Many board gamers like to keep a game or two up their sleeves for the possibility of there being time to kill. This selection all comes in small boxes that easily fit in your bag or pocket and play quickly, but are so fun that you’ll hardly believe their size.
The play times here are for groups who all know the rules and play reasonably quickly – if you’ve got a durdler on your hands, the time to play any game can go up.
The prices are correct at the time of writing and it has been noted where the prices were found, though you can probably get most of these games from any good game store (or a book shop with a good games selection such as Blackwell’s).
This selection has a diverse range of mechanics and can act as excellent stepping stones into the world of modern board gaming. If you’re quick, there’s still time to ask Santa for one to bring back to uni next term.
- Players: 2-5
- Duration: 20 minutes
- Price: £16.99 (Games Lore)
- Publisher: Oink Games
- More info on Scout on Board Game Geek
Scout is a quick-to-learn and quick-to-play game where you must create the best show for the circus you suddenly find yourself in control of. It is in essence a trick-taking game where you have to play better hands of cards than your opponents.
The place it differentiates itself however is that you can’t change the order of cards in your hand and have to manipulate the order to make good sets in other ways.
It was nominated for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in 2022, a huge mark of honour in the board gaming world. All of Oink Games’ offerings are the big-game-in-small-boxes variety, but Scout is really the stand out option.
For a higher player count, check out Startups, which goes up to 8.
Hive Pocket Edition
- Players: 2
- Duration: 20 minutes
- Price: £16.99 (Amazon, for the pocket edition)
- Publisher: Gen42
- More info on Hive Pocket at Board Game Geek
Hive is a veteran on the scene, having been released back in 2000, and has truly stood the test of time.
It can be compared to chess in that two players have the same pieces that can make the same moves and nothing about the game itself will give anyone an advantage – it’s all about player skill.
You have to manoeuvre your pieces into a commanding position and surround your opponent’s queen without allowing them to do the same to you.
A quick game with surprisingly deep strategy, just be aware that the theme might put some people off – your pieces are all insects and there is a spider that will really deter some severe arachnophobes. It’s truly worth trying to overcome to get to play this fantastic little battle of wits though.
Circle the Wagons
- Players: 2
- Duration: 15 minutes
- Price: £8.99 (Zatu Games)
- Publisher: Button Shy
- More info on Circle the Wagons at Board Game Geek
Button Shy’s games are famous as the ‘wallet games’ made popular by a 2021 Shut Up and Sit Down Video (famous in the world of board game enthusiasts, anyway), and Circle the Wagons is a favourite among them for its quick play, interesting decisions, and fun theme – who doesn’t want to be a boomtown cowboy?
Because of how quick Circle the Wagons is, how small, how uncomplicated the components, it can be a great hook to get people interested in checking out modern board games – ‘it will only take 15 minutes’ is a surprisingly good thread of persuasion to follow. And for the more established gamer, its charm and replayability mean that everyone has fun.
- Players: 1-4
- Duration: 20-30 minutes
- Price: £11.15 (Zatu Games)
- Publisher: Badgers From Mars
- More info on Regicide at Board Game Geek
Regicide is fantastic for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, you can play it with a standard deck of playing cards. The price listed is for the official cards, but they themselves can be used for any regular 52-card-deck games.
The rules and the companion app are available for free, so it can be played for next to nothing.
Secondly, it’s a cooperative game, which can be a fantastic way of introducing newer games to the world of board games because there’s never a ‘loser’ – if you don’t win this time, just try again next time.
Thirdly, if you do grab the official deck, the art is absolutely gorgeous. The characters were all created by Sketch Goblin, known online for doing commissioned art of fantasy characters (like D&D characters).
Fourth and finally, Regicide is a simple and fantastic game. It’s fun, challenging, and really replayable. You pit your cards against 12 enemies, slowly converting them to fight alongside you for… yes, all with a deck of playing cards.
- Players: 3-6
- Duration: 15-45 minutes
- Price: £13.99 (Games Lore)
- Publisher: Lui-même/Asmodee
- More info on Skull at Board Game Geek
A bluffing game is always a fantastic include in your repertoire and it’s always a surprise to see which members of a group have a stone cold poker face.
Skull is Spiel des Jahres recommended and for good reason. It’s exceptionally simple, with the only components being so simple you could easily replicate them with beer mats or standard playing cards (3 number cards and a face card is the easiest).
Games of skull can get tense and nothing is quite like the feeling that you’ve promised more than you can realistically deliver.
Featured Image Credit: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels