Top Ten "Lunch Break" Games
Trent Hamm
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This is the latest edition in my series of "top ten" lists of games based on mechanisms and themes. Here are the previous entries:
[blogpost=23068][/blogpost]
[blogpost=23255][/blogpost]
[blogpost=23453][/blogpost]
[blogpost=23646][/blogpost]
[blogpost=23839][/blogpost]

Two or three times a week, I eat lunch with a friend of mine and we follow that lunch with a game of some kind. Given the constraints of a professional life, our goal is to finish both lunch and the game within an hour. Table space and setup/takedown time are also at a premium, as is game portability.

So, I define a "lunch break" game as being one that can be set up, played, and taken down within forty five minutes, one that doesn't take up a ton of table space, and one that can be reasonably portable.

Here are my top ten games that meet those requirements. Note, as always, that these are my top ten, not necessarily BGG's top ten.
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1. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:42]
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Android: Netrunner is a customizable card game for two players, designed by Richard Garfield and Lukas Litzsinger, and published by Fantasy Flight Games. A:N stands out from other customizable card games in several ways. One, it's asymmetrical, meaning there are two possible roles for a player to take in the game and they play very differently from each other. Two, it's an LCG, so it's not collectible. Three, it offers a very large bluffing element. It also has a non-randomized resource system, meaning you have a certain number of actions each turn and can use those actions to directly acquire the resources needed to play cards. These elements make this game not just a brilliant game, but almost a perfect fit for lunch breaks.
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2. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:48]
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Race for the Galaxy is a space-themed card game for two to six players, designed by Thomas Lehmann, and published by Rio Grande Games. In Race, players are trying to build the most dominant galactic empire, represented by a tableau of cards they build on the table throughout the game. The game revolves around simultaneous action selection, as each player has a small number of cards that represent a game phase. Players play these cards simultaneously, then only the selected phases of a turn actually occur during that turn. The game can be carried in a small cardboard box, works well for two and for more, and doesn't take up a ton of table space (any lunch table can handle it). It plays quickly and is loaded with bluffing and combo-building, particularly once you're experienced with the game.
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3. Board Game: Summoner Wars [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:385] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
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Summoner Wars is a two player tactical card game designed by Colby Dauch and published by Plaid Hat Games. Each player plays as a specific faction which has a unique deck of cards (there are some deckbuilding rules, but the options aren't overwhelming and, honestly, I rarely use them). The game is played on a 6 by 8 grid of spaces (there's a paper board which folds up well, or the Master Set has a mounted board) and cards are deployed to those spaces during the game. On each player's turn, they have a chance to maneuver their troops, attack the other player's troops, and activate various special abilities on the cards, with the overall goal of doing enough damage to kill the other player's summoner (a strong character that's in play by default). Summoner Wars can fit in a person's pocket with enough stuff for two players and although it requires a fair amount of table space, I've played it at restaurants without problem. The game shines thanks to the great tactical gameplay squeezed into a short timeframe and the wide variety between factions and how they play.
 
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4. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:74] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
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Dominion is a deckbuilding game for two to four players, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by Rio Grande. This is the "grandaddy" of the genre and one that many players are familiar with - you start with a small deck that you draw from, play cards from your hand to generate coins to draw better cards, and eventually start accumulating victory points. This one is surprisingly portable - just choose the random kingdom cards before you leave and the game fits in a very tidy little box.
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5. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:289]
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Hanabi is a cooperative card game for two to five players, designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Asmodee. In Hanabi, players are collectively trying to play the correct sequence of cards to the table. The only problem is that they hold their hands inverted, so everyone else can see their cards but they cannot. Also, players are very restricted on the info that they can share. Hanabi comes in a box small enough to fit in a pocket and works very well for all player counts - it's also a good one to rope new players into because it's very easy to teach.
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6. Board Game: Ascension: Deckbuilding Game [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:524] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
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Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is a deckbuilding game for two to four players that, as a lunch break game, works best with two. It's designed by Justin Gary and published by Stone Blade Entertainment. It's a lighter deckbuilding game than Dominion, but it's also designed to fit extremely well in a small card box, making it very portable. Much like Dominion, you spend the game turning your weak starting deck into a much stronger one, using the cards in your deck to buy better ones from a shared pool and eventually accumulating victory points. I believe Dominion is the stronger game, but I think Ascension is much more suited for transportation.
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7. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:153] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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Magic: the Gathering is a customizable and collectible card game for two (or more) players, designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast. Magic is the grandaddy of collectible card games and stays on top of the heap thanks to a huge pool of available cards and lots of players, a community fostered by Wizards' strong organized play system and support of gaming stores. In Magic, you're a mage trying to reduce the other player's life total to zero through the playing of spells and summoning of creatures to fight on your behalf. The game ends up being a quick tactical and strategic game with a fair amount of luck and a lot of (potential) variety.
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8. Board Game: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:69] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
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Star Wars: X-Wing is a tactical miniatures game set in the Star Wars universe, designed by a large team and published by Fantasy Flight Games. You can play a quick skirmish in half an hour, easily, and you just need a very small box of pieces to play (three or four ships per player, some measuring tokens, a few additional tokens, and a handful of cards), plus it can be played on virtually any table. In X-Wing, you control a small fleet of spaceships engaged in tactical combat against each other, maneuvering into position and firing when there's opportunity. Different spaceships have different characteristics and pilots (which can be assigned to specific ships) add even more variety. It plays well on virtually any sized tabletop.
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9. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:188]
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The Resistance is a traitor-based card game for five to ten players, designed by Don Eskridge and published by Indie Boards and Cards. In The Resistance, you play a resistance fighter who may or may not be a traitor (this is shown to you by a hidden card). During the game, players take turns choosing teams to go on missions and others can vote on those teams. If a vote passes, that team goes on a mission, choosing secretly whether to make the mission succeed or fail. If any player on the mission chooses to fail it, the bad guys earn a point; otherwise, the good guys earn one. The game is played to three points. It becomes a rollicking affair of social deduction. It fits in a tiny box (the game basically boils down to about twenty cards) and can be played during a lunch break with a crowd.
 
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10. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:401]
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Coup is a bluffing game for two to six players, designed by Rikki Tahta and published by Indie Boards and Cards. In Coup, you play the secret leader of a group trying to get into position to overthrow the government... but there are other groups trying to do this, too. You have two face-down cards and, during the game, you can claim those cards are whatever you want them to be. If someone doubts you, they can call you on it. If they're right, you lose that card. If they're wrong, they lose a card. The different cards have different in-game abilities, and the last person with a face-down card is the winner. It plays quickly, encourages lots of bluffing, and works with a variety of player counts.
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