Photo by Aksel Fristrup on Unsplash

There’s nothing like playing a game at a table with a good group of friends or family members over the course of an evening. You can easily dedicate a whole evening to many games, especially when there are more players or when someone is new to the game.

But what if you don’t have hours to spend on a game? What if you’re just trying to pass a little time before another plan you have or you’re waiting for something?

Fortunately, not all board games are long. There are many designed to be played quickly, so you can either repeat them or move on to something else after. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve pulled together this list of the best board games to play in under 30 minutes.

Best Board Games to Play in Under 30 Minutes

Splendor

I’m kind of taking some creative liberties by including Splendor on here because the makers estimate that games will actually last around half an hour. If you know the rules well, though, you may be able to finish it a little more quickly than that.

This is an extremely popular game about building up your fictional jewelry business. Each player will need to get mines and develop ways to transport their loads of gems. You’ll want the best mines and trade routes to beat your competition.

And should you find yourself getting bored of it, there’s even an expansion that you can purchase to shake up the routine and add to the fun. (expansion link: https://amzn.to/3guqTdR

Pros:

  • Supports up to four players.
  • The average game is about 30 minutes.
  • Players score points by competing for the best mines, trade routes, and stores.
  • Most players report that it’s easy to learn and to teach people to play.

Cons:

  • There are some complaints about the quality of the gemstone pieces.

Read Next: Best Board Games with Expansion Packs

Monopoly Speed

Monopoly has an infamous reputation for being a game that can go on forever if you’re not willing to call it quits at some arbitrary point. I’ve personally played a game that went on for a full day, which put me off from it for a long time.

However, Monopoly Speed is designed to break that cycle. In fact, this game is so fast, you can usually finish it in less than ten minutes.

The speed comes from the fact that everything is condensed. Players no longer need to wait to make their buys – they each do it at the same time while the rounds are timed.

This is the perfect game for kids and for when you’re short on time. You could play it while waiting for a food delivery, while waiting for another guest to arrive, or whenever you just need to kill a little time.

Pros:

  • Simple to learn.
  • Because everyone can buy at once, the duration of the game is incredibly fast.
  • Supports up to four players.
  • Suitable for children, so everyone can play.
  • Comes with a timer to time the rounds for you.

Cons:

  • The high-speed nature of each round might make some players anxious.

Calliope Tsuro

Calliope Tsuro is a stunning and ever-changing board game that is sure to feel different every time you play. The objective of the game is simple: players must each take turns setting tiles on the board to build an expanding maze.

You knock other players out of the game by laying down tiles that force them off the path you’re building. The last player marker on the board wins the game.

Like the others on this list, this one can be played extremely quickly. The manufacturers estimate that the average game takes only 20 minutes, making it another great option for passing the time.

I personally love the aesthetic for this one, too. It has a gorgeous Asian-themed design on the board and box, so you could even put it on display when it’s not in use.

Pros:

  • It varies a little every time you play it because the board is built at random.
  • Easy to learn.
  • Suitable for children.
  • It can support up to eight players, making it great for larger gatherings.
  • Games can be finished in as little as 20 minutes.
  • Has a beautiful board and pieces.

Cons:

  • Some owners stated that the quality of the pieces could be improved at this price point.

7 Wonders Duel

If you’re a fan of the Sid Meier’s Civilization games, you won’t want to miss out on 7 Wonders. It’s essentially a simplified version of the games in board game form.

To be frank with you, I’m being kind of generous again here, because this is a game that’s estimated to take around half an hour – not under 30 minutes. More likely than not, with multiple different ways of achieving victory, you’ll find it going over that time limit as opposed to under it.

I couldn’t resist including it, though. Like the video games I mentioned, your objective is to build the best civilization. Two players must focus on achieving victory through scientific advancements, a powerful military, or building a strong influence on the world in-game.

It’s an intense strategy game that lets you play how you want. Plus, because it’s designed for just two people, this one could be great for a home date night.

Pros:

  • There are multiple different strategies you can use to win.
  • The pieces have detailed artwork on them.
  • Perfect for Civilization players.
  • Games should generally only last around half an hour.
  • It’s designed for just two people to play, which could also be a con depending on how you look at it.

Cons:

  • May feel repetitive if you are always playing with the same person.
  • You might need to play it a couple times first to get a feel for the rules.

Read Next: Best Solo Horror Board Games

The Chameleon

It feels kind of disingenuous to call The Chameleon a board game, since it doesn’t really have a large board that you’re playing on. However, it’s not exactly a card game, either, so I guess I’m going to lump it in with the others on this list.

The Chameleon is a social deduction game. One player is the Chameleon, and all others are part of a separate and opposing team. Using a card with a grid of topic words and rolling a die to randomly select one, the players on a team are given a secret word. Then, they have to come up with their own related words for the secret word. For example, if the secret word is football, players’ related words might be pigskin or helmet.

The Chameleon has to look at the grid of topics and try to come up with a related word of their own, without being entirely sure which one is actually the secret word. Then players must discuss the related words they chose and figure out which one is the Chameleon.

Rounds are pretty quick. You’ll probably be able to play as many as you’d like at one time.

Pros:

  • Are you a good bluffer? If so, this is the game for you.
  • You can learn to play it in just mere minutes.
  • The game can be played with up to eight players.
  • Rounds are quick, so you can probably play it multiple times in one game night.

Cons:

  • Although the game isn’t necessarily inappropriate, it’s probably more fun for adults than children.

Kingdomino

If you’re looking for a game that’s incredibly child-friendly but still relatively quick, Kingdomino is an excellent choice. In Kingdomino, everyone playing will build a small kingdom by drawing tiles each turn and connecting them to their growing collection of tiles, careful to match borders appropriately.

It’s an incredibly simple game that has won numerous awards. I’d recommend breaking this one out for groups including young children or people who aren’t as experienced playing board games.  

Pros:

  • Has a few different expansions to add if you really like the game.
  • You can quickly learn to play it, even if you’ve never played it before.
  • Great for kids.
  • Fun, colorful look that will brighten up your table as you play.
  • Games can be finished in just 15 minutes.

Cons:

  • Although it’s a strategy game, a lot is left up to chance depending on the tiles you get.

Salem 1692

This is a board game that I’ve been watching for awhile. I really want it, but every time I see it, I always think of better things to purchase at the time, like books or video games. Maybe someday I’ll get over it and just go for the game.

Let’s get to the gameplay. Salem 1692 is another social deduction game. Some players will be witches, and others will be innocent townspeople who must deduce which people are witches.

The interesting thing about this one is that you can become a witch as you play – you don’t necessarily always start as one. Each player will get five “Tryal” cards that may have an impact on your role, but witches can sometimes swap cards with players unknowingly.

Pros:

  • Comes in a fun box that’s designed to look like a book.
  • Another good game for those who love to bluff others.
  • Based on real historical events, so it might be a good gift for history buffs.
  • Games take anywhere from 20-40 minutes.

Cons:

  • It’s not necessarily graphic or anything, but I don’t know if I would recommend this one for young children.

Related: Best Horror-Themed Board Games for Adults

What to Look for When Buying a Short Board Game

Learning Curve

Learning curve is important for virtually all board games, but I think it’s especially important for fast games. This refers to how quickly a game can be learned. If you’re planning on playing a game in 30 minutes or less, then you won’t want to spend the majority of that time learning how to play.

It’s a bit tricky to determine what the learning curve is like. You can kind of get an idea based on the look of the board and how many pieces are involved. Obviously, a game with fewer components tends to be a bit easier to learn.

But this doesn’t always give you a clear picture. I recommend checking customer comments if there’s any uncertainty about how the game plays. You can also check YouTube tutorials on how to play; if it takes an hour to explain how a game works, you can probably assume it’s fairly complex.

Theme

In literally all my board game lists, one of my favorite considerations to discuss is theme. The theme of the board game refers to both its mechanics and its art or design.

For instance, you could define the theme of a game by describing its type. A social deduction-themed game, for example, will have players trying to figure out which one of their friends doesn’t belong in the group.

But theme can also refer to the overall mood of the game, imparted by its artistic elements. A horror game will make use of disturbing, dark art and pieces, as an illustration.

It’s always worth thinking about. You and your friends may have particular interests that make a game appeal to you more thematically than another game with a similar setup. Having to choose between two social deduction games with one being about horror and another being about the military, I’d choose the one about horror every time.

Price

Board games can be extremely expensive. If it’s a quick board game you’re only going to play every so often, you’ll probably want it to be as affordable as possible.

On the other hand, if it’s a quick board game you’ll break out regularly for game night…then I’d personally feel fine about spending more on it. It’s about the value you’ll get from it and the budget you’re willing to put towards a game.

Number of Players

Just because a game is quick, doesn’t mean you can’t support a group of players. It’s always important to think about how many people on average you think will play a game for the simple reason that you don’t want anyone to feel left out.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, getting a game that supports a large number of players for a small group can also lead to disastrous results. If a larger number of people can play it, it’s often designed for big groups, and smaller ones may find the game doesn’t function as smoothly.

Be sure to check the recommended number of players on the box or in the description and choose accordingly.

Wrap Up

Choosing one board game over all the others on this list is hard. If I don’t own them already, I personally want to get each one.

But in my opinion, the best one here would be the one that appeals to the widest age range, can consistently be played quickly, supports a decent number of players, and looks appealing. I feel like the game that best embodies all those traits here is Calliope Tsuro.

If that’s not your speed, though, there are plenty of other games to try out on this list.

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