Instead, on to the games!
Players: 2-5 (definitely better with 3-4)
Features: Set collection, Co-op, An odd twist on hidden information
Estimated Price: About $10 on Amazon: Hanabi Card Game
Perfect For: Team players, People with good memories
Hanabi, from R & R Games, is a cooperative card game in which everyone is working together to build the best fireworks display and are doing so by helping each other lay down numbered cards in sequential sets. All your group needs to do is lay down cards in turn, matching colors and increasing in value. Simple, right? No problem? Well, Hanabi is simple to be sure, but it’s also tough and exciting, all because of one thing – Each player plays with their hand of cards facing away from themselves. Only the other players, and not you, can see your cards and what they can tell you regarding your hand contents is very limited and costs precious resources. It starts off slow but becomes wonderfully tense – absolutely perfect for any small group of gamers!
Features: Dice Rolling, Push Your Luck, More strategy than most dice filler games
Estimated Price: Under $20 on Amazon: Ninja Dice Game
Perfect For: People who love rolling really nice dice, Filling time between heavier games, Ninjas
From out of the shadows (and a really neat little ninja-cube box), Ninja Dice, from Jeff Garcia and Greenbrier Games, stealthily rolls in to entertain 2-5 players with great ‘push your luck’ dice rolling! However, unlike many other push your luck games, everyone rolls on every turn, with one player attempting to complete a randomly rolled mission of stealth and the others trying to thwart them! Uniquely, the actual location and direction your dice land in relation to each other has a practical effect on gameplay. This adds a layer of strategy often absent from other push your luck games, and keeps everyone engaged for very little downtime. There’s even a mini-expansion that adds location cards to each mission for even more fun! This light game is easy enough for younger gamers to learn, but plenty fun for anyone who loves to roll dice!
Features: Set Collection, Auctioning (albeit sort of reverse-auctioning)
Estimated Price: About $10 on Amazon: No Thanks
Perfect For: Any amount of downtime between games, Moderately-sized groups, lunch-hour gaming
I’ve heard it called the “ultimate filler game”, and while that accolade may be a bit extreme (we’ve got a few other favorites which are definitely contenders), No Thanks! from Z-Man Games is a very fun, fast-playing game which has dominated my ‘office lunchtime game’ slot for months now. The premise is easy – get the lowest score by avoiding high-value cards, ranging from 3 to 35. In order to pass on cards, one need only spend a token and say “No Thanks” – eventually, though, you’ll run low on tokens and you’ll have to take what you’re dealt. However, if you can manage to build a straight of cards, they only count as the lowest value in the set, so canny card collection is the name of the game! Teachable in moments and lasting only minutes per game, No Thanks! is an excellent grab for anyone looking to fill a few minutes with fun!
Sail to India
Features: Exploration, Set Collection, Area Control, Tiny Cubes
Estimated Price: Around $15 on Amazon: Sail to India Board Game
Perfect For: People who want a lot of game in a tiny box, Euro fans
Sail to India, part of AEG’s ‘Pocket Games’ line (many of which could be on this list), is a truly fascinating little game. Within its tiny confines beats the heart of a true, fully-realized Euro style game. Players will take on the roles of trade companies, all searching for (you guessed it) a route to India. Along the way, they can build structures, gain and sell resources, and improve their trade fleet. Uniquely, every element of the game, from ships to score-markers to buildings, are represented by a finite number of colored cubes. That means that if you build a fortress, you have one fewer cube to act as a ship, or as a score-marker, or for resource-tracking. This design choice adds a unique element of resource management to the game, which we think is really neat. On the down side is that the player count, between 3-4, is a tad narrow for our taste, but Sail to India is a uniquely engaging little game at a great price, to boot!
Space Hulk: Death Angel
Features: Co-op, Exploration, Variable Player Powers, lots of dead Space Marines
Estimated Price: About $20 on Amazon: Death Angel
Perfect For: Groups who enjoy a challenge, Solitaire gamers and teams alike, the Emperor
Gather, my battle brothers! We march forth FOR THE EMPEROR! Set in the delightfully over-the-top Warhammer 40k universe, Space Hulk: Death Angel is an excellent (if brutal) sci-fi co-op game from Fantasy Flight Games. Death Angel pits your squad of Space Marines against a ravening horde of genestealers as they explore an otherwise abandoned space ship. With multiple scenarios, unique player powers, and the meanest die in gaming history (seriously, that otherwise innocuous 6-sider has killed more space marines than anything else in the universe), Death Angel has tons of replayablility and encourages teamwork and coordination against overwhelming odds. Fantasy Flight has also published a whole mess of small expansions, adding more missions, more enemies, and more space marine squads for an even more diverse experience!