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Plugged In

Great board games you can play in under an hour

Plugged In

As much as we all love Monopoly, Risk, and Axis & Allies, sitting down for a three- or four-hour board gaming session isn't always on the cards.

Whether you're squeezing in a quick few rounds after putting the kids to bed, grabbing a session during your lunch hour, or looking for a warm-up game before you tackle something weightier, check out these bite-sized morsels that are just as satisfying as their bigger cousins.

Lost Cities

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Pop quiz: when you hear the word "Knizia," what do you do? If your response is to mutter "Gesundheit," you're probably not a big board game player. To those in the know, seeing a box bearing the word -- or name, for name it is -- indicates you're about to play a seriously good board game. Reiner Knizia is an award-winning designer from Germany who specializes in short games, and two-player offering Lost Cities is widely regarded as one of his finest. (BUY)

Apples to Apples

If that's a little too core (sorry), try this top party game. Apples to Apples might not have a geek-chic Euro design, but it can easily be wrapped up in under an hour, too. If you haven't played this modern classic (where have you been?) it's a simple, party-oriented word game that's ideal for keeping a big group entertained until dinner's ready, or the game starts, or that thunderstorm passes over. (BUY)

Space Alert

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Even if you like to take your time to pore over your moves, there's just no way Space Alert can take longer than ten minutes. It's a real-time game, and ten minutes is all you get. (You might want to allow half an hour to give you time for setup and teardown, however.) It's a team survival game; you either all win, or you all die. Perfect if you like your games short, intense, and perhaps even a tad stressful. (BUY)

Race for the Galaxy

The word "race" in the name of this strategic card game should clue you in on its quick-to-play nature. And the word "galaxy" should probably give you an idea of its sci-fi theme. But worry not; even if you're not down with lasers and aliens you'll still find the game's easy-to-learn interplay of resources compelling enough to make an hour race past. (BUY)


Cooperative, friendly, and with an urgent, time's-running-out feel, Pandemic's tale of global disease outbreaks and plucky government experts easily plays out in under an hour, even with its maximum of four players. Ah, if only real pandemics could be handled so quickly. (BUY)


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With only 21 Tetris-like tiles per player, Blokus is another game that's all but guaranteed to be over in less than an hour. Don't mistake its simplicity for lack of depth, though: sure, you can learn the rules in about thirty seconds, but coming out of its positional, strategic gameplay victorious will take no shortage of thought. (BUY)


Under an hour? Depends who you play with, to be honest. If your friends (or yourself) are slowpokes, impose a time limit and use a stopwatch. Scrabble games are generally over in a total of 30 or so moves, so a max of 2 minutes per turn should give you a good chance of hitting that hour mark. You'll kick yourself when you spot that bingo two seconds after the time limit makes you play a lesser word, but that's all part of the fun. (BUY)

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