Let’s face it, we don’t always have a lot of time to play games. Fitting a four-hour epic into our lives can be a lot more difficult than a game that can be completed in 15-30 minutes. There are countless situations when a short game makes more sense: starting off a game night while you’re waiting for everyone to show up, at the end of the night, when everyone has to go, but you want to cram in one more play, at a pub night when you just want to play something fun and fast while you wait for your chicken wings. I could go on, but if you’re reading this blog, chances are you know when is the right time to pull out one of these quick amusements. Of course, playing time will vary between groups and individuals, but here are five great games that should play in under an hour.
This game was one of the pleasant surprises for me last year. Fast, simple, and deceptively mean, this game about visiting a park to take in some beautifully sculpted garden hedges. A 5×5 grid makes up the park and players take turns adding visitors to the edge of the board. Where they’re positioned determines their perspective, and it’s all about having the best view of the various topiary creations numbered from 1-5. You can’t see anything that is the same height or lower than one of the shrubs earlier in the row your visitor is looking down. So, ideally there are lower numbered shrubs leading into higher numbered ones in your rows. When you place a visitor, you can exchange one facedown tile with one of three from your hand. The trick is, you might end up placing a full height, five level shrub in a perfect position…for you. It just might block someone else’s perfectly planned row. Now, while this is totally satisfying, the very same thing can happen to you, so be careful not to leave yourself open. While there is a lot of drama, for this trip to the park, games of Topiary are super quick. In a four-player game, you’ll only have five turns. Before you know it’ll be time to gather the family and head home.
Really, you could put any roll n’ write game in this slot, but Railroad Ink has some elements that set it a bit apart. The biggest one to me, is the included dry erase boards, which save you from having to laminate your own. I also really like that Railroad Ink comes in two different versions, Deep Blue and Blazing Red. Each one offers the same base game, but they also have two mini expansions that change the strategy required for each game. The Lakes and Rivers of Deep Blue are a fun relaxing mix up to the regular challenge, and Meteors and Lava of the Blazing Red will throw all your well laid plans into chaos. Combining both versions allows you to play up to 12, without costing you any playing time (crucial in an article about fast games). Oh yeah, what are you doing? In Railroad Ink, you are using the results of the dice to build roads and tracks around the board to connect cities and gain points for the longest unbroken routes in your design. Fast to teach and fast to play, a shoe-in for this list.
Skull (& Roses)
Back in my Snakes & Lattes day, Skull & Roses was a go to game when a crowd would hit a pub after a long shift. It doesn’t hurt that the components look like beer coasters. Each player starts with four coasters, three of which have Roses on the other side, the last, a Skull. In turn, up to six players place coasters in front of them face down. This continues until one player decides to instead make a bid. They are guessing how many coasters they can turn over (starting with their own) without turning up a Skull. Bidding continues until everyone passes and the player with the highest guess starts flipping. If they were bluffing, and they hid a Skull amongst their face-down coasters, it’s over pretty quick, but if their bid was true, they then have to start flipping their opponent’s coasters looking for Roses to meet their bid. Success means they have one of the two wins needed to claim victory, but as soon as they turn up a Skull, they lose the round…and one of their coasters. You win the game with two successful bids or by being the last person left with any coaster. Skull & Roses plays fast and holds a great deal of tension. That moment a Skull is revealed elicits cheers and groans depending what side of the equation you’re on. What more could you ask for from a game?
King of Tokyo
Another classic from my Snakes days. This is one of those games I am willing to play at any time. Become a giant monster fighting over control of Japan’s capital city. You roll dice Yahtzee-style, but you’re collecting points, hearts, energy cubes, and claws. You can win by gaining 20 points faster than the other players, or (much more satisfyingly) by killing off the competition. King of Tokyo is just a fun combination of luck and interesting decisions. Throw in the power cards and now you’re really cooking. Every once and a while you might have a game that runs a little long. If players keep healing themselves up and just won’t die, or the point combinations aren’t coming, but you still should be able to wipe up the competition in less than an hour. #Alienoid4life
If you know me, you know I love a good word game. They are a breed all onto their own. Some require you to know a lot of big fancy words, others reward gameplay rather than personal verbosity. Boggle is a bit more about chance and speed. How quickly can your brain find the words that are hidden on the grid of letters? How big are the words that you can find? Some rounds, the letters are helpful, and there is a bounty of words to be captured. Some rounds it’s all Qu’s and V’s and Y’s and there are precious few to be found. In either case the players share the board and must use creativity and perception to set them apart from the competition. When you’re at a loss for words and someone else is scribbling furiously, you begin to feel the panic, how could you be missing so much? The beauty is that each round only lasts three minutes. The perfect game to play when you’re in a rush!