Nerds on Earth
The best place on Earth for nerds.

The 7 Best Board Games that Play in 30 Minutes

There are an insane number of board games released each year. If you click that link, you’ll be shocked at the number. Many of them are really good games!

Many of them are also really looooong games. But I have two kids and need to stay gainfully employed to put Goldfish crackers in their bellies, so I don’t have time for loooooong games. The below 7 games play in 30 minutes(ish), particularly after a play or two when you are fully familiar with the rules. Give them a nice look. Your schedule will thank you.

7. Dice Throne

Designed for two players, Dice Throne Season 2 excels as a “pick up and play” game. Here is the one-minute set up:

  1. Each player chooses a character that comes in a handy plastic tray that organizes everything.
  2. Each character has a beautiful board that displays the various abilities that are triggered by dice rolls.
  3. Set your Combat Point dial to 2. Set your Health dial to 50.
  4. Each character has a deck of cards that upgrade powers, allow you to draw more cards, or force an opponent to re-roll a die. Many cards are played by spending Combat Points.

Then you and your opponent battle back and forth for about 30 minutes! Combat Points are spent, cards are played, dice are chucked and the whole experience has the energy of a drunk llama let loose in a Baby Gap. It’s fantastic; it’s like Yahtzee, but with superpowers.

You can buy a 1v1 box here from Amazon for a great price.

6. Dominion

Dominon is the granddaddy of a very popular genre of board games called deck builders. And while there have been flashier deck builders released in the years since Dominion, it’s important to respect our elders.

In short, you start with a stack of pretty ho-hum cards, but turn after turn you slowly build up that deck by acquiring better cards that ultimately (hopefully) lead to victory points.

A gazillion expansions have been released for Dominion as it really has become a modern classic. But it you forego all those and stick to the base game, it still a really nice time that, best of all, comes in at just about 30 minutes .

Grab Dominion on Amazon right now.

5. Forbidden Island

It’s nice to work together. Specifically, it’s nice to know that others have your back with a helicopter exfiltration when you are trapped on a sinking island.

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game, another very popular genre of board game. Working together, players are hoping to secure four treasures from a sinking island and get out of dodge before they are submerged.

It has a clever card deck that acts of a timing mechanism that raises the tension as parts of the island are removed (represented by cardboard tiles). Better, the timing deck makes the game play…you guessed it…in about 30 minutes.

You can get it here or anywhere really; it’s gone mainstream.

4. Star Realms

Star Realms is a science fiction combat card game. It’s fast paced and makes great use of turned up cards in the center called the Trade Row. You use the Ships and Bases you acquire to either generate more Trade or to generate Combat to attack your opponent and their bases. When you reduce your opponent to zero, you win!

It has several neat factions and it seems like they are always releasing new promo cards and expansions. So it’s an easy entry, quick-play game that has some room to grow into if you enjoy it.

Get a starter deck here.

3. Dice Masters

Photo courtesy of Scott King.

Dice Masters was the Tickle Me Elmo of the board gaming world, releasing a few years ago to an instant sellout. When WizKids finally caught up with demand the mania had subsided, but they continued to support the game with a ton of character expansions.

Marvel is by far the most popular but there is DC, Warhammer 40K, and even TMNT Dice Masters. In short, each player has a team of character cards and some associated dice. Then they battle back and forth for about 30 minutes until one player wins.

I love it because you can create teams like the X-Men vs. the Wrecking Crew or the New Mutants vs. the Brotherhood. It’s thematic and really fun.

Get a Dice Masters starter set here.

2. Jamaica

Image courtesy of Analog Games.

Jamaica is a racing game. In Jamaica, you pretend you are pirates who are racing around the island of Jamaica, fighting and gathering plunder as you go. Players must play a card each turn that gives them a morning and an evening action.

The actions might make you go forward a few spaces or maybe you slide back. All the while you are gathering plunder or cannonballs that fill up the hold of your ship, forcing you to manage resources.

It’s very possible that an action might stick it to you, so you’re often choosing the worst of three possible outcomes, but the game has such a light-hearted feel that even the “gotcha” moments are a delight to experience.

It’s a well-regarded game plays quickly. It really deserves to be a mass market classic and it’s not hyperbole to state that Jamaica should be a centerpiece of any growing board game collection.

Pick it up here.

1. Century Spice Road

Here’s more on the “Century” series but the quick recap is you start with some ho-hum cards only to upgrade them to better cards that allow you to get cubes that allow you to buy more cards. That sentence sounds weird but it’s a wonderful game that is enjoyed by just about everyone.

It’s a game that I recommend for players new to board gaming as well as for couples who just want a quick, enjoyable game in the evening after dinner.

You can get it here.