Tabletop gaming has a reputation for eating up entire afternoons (or sometimes even days). But being an adult and having to do adult things like cooking, laundry and buying house plants sometimes makes finding time for epic 4+ hour games a little tricky.
Quick board games that fit into a mere 15 minutes might get relegated to ‘filler’ territory by some, only fit for the most casual of players. But just because they take up less of your time doesn’t mean they should take up less space on your shelf.
A good quick board game should run fast (obviously), leaving very little downtime between actions. Players should be constantly engaging with the game, whether they're taking their turn, reacting to other people's moves, or thinking about what they want to do next.
Best quick board games
Short games are just as crucial to creating any well-rounded collection as the big blockbusters, so here’s our recommendations for quick games that take 15 minutes or less to play. Perfectly fit for any lunchtime activity.
1. Bang! The Dice Game
Bang! The Dice Game will transport you the land of the quick and the dead, where you and your friends will adopt the hidden roles of sheriff, deputy, outlaw or renegade. The sheriff and deputy’s goals are simple: eliminate the outlaws who, in turn, want to eliminate the sheriff. As for the renegade, well, they just want everyone in the whole damn town gone. In Bang! The Dice Game, players take turns to roll the dice, keeping the symbols they want whilst re-rolling the rest. The numbers on the dice indicate the range of a shot (range is determined by seating order, with a one targeting the player adjacent and so on), beer allows players to heal, arrows are accumulated to give damage and dynamite… well safe to say, it’s not good. Unlike the original Bang!, Bang! The Dice Game is fast and unpredictable, like a cowboy duel, which ultimately makes for an overall better experience.
Buy Bang! The Dice Game on Amazon
2. 5-Minute Dungeon
Playing 5-Minute Dungeon is the equivalent of watching anything from the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s the furthest thing from nuanced you can get, but it provides one heck of an adrenaline rush. The clue is in the name: 5-Minute Dungeon is a co-operative card game wherein players embody a team of brave heroes who chaotically battle their way through hordes of enemies to eventually face off against one of five intimidating dungeon bosses. All in the space of five minutes. Defeating enemies is as simple as playing the matching cards, with each unique hero deck containing the different symbols you’ll need to win the game. As you encounter bigger baddies and nastier bosses, those five minutes seem to slip away faster and faster, which only serves to make everything feel exponentially more exciting.
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Whilst Codenames is most definitely a head-scratcher, it’s an impressively simple one. Two teams compete to successfully identify their secret agents amongst a group of potential candidates. However, any one of them could be an enemy spy or even a fatal assassin. In gameplay terms, this translates as one player from each team giving clues designed to connect any number of words (e.g. if the word was ‘crumpet’, then clue could be ‘butter’ ), and the others attempting to guess which words are hiding their team’s agents. Selecting incorrect words can score points for the other team – or worse, cause you to lose the game entirely – so picking and choosing your clues wisely is essential to success. Word-association games can always be a little hit-and-miss (depending on who you play with), but Codenames is accessible enough for almost anyone to get the basics.
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4. Sushi Go!
Sushi Go! takes the mechanics of card-drafting and set-collection, and distils them into one incredibly streamlined and thematically appetising game. In Sushi Go! a deck of cards is distributed amongst the players, who then take turns to select one card before passing the rest of their hand to the person to their left. Which card to select really depends on what sets the player is attempting to collect. For example, choosing a wasabi card followed by a simple nigiri will net a player triple points on that one nigiri card, while tempura score more points for one, two or three matching cards. As with many set-collection games, there’s plenty of potential for deliberate meanness (choosing a single sashimi just to end another player’s collection is a cruel but necessary choice), but rounds move so quickly that any wrongdoing is soon forgotten. Playing Sushi Go! may not satisfy your hunger for actual sushi, but it will satiate your desire for an addictive card game experience.
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What could be a more relaxing lunchtime activity than viciously interrogating your co-workers and friends? In all seriousness, Spyfall is an enormously fun social deduction game, wherein all players but one are given a secret location (e.g. a beach, a zoo, a medieval castle), which they must then ask each other subtle questions about in order to suss out who the spy is among them. (So if the location was a medieval castle, someone might ask the question; “What’s your opinion on today’s draperies, aren’t they magnificent?”) See, the spy doesn’t know the secret location, so they’d better be a dab hand at paying attention to the conversation and thinking on the spot if they want to have any chance of winning. If the spy successfully identifies the correct locale, then they win. Otherwise the remaining players ought to keep an ear out for any suspiciously off-topic answers. Trust us, nothing could be more entertaining than watching a beloved friend bungle their way through a round of Spyfall.
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6. Escape: The Curse of The Temple
As with Bang! The Dice Game, Escape: The Curse of The Temple provides yet another opportunity to live out your adventurous fantasies in a single lunchtime. In Escape: The Curse of The Temple, you and your friends must co-operate in real-time to access the temple’s rooms and reveal hidden gems, before making a mad dash to the exit to avoid eternal incarceration (think Temple of the Jungle King from Jungle Run, but no Sid and Elvis). Your toolkit for this adventure? A collection of five dice, each side displaying a different symbol, each symbol resulting in a different effect: some good, and one very much not-so-good. The good effects range from opening doors to finding hidden treasure, whilst the not-so-good effect can result in players having their dice entirely locked-out until their co-adventurers can help them out. Being in real-time, the act of desperately rolling dice to unlock yourself or other players before it’s too late, is both incredibly stressful and impossibly thrilling, especially when the game’s accompanying soundtrack really kicks in.
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From the designer of The Game on Fire comes Qwixx, a fast-moving roll-and-write game in which players race against each other to roll the right amounts and score the most points. The game sees players taking it in turns to roll six dice, two of which are white, with the rest representing each of the coloured rows (the top two running from two to 12, the bottom two running from 12 to two) shown on players’ scoresheets. The white dice can be added and marked-off on any player’s scoresheet, regardless of the current roller. Whilst the coloured dice can only be applied to the active player’s scoresheet, when combined with a white die. These sums matter, as the top two rows must be marked-off from lowest to highest, whilst the addition of bottom rows is done in a vice-versa fashion, with each player ultimately looking to score the highest total along every row. Now this may sound complicated on paper, but at its core, Qwixx is really a simple game of luck and choice. One that’s made easier if you happen to roll well or know how to crunch numbers.
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Unlike the majority of tile-laying games, the goal of Tsuro is not to reach any destination in particular. Like a board game equivalent of Snake, players must eternally meander across the game’s board, avoiding walls and obstacles, until everyone else is eliminated. Tsuro’s tiles display a collection of white lines, each one veering off in a different direction, which players must use to create a pathway for their token to travel along, ensuring that they neither collide with another player’s token nor venture out of the board’s middle-space. Anticipating the trajectory of your fellow players’ tokens, and planning your tile placements around them, is the bread and butter of successfully playing a game of Tsuro. Despite these strategic elements, when compared with the other titles on this list, Tsuro is a decidedly relaxing and undeniably beautiful-looking game.
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9. Geistes Blitz (Ghost Blitz)
German publisher Haba is an expert at making kid-friendly games that are equally as fun for adults. You won’t find any Candy Land or Don’t Wake Daddy levels of dross in a Haba game. Geistes Blitz (or Ghost Blitz) continues this trend by providing a pattern-recognition game that’s easy to grasp and fun to play, no matter your age. Each player takes a turn to draw a card showing a combination of a either a bottle, mouse, chair, book or ghost. These images represent the wooden tokens placed in the centre of the table (each one in the shape of one of the items listed above), one of which must be grabbed each turn. The grabbable item is determined by one of two factors: if the card drawn shows it coloured correctly (e.g. a green bottle) or,if it represents the only aspect not pictured on said card (e.g. none of the items are red, or a chair isn’t pictured). Yoink the right one and you win the card, select the wrong one and lose you points. No doubt about it, Geistes Blitz is loud, proud and a blast to play.
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There has been a lot of talk of adventure on this list, and while we don’t like to beat a dead horse, Diamant is a fantastic game that deserves a mention. Similarly to Escape: The Curse of The Temple, Diamant has you and your friends risking it all to collect the game’s converted gems. But unlike Escape: The Curse of The Temple, players don’t help one another. No, in Diamant, you’ll want the other players to suffer. The game’s path is laid out with a series of cards, each one having the potential to hold either gems (yes please) or hazards such as snakes and scorpions (no thanks). Each player must decide whether they want to delve deeper into the deck for more gems, or choose to get out with the treasure they already have. However, be warned: if a hazard card is drawn you lose all the gems you’ve collected that round. Far from the most nuanced push-your-luck game, Diamant is certainly one of the quickest, making for the perfect lunchtime diversion.
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Once you’ve shot through this collection of speedy games, have a look at some of our other top ten lists on Dicebreaker for more recommendations on what to play next.