New Year’s Eve 2007, Memphis TN – Visiting my big brother for the holiday, he dragged me to his friend’s New Year’s Eve party. I knew my brother, his friend, and that friend’s wife and that’s it. The other 20 people there were complete strangers and, apparently, gamers. After a solid hour of awkwardly mixing and mingling (a.k.a. standing as close to the food as possible so I looked engaged with the party, but not actually talking to anyone), I was relieved when I was invited to play a board game. After all, my family loved ScrabbleLife and Monopoly. And playing a board game would be a comfortable way to mingle without actually having to talk to people. So I sat down to my first game of The Settlers of Catan.

I hated it. I had never before in my life hated a game more than I hated that first game of Catan. Knowing nothing more than Hasbro and Milton Bradly, Catan overwhelmed me with it’s complexity, rules and length. My goodness, that game lasted forever. And I was unprepared. It would be another four years before I agreed to sit down and play Catan again.

In 2011, I won my first game of Catan and now I rock at it. (Although I still think it takes too long and that’s why in my house we play without the robber.) Obviously I am now into hobby games and I am now the friend who is introducing my Monopoly-playing peeps to Catan. But looking back at that first night, I think we gamers can learn some lessons.


Coming from a family that enjoyed board games, but only on the scale of LIFE, it was unjust to throw me into Catan without help. I felt like I was drowning in sheep and brick and then all of a sudden someone moved the robber and told me I couldn’t collect ore – the only thing I wanted. Actually, that’s still how Catan feels, I just enjoy it more. I think it boils down to this:


My family loved playing games. It was a social thing I was comfortable with and enjoyed. My expectation when sitting down to that game was that I would have fun. But, sitting down with little explanation and poorly taught rules, my night quickly derailed. It wasn’t long before I felt stupid, inept and was having no fun.

When introducing new people to hobby games, we must be very careful to read the room ad ensure they enjoy themselves. It may be the longest game of 7 Wonders you’ll ever play, but letting them ask questions, looking over their shoulder to, once again, tell them how much it costs to build that Altar, will pay off.


… or Life, or PayDay or any other “lame,” “basic,” “poorly designed” mainstream game. Games like Ticket to Ride are toted as being “gateway games.” And they are. But the original gateway game is Monopoly. Even if you hate Monopoly as a game, and plenty of people do (just check out the Facebook thread and the heat this article generated there) you have to acknowledge that any time board games, tabletop gaming or game night appears in the media, Monopoly is the poster child. Such as this image that fronted the report from NBC Nightly News titled, “Board Game Renaissance in Full Swing.”

In the USA, if you say, “board games,” people think, “Monopoly.” When we first met our friends Emma and Jesse and told them we design board games, they said, “Oh! We love board games! Have you ever heard of Monopoly Deal?” And so we played Monopoly Deal with them. Now their horizons are expanded and they’ll play anything we suggest. They’re even some of our best play-testers for our new designs. But they started playing Monopoly.

I think we gamers and game designers can jump too quickly to scoffing at mainstream games. But we owe a lot to them.Monopoly really is a bridge from the world of no games to the world of hobby games. If we are to grow our industry, we must be willing to sit down with people who love Monopoly and enjoy a game of Monopoly with them. When we start where they are comfortable and show them we can have fun on their turf, they will be more likely to try our “gateway games” and enter into the world of clever design and cool mechanics.

My experience may have been better if the hosts of that New Year’s party had read Christina Major’s FATFROG post about introducing your friends and family to games, or Chris Strain’s article about Teaching a Game, or Mike Domeny’s How to Craft the Perfect Game Night. But, alas, the League was not yet born, and so these gems of thought were not yet uncovered and my night sucked. If you have non-gaming friends and family though, you have no excuse and should read those articles. The League is with you now! So your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is: Go find a way to enjoy Monopoly with people who enjoy Monopoly.