Written by Matt McCloud
Lexicon was a true gamer’s convention with literally tons of games to be played and hundreds of players to play with. They had board games, card games, miniature games, war games, live-action roleplaying games, and even virtual computer games. So much energy was spent making it a great gaming convention, while the extraneous “stuff” found at other conventionss is largely put to the side. There were no panels, cosplay, or much else to distract a hardcore gamer at Lexicon.
It was easy to locate the two main rooms where Lexicon’s games were being played: the open gameplay room with seating for at least 300 and a smaller room holding about 200 people for scheduled demo play. Kerry Breitenstein, of Twilight Creations, was in the demo room with a bright and cheerful face. Kerry was testing out a new carrying case for her game, Zombies, and demonstrating its many fun and creepy expansions.
She also demonstrated other games, including Jupiter Rescue in which players are robots trying to save humans on a quickly disintegrating space station before the humans all transform into “Creeps”. I thought it was an entertaining game for just two players, but may be biased as I had the best teacher: the game’s creator.
As the day went on, it quickly became standing room only in both rooms as hundreds of avid gamers came to play some of their favorite games including Kingsburg, Catan, Carcassonne, Last Night on Earth, and more. There was an enormous gaming library for free use of the most popular games including many a bingo online game around but being stuck in the corner made it a long and tedious process to check out games, especially as the crowd grew. The Dealer’s area was also stuck in the corner. It was pretty bare bones, with offerings of games from the local game stores and a few t-shirt and knick-knack dealers.
Out of the hundreds of tables full with gamers – and yes they were all full – there was a mere smattering of 10 or so RPG games run by a few game masters. Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and Dungeons & Dragons joined a few local developers bringing out their products for a test run. One local developer, Joe Meade of Mystic Forces, guided players through a few preset adventures of his making. Joe said he loved seeing all the players at the convention.
“It looked a little more board game and card heavy than RPGs,” he said. “So, I was a little more limited in the market but I was having a good time.”
He mentioned that the Lexicon people are super nice and very friendly. He said they make you feel at home here. On that, I wholeheartedly agree.
At another table, I met former Lexicon vendors Chris Chancellor, Kitty Faulhaber, and Cassandra Florence playing Kingsburg. In the course of conversation, I discovered they’d been to all three Lexicons and enjoyed coming this time strictly as gamers.
“So far, we enjoy just being here to play the games,” said Kitty. “Everyone here tends to be pretty cool. You walk up and it’s like ‘hey, what are you playing? Can I just sit here and watch for a little while?’ And usually people are totally cool with that.”
Chris said he liked seeing everyone here and how the convention has grown.
“Even (Friday) it was already packed!” he said.
Kitty said that the people in charge at the Lexicon made a good decision in a smaller venue. She said it is really helping them grow slowly and really let the people who wanted to be here to be here.
LexiCon is a great local gaming convention that knows how to pack them in. Overall, LexiCon does one thing extremely well: board games. Whether they’ll choose to expand other formats, like tabletop RPGs, is still uncertain.
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10 Tabletop Games for Beginners
Are you tired of playing Cards Against Humanity? Do you wish you could get your non-gamer friends to play more board games with you? Are you new to the hobby and looking for a good starting point for your collection? Don’t worry. I have a semi-redundant, highly opinionated top-ten list for you: 10 Tabletop Games for Beginners!
I do have a few disclaimers:
First, if you don’t own Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne, start there. These three games are often considered the pillars of hobby gaming and are a good starting point for most new players. Do you want to learn how to play slots games? discover more.
Second, this list is in no way definitive. I have not played every game out there and there may be some undiscovered treasures I don’t mention. If you know of any games that you think should be on this list, please mention them in the comments.
Third, while this is a top ten list, these game are not ranked in any particular order, just remember that my favorite one is still Hausbautipps. They are my personal favorite games to teach people, and I tried to encompass as many different play mechanics and game types as possible.
King of Tokyo takes the very familiar dice mechanic of Yahtzee and combines it with a Godzilla movie. Players choose a Kaiju-style monster and fight it out in this attractive, well produced game by iEllo. I like teaching this game because many people already understand the concept of locking dice on multiple dice rolls. Even if players have no previous knowledge of this mechanic, its simplicity makes for fairly common-sense play. Put this simple mechanic together with well drawn cartoon monsters and a bright colorful board, and you have a game people want to come back and play time and time again. Plus, who doesn’t love chucking big, chunky dice?
Advanced Choice: King of New York
Alternate Choices: Age of War, Zombie Dice
Both of these games are very similar in design and playability. I prefer to teach Forbidden Desert mainly because it is the game I have in my personal collection. In both of these games, players work cooperatively to accomplish a goal while the conditions of the board begin to degrade, either by the island sinking or the sandstorm picking up. These games are great for beginners for several reasons. First, there is no player elimination. If someone dies everyone loses. Second, it introduces new players to cooperative play, resource management, and special roles. Third, it is inexpensive but a lot of game for the money.
Alternate Choice: Pandemic
Sushi Go! is a cute, little card game, great for beginners and gamers of all ages. It is simple, easy to pick up, and well produced. It introduces players to card drafting, which is a mechanic used in a myriad of other titles. This game is almost too simple for non-gamers, though many people play it just because the theme and artwork are so attractive. It is also inexpensive and can fit in your pocket for gaming on the go.
Advanced Choice: 7 Wonders
This is an interesting choice for this list. Lords of Waterdeep has a Dungeons & Dragons theme, which can be divisive, especially among non-gamers. It’s more complex than a lot of the other entries and has one of the longer play times on this list. However, I keep going back to this game to introduce people to deeper, euro-style games, and I find that it’s one of the more accessible games to introduce players to the worker placement mechanic. The base game is strategically very tight and scales well with any number of players. If you are worried about the theme, I played this with my sister several times before she exclaimed, “Wait! Did you guys trick me into playing D&D?” It is still one of her favorite games.
Advanced Choice: Raiders of the North Sea
Alternate Choice: Alien Frontiers
People are just drawn to this game. Trust me. Tokaido features gorgeous art and the game just stands out on table. Also, the theme is fun and different. Players become travelers on the ancient road between Tokyo and Kyoto. They’re tasked with having the best vacation. To accomplish this, they stop at hot springs, paint murals, buy souvenirs, and eat the finest food. In addition to the wonderful production value and great theme, the gameplay itself is innovative and fun. The player who is in last place gets to go first every turn, rewarding the players who lag behind and stop at the most attractions. Strategy is surprisingly tight and most games are won by a narrow margin. Players will often block your moves if you are in the lead or getting close to a large scoring play.
If Forbidden Desert or Pandemic brings friends together, The Resistance tears them apart (in a good way). This game is one of the simplest of the hidden role / traitor genre and lacks the player elimination elements of games like BANG!, Ca$h ‘n Gun$, and Werewolf. Players are randomly dealt a card that pegs them as a loyalist or a traitor. The traitors are then revealed to each other but the loyalists only know their own role for sure. Then, the current leader, which rotates around the table, must choose themselves or other players to go on a mission. Traitors are trying to fail the mission without revealing who they are, and loyalists are trying to root out the spies.
This game is an excellent ice-breaker. I have literally lost my voice convincing people I am loyal and have looked other players dead in the eye and lied to them about being a spy. It is quick, fun, inexpensive, and a great alternative to other party games.
Advanced Choice: Avalon or Resistance + Expansions
Alternate Choice: Good Cop, Bad Cop
This addition to the 10 Tabletop Games for Beginners is kind of a cheat. Dominion is kind of a pillar game in the same vein as the others previously mentioned. Also, I like almost every other deck-building game I have played better than Dominion. However, Dominion has some qualities that set it apart and make it more accessible for new players. I have found that deck-building games are some of the hardest games to teach. This is not because the mechanics are difficult, but rather because games tend to stall as new players have to read every new card that hits the board and assess its value. Often this leads to a lot of neck craning, table bumping, beer spilling, and general discomfort. Dominion has simple iconography, and all of the cards are revealed at the beginning of the game allowing new players to read the cards during setup or while someone explains the rules. These reasons alone make it as my top pick for deck-building newbies.
Advanced Choice: The DC Deck Building Game
The second “party” game on my list is Codenames. This team game is great for new players because it allows them to play a few rounds without feeling pressured to make decisions they don’t quite yet understand. That being said, it is quick to teach, and veterans can assume the integral role of team captain in order to show newbies how the game is played. Alternatively you can check out Board Game Card Sleeves to ensure that you have a platform to showcase your game. However, it won’t be long before the new person wants to sit in the hot seat. Okay. I get it. It is very “cult of the new”, but Codenames has been a runaway hit since it came out in 2015. Copies were scarce until the recent reprint. At $20 MSRP, it is a steal and nothing is more fun than feeding the opposite team false clues. Play this, not Cards Against Humanity.
Alternate Choice: Telestrations
Splendor is an abstract game with a pasted-on theme about mining gems and selling them to nobles. The theme isn’t important; it is a quick playing, high strategy, tableau-builder with high quality components and a tight, competitive feel. Splendor is also easy to teach because players can only perform one action on their turn, much like Ticket to Ride. This is the type of game you would introduce to people that enjoy things like Chess, Checkers, or Go. Players must think ahead, reserve tiles, and build an efficient economy engine.
Advanced Choice: Viceroy
Alternate Choices: Machi Koro or The Duke
Mysterium is a cooperative game where one player plays a ghost, and the rest of the players play psychics trying to commune with the ghost to uncover the details of a murder. New players will quickly pick up on the Clue-esque elements of the game as they try to determine who the murderer is, where the murder happened, and with which murder weapon. However, the game uses Dixit-style cards as the method of communication between the ghost and the psychics. These cards are as beautiful as they are vague and deceiving. Sometimes players get in sync and run the table and other times players pull their hair out trying to understand the clues. Again, stellar production values and elegantly simple rules make this a hit with new players.
Alternate Choice: Dixit
Coup is a great bluffing game with simple rules. It is usually a hit with new players and simulates a poker-style experience. I would recommend it to people who are comfortable bluffing, enjoy poker, and don’t mind a little “take that” in their games.
Love Letter is also a simple card game that is a hit with new players. This just barely missed my list; mainly, because often the theme feels hard to sell to new players. However, it is a great game that should be in everyone’s library and is only $10. I gave away 15 copies of this game for the Valentine’s Day edition of our board game group, which shows you how much I enjoy this one.
Wanna play these games?
All of these tabletop games for beginners should be a hit with your gaming group, whether it’s filled with new players or veterans. I recommend buying these games from your friendly, local game shop. Nerd Louisville has a full list of game shops in Louisville (and surrounding areas), if you need advice.
There’s also a number of weekly and monthly meetup groups around Louisville where you can find someone to teach you these games or if you’re just looking for more friends to play with. I run a board game night at Kaiju every Monday from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Nerd Louisville‘s mission is to bring together local nerds, empower them to share their passion, and foster community. We hope to have more articles like this in the future. Have an idea for an article? Reach out to us. Also, please consider donating to our cause using the button below.
Episode 8 – Game Camp at Cabbage Patch Settlement House
In this episode, we talk with CJ & Matt who are running the upcoming Game Camp at the Cabbage Patch Settlement House. The Game Camp will run from April 4th to 9th and feature a wide variety of activities that involve learning, playing, and even designing a game.
The Cabbage Patch is a local, non-profit, religious organization that focuses on helping at-risk children with extracurricular activity and educational resources. The Game Camp is in its infancy, but is growing out of a Wednesday “Patch Con” that CJ runs regularly at the Cabbage Patch. The Cabbage Patch believes games are great educational tools.
- CJ Duffet, education specialist
- Matt Spalding, youth & recreation development coordinator
- Overview of the Cabbage Patch in Louisville KY
- In 100 year history of Cabbage Patch, first Game Camp
- Discussion of “Patch Con”, the precursor to Game Camp, where kids have learned to play games
- Games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, etc. being excellent educational tools
- The age range of kids at the Cabbage Patch
- CJ & Matt’s background in tabletop gaming, roleplaying games, and collectible card games
- The Firefly system and playing in that game as a captain (not Malcom Reynolds)
- Matt begins roleplaying when he’s four years old, 1st Edition AD&D, Gygax, vampire mind control
- The genesis of Game Camp, bamboo bo staffs
- Parental interaction with the cost of games and donations from local game stores
- Jack Chick, the evil of games, demons, magic, and leading kids astray within a religious-based non-profit
- Local game designers and industry professionals who are coming to Game Camp, including Jeff Dehut of Pocket Dungeon Quest fame
- Designing and developing a game with the kids
- Foe Hunters and Slur Your Role
- Mouse Guard, Burning Wheel, Redwall, Grimm RPG
- Dave Mattingly, Muppets, and volunteers who may want to participate in the game camp
- Field trip to game stores (Heroes Comics & Gaming or Through the Decades)
- Inspiration from a literary camp run at Cabbage Patch
- More on volunteering and aiding in the Game Camp, especially game designers
- A trip to ConGlomeration with the kids and open gaming
- Fluxx card game (“A game that you just follow the rules,” said Matt)
- More on games as educational tools, gamification, brushing teeth
- CJ reflects on getting destroyed in a Yu-gi-oh tournament by a six year old at Something 2 Do
- Plans for an expanded Summer Camp
- Find Cabbage Patch at www.cabbagepatch.org and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cabbagepatchsettlementhouse/
- Mike Pfaff
- Matt McCloud