Author Q&A: What were your ‘gateway’ games?

Hey, I’m Tyler from Chasing Railways and we’re doing a Q&A Segment today.

Tyler of Chasing Railways with some of their game collection.

Our Instagram friends have asked this question a lot lately — what were your gateway games? What got you into the hobby? What was the first game you played outside of the standards like scrabble, monopoly, etc?

I wanted to take a few moments to answer those questions and talk about the gaming history of Chasing Railways. I will also lament that the name “Chasing Railways” is not a tribute to Ticket to Ride. Sadly, I came up with the name long before I played the awesome train routing game by Days of Wonder. It would have been such great marketing otherwise am I right?

Before I discuss my gateway games, I will pay tribute to my childhood. I was the kid that always wanted to play boardgames. I loved trouncing my family at monopoly specifically the star wars version that came out in the late 1990s, beating my dad at chess, and the luck filled agony that was Yahtzee. I’ve grown substantially less competitive in my board games as I’ve gotten older, but I love looking back on those days. Other games I remember from that time were mancala, scrabble, life, battleship, risk, and the Pokémon master trainer game. I’m proud to say the last one got played so often that it fell apart. The board tore at its seams, and the chips had all nearly lost their images.

In my middle school and high school years I developed a love for trading card games and party games. Throughout middle school I was an avid Yu-Gi-Oh collector and player and in high school I got into Magic the Gathering with one of my close friends, having missed the fad while we were in cub/boy scouts. My AP Chemistry teacher introduced our class to games like Bananagrams, Scattergories, and Apples to Apples. My family enjoyed playing the latter two on our vacations. Some of the best memories I have from that time were late nights at the beach playing these two games with each other.

Once I got to college I stopped playing board games as frequently until Sophomore and Junior year. It was then I was introduced to two games that got me into the hobby of modern boardgames. The first was Settlers of Catan (now: Catan), and Arkham Horror 2e. My friend groups played countless rounds of Catan and I loved the interaction of the game. It’s often referred to the game that paved the way for all of the games we love and play today. It, much like monopoly, gets a lot of hate in the Facebook groups, but both games will still get played in our house if people want to play them.

Arkham Horror 2e introduced me to highly thematic challenging (read: brutal) gaming. My friends and I played against several of the Elder Gods with painful results. I remember when we finally defeated Cthulu after a 4 hour playthrough. We were exhausted, but the game was so intriguing I wanted my own copy until I saw the price tag. It was too much for my college budget so I was always happy to play my friend’s copy. During this time, I tried unsuccessfully to get together a few Dungeons and Dragons (4e) groups, but none lasted more than a few sessions.

Arkham Horror 2e by Fantasy Flight Games

I’m sad to say that after college–through grad school and my early career, board games once again weren’t a major hobby for me. If someone wanted to play a game I would always eagerly jump in, but I didn’t really think about gaming that often.

Years later, when I met the woman who would become my wife I was walking around a Walmart waiting for her to get back to her apartment after work. I saw near the checkout a game called Marvel Legendary. It advertised a set of popular Marvel characters, villains, and cooperative gameplay so I picked it up on an impulse for us to play that night. We had a blast and played a few rounds. Despite my love and interest in games up until this point, I consider Marvel Legendary to be the game that got me into the hobby.

Marvel Legendary from Upper Deck

Over the next year we would pick up Ticket to Ride, Machi Koro, Yedo, Tsuro, Ascension, and some other games. We mostly picked these up at our local 2nd and Charles when we brought our old stuff in to sell. Ticket to Ride became a favorite of our game nights and we played it often when we had visitors.

We added Ticket to Ride Player Boards to our shop in 2021

When we finally moved into our house, we had a small collection of games. Most were lighter, many were coop, and all were played regularly. We had a new party game in our collection–Killer Bunnies that replaced Ticket to Ride as our most played visitor game. My wife and I would have heated debates about whether the nuclear bomb, cyber bunny, and Ebola cards were allowed to be used or not.

Killer Bunnies Ebola Virus
Cyber Bunny in Killer Bunnies

Some time passed, and we had picked up a few new games with some increasing complexity and found more cooperative games we enjoyed. Forbidden Island and Desert were huge hits for us and Spirit Island was our first, ‘oomph’, of a game. It had a heavy lift but the gameplay was intriguing, puzzley, and cooperative. We enjoyed pushing back the invaders, and we won our first easy game.

Spirit Island by Greater Than Games

Later that evening we watched YouTube videos for many games. We looked at games like Scythe, Mansions of Madness, and Gloomhaven. We ended up ordering Gloomhaven shortly after, and the other two games we acquired a year or so later. These purchases catalyzed our hobby. We’ve been enjoying trying, buying, playing, and creating content for new games ever since.

Despite purchasing in 2019–we’ve still only completed 1/3-1/2 of Gloomhaven’s Content

Thank you for reading a bit about our history with gaming–we hope you enjoyed. Let us know what your gateway game was in the comments below.

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