My Small Games Bag
Bryan Fischer
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I find that most gamers have a bag of small games they keep nearby in case games are needed (which is all the time). You might take the bag to dinner at a friend's house, or to work for lunch time gaming, or keep it in your car, etc. Below is my list of small games I keep in my bag for these very reasons. But first, some explanation:

Small Games - What I mean by this is typically games that are small in stature (component count, physical size) and easy to learn/teach to new players. Often, table space is also a factor, though not always so.

I do a lot of gaming during lunch, so I need play the below games quite often. Having a play time of an hour or less is a huge plus in my book when it comes to these games specifically. For game nights, time is no issue, but when I break out a small game, I want the time commitment to be an hour or less.

With each game below I'll indicate whether it's currently In The Bag, Under Consideration, or No Longer In The Bag, and why. The games are listed in alphabetical order by category.

Recent Changes to the Bag

+New+ VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
+New+ Star Realms
+New+ Sushi Go
+New+ Suspense The Card Game
!In! Dark Dealings
*Out* Saboteur
*Out* The Resistance
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1. Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1749]
Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

I love this game. In fact, I've often considered this my favorite game of 2014. Players stay engaged and interested during every turn. The components are beautiful, and it's a truly fun experience. I don't think this game will leave the bag for a long time.

2-4 players in 45 or so minutes.
 
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2. Board Game: Star Realms [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:100] [Average Rating:7.59 Unranked]
Board Game: Star Realms
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

I like how flexible this game is in format. I have two copies I keep in bag for multiplayer games. In addition, this game scratches a deck builder itch in a very short timeframe. It's swingy and often super lucky, but it's a solid game and new players can quickly pick it up.

2+ in 20-40 minutes.
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3. Board Game: Sushi Go! [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:424]
Board Game: Sushi Go!
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

Essentially, Sushi Go is 7 Wonders distilled down into a lunch game playable in 20 minutes. I love 7 Wonders, so a quick drafting game suits me perfectly. The group asks for this one often. In fact, when we go out for sushi I'm usually asked to bring it along to play at the table.

2-5 players in 20 minutes.
 
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4. Board Game: Suspense: the Card Game [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:7833]
Board Game: Suspense: the Card Game
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

I don't know how long this game will stay in the bag, but it's so compact that it could end up in here awhile. I've played it with different number configurations, but I really think the purest form, 3-player only, is the only way to play. For 3 players, Suspense: The Card Game is a thought experiment that is truly fun to think though. Decent replay value also.

3-players in 10 minutes.
 
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5. Board Game: Biblios [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:342]
Board Game: Biblios
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

I've played this game dozens and dozens of times and have yet to get tired of it. The game changes with the players involved, which I love. It's a great 2-4 player game with tons of replay value.

The box smells bad, but other than that, it has nice components. It's reasonably fast to teach, and takes the optimal amount of time for a small game.
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6. Board Game: Dark Dealings [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:4203]
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Bryan Fischer
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In The Bag

I'm a bit biased, as we are publishing this game, but It was an instant favorite of mine and will be in the bag for a very long time. I'm constantly asked to play this game. It's a fantastic lunch game. Players usually want to play it twice and even with 6 players you can do that in 45 minutes or so. It has drafting, which I love, and a suspenseful ending that usually gets rowdy. Love it!

1-6 players, 20 minutes.
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7. Board Game: Fleet [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:858]
Board Game: Fleet
Bryan Fischer
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In The Bag

This is my go-to small game when I need to scratch the euro strategy itch with 2-4 players. It's easy to teach and has a great play time. I've enjoyed this game countless times during lunch, introducing is to game veterans, as well as, newcomers to tabletop gaming. It probably requires more table space and has more components than any other game in my small games bag.
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8. Board Game: Lifeboat [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2225]
Board Game: Lifeboat
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

This is one of my favorite games of all time. It's crazy social backstabbing and deal making for 3-8 players (with two expansions) and it's always the life of the party. People simply love to play this game, and who am I to keep them from doing so? It's easy to learn and takes up the middle of a table. It can run a little long if the group gets rowdy, but the game itself runs quickly and smoothly.

Lifeboats turns friends into enemies and enemies into friends.
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9. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:253]
Board Game: Love Letter
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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In The Bag

This game is fantastic with 3-4 players and can be taught in 2 minutes or less. The depth is in the player interaction, which makes it great for old friends or to try and acclimate a new player to the group. It also takes up minimal table space, which is great for a restaurant or during lunch when the table is occupied with food.

This is not only in my small games bag, but also ranks in my top 10 favorite games. For its size, format, teaching time, and game time, it's very good. My only beef is the 2-player experience, which I really find underwhelming.
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10. Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1109] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

The Olympus Edition (2-player only) is the best version of Omen that I have played. It's a great two-player game when you have that CCG-like itch and you want to play something with competitive strategy. The art is fantastic and there is plenty of replay value.


It's fairly simple to teach and has a play time of about 30-45 minutes.
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11. Board Game: Pixel Tactics [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1082] [Average Rating:6.95 Unranked]
Board Game: Pixel Tactics
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

When I need a small game specifically for two-players, this is the game I pick. Originally part of the Level 99 Minigame Library, its taken on a life of its own as easily the best game in that library and far from "mini" in strategy. This game is beefy and it's fantastic. Oh, and it's expanded, twice!

This one takes the longest to teach of any game in my small games bag.
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12. Board Game: Spearpoint 1943 [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:4888] [Average Rating:6.88 Unranked]
Board Game: Spearpoint 1943
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

This is the only wargame in my bag. It's not a hardcore wargame full of chits, but instead brings a wargame feel down to cards in a way that's nowhere near as confusing or time consuming as Up Front (which I enjoy). It's a two-player card and dice game that sets one player as the Americans against the other as a Germans during World War II. The expansion, which introduces the Russians, is coming out this year as well. 30 minute play time.

Tip: Get the map expansion. It's not small bag friendly, but it comes with a slew of tokens that are super useful in the card game.
 
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13. Board Game: The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1216]
Board Game: The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

This game is good for 2-players, but really shines with 3-4. It's a nice, simple, and competitive pickup and deliver game with great components, an easy to teach ruleset, and great player aides.

The time to play is perfect for a lunch hour, and the experience is rewarding. Necessary table space is a minimum, though you will need to take up the middle of the table.

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14. Board Game: The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:923]
Board Game: The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

Every small bag needs games for big groups (8-18). My go-to big game is Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. I've moderated this game over fifty times and I enjoy it every time. It plays great with gamers and non-gamers alike, it teachable in just a few minutes, and has a narrative aspect to moderating that makes it fun to watch even after you've been lynched or eaten by those villainous lycanthropes!
 
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15. Board Game: Uchronia [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2585]
Board Game: Uchronia
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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In The Bag

I can play a not swingy, streamlined version of Glory to Rome in an hour. It's called Uchronia and it's my go-to when I'm looking for a meatier lunch time game for 2-5 players. The game takes a few minutes to teach, so you might not get through a whole first game in an hour, but after that it's not a problem.

This game has a lot to it, but it's simpler than Glory to Rome, which is a huge plus for me when it comes to small games playing at work.
 
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16. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:285]
Board Game: For Sale
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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Under Consideration

This is a great game that plays 3-6 players. It changes with the table and it's always interesting to see how much players think properties are worth and watch the light bulb go off during the second round of the first game. Currently, the only thing keeping this out of my bag is that it sometimes feels similar to Biblios for some people, and I find that Biblios is more rewarding an experience.
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17. Board Game: Saboteur [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1025] [Average Rating:6.59 Unranked]
Board Game: Saboteur
Bryan Fischer
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Virginia
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No Longer In The Bag

I only have one complaint about this game, and it's once you have figured out who the Saborteur is, the game seems to unfold a bit. Mechanically, it's fine. But the experience starts to decay as it becomes a fairly nasty exercise in lucky card draw.

All of that said, it only takes a couple of minutes to teach, and it seats up to 10 in about 30 minutes? Perfect! We just burned out on it, and the end game experience (described above) took its toll.
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18. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:234]
Board Game: The Resistance
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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No Longer In The Bag


I've had to put this game into retirement from the bag. It's not that it is a bad game, because it's not, it's just that I'm absolutely burned out on it. Not to mention, there's always a good chance someone else at a gathering will have it with them.

This game is fantastic as a group activity and ice breaker for new players or those unfamiliar with tabletop gaming. 5-10 players in roughly 30-40 minutes.
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19. Board Game: Batt'l Kha'os [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:3925]
Board Game: Batt'l Kha'os
Bryan Fischer
United States
Chester
Virginia
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No Longer In The Bag

When I first purchased this game I was excited about it, but after a few plays I soon discovered that it's really just a simple math game with a war theme. You run into issues with players being forced to make moves that aren't good for them in order to continue the game. That can be the mark of a great game, but not in the case of Batt'l Khaos. I still like the art though.
 
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20. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:382]
Board Game: Citadels
Bryan Fischer
United States
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Virginia
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No Longer In The Bag

This was in the bag for several years, but has since been removed. Part of it is because of the sheer number of times I played it. Part of it is also because while I really enjoy the variable player roles in the game, the city building aspect is pretty bland.

This could make it back in the bag one day, maybe, but not anytime soon.
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21. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:909]
Board Game: Colossal Arena
Bryan Fischer
United States
Chester
Virginia
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A Manly Beard
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No Longer In The Bag

This was an auto-include for me for the longest time, but now I find myself introducing this game to people only every so often. Don't get me wrong, it's a great game, but players can know they are going to lose for a long time and have to sit through that, and that doesn't always make for a great play experience.

This game, however, is so so so much better than Cheaty Mages, which I found to be almost unplayable unless you thirst for chaotic messes.
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22. Board Game: Council of Verona [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2492]
Board Game: Council of Verona
Bryan Fischer
United States
Chester
Virginia
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A Manly Beard
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Instagram @bryanbfischer
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Microbadge: Ambush! fanMicrobadge: Chicken Caesar fanMicrobadge: Chelsea fanMicrobadge: DC United fanMicrobadge: Arkham Horror fan
No Longer In The Bag

This game was in the bag not too long ago, but has since been relegated to the shelves. While it's easy to teach and fast to play, I found that the games were fairly unexciting, even with a social group. Maybe the first play was pretty loud and fun, but after bringing the game to the table 2-3 times, players didn't really want to play it anymore.

We tried the Poison expansion, as the theme is a lot of fun, but it adds chaos where its not necessarily wanted. Maybe a long rest for this one will bring it back to the small games bag. Only time will tell.
 
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