Cardboard Children: The Last Temptation Of Cardboard

Hello youse.

When you want to initiate someone you like into the great hobby we call PLAYING BOARD GAMES AND DRINKING AND EATING AND TALKING you have to make some very special preparations. You get one shot at this, and one shot alone. It goes without saying that the first thing you do is make sure that Carcassonne is not involved in the process at any point, because this bland, unsexy game will kill your attempt immediately. Once you’re sure of avoiding that mistake, you can move onto my tips for seducing your friends and lovers with cardboard


This is fundamental. Sure, you might just want to choose your most attractive friends, but this is board gaming, not swinging. And yeah, it’s great to have beautiful faces at your table, but how are you going to feel when you make those pretty faces cry after you stab them in the back during Cosmic Encounter? You need to get the right people on board. So here is a checklist that will help you find the ideal new gaming buddies.

A GOOD SPORT – They must be a good sport. When you hang out with these people, are they good fun? Can they take a joke? Can they go with the flow and act a little bit silly? Then that’s a big tick on the checklist. You’re going to do horrible things to these people. You need to know that they can take it.

NO UMMERS AND AAHERS – Do not DO NOT ask an ummer or and aaher to be a board gaming buddy. You know those friends who take AGES to decide on stuff? “Where do you wanna go?” “UUUUUMMMMMM….” “What do you wanna drink?” “AAAAAHHHHHH LEMME THINK UUMMMMMMMMM…” These people kill even the best board games DEAD. These people barely deserve to live, to be honest. You should want to play games with people who have sharp minds and know what they like.

NO SMELLY PEOPLE – Now, I don’t have any friends who stink. But I’m thinking that some of you probably do. Don’t play board games with these people. You can maybe have a five minute chat with someone who never washes their balls or vagina, but you can’t spend three hours at a table with them, planning an allied conquest of a solar system. This might seem really cruel, but people who don’t wash their anus don’t deserve to enjoy a Bruno Cathala game. Here’s my blanket rule – never play a board game with someone you wouldn’t have sexual intercourse with. I’d play games with horses, dogs and pigs before I’d play with a person who stinks like a comic shop manager.

NO PSYCHOPATHS – I’m not joking. Psychopaths are known for not coping well with social interaction. If you must play with a psychopath, make sure you play something like Dominion, where you don’t interact with any other players and behave like an emotionless android.


Asking someone to play board games with you is as big a deal as asking them out on a date. I’m serious. There is a possibility they might laugh in your face, just like all those people you fell in love with did. And while you were never brought to justice for the killings that followed those humiliations, you’re older and slower now and might find it harder to cover your tracks. So make sure to get the approach right. I’ve gone to the trouble of writing a script for you to follow, like you work in a call centre or something. You cannot go wrong if you stay with the script.

YOU: Hi. Do you like to play games?

TARGET: What kind of games?

YOU: You know… fun games.

TARGET: What kind of fun?

YOU: You ever wanted to own a slave?

TARGET: Keep talking…

YOU: You ever wanted to utterly dominate someone?

TARGET: Maybe. What do you have in mind?

YOU: A few of us are having a little… get-together. Next weekend. You want to come along and shake some bones with us?

TARGET: Mmm. That sounds good.

YOU: I’ll see you then. By the way – I hope you don’t mind, but I sleeve all my junk. Just as a precaution.

TARGET: No, that’s cool. I totally get that.

YOU: Cool.

If you keep the right tone, and stick to that script, there’s no way your chosen target will not want to sit down and play board games about medieval agriculture with you.


Like I said, you have one shot at this. Just like serial womaniser Charlie Sheen’s old junkie penis, everything is riding on this. Make sure you have the right game on the table when that new person sits down with you. Here’s another checklist.

A GAME YOU KNOW – Make sure it’s a game you know, you dummy. The play experience should be smooth, and everything that happens in the game should be automatic to you. You need to to play host while you play the game. You need to have a glint in your eye and an answer to every question. If you even ONCE have to open the rule book, you might as well throw everyone out of your house like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places. “GET THE FUCK OUT!” Bare breasted girls too. “JUST GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!” It also needs to be a game that doesn’t make you lose your shit. If you flip the board in the air and roar with rage at any point, you risk losing your audience unless they are big Mel Gibson fans.

A GAME WITH INTERACTION – This is so vital. Make sure you play a game with a lot of social interaction. If you play one of those weird multiplayer solitaire things, you will look fucking weird and the new players will be creeped out by how weird it is. If you play something like Race for the Galaxy, and everyone is sitting in silence just doing their shit, those new players will feel exactly like the girl did at that dinner table near the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is WEIRD and the new players aren’t WEIRDOS yet, so you have to ease them in gently. You feel me?


More people need to play board games.

Those who don’t know anything about board games probably think playing board games is boring or weird.

A lot of board games ARE boring and weird.

You have to trick those people into playing your games (which aren’t boring or weird) with you (also not boring or weird) and you need to use every trick in the book to make it all happen.

Next week I’ll be profiling the new gamers I’ve brought on board. Why don’t you do the same? Let’s see if we can’t get a little movement going here. Follow my advice, spread the word, turn more people onto board games. Sound good?

Stay weird.


  1. paranoydandroyd says:

    I think I like “Stay weird” more than “Stay dicey.” And I couldn’t agree more about the “ummers” bit.

    • Ericston says:

      Let’s say a friend of mine is an ummer but I really want to play boardgames with him (even involved ones like Eclipse). How do I fix him?

      • MOKKA says:

        Play a few rounds of Space Alert?

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          WARNING: Playing Space Alert with an “Ummer” may result in murder most foul.

          • King in Winter says:

            Aha, that was the last clue I needed. It was Lord Custard, in the Lounge, with a Space Alert play piece.

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            That wasn’t murder.

            Space Corps Directive 117-2b: An engineer who totally fails to divert power to any systems because he’s too busy drinking and chatting up the crewmembers of the opposite sex is to be charged with dereliction of duty.

            As Captain, sentencing and execution fell to me.

        • Ericston says:

          Good tip, thanks! Space Alert is generally okay analysis-paralysis-wise, but it’s good practice and an excellent thematical opener to Eclipse at that! It should also be played regardless.

          Practice at the game and at playing fast is also suggested at Boardgames.SE (in addition to using a chess clock/hourglass to limit turns), see Countermeasures to “analysis paralysis”?

  2. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Alternatively, give people a chance to ‘get into’ boardgaming and watch them gradually realise what it’s all about. There’s nearly always a point with most people where it suddenly ‘clicks’ I find.

    One of my boardgame buddies used to be a right miserable sod at the table, and would have easily failed a checklist, but these days he’s my go-to guy. Go figure.

    • Toothball says:

      I saw the rest of one table click when I started them off with a game of Catan not too long ago. For the first half hour they were scratching heads and not engaging in too many trades. I kept throwing out trades when I didn’t need to just to give them an idea that they could ask for what they needed, and ask for more if the other player looked desperate enough. Then suddenly one turn everyone was checking their resources when the dice landed and getting all cagey over their trades. One player had even added the game to her Christmas list before it had even ended. Games like that are quite satisfying to behold.

  3. President Weasel says:

    Do you have some suggestions for gateway games? (Have you covered it before and I’ve forgotten?)
    I’d suggest the Spartacus game (it has cards, and a gladiator models mini game, and auctions, and screwing other people over) or Wilderness by Fryx games (nice and simple to understand, plus sometimes you get to play a card that gets another player eaten by wolves, and they’re still grumpy about it two board game nights later).

    Or you could go completely left field and make them play a game about queueing up in Poland under communism, which turns out to be great fun despite being ostensibly educational.
    link to
    Seriously, it’s magic.

    • Ericston says:

      Rab’s list of THREE PERFECT INTRODUCTORY GAMES can be found here: Cardboard Children: Of Parpellimonies…

    • Ubik2000 says:

      What I’ve noticed with my friends is that there is a difference between a group that wants to play board games and a group that just wants to hang out with each other. So you have to keep your audience in mind, as well as your overall objective – are you just looking to have some casual fun interaction while you’re drinking, or are you trying to breed your own private stock of nerds?

      For the former, it’ s actually super easy and it’s called Cards Against Humanity. It’s barely a game, but everyone loves it, and will play it endlessly if you give them half a chance. If you want to go a little deeper with a casual group, I have a group of non-boardgaming friends (I’m never going to break out Eclipse with this group) that LOVE Survive: Escape from Atlantis. Any game with a lot of yelling is a hit (in Survive: OH GOD THE SHARKS! OH THERE’S BLOOD EVERYWHERE!). I also had success with Resistance: Avalon a few weekends ago.

      You’ve always got Settlers of Catan, of course, but in my opinion you’re riding the ragged edge there – that’s a long ass game, and requires a certain level of mental commitment to see it through. I think Ticket to Ride may actually be a better Euro-game style choice if you’re trying to head in that direction – less to think about than with Catan.

      I’m at the point where I can have a game night with this group and even though generally they’re there to hang out more than anything else, they’re happy to play these games. I haven’t really figured out how to turn that sort of group into a group that will sit down with Eclipse or Mansions of Madness though. It helps to have some hardened nerds around for that sort of thing – I suspect inducting people one at a time, like some sinister ritual, would work best. Maybe try bringing one non-board gamer along to a game otherwise populated by hardened geeks (you just need to hope none of them do anything too horrifying). In my experience, if you’re the only board gamer there, even getting through something slightly more challenging, like Cosmic Encounter, can be a battle of wills, and you’re outnumbered.

      • cpugeek13 says:

        I think Catan is the perfect “first step” game for non-gamers. Its goals are pretty straightforward and obvious, it’s board is easy to read and understand, its scoring system is very simple, it has a decent amount of player interaction, and it has lots of dice-rolling (which experienced gamers hate, but new gamers often love). Almost everyone I teach Catan to loves it after a game or two, even my mom.

        Ticket to Ride is fun too, but the amount of player interaction is more limited (a 2-player game can be multiplayer solitaire depending on your routes).

        • Ubik2000 says:

          I definitely prefer Catan to Ticket to Ride (I agree about multi-player solitaire, which is a pet peeve of mine) – I actually quite like Catan. But I’ve had mixed luck introducing it to non-board gamers. Some people really take to it (mostly the negotiation and trading side of things) and end up loving it, while others have been defeated by either a slow start or the overall length of the game (“Can we stop at 7 points?”).

          But yeah, it shouldn’t be ignored.

          • cwoac says:

            Maybe I’m just biased against Catan (ok, I am); but I find Carcassonne a much better gateway game – with (mostly) new groups it devolves into everyone looking at the piece that’s been drawn, suggesting places, trying to steer the player into sub-optimal choices…

          • Ragnar says:

            Catan, however, has the possibility for someone to get completely locked out. In the last two games I played, a person convinced the group that I was a big threat, and so the robber was placed on me every time and everyone refused to trade with me. I sat there for half an hour literally unable to do anything. That’s not fun for anyone, and will straight up turn away a newbie.

      • jrodman says:

        As to introducing Gamey Mechanics, I prefer Cloud 9. It’s simple, it’s understandable, and it involves a bit of bluffing. It’s also very lightweight, ends in a maximum amount of time that is medium in length, and has opportunity for thrills and drama at a very light level that people can get into.

        The short version: someone rolls some dice. The *other* players ‘bet’ on whether the player has the cards to support the roll by staying in the point-scoring-mobile, or by jumping out and cashing in. That’s essentially the whole game.

      • Martel says:

        I might have to snag that Atlantis game.

        I like Ticket to Ride as an introductory game. It’s easy to play, easy to understand, and can still provide depth. Plus at least in every game of it I’ve played, there’s a lot of interaction with route blocking, etc. We’ve recently started a boardgaming night (had 3 so far) and we always mix in TTR.

    • Dare_Wreck says:

      While you’re probably just referring to games that serve as a gateway to getting into boardgames in general, I thought that I’d throw out that Forbidden Island is a great gateway to cooperative gaming, useful for those that already enjoy boardgames but not the nuance involved with a game where everyone wins or everyone loses. To someone who’s idea of board games is that there is always a single player who wins, a game like Arkham Horror will make their head spin. Forbidden Island is simple enough for someone to grasp right away, and it will ease them into cooperative gaming gently.

    • X_kot says:

      I’ve had good luck introducing family members to boardgaming via cooperative games such as the Knizia LoTR or Pandemic. Sure, the first few games involve me describing everything and making not-so-subtle suggestions as to what we should do, but they usually start figuring out the flow of things. And because the competitive element is removed, everyone is motivated to help each other.

    • Archonsod says:

      I generally find the best way is to go for something thematic rather than abstract, ideally something that the players are already familiar with and with fairly straightforward rules.

      Spartacus or City of Horror work quite well. As a bonus there’s plenty of player interaction, and the rules are simple enough that I find most groups begin enjoying themselves by the end of the first round.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Kolejka! Wonderful! I’m gonna have to get that.

    • Rindan says:

      Spartacus is an awesome first game. The mechanics are simple and varied. It has a lot of interaction. I basically never have to look up the rules. It shows people that mechanics can be awesome. It is also easy to manage the flow of the game (i.e. Throw the game or help someone who is losing ) without anyone knowing.

      Infiltration is also a great game. It has a nice theme, simple mechanics, and it is quick. It ramps the intensity as you get more comfortable with the mechanics.

    • AlKaPwn says:

      I’m going to disagree with everyone and say that the very best gateway game is Galaxy Trucker. The rules are incredibly simple and can be described as
      1. All tiles must connect to other tiles.
      2. don’t put blocks directly in front of laser guns or engines
      3. engines gotta point backwards.

      And after everyone knows what the different pieces do like cargo goes in cargo hold, astronauts go in cabins and batteries power double guns and double engines, that is all you need to know to get started and begin building a ship out of tiles. There are some more things after that, but they are added in gradually and nothing is ever overwhelming. Galaxy Trucker is amazing in that it can be a beer and pretzels game and a pretty hard core strategy game too. You can choose to just go on one haul making the game short, or choose to go on a campaign. And unlike negotiation games like spartacus, you won’t ever have sour grapes b/c the game is about doing your best to survive dice rolls, and if the dice screw you over, it is in a small part your fault, so you can’t be too upset because you are the one who decided to leave soooo many open connectors on the side of your ship for meteors to hit, or decided not to put any guns on it.

  4. Claidheamh says:

    I got a few friends into boardgames with Cosmic Encounter. I had never played it before, and there was quite a bit of rule-checking going on, and yet they all loved it. So I think the “GAME YOU KNOW” rule isn’t as important as one might think.

    • ChairmanYang says:

      Yeah, for me Cosmic Encounter has worked better as a gateway game than any other. It also has the side benefit of being my favourite game of all time and never getting old (unlike something like Catan).

  5. Tiax says:

    This article is plain bad advice.

    I just told a friend that I’d like he to play boardgames with me because I wouldn’t mind having sexual intercourse with him.

    It didn’t go well.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      You didn’t take the article’s advice. You’re supposed to exclude people that you wouldn’t have sex with, not automatically include those you would have sex with.

  6. sonofcaine says:

    Curiously enough I was for the last couple of days trying to come up with a way to introduce my gf to some light roleplaying game, something with simple rules and a ready, short adventure as a guide. I’ll definitely drink from this well again during my planning sessions.

  7. amateurviking says:

    I can attest to the ‘gateway’ potential of Fluxx (no board, one rule). I got drawn into a game at Christmas and through that, have discovered Munchkin and a load of other cool stuff. Also managed to entice my significant other into a few games, which was a lot of fun!

    • jrodman says:

      I certainly wouldn’t select Fluxx as a lure. Some enjoy it but many think “what is this pointless stupidity that you all waste your time on?”

      You could drive as many away as you attract.

      Of course as a winnowing device it might be excellent. But I’m not sure what it winnows for. I’m one of those who hates fluxx.

  8. TimEatsApples says:

    My brother-in-law’s a massive ummer in daily life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him make a decision. But get him at a table with a few dice and a handful of plastic and he’s the most decisive, vicious, backstabbing bastard of a player. In other words, the perfect boardgaming opponent.

  9. guygodbois00 says:

    Generally speaking, I have found that Talisman works wonders on uninitiated.

  10. Deano2099 says:

    It shouldn’t work, but I ended up getting a group together through Risk: Legacy. Posting an image of *that* packet on Facebook had a whole bunch of people suddenly hugely intrigued by what the hell this game was.

    Plus it’s easy to teach as it starts off basically being Risk, and only gets complicated later on.

    Lastly, it has a defined start and end point. Fifteen games. Not too many, not too few. Maybe just aim for one meet-up a month for about a year (some games will be quick, some will be a lot longer but we’re managing two a night).

    You’re selling them an experience, a five-player evolving thing to engage with over a year, rather than just the weird concept of a board gaming night. For some reason that works.

  11. cptgone says:

    “Here’s my blanket rule – never play a board game with someone you wouldn’t have sexual intercourse with. I’d play games with horses, dogs and pigs”
    …of both genders?

  12. Coccyx says:

    I got my circle of ‘normal’ friends into gaming back when I was 16 (that’s ah, last year actually). I promised them deception, shouting, intrigue, shouting, fun and shouting. After a few days of pestering I got several weary yeses. Then, I brought out the Resistance.

    It went down a treat. It took everyone around 15 minutes for them to get it, but once they did the room became hectic with accusations, insults, and laughter. And shouting.

    Since then, I’ve eased them into Cosmic Encounter, Libertalia, City of Horror, King of Tokoyo, Dixit – and even, just recently, the Game of Thrones board game. It’s possible, ladies and gentlemen – and definitely worth it.

    • Warduke says:

      That’s interesting. I’m having a bunch of guys (non-gamers) over this weekend and I was thinking of trying out Resistance on them too.. Fairly light, easy to learn and a lot of fun w/ the right group.

  13. Gnoupi says:

    I’m afraid that this particular script might get some people to agree for something which doesn’t have that much going with boardgames.

  14. RagingLion says:

    Dixit is a pretty great game to get people into. The game is just the cards … and what wondrous, fantastical cards they are – they have the side benefit of people just marvelling at their strangeness even if they’re struggling to win. Over Christmas, by the end of a game of Dixit there was a seldom board game player who was scheming just how quickly he could get a hold of a copy himself to introduce to his friends – and this is an older-middle-aged man.

    Also, apparently I deserve to die … look it’s just a close call as to what kind of quenching agent I want in my mouth right now. It’s a close call I’m telling you.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      A person would have to have a really horrible personality to dislike Dixit. Even my sister loves it and she vowed (in the old school way) never to play board games again after I played risk 2210 with her.

    • cwoac says:

      The problem with Dixit as a gateway game is it’s not really representative of most board games – it’s a lovely gate indeed, but it leads to the house down the road.

  15. Kefren says:

    Cool post, made me laugh as I read it.

  16. i saw dasein says:

    If you want to play board games with an Ummer, there’s a very easy answer: use a timer. Introduce it as part of the game. Most people are used to playing with time pressure in board games (games like Boggle, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and so on all have a time limit). Analysis paralysis is a problem that is pretty easy to remedy for most simple games. I also think time limits improve a lot of games dramatically: Scrabble is about 10 times more fun with a timer versus without.

    I also think Caracassone is a really good intro game. It has very simple rules that belie a lot of tactical depth. It has a lot in common with dominoes, and so there is an easy frame of reference.. I’ve introduced a number of people to board gaming through Carcassone and other euros, like Stone Age or the “family version” of Agricola. Stone Age and Agricola can actually be better intro games then more “interactive” games because they’re low conflict: I have a number of friends for whom conflict is an immediate turn-off in games.

    I think it safe to say you have to know your audience. The people I game with regularly are not into sci-fi or fantasy or “gamer stuff”, so they’d be really turned off by Cosmic Encouter or Space Alert (although Galaxy Truckers is a hit). Instead, starting a farm or running a plantation is a much more attractive theme.

    • njursten says:

      I’m one of those Ummers. Never tried using a timer, but there’s a chance that I’d just get annoyed/angry. It’s a bit of an OCD thing, but not getting to properly analyse a situation is quite annoying for me. I think I’d rather not want to play some games at all in that case.

  17. Severian says:

    Apropos, my wife and I just hosted a gaming night this past weekend with another non-gaming couple to try to bring them into the fold. If any of you are in a similar situation (a “couples” game), here are my suggestions (all games easy to explain with themes that won’t turn off non-gamers, and don’t bore me to tears, like Ticket to Ride):

    1. Fresco. I love this game, although I suspect Rab might think it boring. It never fails to impress and I think it’s a great mix of mechanics and theme.

    2. Modern Art. Fun, simple auction game – a little mathy, though.

    3. Downfall of Pompeii. Dump the villagers into the volcano!

    4. Survive, Escape from Atlantis. Tons of interaction and hilarity.

    5. King of Tokyo. But only if the nerdiness of it won’t turn them off.

  18. overgrownpath says:

    What’s wrong with Carcassonne? Shit’s amazing, I’ve played it with a lot of different people and they’ve all loved it. Maybe I’m just a dirty casual boardgamer.

    • Ericston says:

      Allow me to quote Rab:

      And you! Sit the fuck DOWN!

      You’re about to tell me that you love Carcassonne, aren’t you? Well, to you I say THIS, sir! You do NOT love Carcassonne! You do NOT love that game, sir! You love sitting with your loved ones and doing something at a table, sir! That is what you love! You love sitting with a glass of wine, with your family or friends around you, as you DO SOMETHING ON A TABLE. TOGETHER. That is all, sir! SIT DOWN!

      (I’ll need a key-macro for that url someday.)

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        phuzz says:

        It often comes out on the floor at our house, as a side game while the table is taken up by an epic Spartacus game or some such.

  19. Tomo says:

    This is a brilliant article.

    I have only become enlightened to the magic of boardgames in literally the past month. My girlfriend, my flatmate and I were fairly pro Monopoly players, but that was our limit.

    Then I went on holiday with my girlfriend to visit her cousin, who introduced us to Catan. One of the group of six even smelt slightly of stilton testicles, but we persevered and ended up playing 5 games of Catan in two evenings. I ordered Catan to arrive at my doorstep on the day I touched back down in the UK.

    Fast forward a month and I have the Catan 5- to 6-player expansion, my flatmate has Princes of Florence and last night we played our first Puerto Rico.

    Player profiles…

    Girlfriend – open-minded (matron!), clearly loves playing board games, but is having difficultly coming to terms with being a 20-something and spending evenings in trading corn and sheep rather than getting shit-faced in some club.

    Flatmate – hook-line-and-sinker, so long as I provide the boardgames, he is there.

    My little brother (also a flatmate) – watches telly on the sofa, not even going to the effort of judging us, just ignoring our existence.

    Me – I’m already eyeing up Pandemic and Risk Legacy as my next purchases…

  20. Tomo says:

    Oh, I probably fall under the Ummer category of player too. Seemingly I’ve slipped through the net based on the criteria here.

    Look, I have no fucking clue how badly my own decisions are about to shaft me, give me a sec to mull it over. Then I might represent some vague challenge to you experienced players. If you don’t, you’ll kick my arse for reasons unbeknownst to me and them I’m going to be a sad panda.

  21. Ash says:

    I am really struggling to get my girlfriend playing board games. I’ve had 1 or 2 minor successes recently with some games intentionally purchased for this purpose, but it’s still not going well.

    I’ve started a series of blog articles to keep a track of my progress so far.
    link to