10 best beginner board games to play after Catan
Newcomer-friendly board games to help you settle in to the hobby.
So, you’re a beginner board gamer who’s wrangled your friends into playing Catan, well done! Whilst a single game is satisfying enough, it’s not exactly the sweetest ambrosia that the world of board games has to offer. No, you want the best board games out there, but how exactly are you going to convince your friends that playing games on the reg is a worthwhile hobby?
All of the board games below make for a perfect follow-up to a game of Catan, guaranteeing a fantastic tabletop experience for any newbie looking to spread their board gaming wings. These ten games are so successful at beckoning in new players because they’re easy to learn but engaging enough to get into. (Another tip for getting newcomers interested is playing something set in a universe you already love, like some of the best movie board games that are actually good.) There are a metric ton of rubbish games - particularly family board games - with simple rulesets out there, so making sure you pick accessible games that still offer a degree of challenge (or at least, some entertaining mechanics) will most certainly suck your friends and family, even board games for kids, into the world of dice and tokens.
Best beginner board games
- King of Tokyo
- Sheriff of Nottingham
- Camel Up: Second Edition
- No Thanks!
If you don't quite have time for one of these slightly longer games at the moment, you could always get a small taste of what's in store by playing one of the best quick board games that fit into 15 minutes. If your friendship group has a lot of people interested in playing games, you could always break out one of the best party board games for big groups at your next social do and let everybody discover something new and fun together.
Once you're in, it's a vast world with plenty to explore, too. Why not move onto Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, one of the best co-op board games? Or maybe you'd like to experience a shared story and campaign with friends and family, but would prefer one of the best legacy board games that isn't Pandemic Legacy? Whatever takes your fancy from the list of the best beginner board games to play after Catan, you can bet there will be plenty more out there that will take you a step further into the hobby - and Dicebreaker will be there to help lead the way.
In the interest of easing your family and friends into that #boardgamelife, here are 10 top beginner board games that are guaranteed to have your friends playing Twilight Imperium in no time.
A tile laying board game set in the idyllic French countryside of old.
Worker-placement is a popular mechanic in the board game world - it’s featured in some of the best board games out there - but it also happens to be one of the most initially daunting prospects to confront a board game beginner with. (“Here are 50 different actions you can do, but you only have two tokens to use. Chop! Chop!”)
Luckily, Carcassonne is here to provide one absolutely stellar tutorial. In Carcassonne, you and your fellow players take turns to clutter the idyllic French countryside with meeples. To play your meeples you must first place a tile, which could contain a city, road, cloister, grassland, or even a combination of each. Playing a meeple on one of these tiles will transform it into an appropriate scoring token (a robber, monk, knight or farmer) which is then instantly added to the player’s current total. Carcassonne is an excellent beginners’ game because whilst it requires strategy to win, there are very few actions you can play to further that strategy, thereby keeping things simple.
It’s also a great family board game because of how easy it is to play and get a hold of these days.
Buy Carcassonne on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Come together against a worldwide crisis in this classic board game about cooperation.
Pandemic is a titan of the tabletop gaming world for a reason. Matt Leacock’s disease-battling co-op board game hit has an incredibly well-constructed difficulty curve that gradually eases its players into the meat of the game, like a swimming teacher guiding you into a pool of warm stew.
Unlike Carcassonne, Pandemic focuses on co-operative fire-fighting (not literally) rather than competitive scoring. Deadly diseases are spreading across the globe, and your job is to stagger the infection rates until a cure is found. Disease-fighting involves travelling across the world removing sickness tokens, building research stations and playing cards to create a cure. As the game progresses, players will need to apply sharper tactics to maximise the efficiency of their actions, as things can get very bad, very quickly towards the end.
But being able to discuss individual character actions as a group somewhat softens Pandemic’s edges, making it a suitable introduction to tabletop gaming. Its accessibility doesn’t just make Pandemic one of the best co-op board games, it outright makes it one of the best board games period.
Buy Pandemic on Amazon UKAmazon US.
King of Tokyo
Stake your claim on the city in this monster battle board game.
What could be a more accessible theme than kaiju battling one another with shrink rays and parasitic tentacles? In King of Tokyo, you play as said kaiju who’ve decided that the Japanese capital has gotten far too crowded with massive monsters, so it’s about time for a cleanout.
A board game designed by Richard Garfield - the creator trading card game Magic: The Gathering - in King of Tokyo players take turns to roll dice and apply the available actions, choosing to re-roll some of their dice up to two times. Actions in King of Tokyo usually boil down to healing, gaining energy and attacking. That last one is particularly important as eliminating your enormous rivals is one way of winning, the other being to reach the required amount of victory points by successfully staying in Tokyo the longest. Of course, your opponents will be pushing and shoving in an effort to boot you out of the city, so it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to leave.
King of Tokyo includes a nice little risk/reward system that avoids over-complication by providing the player with two very simple ways to respond - making it a great board game for kids and adults alike.
Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Attempt to smuggle the most contraband without getting caught by the Sheriff.
Social deduction games tend to be a tad more accessible than most other genres, because come off it, lying is something we’ve all done at least once in our lives. But Sheriff of Nottingham is a great party board game to introduce your friends to the concept of competitive dishonesty.
The aim of Sheriff of Nottingham is very simple: sell your wares and earn more gold than your fellow merchants. Whilst legal goods will net you a decent amount, it’s the illegal stuff that will rack in the coins. However, there’s a catch: slimy old Prince John is coming to town, and he’s bringing his equally slimy sheriff along with him. The sheriff, being a loyal subject of the prince, has his eye out for any potential smugglers, and he’ll confiscate any suspicious-looking items if he finds them.
Sheriff of Nottingham is a fantastic entry point for beginners because they each get to take turns playing the role of the seeker as well as the liar. There are also plenty of opportunities to win if you want to play things by the book, meaning that there’s no pressure to lie if you don’t want to. Providing both these options makes Sheriff of Nottingham a fantastic family board game as well, depending on how willing your loved ones are to lie and cheat.
Buy Sheriff of Nottingham on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Camel Up: Second Edition
Gamble your riches on a set of speedy camels in this high speed board game.
Camel Up is a really great combination of strategy and test-your-luck, that just so happens to have a great aesthetic for a board game for kids (it’s like the board game equivalent of All Dogs Go to Heaven). The aim of Camel Up is to place successful bets on the participating camels, to eventually leave the racetrack with the most coin in hand. These bets aren’t only restricted to winning camels, they just need to apply to one specific camel (e.g. the yellow camel will get third place).
Throughout each race, or round, players will take turns to pop a random die from the pyramid in the middle of the track. The colour of the die indicates which camel the roll applies to, with the number determining how many spaces that camel moves. Once this happens, each player will have the opportunity to increase their existing bet or place new ones. If a camel lands on another, they proceed to move as a single unit (imagine a Power Ranger, that’s also a camel), meaning that any carefully laid plans can easily go astray at a moment’s notice.
The combination of genuine strategy and absurd randomness makes for a surprisingly solid party board game that’s also really suitable for beginners.
Buy Camel Up: Second Edition on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Express your artistic side in this board game about building mosiacs.
As with Pandemic, Azul is yet another darling renowned for its excellent pacing and universal likability. We’ve never met a single person who’s played Azul and not liked it. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t associate with such an individual, because Azul is a bloody gorgeous game, and I’m not just talking about its looks. (Am I flirting with a board game?)
Azul is an incredibly approachable game from the offset; simply select and place coloured tiles on your board, looking to make patterns and complete sets to score the highest possible total, all whilst avoiding having any unused tiles at the end of each round. With such a stripped-back ruleset, Azul may initially seem quite shallow. However, having to choose tiles from a shared pool opens the game up to a myriad of possibilities. What if you were planning to take those red tiles, but somebody got there first? What’s the plan now?
That’s what Azul is so great at teaching; the need to adapt if your first plan happens to get waylaid. It also makes for a fantastic two-player board game, according to our very own Johnny Chiodini.
Buy Azul on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Select your dice carefully to make the best stained glass window.
Sagrada may share certain similarities with Azul, but it’s also very different because… dice? In all seriousness, Sagrada’s dice add a unique layer of complexity to this set-collection game, in that the numbers shown affect what you can play just as much as the colour.
See, Sagrada has you placing different-coloured dice in order to construct the most picturesque stained-glass window possible. However, matching numbers cannot be placed next to each other. Additionally, you’ll be working to specific blueprints which, if correctly formed, will significantly add to your overall score. On top of all this, you’ll be pulling dice from a collective pool, once again requiring you to have multiple strategies set up just in case a specific die you need is taken.
So, whereas Azul is more about pattern recognition, Sagrada is more about numerical wizardry, meaning that this list gives you multiple options if you’re looking for a great family board game that’s very approachable.
Buy Sagrada on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
A landback board game about telling stories by playing illustrated cards.
Dixit could easily get top-billing for the most relaxing card game in existence. It also happens to have a clear and attainable goal for players to work towards, making a perfect game for beginners.
In Dixit, players take turns being the storyteller and must regale the others with a short tale, which subsequently becomes the theme for that round. Using this theme as guidance, each person selects a card they think fits with the story, and plays it into a stack which will then be shuffled and laid out. All the players, except for the storyteller, then pick which card they think was played by said storyteller, with any correct guesses resulting in the scoring of points for both the person who played the card and the guesser (unless everyone guessed correctly).
Abstract but straightforward games like Dixit are fantastic for burgeoning tabletop gamers and people looking for a party board game, because whilst there is a win condition, they’re more about sharing each other’s perspectives and indulging in a healthy amount of yuks.
Buy Dixit on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Collect the right cards to score the lowest total in this quick card game.
No Thanks! is a classic twist on the old ‘person with the lowest score wins’ style of card game, where the players must choose to pick up a card or spend one of their precious chips (worth -1), with the ultimate aim of reducing the value of their cards.
“But how do you reduce your card values?” I hear you ask. See, by collecting a run of more than two cards, you can squeeze the value of your cards down to match the lowest in that run (e.g. all the cards in a run of 1/2/3/4, are worth just one). This means anticipating what cards may be coming next, and deciding what may be more beneficial to pick up or play. That nine cards are randomly removed from the game before the first round even begins adds yet another dimension to what is otherwise a decidedly simple game. Having cards taken out means accounting for the fact that the one card you need to complete a potential set, may not even be in the game, forcing players to juggle enough successful sets to balance out any unsuccessful ones.
No Thanks! is yet another example of a game that offers enough legroom for players to stretch out their mental limbs, without overwhelming beginners. It’s also a fantastic party board game to whip out on a relaxed evening with a few friends and some drinks.
Buy No Thanks! on Amazon UK/Amazon US.
Construct the bear park of your dreams in this accessible board game.
The publisher’s spiel for Bärenpark includes the term ‘world of bears’, but what does a ‘world of bears’ contain exactly? Well, if you guessed some sort of zoo stuffed to the brim with bears, then you would be correct (if you guessed some sort of urisda-en hellscape, then I’m sorry to disappoint you).
Designed by Phil Walker-Harding - the creator behind party board game series Sushi Go! - Barenpark has its players filling their boards with various bear-based attractions and amenities, such as panda enclosures and bear-themed burger stalls (bear-gurs?) Each of these elements will add value to your park, both by scoring you points and by reducing the amount of empty squares you have left at the game’s end. The more space you use, the more points you’ll score, so you’ll be looking to maximise on efficiency as well as base point scoring.
Bärenpark isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, which is often a big draw for newer tabletop gamers (and myself), it’s also a rules-light version of a lot of similar but heavier affairs (such as the Princes of Florence). Therefore proving the perfect gateway into the world of Eurogames.