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The Best Quick-Playing Board Games

Time is one of the great enemies of
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. It’s often hard enough to get a group of people together in the same space for a gaming session, doubly so if you need to find several hours to play the latest heavy, epic title. So there’s an instant market for faster-playing games. They’re also great for family play or for casually breaking out for a quick game before you head out for the evening. But as you’ll soon find out from our list of suggestions, small and fast doesn’t mean light or boring: from timer-based games to hilarious
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, you’ll soon discover that fast often equals fun.


Ignore the pointless circus theme, this is a fantastic little set collection card game with a devious twist: you can’t change the order of cards in your hand. Nevertheless, you have to work with what you’ve been dealt to try and beat whatever’s in the middle of the table, with higher value cards beating lower value, and longer runs and sets beating shorter ones.

If you can’t - as is often the case - the person who played those cards gets a point, and you have to pick a card up, making it easier for the next player and allowing you to slot it into your hand where you like, creating new combos for future plays. It’s fast, furious and surprisingly hard to master, with timing your best plays properly critical for success. No wonder it was a nominee for the prestigious
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award the year it was released.

5 Minute Dungeon

One way to ensure a game is quick playing is to run it to an absolutely punishing timer, which is how 5 Minute Dungeon manages to do exactly what it says on the box.
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of dungeon challenges, pick a character, start the timer, and then it’s down to the adventuring party, working together, to defeat the dungeon in real-time.

Each trap or monster needs a particular set of symbols to banish, but you don’t have time to coordinate your plays properly, leading to a desperate slapping down of wasted cards, cries of woe, and forgetting of special character abilities in the heat of the moment. You’ll need to try and slow down just enough to chart a path through the chaos while still keeping up with the clock, and finding a moment to delight in the hilarious artwork and fantasy meme riffs.


Another timed game, this one sets the clock at 10 minutes, which your group must use to try and defuse as many bombs as possible from a deck of bomb cards. On your turn you’ll draw and roll as many dice, which come in different colors, as there are players, then discuss and divide them up while the timer ticks down. Each bomb card comes with a dizzying array of color and number requirements for dice to defuse it, from simple addition or equality to actually making stacks of dice in particular combinations.

The uncertainty of drawing and rolling never fails to give this game a thrilling edge, while probability ensures there’s some good strategy to doling out the dice. If you want to up the ante, there are some super-hard bombs to shuffle in for extra challenge.


A whole different take on the
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real-time mechanism, Kites comes with several sand timers of different lengths and colors, which represent different kites that you’ve got to keep in the air. On your turn, you play a card and flip any timers that match its colored icons. Your goal, as a group, is simply to stop any one of the timers from running out.

This is much easier said than done, and the game has an extraordinary spinning plates feeling as you desperately speed round the table, trying to flip timers trickling out their very last grains. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can add more colors and special challenge cards to keep your game in the air for longer, just like the titular kites.


Possibly the shortest game on the entire list, with almost no setup time and games that can be over in seconds. But that’s no problem when it’s so addictive you’ll want to go again right away! Klask is a simple dexterity game where you use a magnet to steer a paddle that knocks a little plastic ball around the playing area, aiming to get it into your opponent’s goal while defending your own.

To add even more skill and amusement value to an already breakneck experience, there are also magnetic obstacles to avoid, lest they stick to your paddle and make your shots even more unpredictable. It’s such a fast, fun, fickle game that you’ll be using that short play time to host mini-tournaments.


Strike is a fast-paced push-your-luck game that gets even faster the more players choose to tempt fate. Everyone starts with a fistful of dice and, on your turn, you throw one into the “arena”, an oval box insert, possibly aiming to knock existing dice there around. What you’re looking for are matching numbers, which you can add to your dice collection, ending your turn.

If you don’t get any matches, you can pass or continue throwing, which ups your chance of matching but also risks leaving more options for others if you don’t. Each dice has an X instead of a 1, meaning it’s removed from the game instantly, and the last player left with dice wins. It’s an addictive combination of luck, dexterity and playing the odds and once it’s reeled you in there are tournament rules for extended play.


Most folk are familiar with the common playing card mechanic of trick-taking, which really helps this two-player
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run faster. You’re working together to steer a pirate ship through dangerous seas, pursued by a hungry kraken. The symbols you pair on your trick might inch your craft forward, injure the sea monster, cause it to attack you, or do nothing at all.

But you’re not allowed to tell your shipmate what’s in your hand, only pass one card to them at the start of each turn, which has to try and speak volumes as to your plans. This makes every single play a mini-drama of tension and release in an overall arc of terror as you try to balance tricks won, movement and keeping the beast at bay. With six scenarios of punishing difficulty, this is a lot of game in a small box.


Bluffing on hidden roles is a great way to fit a lot of game into a small package, and Coup give you the biggest bluffing bang in the smallest box. Each player gets two role cards which give special powers like taking extra coins or cheap assassinations. The aim is to knock out your opponent’s roles, putting them out of the game.

The genius twist is that, whatever roles you're dealt, you can execute any power in the game, providing no-one catches you at it. Most roles have the chance to block one another, which is fine until it becomes clear that someone is claiming one they don't have. Then all hell breaks loose as the accusations start flying and no-one wants to be first to make the actual challenge. Because if you're wrong, it's you that looses out and not the target.

Love Letter

Another bluffing game but with much more dynamic roles, Love Letter sees the players competing to get the titular epistle to the princess, who is also the highest-valued card. You start with a card and, on your turn, draw another and choose which to play. Each card has a number and a special effect, two of which knock other players out of the round based on whether you can either guess what card they’re holding or beat the value of that card against yours.

Other cards protect you, let you swap cards with another player or peek at their held card. The last two players left compare card values, and the highest wins. It’s a devious little game of social engineering, just like real courtly courtship, and while the rules suggest you play the superfast rounds multiple times to determine an overall winner, it’s also easily fun enough to play a single quick-fire hand.


Games of Draftosaurs begin with players grabbing a handful of dino-meeples - which are cute enough to justify owning this game on their own - at random from a bag. Then, you take it turns to roll the dice and place a dinosaur on your dino-zoo playmat. The dice-roller can place where they want, but all other players have to obey the rule on the dice face. There are a number of different enclosures, each with their own simple placement rules and scoring opportunities. Then, everyone passes the remaining dinosaurs to your left and repeat until all the pieces have been placed, and the scores tallied to find a winner.

The combination of random roll and passing on gives the game some interesting teeth as you ponder whether to risk pieces in higher-scoring options or keep back something your neighbor is collecting. Easy to learn and fast to play, it’s a quick filler that can easily end up being popular enough to play all evening.

Ticket to Ride: London / New York

The enormously successful Ticket to Ride franchise is based on players collecting sets of colored cards and playing them to claim routes on a map. Most of your points come from tickets that you score if you connect their printed destinations, but fail to complete the route, and you’ll lose those points instead.

It’s a brilliant recipe that forces you to balance the desire to collect against the risk of other players slapping down the cards before you. These two variants keep that addictive core gameplay loop, but make it quick by giving you only a tiny, cramped board to play on, leaving you feeling like you’re scuffling in a phone booth. Each has its own unique twist to the recipe, with London offering bonus points for completing districts and New York for linking up tourist hotspots.

Matt Thrower is a contributing freelancer for IGN, specializing in tabletop games. He's also been published in The Guardian, Dicebreaker and Senet Magazine as well as being the author and co-author of several books on board games. You can reach him on BlueSky at
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