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The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Tabletop Gaming


Beginner's Guide To Tabletop Gaming

The combination of working from home, furlough and self-isolating with the family/flatmates has given people more free time than ever before. Maybe you’ve binged everything on your Netflix watch list, maybe you just want something new to experience with those you share a house with. Whatever the reason, it’s a good time to try out a new hobby. And tabletop gaming is a brilliant way to spend your free time. We’re going to touch on some of the basics that any tabletop gaming newbie needs to know about, offering some examples and things to look out for when choosing your first foray into the tabletop gaming scene.

What is Tabletop Gaming?

Simply put, it’s gaming on a tabletop.  While it can incorporate technology, tabletop games rely on more tangible forms of interaction. Mostly in person, tabletop gaming uses all forms of dice, cards, tokens and figurines to tell stories, complete objectives, work together or, in more competitive friend groups, work against each other!

How Did It All Start?

Tabletop gaming in one form or another has been around for thousands of years. The first known game can be traced back to the days of Ancient Mesopotamia around 3000 BC, where people played with coloured stones. But a more recent addition sprouted up around 1974 with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) roleplaying game (commonly abbreviated to RPG). Since then, the mechanics of the game have been tweaked and fiddled with, greatly opening the options for roleplay gaming. On the back of this, a small company called Games Workshop – now one of the biggest UK games manufacturers – would act as an importer for D&D to the UK, eventually going on to creating miniatures specialised for the D&D scene. Games Workshop ultimately decided to create their own tabletop game focused on commanding armies of assembled and painted miniatures. In 1983, Warhammer Fantasy was born. Now one of the most popular tabletop games around.

Since then, hundreds of games have been created and the tabletop gaming scene has exploded. While some games followed the more traditional board game route, others showed off intricate designs, stories and imagination. Over time, tabletop gaming has become more and more mainstream, with a big increase in the numbers of people picking up the hobby. Many people have come to realise that tabletop gaming is the perfect way to flex your imaginative muscles and let off steam in a fantasy world made just for you.

The Best Tabletop Games For Beginners By Game Type

Getting into tabletop gaming can seem daunting as there is a vast amount of games to choose from. Certain tabletop games are best for newbies, whether you want to start on some of the best RPGs, find the most popular board games to play as a group of friends or dip your toes into the world of the best tabletop wargames. To help you decide where to start and which games are best for you, we’ve compiled the best tabletop games for beginners by game type. We hope this list will help launch you into the incredible world of tabletop gaming.

Boardgame stack

Board Games

Board games are often considered the most accessible form of tabletop gaming for a beginner.  Board games will come with everything you need to play in one box and often have comparatively shorter play times than other games. They range from playing on a physical board to simply having cards and tokens. The genre is extensive enough that anyone from your group of competitive friends, to your family wanting a quiet night in can find something to enjoy together. 

Some great examples of good board games for beginners include:

The Resistance

A card and token game that simply relies on your ability to either lie or figure out who around you is lying! Ideal for 5 or more players, players are either Resistance Members and Imperial Spies. The former need to work together to find out who is the wolf in sheep’s clothing, while the latter must remain undetected and gain the trust of others to succeed. Each round (a total of 5) consists of members being chosen for missions. They then secretly decide if they support or sabotage the mission, the outcome of which decides whether the mission overall is a success (one point to the Resistance) or a failure (one point to the Imperials). 

Similar examples: Town of Salem, Werewolf.

Dark Souls: The Board Game

A tabletop variant of the popular yet punishing video game franchise. It includes a mixture of tokens, cards and figurines to represent player characters, enemies and bosses. 1 to 4 players team up to explore the gameboard with a clever ‘fast set-up, long reveal’ mechanic.  This allows players to get into the thick of it quickly, and then take their time planning moves and deciding what to do next. With the ability to manage resources and changing locations of foes, each game plays differently. Going in with the knowledge that your character will probably die makes victory all the more sweeter. 

Similar Examples: Descent: Second Edition, Gloomhaven.

Last Night On Earth

Where would tabletop gaming be without zombie games! Last Night On Earth game mixes cooperative and competitive gameplay with the (up to 4) survivors pitting themselves against one or two others who will decide the zombies moves. Survivors must complete objectives and ensure their safety against the oncoming horde. Scenarios include survival, escape and rescue.

Similar examples:  ZOMBIE!!!, Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Additional purchases: Some of the larger board games will have expansions that will complement or add to the core box. But generally, there is very little else you require when playing board games.

RPGs (Role Playing Games)

RPGs allow you to literally lose yourself in a world created for your game. Groups consist of multiple players and one Dungeon Master (DM) who runs the campaign, sets the setting, voices the characters and plays the various monsters and enemies you will encounter.  Outside of shorter ‘one-shot’ sessions which may span several hours to a day, some RPG games can last weeks, months or even years over multiple sessions as you expand on the story of your adventures. These sessions can go from action-packed combat to solving mysteries to simply spending time interacting with other players. You’ll create a character, choose your specialisations and be unleashed in the world where your interactions with other players in your session can progress the story, or sometimes even unravel it and generate experiences nobody could expect.

Some examples of good RPGs for beginners include: 

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)

Considered the grand-daddy of RPGs. Since its creation in 1974, it has gone through many updates and editions but the core has always remained the same: tell a good story.  Generally built around a fantasy setting, players will bluff, trade, fight and sometimes literally sing using the mechanics the game provides, the choices of the DM and whatever actions the players can think of. Results of actions are determined by dice roll ranging from a 4 sided die (d4) up to the most commonly used 20 sided die (or d20). The outcome of actions depends on the character sheet you create, which is completely unique to you.  

Infinity RPG

A futuristic sci-fi game in which humanity has taken to the stars and colonised worlds to form the Human Sphere. Players will complete missions and face off against each other, other human factions and an alien force known as the Combined Army. The main difference with this game is the dice mechanics. Whereas other RPG’s often use a variety of numbered dice, Infinity bases all decisions on the results of two 20-sided die (2d20). The outcomes are, again, related to your unique character sheet.  
Additional purchases: Because most of the gameplay in an RPG comes from your imagination, it is required you purchase the core players handbook for whatever RPG you begin playing. These guides will have everything a beginner to the RPG scene will need.  You would also require a set of polyhedral dice. Any game extras will take the form of newer campaign books (for those DMs who enjoy telling and directing the story), and rules expansion sets that open up hundreds of alternatives to new and existing characters you have created.

Miniature Tabletop Wargaming

Probably the most extensive and involved form of tabletop gaming miniature tabletop wargaming will allow you to invest as much time and money as you want and can give you amazing outcomes. Played on a larger battlefield, often with 3D features such as hills, cliffs or buildings, this is the ‘gamer’s game’ where the varying levels of complexity and customisation have garnered huge attraction over the years. The scope of miniature wargaming is so wide that there are copious games to choose from across the three main genres: sci-fi, fantasy and historical combat. 

Not counting prep time before a game starts, such as assembling and painting the miniatures, the games can vary in size and length of time to play. Smaller skirmish games, such as X-Wing & Infinity, are often over within an hour. Whereas some of the large scale games, such as Age of Sigmar, can last upwards of 3 hours.  If you relish the idea of being in command of your own squadron, battalion or army that you have customised and created then you’re sure to enjoy tabletop war games.  

Examples of good tabletop wargames for beginners include: 

Warhammer 40,000 (40K)

Wow, where to start with Warhammer? It’s considered the D&D of the wargaming scene. Easily the most prolific tabletop game with a deep and enriching background, the story of Warhammer 40K has spanned decades over dozens of books. Set 40,000 years into our future, the factions of Humanity face off against each other and the Xeno (alien) races. With differing designs, weapons and play styles, there is a faction for all types of players. In Warhammer 40K, everyone has an axe to grind, everyone wants to be the top dog and they don’t much care who they walk over to get it.
The game itself is played by assembling an army up to a point limit (often 2000) in a one on one standoff. Players take turns positioning and rolling specially designed dice to decide the outcomes of attacks as you attempt to outmanoeuvre and overpower each other.  There are multiple avenues of entry to 40K, commonly by the Recruit, Elite, Command edition boxes.

Warhammer recruit boxset

Each provides you with starting forcers, as well as rule books, distance markers, dice, tokens and scenario guides. Going from there, each faction has its own ‘Start Collecting’ box which gives a sizable number of miniatures to create a strong core to any army. 

Similar wargaming examples: Age of Sigmar, Konflikt 47

Star Wars: Armada

The game that lets you reenact or rewrite the battles from the films, Armada has you create a fleet using detailed and pre-painted models of the ships from the Star Wars franchise.  You’ll combine larger ships with relevant squadrons of fighters and face off in a game of forward-planning and wits spread over 6 turns. There are three core boxes for Armada – the original trilogy contains a manageable force for the Empire and Rebellion and the more recent releases have incorporated the Separatist and Republic factions. All core sets include ships, squadrons, rules, firing range and movement rulers, tokens, dice and cards to give different options to upgrade your ships for different styles of play. Want to go hard, get in close with a Star Destroyer and unleash a devastating broadside? Do it. Want to hang back in the Tantive IV and escort your X-wings through the crossfire? Make it happen.  

As you pick up the range of iconic ships from all factions, you’ll get wider options for fleet creation. 

SIDE NOTE: You’ll find yourself endlessly quoting the franchise. It’s ok, we do too. 

Additional Purchases: Aside from buying expansions to your collection, whether it be ships, Warhammer squads or tanks, many of the games available are provided unpainted and unassembled, so require a few things to bring them up a gaming standard. 

At a minimum, you’ll want to get:

  • A pair of plastic cutters – miniatures are provided on sprues before assembly. (Citadel or Army Painter provide good quality cutters)
  • Plastic glue – similar to superglue but better suited for plastic miniatures. (There are many choices around, Citadel, Army Painter, Gale Force 9, Revell are to name a few).
  • Hobby knife – to remove any leftover unwanted plastic where it was connected to the sprue. 

These basics will allow you to get your miniatures into a playable condition for casual gaming. Many find a lot of the enjoyment comes from designing and painting miniatures.  Many of the mentioned manufacturers above also run their own paint ranges and brushes that will let you customise them in any way you see fit.

Getting Involved In The Gaming Community

Hopefully, we’ve given you a few ideas and whetted your appetite for one of the fastest-growing hobbies. But what now? There are hundreds of communities online via Facebook, Reddit, BoardGameGeeks that will give great avenues to get more information and discuss. We also have our own blog for you to explore. Once we’re safe to go out and mingle again, check nearby you for any type of gaming cafe or Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) to meet with similarly minded people and expand your gaming network. The tabletop gaming world truly is a friendly community fighting against, working with and outwitting each other in the games they play.

Pick Up Your Gaming Essentials At Goblin Gaming

Head over to Goblin Gaming to find many of the games and gaming accessories we’ve mentioned in this article and much, much more. We stock all of the latest box sets and starter kits for the best tabletop games out there, so whatever type of tabletop game you’re wanting to try, you’ll find something for you.

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Goblin Gaming

Goblin Gaming

We're the UK's top Warhammer retailer and online tabletop gaming store. A friendly bunch of gaming enthusiasts, we're setting a new standard in the tabletop gaming industry for excellent customer service, without compromising on affordability. If you haven't shopped with us already, try us out. We're sure you'll never want to purchase your gaming products anywhere else! Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for the latest updates or visit our online store.

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