We get it, the big guns like Catan, Pandemic, 7 Wonders, and Betrayal at House on the Hill take quite a bit of time to set up and explain – and you’re only at the board game lounge for a couple of hours. You want to be a geek for the night and just have some fun, but you don’t have enough time (or mental bandwidth) to digest pages upon pages of game phases and mechanics.
June 1, 2019 is International Tabletop Day, and even if you’re just here to dip your toes into the pool, there’s a tabletop game out there for you. Here are 8 maddeningly simple (but insanely fun) tabletop games to start with!
1 – Ghost Blitz
Good for: 2-8 players
Kicking off the list is a frustratingly fun game called Ghost Blitz! Five wooden items – a white ghost, a blue book, a green bottle, a red chair, and a gray mouse – and a deck of cards are placed on the tabletop in the center of the players. Each round, the players will pull a card from the deck.
Here’s where it gets crazy. Each card shows a photo of two objects, which may or may not look just like their wooden counterparts. Players must grab the wooden marker of the object that is exactly represented in the photo (e.g. if the photo showed a red mouse and a white ghost, you would grab the white ghost marker) OR the object that is not represented by either shape or color in the photo (e.g. if the photo showed a gray ghost and green chair, you would grab the blue bottle marker, as it is the only one not represented by either shape or color).
It’s easier than it sounds and harder than it looks! The player who grabs the correct marker first takes the card for that round, and anyone who grabs the wrong marker must surrender a card to the winning player. The player with the most cards when the deck runs out wins.
2 – Fold-It
Good for: 1-5 players
Fold-It is a unique handkerchief-folding game that challenges your quick thinking and spatial orientation.
Every player gets three tokens and a handkerchief printed on both sides with a grid. Each square on the grid represents a dish. For every round, the players will draw one recipe card from the deck (there’s an Easy deck and a Difficult deck) depicting a number of dishes. To win a round, you must fold your hanky so the only squares visible match the dishes on the card. The slowest player to fold their handkerchief in a round must give up a token; the last player holding a token wins the game.
3 – Sheriff of Nottingham
Good for: 3-5 players
Sheriff of Nottingham is a quick game of risk and negotiation based on the corrupt antagonist of Robin Hood.
In each round, one player is the Sheriff of Nottingham and the rest are merchants. Merchants have a choice to play it safe by shipping legal goods into the city, or risk sneaking in contraband for higher profit. Whether their goods will be inspected, allowed to pass, or confiscated depends on how well they negotiate with (or bribe) the Sheriff of Nottingham! Goods that enter the city stack up points, and the merchant with the highest number of points at the end wins the game.
4 – Love Letter
Good for: 2-4 players
Like Sheriff of Nottingham, Love Letter is a card game of risk and deduction. The objective is to woo Princess Annette by getting your love letter into her hands. You can achieve this by choosing the right friends at court who will help advance your letter as well as by removing letters from rival suitors.
Every turn, play a card. Cards represent personalities at court, each with a score and a special abilities. It’s important that you deduce which personality your rivals will play, and thus be able to choose to play the personality that can eliminate the other players. You win by knocking out all your rivals, or if you have accumulated the most points at the end of the game.
5 – Exploding Kittens
Good for: 2-5 players, can be increased to 2-10 with the expansion packs
This Internet favorite is a straightforward card game – draw cards, play cards, follow instructions. The problem is, the deck features a number of the titular Exploding Kitten cards. Draw one and you’re out of the game – unless you have a Defuse card, in which case you may play the Defuse card and put the Exploding Kitten card back in the deck.
The rest of the cards will be used to manipulate gameplay to ensure you won’t be the one to draw the Exploding Kitten: by shuffling the deck, stealing cards from opponents, peeking at the top of the deck, and so on. The last person not blown up by a combustible feline wins the game.
Note: No real animals will be harmed while playing this game!
6 – Halli Galli
Good for: 2-6 players
Similar to Ghost Blitz, Halli Galli is a game that tests your speed of thought and reflexes! The game includes a service bell and a deck of cards that show four different fruits in groups of one to five. The cards are dealt equally between the players, and they set up their decks face down in a circle around the bell.
Players take turns flipping the top card from each deck. Cards are flipped continuously until you reveal a total of five of one kind of fruit on the table (e.g. the person before you revealed a card with two bananas, and you revealed a card with three bananas). Once you see five of a kind on the table, ring the bell. The player who correctly rings the bell first collects all the cards that have been revealed. The player with the most cards when the decks run out wins the game.
7 – Secret Hitler
Good for: 5-10 players
Secret Hitler is a game of political intrigue. The liberals must take control of the board by passing laws or defeating fascism; the fascists will use their actions to disrupt the liberals’ strategies and put Secret Hitler in power.
Every round, the players elect a President and Chancellor who will pass a law that’s either liberal or fascist. The liberals win if they are able to pass five liberal law of assassinate Secret Hitler, and the fascists win if they are able to pass six fascist laws or get Secret Hitler elected chancellor.
(Please note that the game does not actually teach liberalism or fascism – you’ll still have to study your history!)
8 – Dungeon Mayhem
Dungeon Mayhem is basically Dungeons & Dragons combat condensed into a card game. Players choose from the four classes available: rogue, paladin, barbarian, or wizard. They then draw from their class deck, and play the cards against their opponents. They can summon minions, put up shields, deal damage, cast spells, and more! The objective is to chip away at the opponents’ health points and be the last one standing.
With its quirky art style and clever translation of popular D&D mechanics into cards, Dungeon Mayhem can easily be a gateway to actual Dungeons & Dragons…and bigger tabletop games!
Which of these have you played? Tell us below!