I’m back to talk to yall about, as promised, some gateway games (some folks like to call them welcoming games – pick your word, it’s all the same) that can sort of ease you into the realm of hobby board gaming. While they’re all easy to learn, they all have depth of strategy or tactics…and for those who may not know the difference, strategy is a long-term plan that must be executed over multiple turns/rounds throughout the course of an entire game, while tactics are the moment-to-moment decisions based on what the game has presented to you. So, now you know. I’ll use those terms quite a bit in this series, I’m sure. Well, the title definitely gives you an idea of what I’m going for, here; I’m talking about abstract games, and if you’re not familiar with the term “Abstract Game,” I’m referring to a game that basically has no thematic component to it or very little integration of the wider world. There might be some conceit to sell the game or influence artwork, but the game mechanisms are the chief concern, and they generally tend to be elegant, simple rule sets (think Chess, Checkers, Go, etc.). So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some hit abstract games that I’ve played that you might enjoy! I’ll eventually get to full reviews of these later, so this blog post is really the first list.
Azul: Incredible components. A great introduction to drafting from a central board and tile placement on your own player board. Can get a bit mean with two players, but the production value alone makes it worth getting this one. I like this game because it’s easy to teach, looks great, and offers some hard choices throughout the game. The end-game condition is also fun.
Patchwork: Probably our favorite two-player-only game we own at home. This game is adorable, and if you love Tetris, this game is for you. Take a look, please. It’s incredible
Sagrada: You’ll notice a theme here, despite the fact that these games don’t have theme…This game is GORGEOUS. The translucent dice are a bit small, but they look incredible when they’re placed in your stained-glass window. This is the most elegant dice-drafting game I’ve ever played, and the base game itself offers near infinite re-playability.
Onitama: Another two-player-only game for those who may have tried and struggled with Chess or Go (both fantastic games, but the meta-game makes those games decidedly unfriendly to new players). Alternately, if you enjoyed Chess or Go but aren’t necessarily willing to spend the hours on the meta-game, then this is for you. Amazing production. Ergonomic packaging that doesn't take up much space. This game will blow your mind as you try and decide which card to pass to your opponent to execute moves while executing your own. It's great.
Blue Lagoon: Easily the most complex game on this list, but it’s definitely worth a shot, as it's from a legendary designer. The theme is sort of there in that you are technically exploring an archipelago with your tribe, but it’s really just about placing villages and settlers onto the board. This game is great to introduce the ideas of area control, set collection, and route-building.
At any rate, I hope yall leave some comments or interact with me on Twitter to continue the conversation. Next time, we’ll be talking about Family Games!
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek