Welcome to board gaming #2: Top tips for buying your first board game

Welcome back to our ‘Welcome to Board Gaming’ series. In this post, we’re going to share our top tips for buying your first board game.

As with all of the posts in this series, we aren’t intending to over complicate the process of buying a game, but share with you some of the lessons we learned when we got in to board gaming. 

Tip #1: Don’t rush into it… try before you buy!

You’re probably surprised that our first tip for buying your first board gaming is, simply, don’t rush into it. But hear us out! We aren’t suggesting that you don’t play board games just that you hold-off buying… to begin with. We say this because just as there are lots of different; types of crisps, TV Shows and Pokémon there are loads of different types of games. And until you start watching TV shows, eating crisps and catching Pokémon (…OK, that last metaphor might not really work…) you don’t know what you really enjoy. With the ‘cheap’ game being around £20-£30 it can soon become an expensive mistake if you buy too many games you don’t like or don’t work for your group!

Instead, see if you have a local Board Game Café or ‘meet up’ where you can try different games from their board game library. For a nominal fee per person, you can play numerous games and find out which work for you (and the people you play with) before you buy any. The other advantage of heading to your local events or cafes is that there will often someone working there (a ‘guru’ or similar) who can recommend games and even give you a rundown of the rules before start playing.

A photo showing Bastards at night full and packed with gamers

As board gaming is getting more and more popular, board gaming events or cafes are popping up all over the place. There are also community meetups and local gaming groups that you could try and find in your area. But if this isn’t an option for you, we suggest you consider the remaining tips on the list. 

Tip #2: Consider the tastes of those you intend to play with.

As we mentioned above there’s a cornucopia of different board games available.

Games for groups, couples, or solo players. Card, dice and board games. Competitive or cooperative games. Long and short games. Themematic story driven epics to brain -tingling abstract games and everything in between. Even games based on physical movement, or dexterity!

So the tip here is to consider who you want to play with and how you want to play. What experience do you want? There is know wrong answer, but it narrows down your choices.

If you have a competitive group of friends, then games, where you’re pitched against each other, are probably a good shout. Our advice however would be to look for games without player elimination.  It won’t be fun for everyone if people are knocked out in the first hour of play and have to wait a number of hours until the game ends to play again.

If you’re a less competitive bunch then maybe you should consider a cooperative game. One thing that came as a surprise to us when we first explored modern board games, was the existence of cooperative games.  The first game we bought was Pandemic (ZMAN Games), where players work together to defeat four diseases that are spreading across the world. We really like cooperative games as they’re a good option for playing with those new to gaming. When playing cooperatively, no one has an unfair advantage if they’re already familiar with the game and they’re easier teach because you don’t have to hide anything.

Another advantage of playing cooperatively with new players is that cooperatice play really isn’t used in traditional board games. It’s a very quick way to show new players that modern board games are completely different from what they expect them to be from their past experiences.

Tip #3 Watch some YouTube videos!

Like with most things, there’s a lot of YouTube content that can help. Before we decided on Carcassonne and Pandemic as our first games, I watched a lot of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop. In his videos, Wil and his friends play through a selection of board games, which give you a good feel for how the games are played and how they would work with your friends and family.

There’s a range of channels that make these ‘play-through’ or ‘how to play’ videos that give you a good understanding of the game before you start playing it. Other channels I recommend are Rahdo Runs Through, Watch It Played and Gaming Rules!

An example of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and Rodney Smith’s Watch It Played both discussing Pandemic (from ZMAN Games)

Tip #4: Head to your Friendly Local Games Store

The final bit of advice is to head to your Friendly Local Game Store (known as an FLGS in the community) and ask the staff for their opinions. I strongly recommend doing this, rather than looking through reviews or picking something online. FLGS staffs have a wealth of knowledge and will be able to talk to you about what kind of game you are looking for, to help you find the perfect buy for your first games night!

We are very lucky to have Cardiff based Rules of Play as our (friendly) local games store!

Those were our top tips for buying your first board game. We hope these tips help you with your first foray into board game buying. Whichever game you decide on, we hope you have a blast playing it for years to come. Let us know how you get on!

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