Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Most people have a terrible memory of playing a 3 hour long, hardly engaging game of Monopoly that undoubtedly ended with someone randomly catching a string of luck and taking home the victory. This experience leaves you with the feeling like you’ve wasted 3 hours of your life for nothing! It’s this memory or others like it that make it so hard to convince people that Board Games are ACTUALLY oh so sweet.
So how do you convince a non-gamer that board games are not just long, drawn out, boring boxes of cardboard that you break out when you’re bored at grandma’s house? Well if you start out with your favourite games: Terraforming Mars, Gloomhaven, Scythe etc… you’ll send new gamers home confused, confirming one of the common suspicions that board games are complicated, long and boring. So do you start with Party Games? No… that’s not quite right either. Party Games lack a lot of the thoughtful decision making that makes traditional games so desirable. New gamers might have a fun night playing Party Games but will be left with a hollow impression.
So what can you do to bring in new gamers into the hobby? There are countless great gateway games out there. I won’t get into all of them here, but I want to talk specifically about why real-time games are such great options for bringing new gamers into the hobby and why we should embrace using them as a tool!
Here are 8 reasons why real-time games are PERFECT for bringing new gamers into the hobby:
1. They Have Simple Rules But Still Pose a Challenge
One of the defining factors of most real-time games is that they are relatively simple. Without the real-time element they are child’s play, but when you add in the real-time element these games come alive. All of the sudden you have a game that exhilarates players and challenges them to make quick and efficient decisions. This is great for new gamers because it means that the rules of the game and the concept of how to play are relatively easy to grasp, yet they are still challenged enough to draw them back to play again!
Looking for a great game that has simple rules but still poses a challenge? Try out Fuse! It’s a real-time cooperative game where you and your friends work together allocating rolled dice as efficiently as possible to defuse bomb cards. You roll one dice for every player, then each player grabs a die that works well with their bomb card, and that’s it! You just keep doing that over and over until all the bombs are defused. Easy enough right? Except the bombs will self-destruct in 10 minutes, which makes the game really challenging! So you better think fast.
2. They Have A Built-In (Non-Timed) Teaching Mode
One of the great things about real-time board games is that you can do a dry run without the real-time element to help teach the rules. This gives you a way to simplify a game even further before you start playing. If a new gamer is feeling uncomfortable with the rules you can start by playing the game without a timer for a round until they understand the rules by actually doing and seeing how they work. It’s a natural way to simplify the game for teaching purposes!
If you’re looking for a great game that is perfect for simplifying by starting without the real-time element you could try Galaxy Trucker. It’s a real-time tile placement game where you and your opponents will be grabbing tiles from a pile in the center of the table and using them to build a ship that will carry cargo across space. You’ll be building shields, lasers, life support and so much more to help you on your journey across space. Once any player is done building their ship they can put pressure on the other players by flipping a sand timer that will halt the building phase once it’s done. This is great for new gamers because you can just as easily decide not to play with the timer for the first round to help them learn how to play!
Do you like real-time board games and want to join in to the discussion? Come chat with us over on the REAL-TIME BOARD GAMERS Facebook Group!
3. They’re Quick and Leave You Wanting More
Since real-time games are often fairly intense, you wouldn’t really want to play them for too long without taking a bit of a break, and for this reason, real-time games are often quite short and are designed to leave you wanting more instead of leaving you feeling exhausted. This is great for new gamers because it gives them a chance to see a game all the way through and still be willing to play again with a short break after. This allows them to really soak in the strategy of the game and see how multiple games can pan out. After one play they’ll be excited and ready to play again. After a few plays they’ll really start to get it and start to see the beauty of the game.
A really great game that plays quick and leaves you wanting more is ESCAPE: The Curse of The Temple. It’s a real-time cooperative dice rolling and board building game where you use dice to explore a lost temple, grab gems and get out before everything collapses. It’s great for new gamers because it takes a maximum of 10 minutes to play! This means you can play a full game and then dive back into another, which is great for helping new gamers see the beauty of the game. You’ll have them hooked in no time.
4. It’s Always Your Turn
A huge complaint from non gamers that I hear all the time is that other players' turns take way too long! I must admit, even as a more experienced gamer this bothers me, but usually I spend that time analyzing what I plan to do on my turn to stay engaged. The problem is, thinking about what you want to do on your turn can be damn near impossible if you don’t know the game very well or have experience playing games like it. That means new gamers are pretty much reduced to twiddling their thumbs when it’s not their turn, no wonder it’s so hard for new gamers to get into the hobby. That’s the great thing about real-time games, it’s pretty much always your turn because usually there are no turns!
A really great game that feels like it’s always your turn is Dutch Blitz. It’s a real-time competitive game where you have a deck of 40 cards all numbered 1 to 10 where you are flipping cards quickly from your deck and trying to play them to piles in the center of the table in ascending order. The catch is, all the other players can use the piles that you start and vice versa. So if you start a pile with a 1 and have a 2 ready to play on top of it, you better be fast because any player at the table could beat you to it and play their own 2 instead. This is great for new gamers because you are literally ALWAYS doing something.
5. There's Lots of Cooperative Options (that don’t allow quarterbacking)
Another great way to introduce new players to the hobby is with cooperative games. It can take some of the responsibility away from a new player to figure things out on their own and allow them to work together with more experienced players to figure things out. Problem is, sometimes new gamers end up just feeling like they are taking directions from more experienced players and not really playing for themselves. With real-time games there's no time for that! With real-time cooperative games you have to be efficient as possible to get things done in time. This means there is no opportunity for an alpha gamer to take over. Players must make decisions for themselves and are forced to get involved which is really great for engaging new players.
Magic Maze is a great example of a co-op game that doesn’t allow quarterbacking, because there is no talking allowed, which means you LITERALLY can’t tell you team members what to do. In Magic Maze, you and your teammates race against the sandtimer to explore the tile-based map, steal weapons, and get out without getting caught by the guards. The catch? No one has a designated pawn, but you each have a designated direction, North, South, East or West that you need to move all four of the pawns. This results in every member, even new players, being a key role in the success of the mission, and making it impossible for one player to take over the game play. You’re gonna wanna pay close attention while playing Magic Maze, no one wants to be the one holding up the team!
This is one of my personal favourite aspects of real-time games and is why I’m designing my own game called Shuttle Shuffle which focuses on getting all players involved. In Shuttle Shuffle you and your friends will play cooperatively through a campaign to master Alien technologies. You'll pass UFOs, grab rocket ships, and roll planets across the universe as quick as possible to stop rapidly expanding blackholes from consuming everything. If you’re interested in being a Shuttle Shuffle playtester you can learn more about the game, and how to get a FREE print and play HERE
6. They're Often Super Intuitive
Since real-time games leave little time for asking questions or checking the rulebook mid play they are often designed to be extra intuitive. The rules almost always avoid any special exceptions or things that players need to remember which make it obvious what to do for new players. On top of that, extra care is taken by game developers to make sure the graphics are clear enough to communicate their purpose as quickly as the players play the game. This is great when playing with new players because it means they won’t need to ask too many questions during game play. The game can elegantly explain itself to new players!
Breakdancing Meeples is a great example of a game that is really intuitive so players just know what to do. You play as a breakdancing crew competing against other crews in a race to bust the best moves by rolling a handful of meeple breakdancers trying to get them to land in the correct orientation to meet your goal cards. Players automatically know what to do when they play this game and could even learn to play simply by watch for a round or two. The cards also make it pretty obvious and speak for themselves when describing to players what they are trying to accomplish, this makes it perfect for new gamers!
7. Welcoming Table Presence (the components aren't overwhelming)
You know those games, the ones when you open the box and reveal the hundreds of pieces, the newbies' hearts sink and their palms sweat. This discouragement right off the bat sets the tone for the rest of the likely zillion hour long game. Most real-time games have simple components and make it really easy for a new gamer to look at the table and think to themselves “Okay, I think I could figure this out!”. This creates a more welcoming experience for new gamers because they don’t have to concern themselves with learning the purpose of 100+ components and can focus on the actual game play of the game.
If you’re looking for a game with simple components to introduce to new gamers you should give 5 Minute Dungeon a try! It’s a cooperative, real-time card game in which players have only five minutes to escape a dungeon of enemies, obstacles and eventually a boss. To play you flip a card from the dungeon and as a team play cards from your hand that match the symbols on the dungeon card. Once you’ve defeated a dungeon card you simply keep going until you run out of time or defeat the boss at the end! The best thing about it is that a new player will only need to worry about their player mat which will show their special ability, their own deck of cards, and the dungeon deck of cards, that's it!
8. They’re Kinda Just Tabletop Sports
Like it or not, sports are undoubtedly a more popular hobby than board games. So why not try to appeal to some sports fans and draw them into the hobby? Just like sports, real-time games can inspire that quick decision making and adrenaline pumping action that sports fans love so much. There is a huge market of sports fans that might find some common ground with board games if we just introduce them to real-time games.
A really great game that plays a lot like a sports match is Shadows: Amsterdam. You play as 2 competing investigative teams trying to solve a crime before the other team. Each team has an Intelligence Officer that can’t talk but will guide their Detectives through the city, by sending pictures to communicate. Detectives work to interpret cards with only art on them to determine where to go on a modular board of art hexes. Teams race to hit 3 locations before the other, while avoiding spaces with the police who don’t want you on the case. This game is great for new gamers who are interested in sports because like a lot of sports it puts you together in teams and pits you against each other in an adrenaline pack race to the finish. So next time you have a chance to bring a new gamer into the hobby give real-time board games a chance. You might be pleased with how quickly your non gamer friends pick up the rules of the game and get engaged. They might even ask when the next games night is by the end of it!
About the Author
Tanner Short Last Slice Games Co-Founder
Board Game Designer Board Game Graphic Designer