So we’ve already talked about the board game renaissance, but you don’t want to drop $50 and spend an hour each time you want to play them. There’s a solution to that, today we’ll talk about lightweight games. Lightweight games are games that generally take less than 10 minutes to explain, and under half an hour to play. Once again, I’ll be sticking to games that are in print, and generally available.
Game 1: Press Your Luck – Incan Gold (3-8 players)
This game has a theme about raiding ancient temples, and attempting to retrieve treasure. Each player has a small tent, an explore card, and an escape card. There are five rounds, with each round lasting until either everyone retreats from an expedition, or disaster strikes. The way the game is played is simple. There’s a deck with treasure cards, artifact cards, and danger cards. Each turn is played by flipping over the top card of the deck. If the card is a treasure card, it will have a number of gems on it, these gems are evenly divided amongst the players still exploring the temple with any remainders being put on the card. If it’s an artifact the card is simply placed down in the temple. Any danger cards are also placed into the temple, there are 5 different hazards and 3 copies of each in the deck. A single danger card doesn’t do any harm, but if the danger card matches one already in the temple, anyone still exploring is trapped in the dungeon (disaster strikes), and one of the copies of that hazard is removed from the deck. As for the artifacts and gems placed on cards, those sit there for the players who decide to escape the dungeon. If only one player decides to escape, they get to pick up any artifacts on their way out, as well as any gems sitting on the cards. If multiple players decide to escape, they leave the artifacts where they are and divvy up any gems on their way out. Once the players have escaped, they get to place any gems they’ve picked up into their tent, where they will count for end game scoring. Deciding to continue can be advantageous if you’re the only one exploring, as a single card can provide as many as 15 gems. Depending on the players, this game can be played in 15-40 minutes.
Game 2: Drafting Dominoes – Kingdomino (2-4 players)
If you’re familiar with dominoes, this game is a breeze to explain. There are 48 tiles in the game with numbers on the back from 1 to 48. Each player starts with a single tile, a little 3-d castle, and a meeple (or two for the two player version) of their player color. To start with, you randomly pull out 4 tiles, and place them in order based on their number. You then randomize the selection process for the first round. After that, you pull out the next four tiles, sort them by the numbers, flip them over, and each player gets to select one in order of the numbers of the tiles they were already on. So, if the first four tiles were 4, 10, 17, and 25 the player who selected 4 gets their first pick of the next batch of tiles, the player assigned 10 gets the second pick and so on. If the second batch of tiles were 1, 14, 30, and 45 and the player who picked 4 in the first round selected tile 45, this means that they’ll be picking last in the next round. When placing tiles, there are 6 different types of territory: desert, forest, water, wasteland, grassland, and mines. Each tile you place must match at least one territory that you place it adjacent to. The beginning tile (with the little castle on it) is considered wild. Some of the territory squares have a number of crowns on them, ranging from one to three. At the end of the game, scoring is done by scoring each type of contiguous (next to each other) territory by counting the number of squares, and multiplying them by the number of crowns in the area. So if you have a 7 square water territory that has 3 crowns total in it, that would score you 21 points. There are also advanced rules that provide bonus points for a 5 x 5 grid at the end, as well as one for having your castle in the middle of the kingdom. For a lightweight game, there’s a nice bit of strategy in this one, and it still plays a game in about 15 minutes.
Game 3: Cute Modular Drafting – Sushi Go Party! (2-8 players)
This game is a new version of an older game, Sushi Go. This version adds more variety, a scoreboard, and some minor tweaks in the rules, while allowing more variable player counts. In this game, you’re drafting cards over a number of rounds to score the best meal. During the setup, everyone agrees on a menu for the game (or you can use one of the pre-built menus included in the manual). This menu will have appetizers, main courses, special items, and dessert. Cards are dealt out to all of the players, with each player then drafting a card and passing the remaining cards to the player on their left. All of the selected cards are revealed, special powers may trigger, and then you pick up the cards the player to your right handed you and repeat. Once all of the cards have been selected, you score the round. Scoring is variable based on the cards selected, some give you a set number of points, others are worth no points unless you have 2 of them, others are worth points unless you have more than 3 of them, etc. After scoring the round, all of the selected cards (with the exception of desserts, which score at the end of the game) are shuffled with the deck and a set number of additional dessert cards are added. The scoreboard helpfully includes slots for tiles that illustrate how each item will score in the round, making it easy to keep track of what the options are. Like most drafting games, play time will be about the same regardless of players, in this case about 30 minutes.
Game 4: Everyone Has the Same Options – Karuba (2-4 players)
This game is a hidden gem. The theme is explorers trying to find their way to temples, while picking up gems along the path. To set up the game, all of the players take a player board, a set of four temples (each a different color), a set of four explorers (same colors as the temples), and then a stack of numbered jungle tiles. All of the players but one then sorts all of their jungle tiles by the number on them. A player then selects a location for either a temple or an explorer (with the caveat that temples and explorers of the same color must be a certain distance apart from each other as a minimum), and all of the other players place the same temple/explorer on the same numbered space. This continues until all 8 of the temples and explorers are placed. Now, we’re ready to start the game. The player who did not sort his jungle tiles now mixes them up, and selects one. They then announce the number and the other players all pick up that same tile. All of the players now have an option, they either place the tile somewhere on their play board, or discard it for movement points for their explorers. The number of path entrances on the tile will determine the amount of movement points the tile provides (so a tile with just a single path going straight across gives 2 movement points, while a crossroads provides 4). When placing a tile in the jungle, if the tile has a picture of a diamond or a gold nugget, you place the appropriate stone on the tile, these can be picked up if an explorer stops on the tile. Explorers cannot move through each other, or share a space. As players get their explorers to the temples, they acquire a scoring tile (the points awarded is determined by player count). The game ends when all of the jungle tiles have been used. At this point, players add up their points from diamonds, gold nuggets, and temple score tiles. The high score wins. What’s really nice about the game is that everyone is given exactly the same options, with the same starting positions, so it is completely fair. You can also see what tiles remain, so you have some idea as to what’s going to be coming up. This game will take about 45 minutes to complete.
Hopefully these lighter games may help ease you into the hobby, or for those with stacks of cardboard and meeples, work as a nice filler on a game day. Feel free to point out other lightweight games that I missed in the comments. Next time, I’m planning on going over some of the 2 player games that are on the market.