fields.  Players score points based on where the tiles are placed. The player with the most points wins.


Catan is sometimes considered one of the first board games of this type that folks play when getting into these new types of board games. Hexagonal tiles depicting different terrain (hills, forest, mountains, fields and pasture) are placed in a honeycomb shape, surrounded by water. Players move around the board, trading for resources (brick, lumber, ore, grain and wool) and establishing settlements.  Players earn points based on their settlement and the player with the most points wins.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative board game where players work together to help get off an island that is sinking. In Forbidden Island there are tiles that represent areas on the island and these areas are sinking. The goal is to work together to collect game pieces and then get in a helicopter to exit the island before it sinks. All players win when the goal of safely getting off the island is reached.

Sushi Go

Sushi Go is a set collecting card game. Players put together sets of foods found at a sushi restaurant. These foods range from sashimi, tempura, maki rolls and pudding. End game scoring is based on how many of each food is collected and the player with the most points wins.

Ticket to Ride

There are many versions of Ticket to Ride. Some examples of these versions include, but are not limited to: Ticket to Ride (the original – taking place in the United States), Ticket to Ride: Europe and Ticket to Ride: New York. There is a Ticket to Ride game for most areas around the world. In Ticket to Ride players work to create long chains of train cars (and in some versions taxi cabs, boats and other modes of transportation). Players draw challenge cards worth points. On these cards, two cities or locations on a map are listed. Each challenge is worth a specific amount of points. Players then lay train car pieces to complete these challenges and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Want to learn more about the games you want to get started playing? Do some research online. There are many TikTok accounts that share information about specific board games. And these clips are usually pretty short too. For more information, there are YouTube videos that can be viewed.

Where: What is a FLGS?

Once you know what board games you want to start with, you will want to determine if you are buying the game or borrowing it. You may know someone who has the game and will lend it to you. Also, some local libraries carry board games that you can borrow. This is the case at the Herkimer College Library whose own collection includes Doomlings, Exploding Kittens, Kubuto Sumo and Everdell.

There are also board game cafes where you pay to play for a specific period of time. And you can choose which of the cafe’s games you want to play. Finding a local board game cafe may be tough, but there are more and more popping up all the time. There is even a board game cafe in Little Falls called Doodles and Dragons. Some board game cafes serve food.  Doodles and Dragons has a few snacks but folks can pay a flat fee and choose to play from a variety of board games off the shelves. There are also board game cafes in Albany (Bard & Baker) and Glens Falls (Go Play with Your Food), but this is a little further to drive.

If you decide you would rather buy the game, you have the choice of buying in person at a brick and mortar store or online. There are some board game stores, but depending where you live, you may have to travel to get to the closest board game store. As it happens, there is a board game store in Herkimer (Exiled Games) and there are also games for sale at Doodles and Dragons in Little Falls. Also, stores like Target and Barnes & Noble have a nice selection of board games. You may even get lucky and shop Target during their buy two, get one free board game sale.

You may live so far from a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store), that it just makes sense to purchase games online.  You may find the game on Amazon but some folks don’t want to shop there. Other online board game companies include: Miniature Market, Game Nerdz and Noble Knight Games. For an easy way to find board games, check BGG (www.boardgamegeek.com) to see where you can obtain a copy of the game.

Some games may be out of print, in this case, you may be able to find someone selling the game. This is the case in certain Facebook Groups, or at local board game conventions. An easy way to search this out is to post in the Facebook Group that you are looking for a specific game. If someone is looking to sell their copy, this gives them the opportunity to comment on the post. This was the case when I really wanted a copy of Honey Buzz but could not find a place that was selling it. I commented in a board game Facebook Group I was a member of and another member offered to sell me her copy.

How: Who is this Rodney Smith guy everyone is talking about?

Okay, so you may have the logistics worked out. You have your game, you know who you plan to play with. You open your board game and take a look at the instructions and suddenly you are overwhelmed. The instructions might as well be Greek. And why are there so many pages?

YouTube is going to be your new best friend. There are many “how to” videos to be found online. Some are better than others. If you are lucky there will be a version made by Rodney Smith (Watch It Played). Rodney is hired by board game companies to create “how to play” videos and his videos usually explain the games exceptionally well. There are other videos as well and you may need to watch a couple different videos to learn how to play. But watching these videos is a tremendous help.

There are also social media groups dedicated to board games where folks can ask questions to clarify the rules. These include Facebook Groups, Discord Servers and forums on BGG (www.boardgamegeek.com). And speaking of BGG, you may field a wealth of information about your board game including videos, reviews and downloads.

Conclusion: Let’s Get Playing

Now you know the basics to getting started with board games, you will learn more as you get playing. Once you find a game you like, you may find an expansion for the game. You may want to “back” a game on Kickstarter. Or attend a board game event (Gen Con, Pax Unplugged and Dice Tower Cruise to name a few). You may even learn that this hobby can be a little expensive, with some popular games costing $100 or more (Food Chain Magnate and Everdell the Complete Collection to name a few). And it is not uncommon for folks to have several hundred board games in their collections. Speaking of cost, this does not include the cost of board game accessories which may include dice towers, board game tables and shelves for storing your collection.

So after all of this, why would someone want to get into this hobby? Well, it is a lot of fun and you can meet new people.