5 Board Games to Play in the Office

What board games are good to play in the office, say at lunch? I’ve found that board games like Kingdomino, 6 Nimmt!, Carcassonne, Splendor, and Modern Art fit the bill. They’re fast, engaging, and fun. Those elements are crucial given the constraints of the office lunch hour.

It all started when I talked about board games during lunch. My coworkers would ask me how my weekend went and I’d be talking about the board games I played. The descriptions of what I played were pretty general: a game where you’re trying to run power plants to power cities and make money, or one where you’re building up a farm, or one where you colonize Mars to make it habitable. The descriptions might not have been extensive, but the premise was sufficient to pique their interest.

Many of them haven’t played modern board games. Those who did tended to play party games or older games like Monopoly or Risk. So with their curiosity in full swing, they asked me whether or not I could bring some games in to play during lunch. They were interested enough to learn and try new games. I was more than happy to oblige.

How to Choose What Games to Play in the Office

As I mentioned, there were two constraints I had to keep in mind for a board game lunch scenario. The first was time. Most people in the office were only free during lunch. That meant game length should be 60 minutes or less. The second was complexity. Because many of them haven’t played modern games, they were not used to relatively more complex rules. The games would have to be easy to teach and be fairly straightforward.

That meant I’d have to filter my collection to games that could play briskly in 60 minutes or less, be easy to teach and grasp, and, most importantly, be fun and engaging! So I went about, filtering out my collection, tested a few out to see how receptive my coworkers were to those games, and wound up with five games that have worked really well.

Few games are easier to teach than Kingdomino

Kingdomino is Easy to Teach and Plays Fast

Kingdomino was the first game I introduced to the group. The logic behind that decision was that people would be familiar with the concept of dominos, which would allow me to skip a lot of steps in the game explanation. I’d only have to talk about how tile selection worked and how to do scoring. But after a few demonstrations, my coworkers grasped it pretty quick and we were set to play.

Overall, the game went over pretty well. Most games took about 15-20 minutes, which allowed us to get multiple games in during lunch. And after awhile, people figured out more advanced concepts. For example, they got a better understanding for denying people the tiles that would lead to a high-scoring kingdom to better their chances at winning. They also saw the importance of jockeying for turn order at the right moments.

This led to plenty of tense moments when people would pick a tile, leading to sighs or groans when none of the remaining pieces are useful. Or, worse yet, when the piece doesn’t fit anywhere in their 5×5 grid. But the combination of easy-to-explain mechanics and a reasonable amount of strategy has made Kingdomino a mainstay at the lunch tables.

6 Nimmt! is a thrilling, short game

6 Nimmt! Fits in an Office Lunch Session

I’ve had a reasonable amount of success bringing out 6 Nimmt! in large friend groups and I’d figure it’d be the same with my office coworkers. After all, it’s not hard to explain a game when all you do in 6 Nimmt! is to play a card.

What makes 6 Nimmt! work lies in how the strategy plays out. People will pick up on the fact that hand management and the ability to read the table are the roads to success. But what makes 6 Nimmt! go from fun to exciting is in the tension that ratchets up significantly when the rows fill up. When this happens, everyone starts eyeing everyone else nervously as they play their card. Someone’s going to wind up being the fish with all the points. Will it be you? Hope not.

A row of cards will inevitably get taken during the course of play. The person forced to take those cards will groan, but everyone else will breathe a collective sigh of relief. But will the new cards played cause another giant row to form? Things can get dicey as the tension lingers and the next card is played with great trepidation. Best of all, this game can be played with a lot of people!

Carcassonne can catch coworkers' attention!

Carcassonne is Next-Level Tile Laying

Carcassonne is the next step up from Kingdomino and having Kingdomino serve as the foundation made this game much easier to teach. There are a few wrinkles that my coworkers had to get used to. First, they had to remember that workers can’t be placed on terrain objects that already have another worker claiming it. Second, farmer scoring is still annoying to teach but wind up scoring a lot of points. Unfortunately, the group hasn’t gotten to the point where they can internalize how valuable those farmers are. In all the times I’ve played, I don’t think my farming dominance was threatened in any way, shape, or form.

With that said, the game is still fun. People find the shared map and the attempted steals add a fresh perspective to their previous experience with Kingdomino. Even though the level of play is very much in the figure-it-out stage, it hasn’t gotten terribly competitive. Hopefully more plays will help them figure out what terrain features to grab, which to contest, and most importantly, how to “help” other players build huge castles that will never ever be complete.

Splendor is a pleasant engine-building game

Splendor is a Fun Introduction to Engine-Building

Splendor was my group’s first exposure to tableau/engine builders. The first teaching session took a bit longer since people were still feeling out the game. By the time they understood the mechanisms, they were all in, engrossed by the awesome cards their engines allowed them to purchase.

What made Splendor tick with people is seeing their engines grow organically. They might start with a few low-level cards, but as they play, their engines come to life, allowing them to get higher-level cards which gives them the points they need to win. Splendor also provides many strategic avenues to explore. They’ve tried hoarding gems, chasing the nobles, only going for the point cards, and building the engine from low-level to high-level cards. They’ve even started to see how denying by using the amber gem can better their chances at winning.

But win or lose, it’s gratifying for them to see how their engine has built up. It’s this focus that gets them to come back. When I talked to them, most of them have said that Splendor has become their favorite game.

Modern Art can be vicious

Modern Art Teaches Price Manipulation

Modern Art is a game that my coworkers have been looking forward to playing because of how different it is from all of the other games in the lunchtime collection. In Modern Art, you’re trying to sell paintings and redeem the paintings you own for money. The issue is that no one really knows how much the paintings are going to be worth.

What people really enjoy about this game is in sussing out how the economy works. Because, yes, every game of Modern Art will have a different economic outcome. In one game, one artist’s works will be worth a lot while in others, the values are more evenly distributed. But all of that is driven by the players’ attempts at exerting their will upon the art markets.

And this dynamic gameplay leads to a high degree of player interaction. People will try to feint, bidding to drive the price up so that their opponents will not profit as much when it comes time to redeem the paintings for money. There are other times when players will trick their opponents into buying a painting that has no chance at ranking. The opponent doesn’t find out until it’s too late.

But because there’s so much going on, so much wheeling and dealing, every minute of every game requires everyone to pay attention to see how the market evolves and what opportunities exist to make a killing in the art world.

Tell us what games have worked for you during office lunch sessions? Any that your coworkers have gravitated towards?

Tell us what you think about the game!