Short but entertaining game suggestions?
August 14, 2006 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for either board or card games that fill two requirements: the participants must be able to finish the game or a round in under 20 minutes and the rules must be simple enough to be explained in under five minutes. Ideally these games would be simple enough for a child in second grade or up to understand and enjoy playing. I'm aware of some of the old standbyes such as Uno, Phase 10, Candy Land, Jenga, and Hally Gally. More suggestions along those lines?
posted by riverjack to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend looking into Looney Labs' Fluxx or Aquarius -- check their site out at

(No, I'm not a shill. Their fans just tend to be rather loyal and enthusiastic about their products. : )
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:56 AM on August 14, 2006

shithead, call it what you will.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2006

My family played some spirited rounds of the card game Rummy last night, and my youngest is eight. It's not hard to learn or play, and it can go fast. Plus, all you need is a deck of cards.
posted by rintj at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2006

Lost Cities might fit the bill.
posted by Prospero at 6:09 AM on August 14, 2006

Connect Four, for your kid-strategy enjoyment.
posted by leapingsheep at 6:15 AM on August 14, 2006

posted by jozxyqk at 6:17 AM on August 14, 2006

Cheat is a great and (usually) quick game. Plus it helps with your poker face.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:29 AM on August 14, 2006

Let's add

Cloud 9

to the list. Blokus is the easiest to acquire because it's at Target (although usually in a separate section within toys dedicated to the products of Educational Insights/StrataGems rather than with the rest of the games).
posted by blueshammer at 6:30 AM on August 14, 2006

Go Fish! It was a big hit with my buddies when I was in first grade.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:32 AM on August 14, 2006

My nephews and nieces (and I) are fond of card games from Gamewright. Particular faves for the 4+ set are Hisss and Slamwich.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:37 AM on August 14, 2006

Gin Rummy is easy to learn and plays quickly. Same with Blackjack (you can "bet" with M&Ms or pretzels or whatever, it's fun). I'm totally serious -- my dad taught us this when we were barely out of kindergarten and we loved to play it.
posted by contessa at 6:40 AM on August 14, 2006

We've been loving Frog Juice this summer.

Also, we just learned a game called Ninety Nine which was quick to learn, good for small or large groups and only needs a pack of cards, along with a few poker chips or pennies.
posted by valleys at 6:43 AM on August 14, 2006

Gamewright is great. We like Frog Juice, which is supposedly for ages 8 and up but I would think would be fine for a 7-year-old as well.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:43 AM on August 14, 2006

someone had set at a party a couple years ago and i haven't been able to get enough of it since. they also post a daily puzzle, although it's not as fun as playing with people and is more of a practice/thinking exercise...
posted by noloveforned at 6:44 AM on August 14, 2006

Heey hey, simulposting.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:51 AM on August 14, 2006

Apples to Apples. I played with my brother and his kids, and the youngest (6) is the shark of the family.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:56 AM on August 14, 2006

Spite and Malice is great fun.
posted by Caviar at 7:08 AM on August 14, 2006

Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti regularly reviews games. The whole blog is worth reading, but the "Games" category will let you find reviews of many good games that fit your criterion.
posted by not that girl at 7:08 AM on August 14, 2006


Not too complicated, fast to play, good for all ages. There are tons of sites explaining the game, but I'm at work and most are blocked.
posted by Corky at 7:18 AM on August 14, 2006

The best card game of all.....Spoons!
posted by meerkatty at 7:32 AM on August 14, 2006

PIT. Loads of fun for slightly larger groups (4+), as long as you don't mind the screaming.
posted by true at 7:44 AM on August 14, 2006

Without a doubt, Hive is one of the best games I've ever played, and fits your criteria, though a spirited game may push the 20 minute limit every so often. It's a deceptively simple game of strategy, and the rules are really easy to learn, but there's a ton of depth to it, so it'd be good to play with kids or adults. Plus the pieces are really nice-looking and very satisfying to hold. More information at the creator's site, Hivemania.
posted by Eldritch at 7:50 AM on August 14, 2006 has a number of "geeklists" addressing this question. My favorite is "Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation" which is sorta like mini-stratego but much better. A good online game retailer with great prices is time well spent. Just for fun, look at some of the ratings for the games suggested above before making a choice. The BGG has thousands of people rating each game, and they use bayesian averaging as well, so it's a good source of info.

I just saw the part about "second grade". Rat-a-tat-cat and Loot! are available at Malwart and Fred Meyer and are pretty good, but funner with more people. My six-year-old plays the Lord of the Ring game mentioned earlier in this post, but he also plays games rated for 12-year-olds. Blokus travel edition is two player and great.
posted by craniac at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2006

Euchre? I didn't start playing this until university, so I don't know if it's simple enough for second-graders.
posted by chrominance at 8:10 AM on August 14, 2006

(doh, already suggested! that'll teach me to skim)
posted by chrominance at 8:12 AM on August 14, 2006

My seven-year-old daughter's favorite game in the world is Speed. She's quite capable of kicking my ass at it, too. Nothing brings a child greater joy than beating an adult at something.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2006

Crazy 8's is a great game that fits your requirements.
posted by maxpower at 8:24 AM on August 14, 2006

A bright 7-8 year old would love Piquet (and get to learn some French words to boot!)

It's for two players only and I have wonderful memories of long evenings spent playing it with my father.
posted by ceri richard at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2006

Egyptian Ratscrew, though we usually just call it ERS around here.
posted by Glitter Ninja at 8:38 AM on August 14, 2006

Cassino is pretty good.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2006

Second the Looney Labs card games -- Fluxx and Chrononauts.
posted by Rash at 9:23 AM on August 14, 2006


Cards in four suits, numbered one through ten. Three cards each are dealth face down to three or four players (though two might work, I've never tried). Four cards are dealt face up in the center.

Play proceeds to the right, with each player either matching a card in their hand or using cards from the center to add up to a card in their hand. You cannot use multiple cards from your hand to add up to a card on the board, nor use a card from your hand plus some on the board to add up to cards on the board. If a player cannot make a play, they must lay one card down.

The center kitty is not replenished. When all cards are cleared, the next player must lay one down. When all cards have been played, whoever made the last play gets the rest of the cards.

Scoring is done as partners in a four-player game, and as individuals in a three-player game.
One point for most cards, one point for most diamonds, one point for most sevens, one point for the seven of gold. If a player clears the board of cards, they recieve one point (and must shout PUNTO!). Play goes to 11.

There are punto decks sold which are lovely, and use European suits.
posted by klangklangston at 9:58 AM on August 14, 2006

When we play cards, its always either Rummy, Scum, Speed, or Egyption Rat Screw. Games are fairly simple and go quickly. Rummy can be continued/added for however many rounds you wish. Egyption rat screw has the benifit of getting kids' energy out as they slap the pile as hard as they possibly can. That's a good thing, right?
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:17 AM on August 14, 2006

Go Fish, Happy Families, Gin rummy.
posted by holgate at 11:54 AM on August 14, 2006

Nuclear War
posted by doorsnake at 2:28 PM on August 14, 2006

I lovelovelove Apples to Apples. Also Taboo is fun.
posted by radioamy at 2:36 PM on August 14, 2006

It sounds like "Hearts" fits your bill perfectly.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:06 PM on August 14, 2006

Try Lightspeed, which you can explain AND play in under five minutes. It's a real time card game where you throw your spaceships on a table and then see where all the lasers hit. Often you end up blowing up your own ships by accident.

But definitely check BoardGameGeek when its servers recover. (I'm only here because they're down...)
posted by Yogurt at 3:20 PM on August 14, 2006

My family loves Rummy and SKIP-BO.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:53 PM on August 14, 2006

Lots of good suggestions already; I send the advice to go peruse Their geeklists are very informative w/explanations of what makes each game good for a certain kind of kid... Here are a few that haven't been mentioned, I think.

Gulo Gulo - board game, dexterity and strategy, kids have an advantage (might be a bit young if you have older kids?)

Gobblet - 2 player board game

Quoridor - 2,3, or 4 player board game/maze

Carcassonne - great tile-laying map-building game, accommodates different numbers of players, will grow with them well but probably a bit longer than you're looking for

Ruckus - fun and very, very fast card game; play as many rounds as you like

Once Upon a Time - a creative storytelling card game
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:36 PM on August 14, 2006

Seconding Speed here. A great quick and fun game. I'd love to give you more, but we normally refer to card games by names that bear no resemblance to their proper name - most commonly in the form of 'that game where...'

Another non-card game that keeps kids occupied for a while is Up-Jenkins, it's a lot harder than it appears on first inspecton. :]
posted by cholly at 4:24 AM on August 15, 2006

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