One of the best things about board games is the wide range of styles and complexity levels. There are games that are easy to learn and play, and heavy games loaded with challenge. And they’re all awesome!
Sometimes heavy games like Scythe or Terraforming Mars get a lot of buzz and piques the curiosity of new players. However, heavy games can be overwhelming for players without a lot of experience in the hobby. The good news is, playing light board games makes learning heavy board games easier! Here are six games that help level up your board game experience!
Level One – Learning New Rules
The first step in learning new games, of course, is learning new sets of rules. Being comfortable with going from confusion to clarity is a big part of the board game hobby. To help practice this, try learning a variety of small, simple games. We recommend games such as Zombie Dice, which is very quick to learn and very quick to play, with simple but entertaining strategy. Other short-but-sweet games to practice learning rules are Dungeon Mayhem and Love Letter.
Level Two – Basic Strategy
The next thing to practice is some light strategy. The best games to play at this level require a small amount of thought and planning, both in the short-term and long-term. However, lines of play are pretty clear and easy to pick out. Our recommended game for this is Carcassonne, which can be played casually while chatting or watching TV, but can also be played with more serious thought as well. Additional games to play at this level are Sushi Go! and Ticket To Ride.
Level Three – Short and Long-term Planning
Some of the most interesting strategy games will have players choose between immediate benefits versus late-game bonuses. Century: Spice Road is a great example of this. Players often have to choose between a quick suffusion of resources that help earn victory points, or picking up the optimal card to enhance future gains. The money-now-versus-money-later decision appears in games of many categories, and light strategy games like Century, Azul, and Space Base highlight these kinds of decisions for easy practice.
Level Four – Analysis & Valuation
One of the most important parts of strategic thought is assigning values to various options. This goes hand-in-hand with the extensive use of victory point systems in board games. A useful basic technique of winning board games is calculating how many victory points a specific move can provide. Worker-placement games like Lords of Waterdeep are great for practicing valuation techniques. Every move either earns victory points or builds toward a scoring opportunity, and having a very limited number of moves makes each move matter. Bunny Kingdom is a light-to-mid-weight drafting game that asks players to make similar decisions for the cards they draft. Queendomino uses a market mechanic that encourages players to pounce on desirable pieces when they have the opportunity.
Level Five – Multiple Paths to Victory
Now we’re getting into the big leagues. One of the qualities that heavy strategy board game fans look for is the depth and complexity to pursue a variety of strategies to achieve victory. Games that do this allow players to explore a broad strategic environment, they allow players to express themselves in their choices, or even demand players pivot strategies based on their opponents’ choices.
Scythe is a fitting example of this. Winning a game of Scythe entails getting coins from a variety of sources – a design that goes by the tongue-in-cheek name of “point salad.” Doing a little bit of everything in the game is an excellent way to succeed, as well as leveraging the unique powers that each player has. Other games that reward players for juggling multiple strategies are the new classic Terraforming Mars, and an update of an older favorite Agricola that now goes by the name Caverna.
Level Six – World Class Heavyweight Games
Most heavy board game fans are content to play games like those mentioned in Level Five. They hit a sweet spot that provides a lot of depth and complexity, but aren’t wildly expensive or take up a lot of time. However, for players that want to go that extra mile, there exist even more games. One designer, Vidal Lacerda, is known for making intensely complex games like Lisboa, Kanban, and the new On Mars, are like four medium-weight games tied together by a fifth game. Twilight Imperium is famous for being a very thematic complex long-form game, an epic space opera that plays in about 4 to 8 hours. The Dutch publisher Splotter Spellen makes wonderful games like Food Chain Magnate and Bus that don’t have overly complex rules, but end up having a lot of depth that makes them quite challenging to master.
Levelling Up Your Strategy
With enough patience and practice, anyone can achieve strategic mastery over hobby games. Using this guide to ease into heavier and heavier styles of games will make it easy to grow without getting overwhelmed. That said, there’s no shame in choosing a level and sticking with it, even if it’s light, casual games. In the end, games are about having fun, and everyone is free to choose what kinds of fun they enjoy. Find what you love and stick to it!