With all the responsibilities everyone has now a days, it can be hard to carve out some time to play board games with friends. While my favorite games are Twilight Imperium and Battlestar Galactica, I normally don’t have the requisite 4-6 or more hours to play them. But I do have an hour!
Here are some of the best games that play in an hour or less.
This quick, 15-20 minute competitive game is all about diving to grab as much treasure as possible. But there’s a catch. You and the other players share an air supply. And once a player has picked up treasure, they start using up a point of air for each treasure they have. Players roll two dice to move, but the die faces only have the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on them. Besides using up air, you also move one less space for each treasure you have. Push your luck and go deeper for the more valuable treasure, but if you don’t make it back before the air runs out, you’re toast! You play three rounds, and at the end of the rounds the player with the most treasure wins!
The thing I love about this game is that there’s always at least one person that eggs everyone else on to go deeper. It gets super competitive super fast, and it’s just a blast to play. The game supports 3-6 players and costs about $25-30.
Do you and your team have what it takes to diffuse 20 bombs and save your ship from blowing up? You and the other players work together to roll and match dice to your cards. Complete the card and you diffuse the bomb. The catch is that you only have 10 actual minutes to deactivate the bombs! Each round you roll dice equal to the number of people playing, and each player can only take one die.
You’ll need to quickly figure out who can take what, because if you don’t get rid of all the dice, there’s a penalty. The game is crazy fun and crazy fast-paced. It goes from 1-5 players and costs about $30.
Honestly, when I heard the concept of Codenames, I thought it sounded pretty meh. But when I sat down and played it, I was blown away by how fun it is. The theme of the game is there are two rival spymasters who are attempting to get their teams to correctly guess the codenames of their spies to activate the spies. The way the game works is there is a grid of 25 cards, each of which has a word on it. The spymasters have a card which has a grid on it as well, which color-codes the cards.
The spymasters give clues in the form of one word and one number. The number refers to how many cards they are trying to get their team to guess, and the word clue they give has to connect those cards in some way. For instance, if there are two cards that say “bear” and “cat,” I could give the clue “animal, two,” in an attempt to get my team to guess those cards.
If the team guesses incorrectly, that team’s turn ends. But be careful! There is an assassin word lurking in there. Make sure your team doesn’t guess that word, or it’s game over! It doesn’t really have a player limit, takes about 15-20 minutes, and costs around $20.
This game is kind of like Clue, except one of the players is the Forensic Scientist and is giving you the clues, and another player is the murderer, who is trying to lead you astray. The way it works is that each player (except the Forensic Scientist) has a set of cards in front of them, four ‘means’ cards (basically how they might have killed someone), and four evidence cards (basically something they might have left behind at the crime scene).
Everyone closes their eyes, except the scientist, and then the murderer opens their eyes and points to one ‘means’ card and one ‘evidence’ card in front of them. They close their eyes and then everyone opens their eyes again. The Scientist then gives clues to try to get the investigators to pick the right two cards. They give clues by places cards and then picking an option on the cards. For instance, one of their cards could be titled “Cause of Death” and have the options suffocation, severe injury, loss of blood, illness/disease, poisoning, and accident. They lay the card down and then pick one of them. So if the murderer pointed to a ‘means’ card with a machete on it, they might pick either loss of blood or severe injury as a clue. Once the clues are picked, each person can make their case as to what they think happened.
Then people have the option to use their ‘guess token.’ If they are wrong, the game continues, if they are right, yay the investigators win. But if everyone uses their guess and the murderer isn’t caught, the murderer wins. It plays in about 20 minutes, is for 4-12 players, and costs around $25-$30.
You and your friends are French Soldiers trying to survive during WWI. Each of you has a hand of cards that has a background of weather conditions, like snow, night, and rain, and items, like a bullet, a gas mask, and a whistle. You go around and each person is trying to play a card into the center. But you have to be careful, because if you get have three matching weather conditions or items, you lose the round, which makes the game exponentially harder to win.
Some of the cards have traps on them, which means you draw and place a random card. Some of the cards are also wound or condition cards, which you play in front of you and negatively affect you for the rest of the game. If you can’t safely play any cards, you have the option to withdraw, meaning you keep your hand of cards and choose (secretly) which of your fellow soldiers you are supporting.
The point of the game is to get through the peace deck to win the game. But for every card that a person has in their hand when they withdraw, that amount of cards is added to the top of the peace deck. If you go all the way through the second deck, you lose. The game is elegant, beautiful and incredibly hard. It’s one of my favorite co-op games. It takes around 15-30 minutes to play, costs $20, and plays up to five people.
In New Salem, you and your fellow village members are fleeing the Salem witch trials and trying to start fresh. But alas, it seems some witches have followed you and are bringing despair to your town. Find them and root them out!
What makes this game so much fun is that it’s a hidden role game. So some of the players are witches and some are Puritan villagers, but while you know who you are, you have no idea who everyone else is. So you’ll need to figure out who is your ally and who is your foe! In each round of the game you are working on building structures, which will give you despair or hope points. Witches need to build up a total pool of despair to be in the running to win, and in order for villagers to be in the running to win, they have to keep the witches from building up despair. Puritans can fight back against witches by paying hope points to put players on trial or check their character cards.
Once you’re in the running to win, you score points based on matching the symbols on your character card to the symbols on the buildings you’ve built. It holds up to eight players, takes about 30-45 minutes, and costs around $35.
A murder has been committed, and the victim is relying on local mediums to try to solve the case. There are two different roles in this game, the role of the medium and the role of the ghost. One player takes on the role of the ghost. The ghost, who is not allowed to talk, is sending the mediums dream messages in the form of illustrated cards to try to get them to guess the correct person, place, and murder weapon in the allotted number of rounds. Once all of the mediums have guessed their individual trios correctly, then the ghost must play three cards, one referring to the person, one to the place, and one to the weapon, to try to get the mediums to vote on the actual true set of events.
This game is insanely fun and has a ton of replay value. The illustrated cards are absolutely gorgeous. This is a great game for large gatherings, because it supports up to seven players. It takes around 30 minutes to an hour to play, depending on how much you argue over who should guess what, and costs around $50.
It’s 1899 and the Union Pacific Express is a plump target filled with loot! You and other bandits compete to grab the most treasure. Players have to plan ahead and play cards to move, shoot, or punch other robbers. But everyone else is playing cards as well, so your well-laid schemes might not go as planned. And beware the Marshall who is trying to stop you from robbing the train! The game includes 3-D train cars and meeples that you physically move around the train. This game is a bit more complicated because you have to think ahead to what you’re doing. Each round people play a dictated number of cards. You go around and play one card until everyone has played. Then you flip the pile over and start going through actions. So the first card you played will be your first action. You have to try to remember what you played and see what other people are playing to try to make the best moves.
And there’s even a catch. Sometimes, as dictated by the game, people play their cards face down, so you’ll have to guess what might be your best move! The game is for 2-6 players, takes around an hour, and costs about $40.
Camel up is a fantastic game. The mechanics are simple and the game is super engaging. The point of the game is to make the most money by betting on the outcome of a camel race. Throughout the game players have the option to roll the dice (which advances the camel that matches the die’s color), bet on the round, bet on the final winner of the race, or place a tile on the track that could affect the camels’ movements. Bet correctly, and you win money, but bet incorrectly and you have to pay up!
One thing that makes this game unique is that when a camel lands on the same space as another camel, that camel is stacked on top of the other camel, and the camel on top is placed higher than the camel beneath it. The game takes up to 8 players, lasts about an hour, and costs around $40.
You and your fellow land developers are fighting over New York City. You are trying to construct your buildings and skyscrapers on the most coveted streets to get the most points. Players are collecting land plots to build on, and the point is to try to claim plots next to each other so you can build bigger and bigger buildings.
As you can see in the picture, the building tiles are all in specific shapes, so for the bigger buildings, you have to claim the right configuration of plots in order to construct them. The game is for 2-4 players, lasts about an hour, and costs around $50-60, depending on where you buy it.