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On any given day we can have any number of players, up to ten, so that's not a limitation. Keep in mind that setup, play and packing up needs to be done in the hour. My coworkers are all experienced board gamers, so complexity is not an issue.

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I'm not sure if this falls in the realm of answering your own question too quickly or seeding questions/answers (see meta discussion here: meta.boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/270/…). Also, where's the fun in answering when you've already submitted three answers yourself? –  LittleBobbyTables Dec 4 '10 at 21:30
    
I don't think it falls under the thread mentioned. I think that was referring to answering questions that could have a definitive answer. Maybe this should be marked CW. I'd be OK with that, though admittedly I've lost track of what is and isn't considered CW anymore. Would it have been better if I had said in my question: we already play Pandemic, Dominion and Bang!? That's what people normally do, but I've never liked that because it discourages people from posting those answers. Those are viable answers which should get voted on. –  Todd Dec 4 '10 at 22:13
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It's not every day I see "this is ok because the question has no right answer" used in defense of a question –  Michael Mrozek Dec 4 '10 at 22:23
    
@LittleBobbyTables Not trying to be argumentative, but is it any less fun than answering the question after three other people have answered? I've never quite understood the concern over people answering their own questions, but if it's an issue I'll happily delete them. –  Todd Dec 4 '10 at 22:25
    
@Michael Well, if opinion type questions are allowed (which we have many of) then I think it's a perfectly good defense. If they are not allowed then that's another issue. :) –  Todd Dec 4 '10 at 22:29
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28 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Dominion is a great game for lunch. It's the only strategy game I can think of with a playtime under a half hour. We can often get through two rounds during lunch at my office.

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I should note you are limited to four players without the Intrigue expansion, and six with it. Also note that playing with four or more players, the game may take a little longer, usually around 45 minutes. But with the expansion or a couple copies of the game, it's easy to play multiple side-by-side games. –  keithjgrant Dec 17 '10 at 0:56
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Euchre

It's dead simple to set up and easy to learn. I worked in a office where we regularly had two games going every day. Anyone was welcome to play, just sit down and deal. We usually could play two full games (to 10 points) in a one-hour lunch break.

As a bonus (having just now skimmed the wikipedia page), there are apparently variations for 6 or 8 players if you need to support more people.

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We would play this every day during lunch while I was in High School –  David Oneill Dec 14 '10 at 20:28
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Fluxx

This is another card game that's really simple to set up. I find that I play better when I'm not fully paying attention - always a consideration when food is involved. It theoretically supports as many people as you want (the wiki page says 2-6, but I've played many games with more). You should be able to complete somewhere between 0 and 12 games in a one-hour lunch.

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I find Fluxx irritating to play because it's so chaotic. –  Don Kirkby Dec 10 '10 at 21:17
    
@Don, that's why I like it so much. It's fun to watch everyone's heads explode trying to make sense of all the rules. –  Kristo Dec 10 '10 at 21:31
    
@Don Its just a dynamic game, that's one of the coolest things about it, it doesn't stay the same for more than a few turns. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 14 '10 at 23:41
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We've played Bang, Citadels, and Race for the Galaxy during our lunch break. Bang has the plus/minus of having people get removed from the game before the game ends.

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You might want to add some information on why each of these makes a good lunchtime game. You might also –  gomad Dec 7 '10 at 19:30
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We've played a lot of Wizard, the card game. A full game (one card up to ten, then back down again) is sometimes a little too long, but its easy to shorten.

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How about Are You the Traitor? No setup to speak of, socially dynamic, and the play is rapid paced and doesn't require careful tracking of past events/actions/state (a plus when people are distracted by food).

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For two players, we have played Dominion - with and without an expansion. We have also played some of the Gipf project games, although they are only two player and both people will need to stay focused to finish the game. Short setup time and quick teardown mean most of the time can be spent playing.

Other options are more "traditional" games - I saw Euchre recommended. Shanghai/Hollywood rummy (or any of the rummies) can be played usually in under an hour, and because they have "hands", you can play over a few days if necessary. Also, since it is just shuffling to setup, it is a quick setup. :)

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Magic: The Gathering

My co-workers and I regularly play Magic over our lunch break. Setup time is minimal, and the game scales well from 2-6 players.

With 4-6 players, we often have time for two games; with 2-3 players, three or four games.

Having 10 people play at once might make the game run too long, though. In that case, I'd recommend splitting everyone up into two groups of 5.

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Upvoted because I don't really understand why people go so crazy for Dominion and not for Magic (except for the fact that Magic is perceived as a huge money sink, of course). Magic has a much quicker setup time than Dominion - if you've got some preconstructed decks with you, of course - and as such feels like a better lunch-hour game to me! –  thesunneversets Dec 7 '10 at 21:15
    
@thesunneversets Magic is really good for experienced players, but not so much for new players, just because there's so many cards. Beginners at magic get a deck of cards shoved at them and often have to battle an experienced player's carefully pruned arsenal. Granted lack of skill is going to be a disadvantage at any game, but in other games all the strategy happens during the play, not in building a deck beforehand. Still love Magic to death though. Its by far the best trading card game. –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 14 '10 at 23:47
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@CrazyJugglerDrummer Anyone who introduces a new player to Magic by handing them a terrible deck and then proceeding to crush them with a finely-tuned Type I monstrosity is a cad and a scoundrel! I agree though that it's hard for an enthusiastic new player with $30 worth of cards total to go up against a semi-pro, but this goes for Chess, Scrabble... most games really! –  thesunneversets Dec 15 '10 at 0:01
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Khet

It's for two players only, but most games only take 30 mins or so and the rules can easily be picked up in 5 minutes.

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I used to enjoy The Queen's Necklace BGG. It provides an interesting and variable play experience in about 45 minutes. You can play it online to try it out, too. Check the Days of Wonder site. I think there's a link from the BGG page.

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Finding opponents in the online play is often quite a test of patience, since the online version ONLY plays 3-player. The game is best, IMO, at 4p, as well. –  aramis Mar 18 '11 at 21:55
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It might be too simple for an experienced group, but Apples to Apples is great for lunch breaks, particularly as you can add / remove people as needed.

It's dead simple, so it's easy to get new people involved, and the only real requirement is to have ~4 people. I've played it with groups as large as 9 before ... 10 shouldn't be a problem.

The only problem I've run into with the games is that at my current place of work, there's a fair number of people who didn't grow up in the U.S. and aren't native english speakers, so some of the cultural references (mostly people) are difficult for them.

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Apples to Apples is really friendly for beginners, but if the players are more experienced and want a strategical challenge instead of a 95% luck-fest, it's not the best choice. –  Gordon Gustafson Dec 14 '10 at 23:49
    
@CrazyJugglerDrummer: there's a little strategy to Apples to Apples, but it's all about figuring out the personalities of the people you're playing with, and not necessarily learning complex rules and how to exploit them. –  Joe Dec 18 '10 at 2:20
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Treehouse - quick, pretty much as many players as you want, setup is easy, take down is easy. Not presently available from the manufacturer (Looney Labs) because they are changing their packaging, but you can probably still find sets in local game stores, or wait a bit for their new packaging.

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If we go with the 'lunch' theme, although it only scales to 8 people with the expansion pack is the card game Lunch Money.

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Lunch Money is fun, but i don't know if it is the version we have but nothing is written on the cards and you need to either learn all the (pretty complex) rules or get a paper version of it for everyone. –  VirtualBlackFox Dec 16 '10 at 22:41
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Race For The Galaxy

This is the default game for our group when under time constraints. It's very complex for it's play time (20-45) minutes, often making you feel like you've played a game twice its actual length. As such, it's also very rewarding. Plus, there are multiple expansions if you wish to explore the game further, and they still keep the play time to under an hour. The expansions also let the expand the number of players from 4 to eventually 6. Because of the simultaneous turn mechanic, the game time is not usually lengthened by adding more players. Just be warned that the first (learning) game will take much longer. Our first game almost 2 hours, the very next game was 20 minutes.

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IMHO Race for the galaxy don't contain enough interaction between players to be really fun it's mostly a race for victory points. –  VirtualBlackFox Dec 16 '10 at 22:38
    
That's a valid concern. That was the case when our group first started playing. However now the group tries to anticipate what phase each player will pick in order to take advantage of phases you don't call. Also, this nature of game allows much more table talk in terms of strategy without tipping your hand. We enjoy that aspect of it a lot, as it's missing from many of our other games. –  m b Dec 17 '10 at 13:45
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There's a new game from a new company that might fit the bill, except it's only for 4 players. The game is called Launch Pad, and the company Stratus Games.

Launch pad is a simple quick strategy game that involves building rockets, and preventing others from building them. It's a lot of fun.

As for a game that would involve so many people, well, Bang is probably your best bet, and that's a really quick game. It works best with a lot of people, although it does have the disadvantage of having some people sit around with nothing to do for some time, as there are players eliminated early on in the game.

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We have started playing Carcassonne during our lunch breaks. Generally lasts about 40-50 minutes including set up and tear down.

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So where i work we are between 5 and 8 depending on the days to play every lunchtime for around 1h. For now my impression are (Roughly sorted from best to worse but including only the good ones) :

Citadels

It's one of the first game we played and still a hit in our group. There is a good level of strategy, medium amount of chance and great level of interaction between players.

One of the problem we had was the total time of the game that could vary a lot if you have players taking a long time to choose a character (There is a lot of strategy in this choice as if you are too greedy and so predictible you will either end dead or without any gold). We solved it by imposing a fixed 45s time to select a character.

The game need at least 5 players to begin being really fun.

The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow

Always a big hit, it's easy to play, need nearly nothing (The cards could be contained in a pocket) each round is fast and being dead is as fun as being alive as you could see how good liars the others are... There is a big amount of strategy, small amound of randomness and very hight amount of interaction between players.

The only problem of this game is that the number of players required for it to be fun is 8 and it require a non playing game master so our group is not often big enough to play it.

Kaker Laken Poker

We play it nearly every day after another game when we have time. It's a pure bluff, small amount of randomness, small amount of strategy, good amount of player interaction game.

It could be played in 10-15min without problems even with 7 players (Even if the box say 6 max)

The rule that there is one losser and all the others win make it really interesting as every one try to attack the player that is losing, making him lose more xD

Bang!

One of the game we play the most even with it's problems as all players in our group like it and it became the default solution when game choice is too complex (due to one or two players refusing to play some other games this day)

The game is fun with lot of interaction between players, lot of randomness, and a moderate amount of strategy.

The big problem of bang is it's randomness making some games very fast (Sherif with 4 life points near billy the kid with 4 bangs in hand being against him) and others very long. Also one player could die really fast and watch the other continue to play for a long time, witch is not fun at all.

Regarding the time to play on lunchtime you absolutely must get one of the extensions adding the one special rule per turn cards (Fistfull of cards or High Noon). As the number of extension cards is selected at start and the last one is fatal really fast for everyone it put an upper value to the number of turns possible. 8 cards for a 45min game with 6 players is a good bet for example. (6 players being one of the configuration that work the best)

The link to boardgamegeek.com on the title point to the bullet that contain everything you may need.

We currently played with only one green card authorized as otherwise it allow someone to protect himself too much and remove claus the saint from the game as it take too much time to play.

Dixit

Except for one of our player that doesn't have any immagination this game is really great and a lot of fun especially if you know the players you play with as you will tailor what you say for some of them to get the hint and others to miss it. Sometimes it work and sometimes you discover that everyone read the news yesterday and go your hint or that they all know the nearly unknow actor that you named...

The game is fast enough to play on lunchtime (The number of points or number of turns to win could be chosen depending on available play time), the maximum number of players is 6 (Playing with 3 or 4 players could be done but it is really less interesting, it should be limited to 5 or 6 players).

There is a small amount of randomness, moderate amount of reflection and no direct interaction between players outside of the narator/non-narator separation.

The box is uselessly big but could be discarded as a simple paper or a white-board is better to count points anyway.

Saboteur

Fun, easy to play, pretty fast (as the array of cards is fixed, the time don't really depends on the number of player and stay around 20 minutes) playeable up to 10 players. It's a great game for lunchtime.

The game have a high amount of randomness and player interaction and small amount of strategy for miners / great amount of strategy for saboteurs.

We always play without a random amount of saboteurs as getting only one nearly assure that he will lose.

Munchkin

If the number of player is limited to 4 or 5 it could be played in 1h (more and it's too long) and the game is really fun with lot of interaction between players (Playing a +10 levels to a monster the other player used all it's bonus to be able to kill is allways so much fun) a good amount of randomness and a little bit of strategy.

Some of our players don't like this game as the rules are not really well defined sometimes and lot of cards change them. It's also the only game where some editions explain that cheating is authorized (There is a rule for what happens to you if someone notice) and that if there is a debate the player owning the box decide the outcome :D

Ivanhoe / Camelot

The game is simple but there is finally a good amount of strategy as well as randomness and there are a moderate amount of player interactions. It's pretty fast so it could be played multiple times in one hour. The game is great at 4 players.

Linq

Good game of bluff and guess-who-i-am with a small amount of randomness, big amount of strategy and moderate amount of interaction between players. It could be played up to 8 players according to the box but more is ok. The rounds are very fast to play and you could do as many as you want.


Games for two players follow we don't play them as often so i separate them. It's good to have them to be able to split the group.

Gosu

Basically an alternative to magic. Very strategic and interesting but should be limited to 2 players for lunchtime games as more players is too long, getting well over 1h.

Mr. Jack Pocket

Really great nearly pure reflection game for two players. The game is small to transport and could be played in 30min without problem (The time depends a lot on the reflection time of each player, as with chess a time limit for reflection is sometime usefull)

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Great answer. I love the mini-reviews with each one! –  Pat Ludwig Dec 16 '10 at 22:56
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I like this answer a lot, but I'd prefer if it were actually many smaller answers so I could upvote the games individually. –  Mag Roader Dec 17 '10 at 0:57
    
How can you possibly play a game of werewolf in a half hour? We usually need at least 3 hours for a game of mafia (which is actually nearly the same). –  vsz Jul 27 '12 at 19:53
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7 Wonders

Though there's a bit of setup it's still reasonably quick, and you get a lot of meaty gameplay in 30-45 minutes. It's designed for 3-7 players and has a very solid 2-player variant included (2-player takes longer than 3-7, be forewarned).

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My coworkers and I would get great mileage off our Cribbage set during lunch breaks. An average game would last us 35 minutes or so.

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I got beaten to recommending 7 Wonders, which certainly fits your needs (7 players, ~40 minutes), so consider this a +1.

If you like Dominion, consider AEG's Thunderstone. Deck-building, with a dungeon-delving theme.

Steve Jackson Games' Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice are decent for large groups. Of the two, I prefer Zombie Dice, as it has a bit more decision-making and agency.

...while we're on dice games, there's Roll Through The Ages It's only up to 4 players, but it plays in an hour or less and conveys an enjoyable civ-building experience.

If you're okay with print-and play games, I made two that might fit the bill: Office Gossip ( http://www.invisible-city.com/play/435/office-politics ) is a Werewolf-style game that doesn't need a player to sit out and be the narrator – everyone gets to play. Uncontrolled Squid ( http://www.invisible-city.com/play/211/uncontrolled-squid ) is a team-based contested bidding game – all you need are standard Poker decks (1 per four players).

Edit: One more suggestion – Prolix from Z-Man Games is a word game for 1 to 5 players that plays quickly, is very portable, and is quite fun. The premise: Think of a word that uses as many of the (ten?) letters on the scoring board.

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We usually did settlers of catan at the last place I worked at, although our group was limited up to six people. Always good for quickly killing off an hour.

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For Sale

Just played for the first time last week. If you have experienced board gamers, it probably wouldn't be something you play every day, but a game only takes about 15 minutes, and as soon as it's over, players are usually eager to play another.

It's an auction game that is themed on buying and selling real estate. Players start with money that's used to bid on houses of varying values (with art ranging from doghouses to mansions). After the houses have been purchased, players then enter a second round of bidding for more money, and bid with their purchased houses from the first round.

We had mix of experienced gamers and newbies, and it was just as well received by both. 3-6 players.

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Can you give us an idea of the theme of the game? –  Pat Ludwig Apr 3 '11 at 0:22
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Starfire

Starfire, played as a tactical game, is fast and pretty good for multiple players. Some prep needs be done outside play, namely ship sheets, but with experienced players, a fleet battle can be played in under an hour with a dozen ships on a side or more.

I've played a roughly 30-ship per side battle in 35 minutes before, tho' both I and the other player had counters bagged before hand, and fleets done up and printed out before hand.

Man To Man and The Fantasy Trip's Melee and Wizard

The GURPS combat system was released as a board game, entitled Man to Man. It's pretty fast playing, and very tactical.

Likewise, SJ's prior RPG, the Fantasy Trip, was released as two board games and a roleplaying expansion. The board games, entitled Melee and Wizard, sold quite well. Both are extremely tactical, and some copies keep surfacing in new or like new condition regularly. A later revision, Dragons of Underearth, was a board game with full RPG-style character generation, but limited skill and spell selections.

It's very possible with either to play out a multiplayer game in 30-45 minutes.

Full Thrust

With 1 ship per player, Full Thrust plays VERY quickly. It's a miniatures game of space combat. The Babylon 5 version used 12-sided counters; there is no reason one can't make similar ones for the canon FT races. I've played multi-sided battles with novice players in 30-45 minutes, to conclusion.

Note that the rules are available in PDF for free from the GZG website; the link is to the downloads page.

If you can find the Chameleon Eclectic Babylon Project EarthForce Source Book, it includes a Babylon-5 themed version of the rules.

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Quarriors is coming out this wednesday and it's a short "deck" building game, except dice are used. It's very portable which is an added bonus.

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If you've ever got just one other player or split into a group of 2, Memoir '44 is a great game. It's a WWII-themed game that's scenario-based, with 16 coming in the box and more available on the publisher's website (you can also create your own, if you're feeling ambitious). Not all of the scenarios are balanced between the Axis and the Allies, but the publisher's site has win/loss percentages for each scenario based on logged plays, so I've been using that data as a handicap to balance the matches when my experience doesn't match my opponents.

Setup looks intimidating, but I played my first game, including setup and rules explanation, in about 45 minutes. There are also rules to play on two teams with up to 8 people if you've got expansions and/or two copies of the base game; I haven't tried this, but I've read that it takes more than an hour, so that might not work for a lunch thing.

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Blokus is an outstanding game that's also very easy to track down, as it's available in most big-box stores. Each player gets an assortment of Tetris-like pieces in a single color, and must place one per turn if they can. Each piece placed must touch at least one piece of that color - but only at the corners. That's pretty much it for the rules, but this is a tense experience with quite a bit of depth and no randomness.

The biggest downside is that it's very clearly designed to be a 4 player game (though I'm told that there are a couple of 2-player variants that are worthwhile). I haven't played it, but I've been told that Blokus Trigon works well for 3 players.

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Adding multiple answers to one question is strongly discouraged. Please condense your answers. We prefer to vote on answers, not individual items or games. Thanks! –  Pat Ludwig Jan 4 '12 at 23:28
    
Sure, I'll take care of that. I thought one answer per game was what people were looking for here based on one of the comments above, on the answer that starts with Citadels. –  VolcanoLotus Jan 5 '12 at 13:24
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Coloretto is probably the best short game I've ever played - most games should take no more than 15 minutes to play. It's a card game in which you're trying to collect cards in different color groups. The more cards you have in any given color, the more points that group is worth at the end of the game - but only 3 colors (chosen at the end) count as positive points, and any other groups count as negative points. It's very simple to play and is the only game I've played I'd recommend without hesitation to anyone who has never played a "hobby" board game before.

The same designer later released Zooloretto, which is a board game adaptation that adds a little bit of complexity and playing time (though still straightforward and would still be appropriate for lunchtime board games) that I think is equally good. I'd probably always recommend Coloretto first, since it's cheaper, faster to play and more portable, but if you like Coloretto and/or want something with a little bit more depth to it, Zooloretto is also worth checking out.

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I'll join Josh in recommending Magic the Gathering, and I did used to play that over lunch.

Also, while only for 2 players, a 13x13 Go game is normally well under a half hour if everyone maintains a decent play rate.

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