Top 10 Small Box Games
If you’ve been keeping up with my Top 10 List, you’ll have seen a number of the same games on there over and over again, some of my favorites, and it gives you an idea of how they fall into various categories and mechanics, but I wanted to do one that’s going to hit a number of different games, and that is going to be small(er) box games. Now, I’m not going with Micro Games, so it doesn’t have to fit in a mint tin, pack of gum, or be a regular old deck of cards, but games that are in a box that’s smaller than a Carcassone box.
10 – Second Chance
The first of several roll (flip) and write games on the list. They just work really well for packing a punch in a small box. In Second Chance, you’re trying to fill in as much of a grid as you possibly can with a bunch of Tetris like shapes. The trick is that the next shape you add, from two cards flipped, must touch one of your previous shapes somewhere. Now, smaller shapes would generally be ideal because you can fill it in more solidly, but there are a limited number of one or two square cards in the deck, so you have to hope that they come up at a time that you can use it. If you eventually can’t use either of the two shapes flipped, you then get a second chance, a card that only you can use, however, if you can’t use that, you’re out of the game and you count up the empty squares and that’s your points, the person with the fewest empty squares wins. It works really well because you don’t have down time since everyone is using the same cards, just with a different starting card.
9 – Criss Cross
Smallest game on the list, it’s barely larger than a deck of cards, but it offers a whole ton of fun. In this game, you are rolling dice and placing those dice on a 5×5 grid, trying to get like symbols next to each other to score points in both the rows and columns. The tricky bit is that you need to put those two dice faces for a round next to each other, orthogonally, or like a domino would fit into a grid. Adding to that, the fact that it’s scoring both rows and columns means that you need to think hard about getting points both ways, because while more like symbols in a row gives you more points, being able to score in more directions might be better. Plus, you can put the dice faces anywhere, so you have to worry about not giving yourself two single spaces not next to each other, because that means you can fill in the last roll. A lot of fun and plays fast with no downtime.
8 – Say Bye to the Villains
A really tough game for the list, one that you’ll lose way more often than you win. In Say Bye to the Villains, you are Samurai who are going to be taking on various villains and you have ten days to prepare. That can be done by increasing your stats or by figuring out a villains cards and how tough a villain will be or by giving someone else a card. However, all of these things cost time, and the better ones might cost multiple days, and you only have ten days to prepare. So while the game is cooperative, you always feel like you haven’t prepared your stats well enough or that you haven’t figured out enough for a villain so you just need to try at the the end and hope it works. Thus far in around ten plays, I have yet to win the game, but in the vast majority of them, we’ve been really close, so one of these days it’ll happen. The game can overstay it’s welcome just a tiny bit if someone spends their time really fast they then have to sit around, and in a higher player count, that could be a little bit.
7 – Just One
This party game works perfectly on this list because it packs a punch for a small package. First, it’s a fully cooperative party game, which is pretty rare, but it’s also clever, borrowing some from Scattergories and Taboo and other older party games that maybe don’t hold up as well. One person is “it” and they flip over a card and show it to everyone else and pick a number from 1 to 5, that corresponds with a word, then the other players write down a one word clue for that word. However, then the players have to compare their words, and any duplicate clues aren’t shown to the person who is it. The clues are then revealed and that person needs to guess what word it was, if they get it, you get a point. If not, you lose a card, limiting how many points you can get. Now, it is a party game, so scoring is optional, in my opinion, but the game itself is a really fun time.
6 – The Lost Expedition
This one has shown up on the adventure list, but it’s a small box game that’s a lot of fun. In this game you’re trying to navigate from the start of the trail all the way to the Lost City of Z. However, there are creatures, native tribes, rivers, and more that need to be traversed to be able to get there. So as a group you’re playing down cards that will allow you travel further down the trail, but they’re going to cost resources and you have a limited supply of those, so you have to balance wanting to push ahead as fast as possible with gathering more resources as well. The game does a nice thing as it’s a cooperative game, it helps alleviate a situation where there is an alpha player who wants to tell everyone what to do because when playing down cards for the morning or evening walk, you can’t discuss the cards in your hand, so the biggest decision can’t be alpha gamed.
5 – Sushi Go Party!
I really like this game because of the variability to it. In regular Sushi Go, you have a fixed pool of cards, but in the Party version, you can swap out your appetizers, desserts, and specials, and more so that it is a different combo most of the times. You can make it as challenging or as easy as you want to score points. And the game is just a really good drafting game that doesn’t give you down time. You’re mainly just trying to draft sets, but some of them offer a lot more points if you get a large number of them, whereas, others you can split into smaller sets, or others will give you negative points if you have to many of them. The artwork is very cute in the game as well, which helps it hit the table with a wider variety of players.
4 – Point Salad
So there’s a joke about games where they can be a point salad, meaning that they give you a million different ways to score in the game, like you can put a million toppings onto a salad. In Point Salad, it gives you a million ways to score, but you have to decide which ones you want to take, and which veggies you take to build up your salad. The game is great because it plays fast, it offers interesting decisions and its tongue in cheek naming. Overall, it’s a pretty simple game, but offers good replayability and you can’t have the same strategy every game because the scoring cards you can draft will vary based off of what cards are actually being used and what pile those cards might be in. A fun and fast game.
3 – Welcome To…
The highest roll (flip) and write game on the list, as it’s my favorite that I’ve played thus far. In the game you’re building your perfect Stepford neighborhood, with it’s white picket fences, parks, and pools. Will you be the best at developing your neighborhood. The great thing about this one is that you can play basically an infinite number of people because everyone is using the same three pairs of cards each round, well, picking one of them to use. It’s a challenging game as you’re trying to complete specific neighborhood layouts but also focusing more on one of the things, parks or pools, can net you more points, but you’ll also be missing out on points as well. The game plays fast and everyone is involved in the whole game, so a lot of fun, and one that if people have access to a printer to print the sheet or has the game, works really well online.
2 – Hanamikoji
A great small box card game where you are trying to win the favor of various Geisha. To do that, you need to give them gifts, one might want a comb, while another might want a flute, it depends on the Geisha. To get them those gifts, you and your opponent, it’s only a 2 player game, are going to take turns doing one of four actions. Each person can do each action once per round. It might be that you discard a card face down that won’t be a gift for any of the Geisha. Or you play two face down that you’ll use as gifts later, or there is a play three face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other two, or two groups of two face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other. It offers a lot of strategy, but there’s enough hidden information to keep the game challenging every time you play it.
1 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
When I was thinking of this list, I kind of forgot that this would apply, but it’s probably my favorite “small box” game. I put it in quotes, because the more expansions that you get, the larger a box you’ll need, but if you just get the base game, and that’s all you’d need for a while, it comes in a small box. And it gives you a bigger gaming experience than some as you’re playing through scenarios in a greater story just using cards and a few tokens. The downside to that scenario based story is that once you’ve played it once or twice, you’ll know the story, then you’ll want to get the cheap expansion packs, and eventually it’s not that small a game anymore. Still, you can get a lot from that small box.
I have a lot more small box games that pack a lot of punch that just missed the list. Things like Hats, Letter Jam, Homebrewers, Century: Golem Edition, Not Alone, Onirim and more just missed the list, and I think when boar dame night in person starts up again, some of them will go higher up the list, because a lot of smaller box games play faster and are easier to pick up on.
What are some of your favorite games that come in a small box?
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