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What are good games to play during a one-hour lunch break?

I'm looking for some games to play in short 10-15 minutes breaks in between classes. Here's some of my priorities, more or less in order:

  • Quick to learn. Total teaching time preferably less than 3 minutes before gameplay starts. Have to be able to teach new people quickly.
  • Transportable. I'm mainly looking for stuff with regular decks of cards, but if other inexpensive proprietary games meet this criteria they're fine.
  • Short playing time, preferable less than 10 minutes. Obviously I'd love to be able to play a full game of Settlers, but we just don't have enough time for playing or even teaching it.
  • Engaging. Fairly quick turns, more or less constant action. Inter-player interaction is always good.
  • A moderate level of luck is fine, but not a TON, like Uno, if possible.

Any suggestions for 'in-between-classes' games that meet the criteria?

  • 2
    to the subjective and argumentative close voter: This question is no more subjective than many on the front page. If we purge all subjective questions in favor of objective ones only, this site will become dull and boring, and miss the whole point of having fun while talking about board games. boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/4/… Jan 29 '11 at 19:46
  • 1
    Can this question be handled as a subset of a previous question. Personally, I don't see a lot of value in having different questions about a similar theme, "short games".
    – Pat Ludwig
    Feb 3 '11 at 16:02
  • BTW, if you are ever just in need of a new card game, every lover of cards should know about pagat.com Pagat has the rules for just about every game and variation you could imagine. Its an invaluable resource for me. Feb 3 '11 at 18:18
  • Uno is not even a game
    – o0'.
    Feb 4 '11 at 14:46

Fluxx springs immediately to mind: almost zero teaching time ("The rules are on the table! Draw a card then play a card!"), can easily be over inside of ten minutes, inconsequential enough that no one will really mind if the bell goes and you have to quit before anyone has won the game.

Lunch Money could probably work inside the given timeframe, but a disturbing game about children beating the crap out of each other in the playground might get you some strange looks, or even disciplinary action, in an academic environment :D

I thought of a couple more good options, so I'm editing them in:

Parade has really taken off in our group lately - it's simple but brilliant. There are 6 suits of (Alice in Wonderland-themed) cards, valued from 0 to 11. Beginning with a "parade" of 6 random cards, each player adds a card to the end of the parade. You must then add to your collection all cards that are equal-or-higher-valued or same-suited as the card you just played - except for the n cards immediately in front of your card, where n is your card's value. (i.e. if you play the 10, you pick up nothing unless the parade is now 12 cards long.) At the end of the game, you score negative face value of card, UNLESS you have the most cards in a suit, in which case they're only -1 each. Trust me, it's really good.

Coloretto is a simple card game which happens to be the engine behind popular boardgames like Zooloretto and Aquaretto. Players either draw a card and add it to a pile or take a pile. Most of the cards have a colour: at the end of the game, you score positive points for cards in 3 of those colours, and negative points for cards in other colours. Pick up piles too early and you may end up short of cards; wait too long and the other players will screw you by leaving you with a pile of cards of multiple different unwanted colours. Simple but a lot of fun!

  • I have fluxx, but I've never played lunch money. How complicated is it and how much strategy and interaction is there? Jan 27 '11 at 21:46
  • I'd say it has as much strategy and interaction as a simulation of a bunch of people trying to beat each other senseless without any reference the Queensberry rules should. I hunted out what appears to be a fair and balanced review of it for you: rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_2554.html. Jan 27 '11 at 22:44
  • I think Lunch Money's pretty hard to learn: you can't really play it without knowing the card effects, and there's nothing on the cards to tell you what the effects are. It was this, and not the theme (I like the theme), that turned me off the game. Feb 4 '11 at 17:50

Egyptian Ratscrew

Egyptian ratscrew is a simple, fast-paced game that can be played with 2 or more players. It's more of a game for children and adolescents as it focuses more on fast reflexes and pattern recognition than strategy or reading one's opponents. But it is very easy to learn, has a relatively short game play (usually around 10 minutes), and is a good source of silly fun.

  • I don't know if that's a good game or not, but it's certainly got an amazingly great name! Jan 27 '11 at 19:10
  • 2
    That's an awesome, but potentially violent game. We used to play that in university.
    – talon8
    Jan 27 '11 at 21:05


I played this very frequently in Brazil. It was extremely quick, easy and a LOT of fun especially for larger groups. It's incredibly strategic yet extremely simple. It's one of the best card games for larger groups in my opinion.

You Need

A deck of cards and about seven tokens per player; a pen and paper to note scores. The tokens can be anything; we used corn.


Win by accumulating the most amount of points by game end. Win points by getting your bets right.


At game start each player receives one card. The remaining deck gets placed face down. One card is drawn from the top and placed face up. The suite of this card is now the trump suite.

For each subsequent round players receive one additional card at game start. So on round two players receive two cards each; on round three players receive three cards each, etc...

The deck is reshuffled for each round and a new trump card is drawn.

The highest round is seven. At seven you reverse the count, and continue back to one. The game then ends after 13 rounds have been played (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6,5,4,3,2,1), and the scores are tallied.

Step One: Bet

On every round each player makes a secret bet by placing the number of tokens they wish to bet in their hand. Keep the number of tokens hidden from other players. The number of tokens bet should reflect the number of hands a player thinks will win. When all players have decided on a bet they release their tokens at the same time. It is possible to bet 0.

Be sure to keep the tokens used for the bet separate from the original token stash. Bets are not mixed. A player's bet remains separate from that of others. Tokens are never transfered between players.

Step Two: Play

Play commences as with any normal card game. The holder of the highest card of the first suite played wins the hand, unless someone has a trump card. Trump cards can only be used if the player has no cards of the same suit being played. If a player has neither, he plays whatever he has to no effect. If a player does have a trump card, he or she can choose not to use it.

On rounds that have more than one hand, the winner of the hand resumes by playing the suite of their choice.

Step Three: Score

When the round ends, which is when all cards have been played, each player tallies the number of hands they won. All players get one point for each hand they won. Those who managed to match their bet to the number of hands won receive a bonus of 10 points each.

So, if I bet two tokens and at game end I have won two hands, I receive a total of 12 points.

Additional Notes

If the number of tokens bet is less than the number if players, the dealer must add an one additional token to his bet. We don't often play this rule, but it is rule.


Two games with proprietary cards:

No Thanks!

An ingeniously simple press-your-luck game that takes maybe 2 minutes to explain and 10 to play.

6 nimmt

An odd game of continually-diminishing possibilities.

And as far as games with traditional cards go:

Oh Hell

A great, simple, evil trick-taking game, usually for 4-7 players. (See the Wikipedia article here.)


David Parlett's great, deep, even more evil trick-taking game for exactly 3 players. (The Wikipedia article here says 2-4 players, but it's really designed for 3.) A full game probably can't be played in 15 minutes unless everyone knows it well, but it's a game more people should know about.


kemps! you have to have an even amount of people and you have pair up with on another and you have to think of secret codes with each other and the dealer passes out 4 card on the table and you have a choice of switching card with amy of the 4 cards on the tabel. once you have 4 of a kind in your hand you signal your partner with your secret code! it is a really fun game!



A pretty quick-to-play game for 4 or more players that has gunfights, hidden information, and a western motif.

  • And can it be tought and played under 15 minutes?
    – o0'.
    Feb 4 '11 at 14:47
  • Your first game or two may be over that time, but it can be played in under that time once the rules are known.
    – GWLlosa
    Feb 4 '11 at 15:58
  • 1
    This can definitely be taught and played in 15-20 minutes if the person doing the teaching is any good at it. Feb 4 '11 at 17:51
  • Not sure how I pulled a pair of downvotes on this. Someone care to shed some light?
    – GWLlosa
    Feb 22 '11 at 14:44


This also goes by the less PC, but much more commonly used name of @$$hole, but I thought I'd put the G-rated version in large bold letters. Wikipedia doesn't have much to say on the rules because it's so closely related to Dai Hin Min, so the its page is mostly devoted to special rules used to make it into a drinking game.

I can vouch for its fun without the alcohol, and I think it meets the criteria of easy to learn, requires only a standard deck of cards, is very fast with lots of player interaction, and rewards skill but is still dependent on luck to win consistently.

As a quick summary of play, all cards are dealt out and play proceeds around the circle. Players try to get rid of their cards as fast as possible, with the restriction that you have to play matched-ranked cards of a higher rank and quantity than were played previously. Often 2s are a special stack-clearing trump that gives whoever played them the ability to start over.

One attribute of the game you might like is that after a given round, players are ranked according to their finish in the previous round, which is something you could remember after your 15-minutes were up and then carry into the next session. This will help to string your short breaks together and make them seem like part of a larger game, and would also provide bragging rights for the person on top when the bell rings.

(Although typically everyone is ranked, in practice remembering only the President and the a-hole is sufficient, as they trade cards to the President's benefit before each round.) Only remembering top and bottom will also allow new players to enter and leave the game without disrupting (i.e. having to worry about) the middle of the pecking order. Any n00b can enter at the bottom and have to work their way up.

  • There's a commercial variation on this game published by Wizards of the Coast called The Great Dalmuti. The gimmick is that there are 12 ranked cards (1-12) and the same number of cards in the deck as the rank; so twelve 12s, eleven 11s, and so on. So rank 1 beats any single card, but a person with a bunch of 3s could still win because no one would have an equal length set. Feb 3 '11 at 18:17
  • The Great Dalmuti is one of my favorite party games - friends still talk about epic games held at parties years ago. The fun is that you can play to "win" (i.e. become the great dalmuti) but you can also play to just rank a bit higher than last tine and/or to rank higher than your friend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner (playing with a bunch of couples emphasizes this element). The President version of the game can be played with multiple decks to accomodate very large groups. Jul 18 '11 at 23:06

A number of traditional card games can be learned and played pretty quickly. I like Spades and Hearts both quite a bit, and both are very easy to learn and one hand should only take about 15 minutes or less. Other trick taking games like Oh Hell are similar in time and difficulty to learn (excepting Bridge of course.) The advantage of Spades or Hearts over Oh Hell, for example, is that you can write down the score real fast and then get together later for another hand. So there's some continuity there. Hearts is also pretty flexible to more or less than 4 players, so that's a plus.

If you really want to cut down on time, a game like Euchre or Briscola, which use a reduced size deck, can play even faster. Both are trick taking games. Euchre is for 4 players in partnership, traditionally. I've played versions of Briscola for 2 up through 5 players. All are pretty good fun and fast.

And as mentioned in another answer, President and it's eastern cousins Big Two/Three and Beat the Landlord are also quite a bit of quick fun.

If trick taking and climbing games aren't your style, there's also Rummy, which is dead easy to play but lots of fun. It does tend to take a little longer though, I find.


Try something like Set. Rather specific, but I like it.
UPD Removed luck-dependent Uno, sorry for that.

  • @Downvoter, could you please explain what's wrong with the answer?
    – begemodko
    Feb 4 '11 at 9:51
  • 2
    I'm not one of the down-voters, but I'd suggest it was because you've recommended Uno, which was specifically named in the Q as unsuitable.
    – Stu Pegg
    Feb 4 '11 at 13:26
  • @Stuart Pegg, thank you. That makes things a bit clearer, my fault.
    – begemodko
    Feb 4 '11 at 14:33

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