I was pleasantly surprised on Saturday when one of the people from our gaming group invited along two people we had never met before. This was particularly good considering a few people were away that night leaving us with a small turn out. We discovered that these friends did not have board game experience and were keen to see the games we played. We opted for light fun and interactive. These choices proved profitable. Inadvertently, this experience led me to see the value in games with high levels of interaction. My idea of a game with high interaction is one that gets people talking and interacting either through mechanics or around the gameplay. This is different from gateway games in my opinion. Gateway games tend to be selected based on the complexity or simplicity of rules. Thier goal is to help a non-gamer find a game they can come to enjoy gaming. Our friends were already gamers looking to learn more. Our goal wasn't to convince them that gaming is for them, it was to break the ice and help them engage in an activity that aids them in feeling comfortable and having fun as quickly as possible. I want lots of talking and questioning. I want moments of tension with moments of relief. High interactive games, or icebreaker games, help people relax in social situations as well as engage through play.
Epic Spell Wars
I recently put this game on my top ten list of favourite party games and the more I play it the more I want to play it. When I first watched the TableTop Episode that featured the game I was not impressed. Sure it looked like they were having fun but I wasn’t convinced it was anything to do with the game. In fact, the sheer lack of control in the game mechanics made me think that Will and his guests were working extra hard to make the game look more fun than it was. Boy, was I wrong. I played the game reluctantly convinced it would be a silly game and only hoped it would end quickly. I was sold before the end of the first round. Epic Spell Wars, despite how it looks, does offer the player some control, and even allows for some politicking. But this is hardly the point of playing it. You cast some incredibly funny spells and do crazy damage to each other with a complete disregard for wizard or witch life. It provides a lot of laughter and chatter at the table. It is a great ice breaker and fun interactive game.
Clank in Space
I have not played all the Clank games, only the original and Space. But Clank in Space is an excellent game for creating an interesting story and providing lots to keep people entertained. It can have some downtime issues, but so much is changing in each turn you have lots to do ad lots to discuss. It’s not that any part of the game is perfect for this list, only each time I play it there is always lots f fun, laughing, and discussion. Based on that experience I think Clank makes a great interactive game and breaks the ice well.
This game is so good at getting people discussing that some groups talk themselves in circles. I love how this game builds anticipation by providing enough information to speculate on, but not enough to feel overly confident about anything. Groups are as often interested in the other groups turn as much as their own. The best part is that there does not seem to be a limit to the number of people that can enjoy this game.
I will admit that I was not an easy convert to this game. I was not resistant because I had played the game and not enjoyed it, but because I didn't want to play it. It was a dexterity game and we know that dexterity games are a niche market, not really a market I have a strong affinity for. Yet once I capitulated and gave this game a try I was instantly hooked. I wish I had an intelligent insight into why I liked it. Perhaps it had some clever mechanic that really intrigued me or some great blending of theme and gameplay, but the reality is that I liked it because it was fun. It just is, it's fun. I didn't care if I was winning or losing, I was just enjoying flicking penguins around a school building. Instantly people are discussing trick shots, high fiving awesome flicks, laughing at wayward attempts and just enjoying each other. This game breaks the ice by getting you to skate on top of it.
Walk The Plank
Perhaps not a well-known choice, but this game by Mayday Games is a programming game that emphasises fun over strategy. Like any programming game, you will set up your turn and then watch it all go awry as your plans are suddenly impacted by everybody else's actions. The nice thing about this game is it successfully manages to have strong competitive interaction without becoming mean, as it is a programming game there is no way to successfully target any specific player for too long. The game mechanics make it a bit more random and no one can really blame you for pushing their pirate meeple overboard. That said, the nice thing about a good programming game is that you can start to predict moves as you get used to other people's play style. It is unlikely this will serve you long, but the possibility does result in players actively paying attention to how others play in the hope of our playing them. This means you cannot hide away and shrink from the table. Instead, you have to be paying attention and invested in how others play the game. This element alone would be enough to recommend as an interactive game, but the craziness of the turns leads to a lot of hilarity.
These games are not about being entry level games for people to come to like the hobby, they are about meeting new people and wanting to break the ice with them and encourage interaction. The reality is that these games are only as capable as the group at building relationships. Encouraging lots of discussion by taking moments to ask questions and get to know new people. Good luck and I hope all your gaming groups grow strong.