Filling the Gaps

by Nate T on January 31, 2011

So you and your friends have just spent the last hour and a half, slugging it out on the corn field; hurling fences and livestock and family members. And, someone has emerged as THE farmer to beat... or explorer... or city builder... or whatever else... So... Now what?

While resetting the board and having another go again right away may be enticing, everyone probably would like to take a break and give the gray matter (the brain) some time to recuperate. But then no one wants to really leave the table and lose that gaming momentum (except to answer nature's call, and maybe get a drink). What to do? Well, you dig out from your gaming collection... a nice filler game.

A what?

Filler game.

What's that?

It's a game you play, in between games. More specifically, its a game you can quickly play in between sessions of longer games.

So, what makes a good filler game?

Easy set-up and clean-up
You want to get back to the big game and don't want to have to spend too much time on set-up or clean-up beyond opening the box and bringing out the pieces, which shouldn't be a lot.
Quick to teach and learn
Simple rules with minor variants or options work best. You want to get playing, even if there are players around who haven't played the game before. If its taking 30 minutes to just explain the rules, this is not filler material (you should have finished your first game already, or even two).
Short game sessions
This is meant to be a break from the other games. Not a long, drawn-out session on its own. Now, some filler games could get drawn out, but this should be the exception, not the norm. After you start, shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to get back to the next round of being a farmer or saving the world from diseases.
Different game strategy
You want to give the parts of your brain that you've already been using for an hour. Plus, a change of pace would be refreshing. If you've been calculating permutations or planning the next 10 moves to victory for the last hour, 15 to 30 minutes of mindless chaos isn't so bad. On the other hand, if its been mindless chaos for the last hour, a bit of order isn't too bad either. Whatever the case, a good laugh is a good addition to the mix.

Some filler game recommendations:

Tsuro
This is my favourite filler game (at the time of this writing). It takes 5 minutes to teach, and the first game will be done after 20 minutes. The pieces are big and solid, making it easy enough to pull from the box or to tidy up. A bit of spatial recognition may be required, but nothing requiring extraneous planning.
Coloretto
A game with straight objectives which requires simple focus, not the multi-tasking resource management of other games.
Gosu
Army building game that may take 10 minutes to explain all the nuances, and the first game may take a full 30 minutes. Subsequent games though are fast. Blink, and you could be holding the white flag of surrender.
Bang! The Bullet
Recall comment about mindless chaos. This is a 'mafia' type game set in the old west. Make sure you're friendly with your crowd or you could find yourself out of the game, before your first turn even starts.
Lemming Mafia
Its like a horse race, betting on which little lemming will reach the end of the pier first. But since the mob is involved, the race could be fixed... and you get to fix it.

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