Gateway Games: Abstract Games – Part 2

Gateway Games: Abstract Games – Part 2

November 20, 2018 Off By Tifa

Gateway Games is a series of articles aimed at helping you find the games that are right for you. Today, I’m going to explore something a little different – abstract games.

Many of the oldest and most classic board games are abstract games, such as chess, Go, checkers, backgammon, and Nine Men’s Morris. Originally, this style of game didn’t rely on a theme of any kind, but more modern takes on abstract games have started incorporating thematic elements into gameplay. Modern abstract games bring interesting themes to the table while also combining mechanics from other game genres.

1. Azul

Recently, Azul won one of the most notable awards in the tabletop industry – the Spiel des Jahres (a prestigious award based out of Germany). This was my personal favorite board game that released in 2017. Players take on the role of artisans, decorating the walls of a palace in Portugal – the Royal Palace of Evora. Combing drafting with abstract strategy, this tile-placing game is unlike any other game I have played. I’ve heard someone refer to it as Sudoku: The Board Game, only instead of filling a grid with numbers, you are filling it with colored tiles. The tiles are beautiful, giving a nice tactile feel to the gameplay. Once you have played one game, you’ll understand the complexity enough to want to play again. Luckily games are fairly quick, so you can play many rounds in one sitting.

2. Reef

One of the most talked about games of 2018, Reef is a great family game for children or a fun appetizer game at the start of a game night. Players compete to construct the most beautiful coral reefs, what could be more peaceful and pleasant than that? Continuing the trend of colorful, tactile pieces, Reef’s plastic bits are stackable and enjoyable to fidget with and the game is very easy to teach. On your turn, you can either draw a card or play a card. Cards that you play provide you with goals of what colors and patterns you want to grow in your reef and rarer combos get you more points. Like many strategy games, you want to learn how to think several turns ahead in order to succeed.


Quarto is a little more in line with classic abstract games but is interesting and fun enough that I wanted to include it in my list. With the upcoming holidays, I also wanted to ensure to include a game that is fun for all ages, including children and even grandparents. This fast-paced game adds the fun of pattern building, using 16 pieces that each have different attributes. The goal is to line up 4-in-a-row of the same attribute – options being color, shape, height and solid or hollow. The twist – your opponent decides which piece you get to play every turn. The gameplay is easy to learn and the strategy is deep because you have so many different features to look out for on the board, making it an enjoyable game to play multiple times in a row.

I hope this was helpful for people interested in trying out some games beyond what they have already played and as a guide for finding games to play with all ages and family.