10 Board Games Even Non-Gamers Will Enjoy | Fanboys Anonymous

10 Board Games Even Non-Gamers Will Enjoy

Posted by Aaron Yoder Sunday, October 13, 2013
I promised in my first post to talk about games that were easy to learn, teach, and play. This selection is mostly meant for the gamer who hasn't done board gaming, or for the geek who wants to let his friends sample the hobby. Even if you're more deep into the hobby, there's a lot to enjoy from this selection, and you might find some good filler to play between your meatier selections. So no matter who are, if you've got some friends, some snacks, and maybe some beers, you'll find something compelling.

For this post, I've also included prices, primarily because a lot of the people I encounter aren't familiar with the price of gaming. I'd suggest using Amazon.com for purchasing, which is what I do, as they're the cheapest there are often come with free shipping. I also frequent a FLGS (or Friendly Local Game Store to the uninitiated) when I want a game right-now-right-away, but they're always more expensive.

1. King of Tokyo

Godzilla fights King Kong and Cthulhu board game
All ready to wallop somebody.
The premise of "King of Tokyo" is that you're a giant, city-destroying monster like Godzilla or King Kong, only they can't use those names, so it's 'the King' or 'Gigazaur'. Your goal is to destroy the other players' creatures or get a number of points, which are an abstract representation of the damage done to Tokyo. Each turn you toss six super chunky dice and try to come up with combinations that either deal damage, heal you, gain abilities, score points, or hurt your opponents. Attacking allows you to become the King of Tokyo, which gives you points every turn, but you can't heal yourself, and it makes you a target. The game plays kind of like Yahtzee, if Yahtzee had a King of the Hill mechanic, special abilities, and was fun. Also, how much fun is it to see Cthulhu fighting against Godzilla and King Kong?

I'd also like to heartily recommend the expansion, King of Tokyo: Power Up! It is the best example of what an expansion should be, mostly because it's cheap, and also because it adds a lot of options to the game while adding almost no rules at all. It introduces some new special abilities, called Evolutions, which give each monster its own flavor, which is something I feel was missing from the base game. Expect to shell out about $30 for the base game, $15 for the expansion, and be playing a single game for up to—but usually less than—45 minutes. Great with four or five players, but it slows down if you add a sixth, and is fairly boring with only two.

2. 7 Wonders

seven wonders of the ancient world game pictures
I "wonder" how they fit the rest of it on the table.
Another short and sweet game is 7 Wonders, this time a card game rather than a dice game. You're given a board featuring one
of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, and you play your cards for resources, points, science, and military might, utilizing your wonder's unique ability while trying to complete it. The catch to the game is that each turn you pass your hand of unplayed cards to another player, so the cards you have in one turn aren't the cards you'll have to choose from in the next turn. It keeps you guessing, and good players quickly learn to get rid of the cards their opponents need. Admittedly, some of the mechanics are a little hard to grasp during your first game, but the second game always runs more smoothly. The other great thing about 7 Wonders is that the game plays exactly the same with three players as it does with seven, making it ideal for either a large or small group. It has a play time of 45 minutes once you're familiar with the game, and I find it usually takes an hour to play the first time around. Expect to pay about $35 for this title.

3. San Juan

San Juan Puerto Rico game box pics
Great game with such a boring box.

Building up San Juan during the colonial period sounds boring, but I guarantee you that it is not. Each turn sees players choosing a role, such as "builder" or "carpenter" from a small selection, and then playing or gaining cards. Each card is a useful building that may give you a new ability, but each card is also the game's currency: to play one you need to discard other cards from your hand. It makes each decision an important one, because you need to prioritize what needs to go to the table and what needs to get discarded. Furthermore, you can only perform the actions that you and the other players choose. If you really want to play cards, you'll need to choose the appropriate role, but doing so may help the other players too much. In order to get ahead in San Juan, you'll need to anticipate what other players are doing and plan your role choice accordingly.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there is a much more refined version of this game, called Race for the Galaxy. I chose to mention San Juan first because Race is a much harder game to learn, even though it is a far more rewarding and re-playable game. Both games will take about 45 minutes to play, play well with two to four people, and cost around $30.

4. Love Letter

love letter game box art almost nipple slip
I want to know how that dress stays up.
Love Letter is a game in the genre of "microgames." Microgames take up very little space and take very little time to play, but they still seek to offer strategy and choice. It has 16 cards and is all about guessing what card your opponents have. You'll play the game over a series of rounds, and each round is won by being the only player still active or, if all the cards are gone, being the player with the highest value card in his or her hand. Each turn, all you do is draw a card, and then discard one of your two cards. The higher valued cards don't have very good abilities, and they make it easier to guess what you're holding, but they're more likely to win at the end of the round. The lower values have much better abilities, and playing them allows you to take a chance and knock other players out of the round. The game's won and done once any player wins 4 rounds. It is a neat, quick game for four that'll cost about $15 and take you 30 minutes to play.

5. Hanabi

Hanabi fireworks game box and cards
"Hanabi" apparently means "fireworks" or some such.
I don't know if I'd call this a "microgame," but it certainly isn't a big one. In this game, you and the other players are cooperating to play cards to the table in order and by suit. The catch? You can't talk, and you can only see other players' cards instead of your own! To learn about your cards, you have to spend a communal set of tokens to give information to the other players. Make three mistakes and your game is over. I found myself surprised by how much fun Hanabi actually turned out to be. It is a very simple game, but the twist that you can't view your own cards is wonderful and kind of stressful. Set aside $15 and 30 minutes--this is a superb game.

6. Suburbia

Suburbia game play table top
Suburbia's a fun game if you're a fan of SimCity. The longest game I've recommended so far, at about an hour and a half, this is still an easy one to teach and learn. The basic idea is that you're purchasing tiles and placing them in your city, adjacent to other tiles. Each tile is a building that may affect the tiles it's placed next to. For example, you'll hurt your score if you place an airport next to a residential area, but placing a Restaurant in the same city as a Slaughter House will give you extra money every turn. The tiles you grab can also affect the other players' cities, and each player has goals they're trying to achieve in order to gain an influx of people. At the end of the game, it is the player with the highest population wins. This one will cost somewhere around $45. Lots of neat tiles and things to look at, though, and well worth it.

7. 1775: The American Revolution

1775 American revolution board game
I can't decide if this seems more or less boring than San Juan 
Don't let the historical theme fool you, this is a really engaging, fast-paced, and fun game. It is also the newest on this list. Like Suburbia, this takes around an hour and a half to play, but is probably easier to teach. If you liked anything about Risk, this game is an absolute must. Essentially there are four players, and each of you play on a team: either as the Loyalists and the British Regulars, or as the Patriot Militia and the Continental Army. There are also Hessians, the French, and the Indians, but they're all allies you get through the course of play rather than playable factions. On your turn you'll play a movement card, which allows you to move a mess of cubes (which represent your armies) the number of spaces shown on the card. There's lots of discussion and pointing and anger because you're on a team and, most importantly, because you can choose any number of cubes in a region to move as long as one of your cubes is present. That means that you can move your ally's cubes and, in fact, you want to as you'll fight better because of it! Then you have battles and get to chuck dice around, and the dice are a lot of fun, too. Each faction gets their own, and each side of each die does its own thing. The British Regulars do a lot of killing, the Patriots and Loyalists run away an awful lot, the Continental Army does a lot of killing and running, and the Indians rarely do anything, but it is a pleasant surprise when they do. In short, this is a hectic, crazy game, and you'd be doing yourself a service by trying it out. Because it is so new, you may have to wait a bit to pick it up, but it should be in stores shortly.

8. Agricola

This is easily the most popular game on the list, but it is also the most difficult to teach and learn (I would recommend doing the family version of the rules for your first game or two). Still, it is definitely worth the effort, and it is a very easy, intuitive game to play once you've learned it. And though it seems like the game is easy once you've learned the rules, it is a game full of tension and difficult decisions, fraught with frustration that then turns to joy when you manage to achieve something. Admittedly, the theme is kind of a hard sell. You're a 17th-century farmer trying to scrape a meagre existence off the land. Sounds boring, but it isn't. You'll try to gather resources in order to build fences to house animals, and you'll plow, plant, and harvest your fields. Each of your family members will give you an action on every turn, but they also need to eat. So to win you'll need to expand your family, but to expand you'll need to find a way to get more food. It all becomes a wonderful, harried mess as you try to expand your farm, feed your family, and try to gain new members. Your first game may take up to 2 hours, but after that you'll get a game in within an hour to an hour and a half. Engages two to five players equally well. About $50.

agricola all creatures great and small set up side by side compare
A Two-fer, for easy comparison!
9. Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small

I thought I'd go with a two-player game for this one. All Creatures Big & Small is everything cool about Agricola, but less of it. Fewer rules, no cards, no family growth, and no feeding your people—this is nothing but the basics. The focus in this game is building up the number of animals in your farm, rather than growing crops. It plays in about 30 minutes and is a very simple, very fun game for two. It can also be found on the cheap, and if you get bored with this, there's a delightful expansion that really increases the re-playability of the title for less than the cost of a dinner out.

10. Pandemic

Pandemic game disease flu contagion pics
Play this game and become terrified of every sneeze.
I grew tired of Pandemic long ago, but it is worth mentioning because it is popular, exceptionally easy to find (you can find a copy at Target), and, of course, it is a lot of fun. The basic premise is that you and one to three others are helping one another to eradicate a virus as it pops up in cities around the globe and spreads. Each of you has a special ability that will aid in your quest to stop the spread of the killer virus. This is a tough game to win, but it is easy to learn and plays well with two to four people. Definitely not my favorite on the list, but if you're looking for something where you can cooperate with your friends that has a little more meat on it than Hanabi, this is your box. Might cost around $30.

Honorable Mention: Powergrid

I won't say much, just that Powergrid is an incredible game. If you liked anything about Monopoly, you should definitely give this one a go. I'm not writing more about it because a longer co-op, Pandemic, definitely deserved a spot. Curse you, Pandemic! Two hours, six players, and about $40.

So there you have it. Ten--technically eleven--games, and each presents a little bit of a different look into most of the major genres and mechanics in board gaming today. Pick one up and give it a go. If you've played one of these or purchased one, let me know what you think of it in the comments.

If you would like to join the team as a contributor or are interested in sponsoring a post on this site, purchasing an ad, becoming an affiliate, or taking part in any kind of promotional opportunities, please use this contact form to send us an email and we will get in touch as soon as possible with more information.