Raise your hand if you’ve ever “accidentally” bumped your kid’s Candyland piece toward the finish to speed up the game? Hey, I get it. I often like (or need) family board games that are fast to play, too. And it doesn’t change as your kids get older; some of the games my older kids love can take hours — literally — to finish. I want to join them, but I often can’t spare an entire evening.
So while you’re busy arming yourself with ideas for screen-free activities for the kids, take a look at these board games that take 30 minutes or less to finish. They’re sure to give your kids hours — or, ahem, half-hours — of fun, and because they’re fast, hopefully more adults can get in on the fun.
They’re perfect for kids about 8 or 10 and up, and they all play in as little as 30 minutes, for real. Let the competition commence!
CMP is an rstyle affiliate
I was first struck by the beauty of the new game Photosynthesis, but the gameplay is great for anyone who loves building-type games too. Your goal is to grow trees from seed to seedling to full grown trees, all the way through the lifecycle.
You have to be smart about where you plant seeds (is there enough light?) and can earn points as your trees grow. Plus, you’ll all learn a little about science along the way.
I’ve never played anything quite like the brand new game Shadows in the Forest, because the game is played completely in the dark. That’s right: wait until nighttime, kill all the lights, then play by lantern light. You start by hiding your Shadowlings (little Totoro-looking creatures you can see in the bottom center of this photo, behind one of the trees). Then one player competes against all the others by moving the lantern and trying to cast light onto the Shadowlings. If the group can get all the Shadowlings into the same hiding place together, they win. My kids and I just love this one!
Azul is, hands-down, the most beautiful new game I’ve seen. Your task is to build a beautiful palace wall for the king of Portugal, inspired by Moorish tile art. But, you have to be clever! Plan ahead to make sure you have the right tiles to finish your design, without wasting any extra tiles you didn’t need. The geeky board game Instagram accounts I follow (yes, that’s a thing) have been raving about this one, so it’s next on my to-buy list.
I really like collaborative board games, like The Incredibles Save the Day, because when we’re all playing together it cuts down on some of the competitive table talk that can make board games less enjoyable. At least for me. This game is great not just because it takes less than 30 minutes to play, but because the board is constantly changing as new villains pop up across the city. And as its collaborative, you must work together (as the Incredibles) to fight crime.
If your kids are big fans of the franchise as mine are, you’ll love this one.
My family gives high marks to Santorini, a building game. You have to think ahead of your competitors to build a tower large enough to win, but at the same time, be sure you don’t build too early or another player can capture your construction and block your plans. My kids love the tactile nature of adding pieces to the buildings, and it has a simple mechanic that isn’t too easy for adults to have fun playing too.
In the beautiful game Sagrada, each player must try to build their own stained glass window, through a complicated set of rules about where each colored piece can be placed. It’s fun because you get to be creative, but still offers plenty of strategy for those players who like puzzles and mental challenges. Because it’s a little complex, I’d suggest this one for those of you with slightly older kids, around 12 and up.
I haven’t yet played this one myself, but I’m really intrigued by When in Rome, a travel trivia game that’s the first Alexa-powered board game. Alexa reads you the rules and even keeps score while you play along with the board. There are 20+ hours of interviews from locals in each of the areas covered in the game, which makes it both fun and educational for your kids. They recommend the game for teens and up, but because Alexa is involved, I have a feeling younger kids would love playing along in teams with an older partner.