Not everyone loves tabletop games (especially long evening-consuming ones). That’s where these perfect bite-sized games shine with their quick setup and quick play.
Christmas is the perfect time for the family to gather around and play a game. What better way to introduce them to board gaming than through games that are quick to set up and play through? Here are some of our favorite options.
We’ve focused on board and card games that don’t take long to set up, as well as aren’t overly complicated to figure out. No one new to gaming wants to be overwhelmed by rulesets that take hours to understand. Instead, you want something that’s pick up and play in nature. All of these games are guaranteed to be exactly like that. As a games player, you’ll be happy to partake too.
King of Tokyo ($32)
King of Tokyo mentions it contains space penguins. What more could you want? A game for 2 to 6 players, you control mutant monsters, rampaging robots, or abominable aliens in a Rampage style battle to the death. Dice and strategic thinking are key here, as you figure out when to attack your enemy and when to heal up. It’s frantic and nothing like how non-gamers picture board gaming to be like.
The game takes moments to prepare and only lasts about 30 minutes so it’s ideal for those with limited attention spans, or that just want a quick fix.
IELLO: King of Tokyo, New Edition, Strategy Board Game, Space Penguin Included in the Box, For 2 to 6 Players, 30 Minute Play Time, For Ages 8 and Up
Tsuro of the Seas ($33)
Tsuro of the Seas is a highly accessible game about exploring the high seas. Each player is a captain on a mighty ship as they explore the waves of the Mystic Seas, avoiding enemy ships, and looking out for the monstrous Daikaiju.
It might sound like an epic excursion but game sessions typically only take about 20 to 40 minutes so you can dive in pretty quickly. The winner is the last captain sailing so there’s nothing too complicated here. It also looks rather gorgeous.
Sushi Go! ($11)
At ReviewGeek, we’re big fans of the simplicity of Sushi Go! It’s perfect for everyone, even if they don’t normally play card games. The goal is a simple matter of grabbing the best combination of sushi dishes, while leaving room for dessert at the end. The rules are very easy to get to grips with, and scoring is quick too.
Think of it as an awesome appetizer for getting non-players into more complex card gaming. It’s great if you need to entertain the kids too.
Boss Monster ($40)
Retro games fans will adore Boss Monster. It’s a simple game where your aim is to build a dungeon and lure adventurers in, before destroying them. Yup, you get to be the bad guy here. The winner is the player who lures in and kills the most adventurers. The key here is to develop a dungeon that looks really attractive to the adventurers so there’s some crucial strategy here as you work out which traps and monsters to place down.
Each game is different thanks to 75 different room cards that can be deployed. Games only take about 20 minutes so it’s perfect for the impatient gamer who wants to see results fast.
Love Letter ($12)
Delivering a love letter before your opponent is tricky business, it turns out. That’s the plot behind Love Letter—a game that sounds sweet but is actually highly cutthroat and competitive. 2 to 4 players fight it out to deliver a love letter to Princess Annette, and will stop at nothing to succeed.
The deck might only be comprised of 16 cards but there’s still a lot of strategy going on here. Powerful cards can lead to early gains but that also makes you a target. It’s a dangerous world out there, but a terrifically original game.
Forbidden Island ($18)
Not all games have to be competitive. Forbidden Island is a co-operative experience for 2 to 4 players. You form a team of adventurers on a perilous mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this forbidden island. It requires strategic thinking as well as problem-solving skills. It only takes about 30 to 45 minutes to play through and is good for ages 10 and up.
One potential related alternative option is to try out Forbidden Desert instead—Forbidden Island’s sequel. It has a few new mechanisms thrown in like an ever-shifting board, plus it’s arguably a little more refined too. Either option will keep your family happy this Christmas.
Codenames is a lot like a more traditional party game than how many non-gamers may picture board and card gaming. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents and it’s down to their teammates to see who can make contact with all of the agents first, all done via figuring the codenames of the agents.
Spymasters can give one-word clues that point to multiple words on the table, so it’s all a process of deduction. Ideally, 4 players or more players is ideal for the best table dynamic, but there’s a co-operative mode for fewer numbers.
Kingdomino is a form of dominos with a crucial twist—you use those domino style tiles to build a massive kingdom. The goal here is to build a better kingdom than your opponent, but of course, you need to plan wisely. You gain different points for different landscape types and need to work out when best to use certain tiles.
There’s also always the option of Queendomino, the sequel which offers more complex challenges, a new territory, and an extra mode that means up to 8 players can join in when you combine Kingdomino and Queendomino together into a mega set. Either title is a great option for those short on time and patience.
Dragonwood is a highly accessible dice and card game in which players attempt to capture mystical creatures on each turn. It might sound like the cliched version that many non-gamers have of what board gaming is like but Dragonwood is way easier to get into than that. There’s a decent amount of strategy here as you figure out whether to go for several small creatures or aim for a big kahuna of a beast, and that’s what makes it all the more gripping.
Best of all, each session only takes about 20 minutes so there’s no risk of anyone getting bored by what unfolds.