Walking into a comic or gaming store for the first time can be overwhelming. There are shelves and end caps overflowing with flashy artwork, hoping to catch your attention. There are card games, board games, racks and displays of miniatures, and voluminous tomes for roleplaying games.
How do you navigate the cardboard jungle and come out a winner?
Many times, the employees of the store can be a great help, offering their favorites or guiding you to the “Top Sellers” or “As seen on _____” section. You can check out popular gaming websites and databases for reviews of those games and watch videos of other people playing them. These can certainly help get a feel for the gameplay and the general fun factor, but I think first and foremost we need to find out…
What is YOUR type of game?
One of the most helpful ways I’ve found to discover new games is to get in touch with local gaming groups or free play/open game nights at your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). At these events, there is usually some combination of the organizer and participants bringing games they’d like to play (or for the organizer, games available for others to check out). As you can imagine, most often, at least one person who knows the game will ask to join and they help out with the rules and guide new players through.
These events are, in my experience, full of friendly, helpful people. I’ve never had a bad experience at one of these types of functions and have walked away with an ever-increasing list of games I simply have to have. Another major perk to these meet-ups is that for a very small investment (if any) I can get a better idea of, not only specific games I like, but for the types of games that resonate best with my play-style and personality.
Personally, I tend to gravitate toward card-based games (given a VERY long history with Magic: the Gathering) as well as co-op games. The former was many years in the making, having played M:tG since ’94 and still, 20 years later, a few buddies and I will get together on occasion to open a box of boosters or break out those tried and true decks to duel.
The co-op style gaming didn’t come until much more recently when I realized that, although we had a lot of fun playing card-based games like Smash Up or PC games like Heroes of Might & Magic, my husband and I never much cared for the end-game scenarios when we had to duke it out. From that point on, unless we’re playing a party game with a bunch of friends, we always have the most fun playing side by side instead of across the table.
Thankfully, we discovered the fully cooperative amazing awesomeness of Sentinels of the Multiverse, the frustrating, but satisfying death-by-game that is a standard Pandemic gaming session, and more recent semi co-op style games like the hilarious hit Heroes Wanted. Although we rarely sit down to play board games together, having games that he and I can enjoy together has opened a door that once was very difficult to budge.
I also find that, because I don’t have as many multiplayer sessions as I’d like around my house, I have started to look at more versatile games that can be played solo as well as co-op, and/or competitively. Games like Incredible Expeditions, Machina Arcana, Ascension, and the afore mentioned Heroes Wanted allow me to set up the kitchen table and enjoy a full gaming experience whether or not anyone else interested or able to join in.
So far, we’ve really only touched on the 3 basic styles of gameplay (by that I mean: Competitive, Cooperative, and Solo). When talking with other gamers about their favorite types of games to play, often I hear terms like “Deckbuilding”, “Worker Placement”, “Euro games” and such. These mechanics and descriptors are great to help narrow things down, but I truly believe that you have to find games that fit your lifestyle in order to be able to enjoy them. You can have the best game for 3-5 players available, but if you never have that kind of group to play with, it won’t really do you much good. Likewise, if you have a partner or roommates who love to play, get that party game or multiplayer game and have fun!