This article appeared in its original form over on the Ludicreations blog.
Filler games – the delicious, moreish salty (or sweet!) snacks of the board game world. Have them between meals. Fill up on them before dinner. Enjoy them with a nice adult beverage. They are there for you when you need them.
I almost hesitate to call them “fillers” because it makes them sound like lesser games. But they fill the gaps, no matter how big or small. If you need a little warm-up while you wait for your late friend to arrive, they’re ideal. Got a group of casual gamers who aren’t ready to sit down to a game of Caverna? A mix of 5 – 20 minute games does the trick! Just burnt out your brain with a long day of hard dice-rolling and resource trading? Then wind down with a nice filler. What can’t they do? Regardless of their weight, their size or their perceived status in the board game world, we need them. Here’s some of my favourites, and a little about what makes them great.
Sushi Go – One of my absolute favourite games, not just one of my favourite fillers! This wonderfully easy card drafting game goes through three rounds of set collection of adorable sushi/sushi-related cards. I’ve never introduced this to new players without them wanting to play another game right away.
No Thanks! – or any short, fun push your luck game like Can’t Stop or Pairs, too! There’s something delightful about the shared experience of every person trying to win for themselves, but at the same time cheering other people on to push their luck. (Well, cheering on or.. peer pressure!). No Thanks is truly my favourite push your luck game, and it – along with Can’t Stop & Pairs – are super easy to teach. The slight gambles, the wince when you see the next card turned over, or the dread when you’re forced to take a card when you’re out of chits makes this one really feel like a full game in a filler’s outfit to me.
Timeline (various categories, I like Diversity) – Timeline is a quick and easy semi-trivia game where you are placing events or things out into a timeline, hoping you got the year of them right, thus increasing the timeline as the game progresses. Really, it’s mostly a “guesstimating” sort of game, because who knows exactly when the toothbrush was invented, right? But if you can have a think about it relative to everything else in the timeline and guess pretty well, it’s great! Plus, you’ll learn about when books were published, events occurred, and inventions came to be.
Pick a Pig / Ghost Blitz / Spot It! – In the mood for something quick and grabby where you really need to snipe in on matching patterns and images? Any of these are for you! They’re quick to learn & teach, and they’re all family-friendly too, which is great when it’s not just a big kids’ game day.
Cockroach Poker – If you love to bluff and mess with people without having any hurt feelings or personal consequences, Cockroach Poker is for you. I’ll look you in the eye, slide a card your way and tell you most definitely, this is a rat. If you believe me, and it is – well, sucks to be me. But if I fool you and it’s not a rat, sucks to be you! Simple gameplay, and fun player interactions makes this a hugely fun experience and a great palate cleanser between heavier games where you’re not interacting as much.
Anomia – From experience, I can tell you this can be tough if you’re playing with a group of varied language backgrounds, as it’s a fast-paced game in English. Let’s face it, I’m a native English speaker and I find it tough to think of stuff fast enough! But, this is a fun word/reaction game that can be played with a pretty large group (up to 8 I believe), and it’s not like any other word game I’ve played before. You can play through a whole deck, or two, or just for 5-10 minutes while you’re waiting for something else to start. It’s the perfect filler!
Loopin’ Louie or Coconuts – Look, I’m a 35 year old woman and I’m not going to lie to you. Some of the best fun I have had gaming is while playing these dexterity games marketed towards kids/families. Nothing is more satisfying than swooping down on someone’s last chicken, or making the shot for the last cup you need in Coconuts! Obviously these are family-friendly, too – but I guarantee your group of friends will enjoy these.
Rhino Hero – If you have never tried to build a house of cards while tentatively moving around a small wooden rhino superhero hoping the whole thing doesn’t fall down, then you haven’t lived! Sometimes you need to get moving, get up and move around the table and reach about for the best possible wall-stacking option. It’s a nice change of pace, this filler!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf – This is possibly my favourite social game, and you’re guaranteed to have it done in about 10-15 minutes including teaching it. Social deduction, bluffing, and no waiting it out while you’re eliminated means it’s a brilliant way to fill some time, or to end your night with a few drinks. Lies, secret alliances and messing with people! Plus, the game has expansions to keep it fresh if it’s a regular filler for your group.
Hanabi / The Game – Spiel des Jahres winner & nominee respectively, these card games will bring your group together to try and ‘beat’ the deck, and twist your brain with tough decisions while you do so! The Game is a little less punishing, with the knowing what your cards are aspect, but both are terrific cooperative games that push you to communicate with your friends and win. (Or at least do as well as you can!)