The Settlers of Catan
The original best-selling Euro game is still among the best “gateway” games available—titles you can play with non-gaming friends as a way of introducing them to the hobby. Catan is set on a pristine island that you have to criss-cross with your roads and settlements and cities, generating resources and wealth along the way. Think of it as a board-game version of the video game Age of Empires. The game is brilliant in the deft way it’s balanced—players never feel like they’re not making progress. Inter-player trading of resources gives the game a raucous, chaotic feel, and it gets very tense in the final stages. Highly recommended, both as your first taste of a Euro, and a permanent addition to your game library.
3-4 players, 60 minutes per game, www.catan.com
It is a deceptively simple tile-laying game, where the players procedurally generate the game board as they go along. The game consists of placing individual tiles like jigsaw puzzle pieces to make a map of roads, cities, farms and churches. On these fixtures, players claim areas by placing small people-shaped wooden pieces (called “Meeple”, who have gone on to become an endearing fixture of most Euro games). Each game produces a different map, giving the game extended longevity. The game takes 20-30 minutes, making it a nice “filler” title between more complex games.
2-5 players, 30 minutes per game, www.riograndegames.com
Ticket to Ride
The game involves building trains across Europe. Players build routes between cities, placing colourful little locomotives on the board and trying to get the longest continuous route across the map. Ticket to Ride is a very popular Euro game, and often cited along with The Settlers of Catan as the perfect gateway game for non-gamers. The board is bright and well designed, and the game exudes an implacable sense of cheerfulness. It’s quick, light on strategy and heavy on fun, and sessions never get bogged down with confusion or boredom.
2-5 players, 60 minutes per game, www.daysofwonder.com
It is a “cooperative” game, meaning the players don’t play against each other, but together against the game itself. The game simulates the spread of disease strains across the world, with the players racing to stop them and synthesize cures before they mutate irreversibly. The theme is excellent, and the rules easy to comprehend. The cooperative nature of the game adds an interesting social element to each session, with lots of arguments and tough decisions to be made. Your friends will never seem more helpful, or selfish.
2-4 players, 45 minutes per game, www.zmangames.com
Battle Line comes from the stable of Reiner Knizia, a veteran board-game designer with a prodigious output. It’s a two-player game that’s a cross between Tic-Tac-Toe and Poker—players attempt to create troop formations from their hand of cards along a “battle line” in an attempt to claim three consecutive flags. The game is incredibly tense right from the start and makes for a brilliant, quick two-player title. The breadth of strategy possible is immense, and the intricate balance means every playthrough goes right down to the wire before it’s decided. The rules are simple to pick up, and the game’s tense foreboding doesn’t wear off even after numerous plays.
2 players, 30 minutes per game, www.gmtgames.com
All these games can be purchased through eBay’s Global EasyBuy programme at www.ebay.in/geb. Prices start from Rs1,250, depending on availability.