It’s ironic how a game that was created to fill the void between sessions of other games has become so big, so large that it now suffers from the same problem. Maybe your MTGO draft is slow to fire, or your friend is late to your house, or you’re travelling to an event and want something to do in the afterhours when the hall is closed, but we’ve all had downtime while waiting to play Magic. Small, short games can offer a lot of interesting decisions while remaining tiny enough to only take up a little bit of your time. Sometimes, we need a game that lasts 5-15 minutes so we can fill some time before we get back to Magic.
So whether you’re at a GP, waiting for the eighth man to show up at your house to draft, or just looking for something a little different, here are eight games you can turn to when not playing Magic:
It’s hard to describe what type of game Love Letter is. It’s a party game. It’s a strategy game. Perhaps the best way to describe it is “fun.” While the theme is threadbare, you’re basically trying to eliminate the other players while being the last man standing or to have the highest card in your hand by the end of the round (which generally lasts as long as three minutes).
Hive is a two player chess variant that evolves as you play it. You get around 10-12 pieces to use to build a board, playing or moving hexes one at a time until you can surround the opponent’s queen. It’s similar to chess, but with a bit more unpredictability to it, since the play space changes as the game progresses.
Like Hive, The Duke is a two player chess variant where planning ahead and spacial thinking are key. Unlike Hive, the Duke has a lot more randomness in it – if you want to add a piece to the board, you pull a random one out of a bag, which means each game evolves differently than the last, and you have to learn to adapt on the fly instead of rely on a dominant type of piece.
Similar to Ascension or Dominion, Star Realms is a deck building game (designed by Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer Darwin Kastle) where you all start with the same resources and compete to gain new ones, with the eventual goal of reducing your opponent to zero life before they do the same to you. Imagine if while you were drafting, you could play the spells you pick several turns later – it feels similar. Best of all, they have a digital version, so you don’t even need to carry much to a friend’s house or a GP!
If Scrabble didn’t have words and relied on pictures instead, you’d have Iota – a game about connecting shapes, colors and numbers on an evolving board in an attempt to get the most points possible. Depending on how you play your cards, you can get as little as two points or as many as hundreds. A game for people who like planning ahead, managing board space and matching symbols, Iota demands you to think harder than any other game on this list.
Eight Minute Empire
As the name implies, in Eight Minute Empire you have to conquer as much of the world as you can in eight minutes. For a game with few, if any words, it’s surprisingly complex and deep. You draft resources and points while deploying troops around the world, all in eight minutes. It’s like micro-Risk, but without spending eight minutes rolling dice each turn.
Sheriff of Nottingham
A bluffing game where you’re incentivized to lie to your friends constantly, Sheriff of Nottingham is a surprisingly simple game about trying to get away with as much as possible. Each turn, the Sheriff tries to question people about the goods in their bags, preventing people from smuggling more into the town than they say they have. Note that you may walk away from this game looking at your friends in a new light as they lie to your face over and over again.
Last but not least, Funemployed is a party game [designed by me 🙂] where people try to apply to jobs saying things they’d never say on an interview – how your Daddy Issues make you a great Superhero, or why your Jet Packs make you the best Secret Agent. It’s a game that can be played for three minutes or three hours, depending on who you’re with. Note that like Sheriff, it’s also possible that you walk away from this game looking at your friends in a new light too, but because they say crazy, unpredictable things.
So what about you guys? What are your favorite games to fill the time while waiting to play a game of Magic or when you need a change of pace?