Nom, nom, nom…….Oops, a thousand apologies! You caught me snacking! Not chips, dips, and nachos, mind you. But tasty cardboard candy. Yes, friends, I am nose deep in a smorgasbord of delicious tabletop treats. Filler games to be exact. The light, yet, satisfying gaming hits which nip your player craving in the bud, or whet your appetite like analogue aperitifs!
I can’t get enough of them. In fact, I sometimes play a bunch of them in a single session, leaving the main gaming course out entirely. With each one taking no more than 30 minutes, why not? In the grand menu of gaming, who says you can’t have 3 starters? Why plough through one enormous, time-consuming cardboard casserole when your mind can dance across a table bedecked with variety to rival the poshest player picnic? Particularly as they each come with a double helping of fun!
So, to help you on your way, we at Zatu have come up with 5 fantastic light gaming bites to get your board game tastebuds tingling. After all, with summer finally here, tabletop tapas is the way to play!
Our Top Filler Games
I love spatial puzzles. But, I suck at spatial puzzles. I also have to shoehorn spatial puzzles into an increasingly manic home/work timetable. I am therefore caught in a perpetual cardboard conundrum. Want to play. Need to play. Need time to play. But, if confusion and time scarcity means I get to play quick-fire spatial puzzles amongst clients, cooking, and childcare, then muddle me merry!
And NMBR9 is slap bang in the centre of the strategic, spatial, tile laying, speedy game Venn diagram! Otherwise known as my happy place! Designed by Peter Wichmann and designed by AbacussSpiele, this game is as fun as it is frustrating (read: very!), and it clocks in at around 15/20 minutes.
In traditional bingo-style, a card is flipped from a small deck showing a number from 0-9. Taking the same number tile from your own supply of 20 (0 through 9 twice), you place your own tile down on the table. With the flip of each subsequent card, you then add the corresponding tile to those already in front of you. But you will only score points for the tiles you lay if they can be stacked entirely on top of at least two previously placed ones (no overlapping or sneaky gaps allowed!). And the number of points you score at end-game will be the tile number multiplied by the level it’s on. So, for example, a number “9” tile on the third level will score 3 x 9 = 27 points, but an “8” on the base level scores 8 x 0 = 0! Ouchie!
Now, NMBR9 may be simple to learn, but it is a prickly pear to master. Guaranteed the tiles will come out in the wrong order (9s on level zero HURT!), or be the opposite of everything you need to fill in your ever-expanding and awkward gaps! But that is what makes NMBR9 such a great filler game. It can be taught in seconds, played in minutes, and always leaves you wanting more.
Only got 5 mins? Then Point Salad has to be top of your go-to list! Point Salad is designed by Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich, published by AEG and is for 2-6 players.
Although rated as 14+, we have found it suitable for a younger age group, and would say a 10 year old can manage to play this comfortably. The game scales well, with the deck size being altered in the number of cards it contains based upon the player count. Or you can of course always just go gung ho and play a mega game between two players and the full deck to help you score eleventy billion points! Very satisfying.
This card game features a deck of two sided cards. One side has one of the six vegetables (well, one is a fruit); lettuce, cabbage, pepper, carrot, onion and tomato (the imposter). The other side features a unique scoring opportunity, perhaps 3 points for each tomato but minus 2 points for each cabbage. You want to collect enough scoring cards to get points, but not enough to neglect also curating the perfect salad.
Point Salad is a drafting game. As such, on your turn you may either draft two vegetables from the market, or you can take one scoring card from the three available in the market. And that is it. The devil is in the scoring though. You need to craft your salad of vegetables such that you score maximum points from your scoring cards. Plus you want cards that combo together to maximise the value of each vegetable you collect. Be wary of being an obvious tomato hoarder though. If you do, your opponent may decide to hate draft you into the losing spot.
Sushi Roll, much like its card-based predecessors Sushi Go and Sushi Party is a perfect filler game to warm up with, cool down with, or enjoy in the midst of meatier games.
A colourful and clunky (in the best way) dice-rolling and drafting game, the choices are ever-changing and the scores are constantly in flux. As such, Sushi Roll is a brilliant filler game for the whole family because it really brings the fun. The components are fantastic quality, and there’s nothing like chucking a handful of chunky dice across the table!
What makes me love Sushi Roll that bit more than Sushi Go is it feels way more thematic. The conveyor belts being passed around reminds me of my trips to restaurants where I’ll frantically stare at the item I want passing other patrons by, silently praying that I’ll be able to swipe the one I desire! And then before you know it, someone does just that, and swipes the perfect die right from under you! Plus the menu, pudding and chopstick tokens, and trays that remind you of the scoring objectives; everything draws you into the world of a Sushi restaurant.
On top of all that, it’s also a decent game. It’s got a fair amount of potential for trying to screw over your competitors, but it’s so fast-paced that no feelings are really hurt, and everything can easily change on the next roll.
For me, Sushi Roll is a perfect addition to game night. It’s easy to learn, quick to play and has wonderful components. As many of my friends are new to gaming, the accessibility of this game is also just right. The scoring is simple enough to remember (plus it’s right there on your ‘tray’ should you forget), and the interaction between the group whilst playing sets the tone for a night of light-hearted fun.
Pair it with a takeaway from your local Japanese restaurant and you’re on to a winner!
This is a big fave amongst our game group and often comes out in filler games; though to be true it more often comes out at the end of an evening as a light finisher before we all go home.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a quick, bitey social deduction play at its best. The concept will be familiar to many gamers. Everyone gets a hidden role; some are werewolves, and the rest are villagers. After a sequence of opening activities (where information is gleaned by a particular characters), there are 5 minutes of frantic logic, lying, bluff and general deceit. At the end of that, there is a vote on who is going to have to be strung up. If it’s a werewolf, the villagers win. If not, the villagers lose, and someone else claims victory (usually the werewolves!).
What makes One Night Ultimate Werewolf really splendid is the range of roles that come in the box. Plus, the way those opening activities set out useful information and enable further lies to emerge over the course of the rapid deduction/discussion/shouting, is clever.
I would mention that the werewolves always know one another, but you may put a “Minion” in the mix aka a villager on their side (unbeknownst to them!) who they want to be executed. The “Seer” is also a common favourite role, as someone who can secretly look at another player’s card (or two of the three unallocated roles in the middle). As well as them, the “Tanner” is a villager who actually wins if he is executed! There are endless combinations of roles you can play and tweak, and the results are entertaining, crazy and usually hilarious.
But the real reason I really love One Night Ultimate Werewolf is the meta-game within. Play styles and conventions emerge over a series of back-to-back games, or the odd game with the same group over weeks and months. This familiarity adds an extra layer of richness which keeps us coming back to this again and again.
Great filler games move at a fast pace, has everyone interacting with one another, and keeps the action going and banter flowing.
Bang! The Dice Game is a fantastic example. Players are thrown into the action in the middle of a Wild West shoot-out. Armed with their trusty six-gun (or in this case five dice), they'll be rollin', rollin', rollin' until at least one side is taking a dirt nap.
The fast-paced Yahtzee-like dice action is super simple to learn and gives the game the quickfire feel of a shoot-out. Players roll and re-roll up to three times in an attempt to secure the result they want and fill their foes with lead. Occasionally they'll go wild with the Gatling gun, spraying bullets everywhere, or face the calamity of exploding dynamite.
Players take on the role of Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw or Renegade. Each has different win conditions based on eliminating specific opponents. But in the chaos, it's hard to be sure who you're shooting at. Only the sheriff reveals his role at the beginning while everyone else keeps theirs secret.
As the bullets fly and health runs low, each turn compounds the carnage of the last to keep things moving at pace. While there is player elimination, just like the characters, it's very short-lived. And devastating Indian attacks loom ever closer helping to ensure the game doesn't go on too long.
In Bang!, every turn can affect each player, which helps keep everyone involved. The combination of roles and characters with asymmetric abilities make each game feel fresh. This filler never feels old and can be played multiple times if a longer break is needed.
Bang! The Dice Game recreates the theme and feel of the popular card game but plays in a fraction of the time. Players will be full of suspicion when the bullets start flying. Tenuous alliances are to be expected, which helps support player interaction, banter and the sociability of games night. Ok, so there might be some vendettas held long afterwards, but it only serves to liven up the evening!