Gaming with Non-Gamers

Dixit Card Set

“Oh, she’s not interested in playing games.”

I was arranging to play games with a couple of friends (let’s call them Frank and Sarah) outside my usual sphere of gamer friends and I had suggested that we could invite one of their friends (Gill, say) who they had introduced me to earlier that day.

My wife and I had introduced Frank and Sarah to the likes of Settlers of Catan, Dominion and even Puerto Rico over the previous two years and you could see that they were thoroughly engaged by these light/medium-weight strategy games.  Sarah in particular.  I would explain the rules to a new game and you could see her mind starting to plan her strategy before we’d even started playing.

We probably met up with Frank and Sarah 2-3 times a year and would usually end up playing a game of some sort.  They obviously saw me as their gamer friend.  They would occasionally play lighter games like Carcassonne (which they proudly informed me they had purchased themselves) with their other friends and family, but the heavier games were reserved for when the Hicks’s came round.

Sarah would have been up for Twister, but Frank definitely wouldn’t!

I suggested playing these kind of strategy games with them originally because of the kind of people they were.  They weren’t going to be interested in Munchkin, Twilight Imperium or Twister.  Well, Sarah would have been up for Twister, but Frank definitely wouldn’t!

Based on their experience of the kind of games I had introduced them to, they had a clear idea in their head of what boardgames were in general and what kind of person plays boardgames.  So when I suggested that we invite their friend Gill to play games with us, they were quick to point out that she wouldn’t be interested.

Now had we sat down with Gill and attempted to play Puerto Rico, I’m sure it would have been a disaster.  Many people have virtually no experience with boardgames and you definitely need to work up to something like that!

Light games teach basic game mechanics (set collection, resource management, trading, etc.) that are often combined in heavier games to create an interconnected system.  Like learning to ride a bike, it’s very hard to absorb multiple new concepts at once.  Usually, people need stabilisers at first.

So sometimes it’s about starting with something very simple.  Sushi Go!, for example.  However, some people don’t want to spend time strategising.  It’s not about building up to it – they just don’t want to do it.

This was very much what Frank and Sarah were thinking when they imagined Gill playing boardgames.  To them, boardgames = strategy.  Therefore, not something Gill would want to do.

“I reckon I can find a game that she would enjoy.”

However, I said to them, “I reckon I can find a game that she would enjoy.”

They looked at me suspiciously.

I rallied, “There’s enough of a variety of games that, given anyone, I think I can find an appropriate game.”

Even ten years ago, I don’t think I could have made that claim, but game design has innovated so much in recent years.  There really is something for everyone!

Do you know someone who likes socialising, but doesn’t like strategising?  Here are a few suggestions of excellent games that might fit the bill:

A bluffing game where everyone has a secret role and you’re trying to work out which of you are the werewolves.  Deception and deduction in 5 minutes or less!

A game of subtle communication.  The game comes with a set of picture cards with gorgeous artwork and you have to give a clue to your card that some people will get, but not everyone.  For creative thinkers.

A card game that’s as simple as snap (but a lot more fun!).  Each card has a symbol on it and a category (eg. colours/animals/biscuits).  Players keep turning over cards forming several piles around the table and when a pair of symbols match, you have a say something from the other player’s category before they say something from yours.  Guaranteed to leave you tongue-tied!

A cross between Pictionary and Chinese Whispers.  You’re trying to pass a message on by drawing it.  You don’t need to be good at drawing though – in fact, being bad at drawing makes the game much more fun!

Do you have any suggestions of games that would be accessible to a wide variety of people?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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