Games come in all sizes, lengths, and styles. Sometimes, short and sweet is just what your group is looking for. Maybe you want something quick to open up your gameday, or to provide a bracing closer before everyone departs. Or perhaps one table has finished and needs something fast while waiting for the other table to wrap things up. And sometimes, folks just aren’t in the mood for anything longer. It’s always good to have some shorter titles available for these and other reasons. So the question was posed to the Opinionated Gamers: what are your favorite fillers?
We’re aware that the term “filler” can be a contentious one (with some people griping, “They’re games, not fillers!”). We mean no disrespect, but are simply using a common gaming term. However, since there is no universal definition for what a filler is, for the purposes of this exercise we restricted it to multiplayer games with a duration of 30 minutes or less. That seemed to fit the spirit of the term, while still giving us plenty of titles to choose from.
Today’s article is part of our “10 Great” series that features 10 great games in a given subcategory. A mechanic, theme, publisher, etc., is chosen and we all vote behind the scenes to create a list of 10 great games that meet the criteria. In this instance, we all voted for our favorite filler games.
Each OG writer was given the chance to vote for up to 10 games. Their top choice was worth 15 points, second place was worth 14 points, and so on, all the way down to the tenth pick, which was worth 6 points. Voters also indicated whether or not they had played each of the listed games. All of the points were tallied up and our top picks made the article.
For this election, there wasn’t too much overall agreement, as 17 OGers cast a total of 162 votes and 83 different games got at least one mention. That means the average game was on fewer than two ballots! However, as we’ll see, two games did stand out as our group’s favorite fillers.
In the summary of the results, there are references to Gold, Silver, and Bronze votes. These represent the number of voters who made that game their first, second, or third choice, respectively.
So let’s see what our favorite filler games are!
These are the games that just missed the list, finishing between 11th and 15th place.
14. 7 Wonders – 30 points, 2 votes (2 Gold)
14. Codenames – 30 points, 3 votes (1 Silver)
13. Coloretto – 31 points, 3 votes
12. Cities/Limes – 33 points, 3 votes (1 Gold)
11. Deep Sea Adventure – 35 points, 4 votes (3 Bronze)
Our Ten Favorite Fillers
#9 – Strike
36 points, 3 votes (2 Silver)
Designed by Dieter Nüßle
Yes, the game that used to be fun until our very own James Nathan starting messing with it. It’s an unusual mixture of dexterity, strategy, and pure mayhem that clearly has some fans in our group.
#9 – Ricochet Robots
36 points, 3 votes (1 Silver)
Designed by Alex Randolph
This is a speed puzzle more than a game, but it’s a wonderfully intricate one and is perhaps the last great design of one of gaming’s great pioneers, Alex Randolph. It can easily handle as many people as can crowd around a table and can be stopped at any point, making it a perfect filler.
#7 – Loopin’ Louie
39 points, 3 votes (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
Designed by Carol Wiseley and Masaru Aoki
Nothing gathers a crowd quite as quickly as this silly children’s game, which was discovered by adult gamers a long time ago and found to be quite skillful and strategic. But even when played seriously, it’s as much fun as ever!
#7 – Diamant / Incan Gold
39 points, 4 votes (1 Bronze)
Designed by Alan Moon and Bruno Faidutti
This push-your-luck game has the players braving scorpions and rockfalls in the hopes of emerging with the most loot.
#5 – The Mind
46 points, 4 votes (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
Designed by Wolfgang Warsch
One of the more controversial designs of recent years (Is it a game?, Is it just an activity?, etc.), enough OGers enjoy their attempts at Vulcan mind-melds to make this one of our favorite fillers.
#5 – High Society
46 points, 4 votes (1 Silver)
Designed by Reiner Knizia
One of Knizia’s oldest designs, this ultra-quick auction game features a no-change payment system and a typical Knizia twist: the object is to win cards with the highest value, but at the end of the game, the player with the least remaining cash is eliminated!
#4 – No Thanks! / Geschenkt
61 points, 6 votes (1 Silver)
Designed by Thorsten Gimmler
This wonderfully elegant card game is as simple as can be: each turn, either pay a chip or take the exposed card and all the accumulated chips. Chips are good, card values are bad, and lowest score wins. Despite the simplicity, there are plenty of angst-ridden decisions packed into the short duration.
#3 – Just One
67 points, 5 votes (2 Gold, 1 Silver)
Designed by Ludovic Roudy, Bruno Sautter
In this SdJ-winning cooperative party game, one player must guess a word, based on the clues given by the other players. But each clue can only consist of one word and duplicate clues are eliminated!
#2 – For Sale
90 points, 8 votes (2 Gold, 2 Bronze)
Designed by Stefan Dorra
One of the all-time classic fillers, this game consists of a double auction and is an interesting exercise in valuation and reading your opponents. An updated version (with a third auction!) will be released next year, showing that this title remains as popular as ever.
#1 – Can’t Stop
107 points, 10 votes (1 Gold, 3 Silver)
Designed by Sid Sackson
This is one of the greatest dice games and push-your-luck games ever designed. It was created by the great Sid Sackson 40 years ago and is still going strong today. It was the only game to get a mention from more than half of our voters and was our pick for our favorite filler by a fairly impressive margin.
Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:
Larry: It was interesting how little consensus there was among our voters. After Can’t Stop and For Sale, the votes were pretty well scattered.
Given that, I guess my selections were reasonably well represented in the final voting. My top 6 picks were Can’t Stop, Codenames, For Sale, Ricochet Robots, Qwinto, and No Thanks!. Cities and Deep Sea Adventure also made my top 10. I was particularly gratified to see Cities do so well–I think it’s a very clever game that has been largely forgotten.
Mark Jackson: My #1 choice was the classic Midnight Party/Ghost Party… it plays up to 8 players, it moves quickly (less than 20 minutes), it’s fun for people to stand around the table and cheer on Hugo (the ghost). What’s not to love? And yet, I was alone on this one. Sigh.
The other game I didn’t have high hopes for making the final list (it’s not well known) but is still an excellent choice is Knizia’s Gelini Nightlife, about gummi bears trying to get onto the dance floor at gummi bear nightclubs. (It’s actually a nice re-imagining of Tutankhamen… which is a perfect information game that is much less fun than Gelini Nightlife.)
Joe Huber: Since noting that the consensus (to the extent there was one) doesn’t align with my preferences qualifies as a “dog bites man” story by this point – and, to be honest, I like the set of choices well enough even if they didn’t align – I’ll instead focus on what is, and what is not, a filler in my mind. Most of the ones selected above do qualify, though I’m not sure Ricochet Robot does for me. The length is appropriate, but – it’s not a game I play while waiting for another table to finish, or waiting for folks to arrive, or the like. On the other hand, I _have_, many times, played Saint Petersburg and Euphrat & Tigris that way, and they comfortably fit the time frame as well. I’ve almost never played Just One that way – it’s played because we have a lot of folks and want to all play in one game.
So to me, “filler” implies a duration (under 30 minutes, ideally under 20) and a usage (something you play to align with another table or while waiting for more folks to arrive or to end the evening). It definitely doesn’t imply a particular complexity. We’re currently trying to get 1846 down under 30 minutes – it would be a lovely filler, if we can manage it.
RJG: Our voting was all over the place. The only fillers I was on board with that made it to the OPG top 10 list were Can’t Stop and The Mind. My top 11 (not in any particular order) would probably be: Can’t Stop, The Mind, 7 Wonders, Skull, Saboteur, Escape: Curse of the Temple, Codenames, Love Letter, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance and Coup. And yes, I am in agreement with you, the reader, that these opinionated gamers were probably suffering from Pandemic Fatigue (COVID, not the game, though some maybe both) when making this list…
Simon W: I’m surprised and pleased that I have 5 games in the top 6. That’s the good news. Bad news is that the number 1 would Not. Ever. be my choice! Speedy dice games are not my thing, with the exception of Perudo! Fun debate though.
Matt C: I’d play pretty much all of the top titles, and in what is the first of its kind, I’ve played every one (except Strike, which is on my pile to play at home.) I’d argue that Just One and Codenames are party games so I don’t see them as “fillers” but I’d be willing to play them. I lean toward really short games as fillers so the exceptionally short ones or ones that can stop at any time would be my choice. Ricochet Robots, Can’t Stop, No Thanks!, and Diamant would make my cut. For many years, No Thanks! was my go-to game to introduce boardgames to non boardgamers. A simple game, but the idea of a reverse auction is just enough to show non-gamers that there are a world of games out there outside their normal experience.
James Nathan: In putting together my votes, I realized that my use of filler games has drifted in a way that I had not previously been aware. I didn’t limit my votes to multiplayer (more than 2) games, as most game nights I’ve attended for the last several years have had an expected 3 or 4 players, and for most of those nights, all but one of us carpooled –so everyone arrived at the same time– or, well, we just chatted and didn’t need to fill anything.
That said, not really attending game nights of more than 4 folks or so means I don’t really have much of an occasion to wait on tables to line up, or folks to arrive, or whatnot, and the possibility of needing a 2P “filler” is just as plausible as any other player count.
So while I don’t use a lot of player count type fillers, I do have a need for appetizers and dessert (in games and in food), so you get me there, but most of my votes were also player count specific: Yavalath (2p), Eggs of Ostrich (3p), Tenka Meidou, SCOUT!, Northern Pacific (4p), Natsumemo (5p, 6p).
(I also have a soft spot for the person that added Piratenbillard to the voting spreadsheet, as the entire BGGCON dexterity game area is certainly one of my favorite fillers while waiting to leave for dinner, the library to open, folks to come downstairs, or my number not to be called during the door prize drawing.)