There’s always a sense of accomplishment when you finish an epic game. Just getting to the end of it is a bit of a success story, and if you win, so much the better! But, let’s be honest, we don’t always have the time to dedicate to a six hour board game. We’re often fitting in games on lunch hours, during family visits, or at the end of a long day. Sometimes you just need to unwind and concentrate on some thing other than the complications of life for a few minutes. Here are ten titles that fill the need for a short gaming respite when you just wanna escape.
In Splendor you take on the role of precious stone merchants just starting out in the thrilling world of international gem trading. Very simply, on a turn you’re going to make a move that either brings gems into your supply or spend those gems to earn you cards representing trade routes, mines, gem experts, or trading houses. Some of the cards you acquire will earn you points, but they all will produce gems for future purchases. One of the big appeals of Splendor is the high quality gem tokens that have the weight of poker chips. As you wait for your next turn to roll around invariably you find yourself playing with your chips. It’s therapeutic and cathartic and makes planning your next move a calming exercise. Many people thought Splendor would walk away with the game of the year honours, but it’s still respected as one of the best games to come out in 2014.
Looterz is a game about assembling a team of plunderers to venture into a recently vacated dungeon and bring back the riches. The Dragon who had been guarding the loot has flown the coop for reasons unknown (and who are we to judge?) leaving his mountains of gold unguarded. Trouble is, news like this travels fast. The fun of this game is combining different characters and seeing how they work together. Each round your team will search for gold, do battle with other players’ Looterz, or tap in to a special ability. It’s a small game that plays quick, making it perfect for break rooms and patio gaming sessions.
King of Tokyo
Good golly, this game is fun! Giant monsters fight over control of Tokyo through Yahtzee-style dice rolling. You can win the game by gaining 20 points faster than anyone else, or (much more satisfyingly) by killing off all of your fellow monsters and being the last one standing. Collecting energy cubes will allow you to buy cards that grant special powers. It has a king of the hill mechanic, with the monster controlling Tokyo gaining extra points and attacking everyone at once, but also having to put up with attacks from all the other monsters. For me, King of Tokyo is the game that I want to play again immediately once one round finishes up.
I love word games a lot! Boggle is my jam and Razzle is like a head to head Boggle match on steroids.This hidden gem from 1981 quickly became one of my favourite games after I rescued it from being thrown out. The board is a track between the two players with a carriage holding six lettered die. The track is covered with raised nubs at various heights and angles. The carriage starts in the middle of the board with the dice shook up and the players race to find a 4-letter word or longer out of the six dice. First one to find a word, calls it out and pushes the carriage one space along the track towards their opponent. As the carriage moves along the track, the dice get automatically rolled by the nubs, shaking them up and starting a new word search. The carriage gets pushed back and forth until it touches one person’s end of the board, earning a point for the player who touched their opponent’s side. Razzle is fun, fast, and intense! If you like word games you should definitely give it a shot.
7 Wonders Duel
Now to be fair, the original 7 Wonders plays in under an hour as well. It is one of those rare gems of a game that offers the feeling of a deep, complex strategy without taking you hours to play. Maybe because it’s a little more fresh in my mind, but I have to give the nod here to Duel. It is an excellent iteration of the 7 Wonders brand, designed specifically for two players. There are interesting decisions to make and many different paths to victory. This year, Repos announced an expansion for Duel and I was lucky enough to be able to give it a shot. I can say that fans of the series will find a great deal to love about the expansion.
The Little Prince
The Little Prince is one of my favourite games from Antoine Bauza. It is beautiful, simple and quick, and there is the possibility for it to be quite strategic and a little bit mean. It is a tile-laying game where 2-5 players are drafting tiles to build a 4×4 planet. Each round, one players lays out tiles from one of the four different planet shapes and selects the tile they want. They then get to choose who goes next. This can make for interesting decisions, because the tiles will have a different value for each player, so who plays when takes on a new importance. Over the course of the game, the planets will start to take shape with different characteristics on each. The corner pieces of everyone’s layout will be the Characters which determine what the value you of your planet will be based on what tiles you collect. Some Characters reward you for collecting different animals, some will give you points for getting trees or roses. The a game that plays out in about 20 minutes there is a lot of tough decisions in The Little Prince.
The Hanging Gardens
In The Hanging Gardens, players draft cards to build the blueprints for the legendary Babylonian Wonder and score points for placing Temples. There are four different garden elements displayed across six spaces on cards. In turn order each player will take one of the face up cards and add it to their design. As a free action they can move one their Temples to score points for a section of three or more of the same elements. Cashing in with a Temple earns you a scoring tile and the bigger the section you score out the more options you have with scoring. The point tiles rely on a sort of set collection. The more you have of a certain type, the more they’re worth, plus there are some special characters that earn you points for having complete sets. It’s a fun, simple card laying/spatial awareness game with a neat scoring mechanic.
Potion Explosion represents a fun twist on the set collection game. It is your last day of magic school and you’re about to complete your final exams in potions. The Slide Dispenser houses marbles with different ingredients. Each turn players draw from the dispenser and hope for an Explosion! Two of the same coloured marbles smashing together means an explosion has occurred and you can take all of the marbles involved. Once your potions have been completed you can drink them for special powers. The cute, whimsical theme, beautiful components, and the easy to learn rules make Potion Explosion a perfect fit for families. It’s not as portable as some of the other games on this list, but it is great to pull out when you have friends over or with the kids when you have about before dinner hits the table.
Concept is truly a game for everyone. It’s super easy to teach (essentially charades with images), plays very quickly, and really there’s no cap on the number of people who can join in. On a turn, the active player takes a card and chooses one of the nine different concepts they have to try and get the rest of the
group to guess. It could be a person, a quote, an idea, or any number of different categories. By using the board, which is made up of tons of different images they will attempt to communicate to the guessers their concept. There is the Question Mark pawn which indicates the main idea and then there’s a bunch of Exclamation pawns that can help you branch off into other ideas. When I first started playing Concept I felt limited by the board, but used creatively there are some many ideas that can be shared with the provided images. Concept can be played competitively for points, but I prefer just having fun, trying to figure out a way to say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The neat thing about this game is that it has no real start or end point, you just play until you’re ready to move on to something else. That can make it very flexible when you’re tight on time.
Crossing is one weird fun game. It is an annual gathering of the local tribes. They’ve come together for the solstice and to collect the life stones that appear on the mushrooms just outside of the village. Mushroom tiles make up the board. There is always one less mushroom than the number of players ensuring some people are going to be left out. Each round life stones will appear on the mushrooms and then everyone will try and snatch them up. On the count of three everyone points at a mushroom. The key is predicting where your opponents are going to point. If you end up pointing at the same mushroom as another player then neither of you can claim the life stones, but if you’re the only one pointing at a mushroom, then you get to take all the stones present and place them on your character card. As players gain stones on their character players can choose to steal those stones, by pointing that the character card. Only way to save your stones is by skipping a turn to block thieves and bank your gains. Crossing is a super quick and simple game, but it’s always a hit when I bring it out.
Note: The DWP does not assume responsibility for any of these games lasting more than an hour. This includes instances of analysis paralysis, constant interruptions, late arrivals, or general tomfoolery.