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7 Awesome Filler Board Games

Epic! That’s how I like my board games – big, meaty, complicated, and brain burning. But let’s face it, too much brain burn can add up – two days into a convention of heavy euros and all I want is something mindless. Short and mindless. That’s where good filler games come in.

A good filler is fun, engaging, and allows you to have a good conversation with your fellow players without having to pay 100% attention to the game. So I tossed a few out right off the bat. One Night Ultimate anything is a good filler and a borderline party game, but it doesn’t encourage conversation – at least not during gameplay. Also out – The Resistance, Hanabi, and anything else that puts limits on conversation because of the game mechanics.

What else did I consider to add games to this list? Here are my criteria:

  • Short Plays – Even if the rules call for “best 4 out of 7”, if a single instance of the game can be played in less than 10 minutes, it fits the bill.
  • Easy to Learn – I don’t want to spend 30 minutes explaining a game to people when we only have 35 minutes to play. Rules should be self-explanatory to the point of not needing a full explanation.
  • Super Small – I want a game that takes up almost no space. Bannisters, end tables, or the smallest table in a coffee shop – that’s all we should be talking about here.
  • Talkable – Can I talk to my friends while we’re playing? Will someone get upset or will the game lag behind or turns get forgotten if we discuss the latest episode of Mr. Robot? Then it’s not a filler.
  • Low Cost – No one wants to spend $40 for a game that only comes out to fill gaps between other longer games. A good filler should be small and pocket-sized and the cost should match. I tossed a couple good ones like King of Tokyo and Tsuro out because of this one.

In the end, the list was pretty long. I narrowed it down from there to the games I personally like best, because writer’s prerogative!

Now for some awesome filler games:

Love Letter

LoveLetter_game
Let’s face it – whether you like Love Letter or not, the game is everywhere and it’s kind of a perfect filler. Only 5 minutes per round and most games over in less than 20 minutes, Love Letter hits the sweet spot on almost every category here, plus there are so many versions of it, you’re bound to find one that you can at least tolerate. I see this one a lot less at the table than I did for the 9 months after it was first released, but it’s still a go to for me and my group when I need to kill 15-20 minutes.

The Data!

  • Designer: Seiji Kanai
  • Publisher: AEG
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Play Time: 20 minutes
  • MSRP: $9.99

Get Your Copy

Timeline

TimelineGame
This game is spectacular. Not because the gameplay is revolutionary, but because it makes it fun to learn and (hopefully) retain knowledge about key dates in history. I now know exactly when the cotton gin was created. Why? Because I lost the game the first time this card hit my hand.

The idea is simple – drop cards into a timeline based on when certain events occurred – if you’re wrong, draw another card. First person to empty their hand wins. And again, like Love Letter, there are a dozen variants for this (which can be mixed together). All we need now is a super-sized edition with all the Timeline cards in one box.

The Data!

  • Designer: Frederic Henry
  • Publisher: Asmodee
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Play Time: 15 minutes
  • MSRP: $14.99

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No Thanks

NoThanks

No Thanks is a reverse trick taking game in which you bid on cards you don’t want with chips that you keep hidden in your hand. The winner of that particular card gets to keep all the chips and therefore be able to bid more later.

The game is perfect because a round only takes 5-10 minutes and the bidding aspect adds a lot of player interaction. It’s small, lightweight and always fun – a perfect fit for this spot.

The Data!

  • Designer: Thorsten Gimmler
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games
  • Number of Players: 3-5
  • Play Time: 20 minutes
  • MSRP: $9.99

Get Your Copy

Sushi Go!

SushiGoGae

Sushi Go! takes everything that makes 7 Wonders one of the top 50 games of all time and makes it faster, smaller, and more accessible. It’s pocket-sized and quick, the art is cute and accessible, and the game can be played with anyone, including young children who might be overwhelmed by other card drafting games with similar mechanics.

The Data!

  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Play Time: 20 minutes
  • MSRP: $14.99

Get Your Copy

Friday the 13th

Fridaythe13th

This could be any trick taking game, honestly, but I don’t like most trick taking games, so I chose one I did. Friday the 13th is the current iteration of Reiner Knizia’s classic Poison, and the only version you can actually buy. There are three suits of cards and you need to get rid of them all. But if you bust on one of the suits (go over 13), you’ll have to pick up all of those cards.

There are special cards that are worth extra negative points as well, but if you get the most of one suit, you only lose one – it’s quick, easy, and accessible, and it can be played on a bannister outside Daniel’s apartment when waiting for the door to open.

The Data!

  • Designer: Reiner Knizia
  • Publisher: Iello
  • Number of Players: 3-6
  • Play Time: 30 minutes
  • MSRP: $16.99

Get Your Copy

Guillotine

Guillotine

This is one of the first filler games I played and while it can be hard to find outside of game stores, it is a fun one. You’ll play cards in a line to the guillotine, many of which will manipulate the order of the cards in that line, hoping to get the most points by the end of the game.

Each of the game’s three rounds only takes 5-10 minutes and the artwork keeps the macabre subject from being anything but silly fun.

The Data!

  • Designer: Paul Peterson
  • Publisher: Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Play Time: 30 minutes
  • MSRP: $14.99

Get Your Copy

Hey, That’s My Fish!

Heythat'smyfish

Hey, That’s My Fish! seems like a children’s game at first glance. It’s in a small box (from Fantasy Flight of all companies), and involves sliding your penguins across ice floes and flipping tiles to reveal fish (victory points).

As you slide around, ice floes disappear and some penguins get cut off. At the end, when all the ice is gone and no penguins can move, everyone counts up their fish and the player with the most is the winner. It’s quick, it’s fun, and it’s incredibly easy to teach – a perfect filler.

The Data!

  • Designer: Gunter Cornett, Alvydas Jakeliunas
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Play Time: 20 minutes
  • MSRP: $11.99

Get Your Copy

There you have it! Seven games you can pick up to fill the 15-20 minute gaps between the epic americlash or brain-burning euros you’re scheduling for your next game night. Sound off in the comments below if there’s a game you feel should make the list and didn’t!

  • Anthony

    Anthony lives and plays games in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of complex strategy, two player war games, and area control, Anthony is always eager to try a new game, even if he's on rule-reading duty.

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