So... do you have anything like Monopoly?

Not all board games are friendly and approachable to beginners. And not all games are worth the time they take to learn and play.

My husband and I bought a game this year (that shall not be named) that:

  • STRIKE 1: took two hours for us to set up (we couldn't do it with the rule book, so we watched a video)
  • STRIKE 2: was practically incomprehensible - we couldn't figure out how to play once we did get it set up
  • STRIKE 3: came down to random rolls of the dice and was nearly impossible to win (we learned this online, after we gave up on the game)

That’s three strikes in my book - that game is OUT. I can imagine that this would be a huge turn off for anyone who spent $50+ on a game hoping for a fun adult game night. As we talked to friends and family about our vision for Board's Edge Games, it's a really common issue. My co-founder Lisa and her husband had the exact same problem, with a different game. So when we built Board's Edge Games, this is one of the problems we wanted to solve. How?

First, our Board’s Edge Games team carefully picks the games we carry on our site. You'll notice that we have fewer games than the Target aisle, and certainly fewer games than Amazon. There's a reason for that: Lisa and Anna look for games that are well designed, interesting to play, and that can be played and enjoyed by casual gamers. There are plenty of sites out there that sell games to experts and board game hobbyists. We wanted a site that sold it to people like us, who weren’t quite ready to devote hours and hours to learning a game, and didn't know the difference between a deck builder and an engine builder. Game experts welcome of course (our Advanced section is for you), but we want most of our games to be approachable. So with that in mind, here's two things to pay attention to in our game descriptions:

#1: Simplicity/Complexity Rating

Ace of hearts playing card
3 of Hearts playing card Playing card 2 of hearts
  • Each of our game descriptions carry this card meter to tell you how simple (or how complex) it is. How much of a learning curve is there?
  • Ace of hearts Level 1 is for games that are easy to play, easy to learn, and fun. You should be able to set these games up quickly and be ready to play after a quick read of the rules. My favorite games are those I can learn while I play, and Level 1 games generally allow for this (including Wingspan, which has a built-in tutorial called the Swift Start pack. Cool!). Level 1 games also tend not to have a lot of different actions to learn, or a lot of rules to trip you up as you play.
  • 2 of hearts Level 2 is for games that present a challenge to a casual gamer, but not an insurmountable one. These games might have some moves you haven't seen before, or they might have have a chain of actions you can take on any turn (which means you might have to refer to the rule book more often while you play). Dominion, our favorite deck building game, is a good example of this type of game. It takes a round or two to get the hang of how to build your deck and play the cards in your hand, but once you do, this game moves very quickly and you rarely have to check the rules.
  • 3 of hearts Level 3 games aren’t necessarily for board game experts only, but they do have a steeper learning curve (like unusual play style, or complicated rules and exceptions) and need you to spend more time up front to learn them. A lot more time. Spirit Island is a good example of a Level 3 game that we think is worth the time. Just like that infamous three-strike game, it took us a while to set up (probably 30 minutes, though, not 2 hours), and we watched a video to help us get set up and play through a couple rounds. We reference the rule book a LOT, and the game is hard to win. But, we think that the extra complexity adds a lot of depth and replayability to the game. It requires a commitment, but it rewards you for that commitment. Root is another example of a Level 3 game that we just love. 

#2: Clock Icon Play Time

  • It’s unfair to think of never-ending play time as fancy hobby board game problem, since I can remember some games of Monopoly that dragged on for hours (I hadn’t yet learned the winning strategy of locking down the key orange/red corner). But I think it is fair to say that big game publishers of yore optimized for play time, and with those handcuffs off as the market has expanded, some of the new board games take much longer to play than “normal.”
  • How long is "normal," you ask? We'd say about an hour, but we carry plenty of card games that take 10-20 minutes like Fox in the Forest Duet. And we do carry a couple of games that take 2+ hours (like Spirit Island), which you can generally find in our advanced collection.

About the Author

Annie is one of the founders of Board's Edge Games, and she loves writing about board games. You can learn more about Annie and co-founder Lisa here, follow us on Instagram, check us out on BoardGameGeek (BGG), or see what we’re backing on Kickstarter.

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