We all love a good board game. But sometimes you’ve got a dentist appointment in 30 minutes. Or you’re in a line that’s long, but not that long. Or you’ve got to play with your really, really, really impatient cousin Steve. It can definitely be helpful to have a few go-to games that are quick to pick up and play. Here are four great games that can be played in about half an hour.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple: about 10 minutes
Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative game that places all the players in a race against time. While other games can be played in 10 minutes, Curse of the Temple doesn’t give you a choice. There is a strict timer of ten minutes, constantly running down throughout everyone’s turn. Each player is an adventurer in the style of a certain fedora-and-bullwhip-wearing movie hero, and they must dispose of all their cursed treasure to make it out of the dangerous temple alive. If you want to escape, you’re all going to have to work together- either everyone wins or no one does.
The adrenaline-pumping chaos of Curse of the Temple is its defining quality. Unlike many games, everyone takes their turn simultaneously, which means there’s a lot of panicked shouting and pleading going on. Being able to all pull together and act under pressure is the key, so there’s a teamwork and camaraderie aspect to the game that comes across really well. The theming is also great, with the timer taking form of not a simple hourglass but a soundtrack that cues everyone in via music and sound effects. Custom soundtracks are popular online and easy to make. So if you wanted, say, a Donkey Kong Country-themed version of the music, go for it. In any case, Curse of the Temple is so nail-bitingly-paced that several rounds can be played in a row, and believe me, once you’re hooked, ten minutes easily becomes sixty.
Best feeling in the game: When the last player just barely escapes, with 2 seconds left on the clock. You’ll all be in group therapy for extreme stress, but it’s worth it.
Lord of the Rings: The Duel: about 20-30 minutes
Lord of the Rings: The Duel is based on a very specific and very cool moment in the classic fantasy story. It expands upon the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog, with each player taking a side. The goal is to try and cross further on the bridge of Khazad-Dum than your opponent. The game is played in four rounds, where cards from your deck are carefully chosen and played. Some are weaker and some are stronger, so choosing the perfect moments to strike and to fall back is critical. The winner of each duel steps further along the bridge the better they do in each round.
Sometimes you want to play a great board game meant for two people, which can be difficult to find. The Duel fills this role perfectly. The illustrations, by famous LOTR artist John Howe, are beautiful, and really help build the atmosphere. (But for the love of god, only one scream of “You shall not pass!” per game!) The nature of the game unavoidably pits you into mind games with your opponent, which is a good chance to perfect your suspicious glare. The high degree of luck of The Duel means anyone can stand a chance on their first play. But the satisfying depth, and burning desire for revenge, means that this one is very replayable.
Best feeling in the game: Tricking your opponent into playing their 0-defense card against your 4-attack card- and then seeing their face crumble in despair. Fly, you fool indeed.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: as few as 10 minutes
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a takeoff on the playground game of Mafia, pared down to a tight and tense single round of play with no narrator or moderator. This time, though, the location is a Scottish village full of magic, intrigue, and werewolves that must be hunted down. Each player takes a role card, without letting anyone else see what it is. Then, night falls, and each role takes a secret action. Once everyone has played and day has broken, the players try to suss out who is who. Many roles secretly switch the role cards of other players- so knowing when to lie and when to tell the truth is key. It ultimately comes down to who is on the side of the killer werewolves, and who is not. Each player has one vote to decide who to execute- although multiple people can be killed in case of a tie.
Werewolf is a game that gets better the more you play, as everyone gets more comfortable with their roles and with the careful lies they have to concoct. The psychological nature of the game allows for infinite ways to play. You’ll always be thinking of who to fool, what to pretend to be, when and if to reveal your true nature, etc. It’s easy to take advantage of the trust of a beloved friend or significant other, and then cruelly stab them in the back. And that delicious cold-hearted feeling is what we play board games for, right? Thanks to the variable roles and several expansions, there can be even more variety between games. It’s an especially great pick for those that don’t play board games often.
Best feeling in the game: Watching your little white lie become solemnly accepted truth, spinning a web of chaos in which no one suspects you’re the dirty little spider at the center. And of course, the shocked facial expression when you reveal the truth.
7 Wonders: about 20-35 minutes
7 Wonders puts players in the thrones of ancient rulers, trying to demonstrate that their city is the finest in the world. Strategies are highly varied, with seven ways to earn victory points. For example, a player could try to build the largest military, or create a booming economy, or of course, build an awe-inspiring Wonder like the Colossus. Players share a common deck of cards, so each turn you must pick one to play and pass the rest. Screwing your neighbor, is of course, a very viable option. Ambition is important, but balanced by the resources you have open to you. At the end of three rounds, the player with the most victory points wins.
When you play 7 Wonders, you really feel like you’re carefully building an empire. Fans of the Civilization video games will be right at home here. The game is great at giving you that strong sense of accomplishment as you play the perfect building from your hand. Admittedly, the learning curve for 7 Wonders is a little steeper than the other games on this list, due to all the options you have open from the very beginning of the game. However, the strategic depth has won the game a lot of prestige; with over 30 awards including the coveted Kennerspiel des Jahres. When it comes to board games, the more Germany likes it, the better. Besides, once you’ve got a few games under your belt, they’ll go by in 20 minutes, easy.
Best feeling in the game: Finally completing your Wonder, inflating your score and making you the envy of all civilization. Feel free to force your friends to call you Supreme Emperor the rest of the night.
Features image credit: Queen Games