A mystery box filled with miniatures to enhance your RPG campaigns. All official miniatures and for a bargain price!

Buy Miniatures Box »

Not sure what game to buy next? Buy a premium mystery box for two to four great games to add to your collection!

Buy Premium Box »
Subscribe Now »

If you’re only interested in receiving the newest games this is the box for you; guaranteeing only the latest games!

Buy New Releases Box »
Subscribe Now »

Looking for the best bang for your buck? Purchase a mega box to receive at least 4 great games. You won’t find value like this anywhere else!

Buy Mega Box »
Subscribe Now »

Buy 3, get 3% off - use code ZATU3·Buy 5, get 5% off - use code ZATU5

A Wolf In Meeple’s Clothing – Deceivingly Intense Games


They only look cute and harmless. Below is a list of games that hide their true nature under a cover of innocence.

The Book and the Cover - Predator Games

They lurk everywhere, looking cute and giving a vibe of "this seems pretty easy" or "what could possibly go wrong?". But no, they aren't cute or easy at all, and some will make smoke come out of your ears. To deceive you, they hide behind jolly themes, simple game mechanics, can often be explained in under 5 minutes. Once they have you hooked, you start to get that creeping feeling of "this is harder than I expected", which quickly becomes "I'm not sure I can win this" and then a plain "Oh no..."

Why do we need these cunning games? Well first, they are a lot of fun! Sometimes you need a serious, heavy game but can't afford to spend 8 hours on Twilight Imperium. Maybe you just enjoy a good mental suffer once in a while. And sometimes it's the playing group – you have that one person who forces only cute, easy games, so you need to...educate them. Whatever the reason, it's good to keep some of these deceptive little games around. The games below rate both sides: their simplicity to grasp and play, but also the intense experience they deliver if you naively play them.

Magic Maze

Your brave adventuring party is stuck. Your elf ran out of arrows, your wise mage is missing a potion or so, and even your dwarf and warrior are missing some dwarf-and-warrior-stuff. What should your heroic party do? convenient...what's that ahead? A magic mall! But your honourable group is a bit short on cash, they'll have to improvise something.

This is a cooperative, real-time exploration game. Your heroes need to explore the magic mall, discover its sections, find the right stores and steal their supplies. After wards they must exit as fast as possible. All players can move any character as many times as needed, simultaneously. So what's the catch? Each player can only perform a specific action. You can only move characters left, your clockwise buddy only moves them upwards, the next player handles escalator movement, and so on. The game is also timed. And all characters must steal their goods at the same time. Each hero has their own exit to find. Did I mention communication is forbidden?

The cover.

The game's theme is cartoonish and ridiculous. The bright colors, simple rules, all contribute to the feeling of a light, user friendly game.

The book.

Once the game begins, the first realization hits - time is scarce, requiring constant tracking to know when to send a hero for more. Secondly, each player must keep tabs on 4 different heroes on the board, each with their own goal. Thirdly, to move a hero to a specific location, all players must cooperate, but talking and planning is forbidden for most of the game. Indeed, this proves an immensely stressful experience. Some of my friends forbid me from taking it off the shelf on when they attend.

Easy to learn: 9/10

There are almost no rules to grasp for this game.

Hard to master: 9/10

I've never had a truly successful session with 5 players, only some wins with 4. At 2 players it was a balanced but challenging experience in my opinion. The game is played across scenarios, each increasing the difficulty by adding new rules or special tiles, providing a good ramp up in difficulty.

The sweat factor: 9/10

The time element is perfectly designed. You can only play as long as there is time left in the hourglass, which is barely enough for anything. There are special spaces that, when stepped on, immediately flip the hourglass - this is tricky. If you accidentally flip it too soon, time will actually reduce. Players must constantly track the time and know when to send a hero to get a bonus. This game never lets you relax and focus on just one task.

Overall: 8/10

This game is fun, but it really is intense. I know some players for whom it's too much. On the other hand, if you're a good sport, this delightfully frustrating game will have you shouting at friends by the end over mistakes that you hadn't been able to communicate about during the game. As a bonus, winning is really satisfying.

When I Dream

You take the eye mask (actually provided!), lay back and gently fall asleep. Then you have some strange one-word dreams. How can we make a board game out of that?

What could possibly go wrong with a word game? In each turn, one player is the dreamer with eyes covered. Each other player gets a random role - the good guys, the bad guys, and the annoyingly neutral. The timer starts, and the game begins. A pile of word cards sits on the table, and the dreamer must guess as many as possible in two minutes. Players, in clockwise order, give rapid one-word clues until the dreamer takes a guess, revealing a new card. However, only the good players support the dreamer and score points based on correct guesses, while bad guys score based on mistakes. Neutrals aim to balance between right and wrong answers.

The cover:

Light theme, simple well known word game mechanics. They even get an eye mask.

The book:

The need to throw a one-word clue as fast as you can can be surprisingly hard. It even gets worse if you are trying to make the dreamer get it wrong. There are lots of nuances here - you need the dreamer to trust you so you cannot be too blunt. You want to make your wrong answers consistent with clues given before and you have about 4 seconds to sum it all up in one word.

Easy to Learn: 9/10

All you need to do is either guess a word or give a simple one-word clue. Really nothing too complex here.

Hard to Master: 7/10 Giving misleading clues is challenging, but conversely the dreamer's task of processing many unrelated, mostly unhelpful clues is too - so it balances out. In the end, all roles present an equal difficulty curve, so winning may come down to randomness.

The sweat factor: 7/10

The constant need to throw clues into the air makes players stressed, but in a funny way. No single action in the game is that important, so no one takes it too hard. As the dreamer, you will be even more relaxed, as you do not know if you are wrong and you cannot keep track of the time.

Overall: 7/10

A fun game to play. It's tense enough to make people laugh but not enough to make them cry. It's also very entertaining to watch the dreamer’s face when they find out how bad their guesses were.


I guess that for a long time, mankind struggled with the question: “How can we take the old-fashioned, immortal game of Tetris and turn it into a board game?” Enter Patchwork. In this little game, two players try to fill a 9x9 grid with Tetris-like tiles. Each turn offers a selection of tiles, and placing these tiles costs money or time. That's pretty much it—whoever fills their board the best wins.

The cover:

This game feels a bit retro for me. It's an abstract strategy game with no fancy pieces. The theme revolves around patchworking a quilt.

The book:

The only problem is that the game is much harder than it seems. You start realizing that each tile has a triple cost: its awkward shape, the money it costs, and the time it takes to place. Soon enough, you understand that this is not just a simple placement game; it's also an intense economy management one.

Easy to learn: 7/10

Essentially, this is just a tile-placing game.

Hard to master: 7/10

Since this is a competitive game for two player, you have roughly a 50% chance of winning. The thing is, that you have less chance to end the game with a positive score, as the penalty of missing tiles is brutal. There’s an involved feeling winning a game because you scored 3 points while your opponent got -7.

The sweat factor: 6/10

The game is not stressful; it is just hard. It is suitable for the faint-hearted. There is some ramp-up effect as the game progresses and you realize that the chance to fill the entire board is fading away.

Overall: 7/10

This is an addictive, fast, and unexpectedly fun game for two players. It is deep but not too stressful compared to others on the list.

Dungeon Petz

Once there was a grand dungeon. Your master, the dungeon lord, created an evil and perilous maze. But business has slowed, and there's not much work for an imp these days. So you and your family of imps decide to venture into town and start a new enterprise—a pet store for dungeons! Whether it's an angry beast for the dungeon master or a monstrously cute unicorn for the dungeon princess, you've got them all! The idea of opening a dungeon pet store was so smart, so unique, that you soon realize that every other imp family did it too. Who will have the ultimate pet monster store?

In this game, you'll need to run a business—buy pets, raise them, cater to their needs, and eventually try to sell them to suitable owners. The pets themselves, have moods. The angry little beast might be sick just the day the evil customer visits your store. Or even worse, your monster might NOT GET SICK exactly when the dungeon grandma comes by. So some element of bad luck could spoil your game at any moment.

The Cover

OK, I admit, this game doesn’t try too hard to pretend to be an easy play. Despite its humorous theme and the seemingly simple task of raising a pet, it can be intimidating with its rules and complexities. But I’ve decided to include it for two reasons: First, because I wanted to. This is a great game that people should know. Second, even if it doesn’t look like a 20-minutes light game, it’s still HARDER THAN IT LOOKS.

The Book

It takes new players a round and a half to grasp the game fully. A round later they start to understand that they've bought more pets than they can handle. Fast enough, it becomes impossible to satisfy the needs of all your pets, and you start to cut your losses—should you use your one remaining imp to play with your monster plant to keep it from suffering, or should you use it to stop the unicorn from breaking out of its cage? Horribly enough, the first customer arrives at the third round. There's a lot of chaos going around, and you suffer penalties for not handling it well.

Easy to learn: 5/10

Again, this game is complicated, but that's part of its charm. It is streamlined, though, and fast enough, players will discover that it is more intuitive than first thought. This is the kind of game that needs one player who really understands the rules and a good "you’ll figure it out as we go" approach.

Hard to master: 9/10

As you might have guessed, this game is challenging. Running your business, nurturing pets, planning ahead, and competing with other players for resources make it a tough endeavor.

The sweat factor: 9/10

There's a significant ramp-up in difficulty. Players who aren't careful will find themselves overwhelmed, but the game is beautifully designed. It won't make you lose quickly; instead, it will make you suffer the consequences and race desperately to salvage what you can. This isn't for the faint-hearted.

Overall: 8/10

Personally, I love this game. It's perfectly designed and themed, making you feel like you're running a ridiculous pet store. However, it's not for everyone—its complexity and difficulty might scare some off. So, know what you're getting into with this one.

To Sum It All Up

We typically discuss games that require multitasking and demand your full attention. Hourglasses have proven to be cruel tools in the world of board gaming too. There are plenty of games that offer an intense experience without the need for a 2-4 hour commitment, and they can be a true treasure.


Eager to share your own thoughts on some of your favourite games? Just fill out our quick and easy application here to become a zatu blogger!