Looking for stocking stuffers that will not only fit into your game collection but also not break your holiday gift-giving budget? We’ve put together a list of 8 of our smallest sized games that support two or more players.
Abandon All Artichokes
Release Date: 2020
Play Time: 20 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
In this adorable vegetable garden-themed game, players compete to be the first player to draw a hand of five cards without any artichokes. Each player starts with a deck of ten Artichoke cards and takes turns “Harvesting” fresh vegetable cards from a center “Garden Row” display to add to their deck. These vegetable cards have special powers that allow players to “Compost”, discard, and swap cards. Players must strategically Harvest and play these vegetable cards to get rid of as many artichokes as they can from their decks as quickly as possible.
Abandon All Artichokes cards feature adorable illustrations of a variety of comical vegetables including artichokes, beets, broccoli, corn, carrots, eggplants, leeks, onions, peppers, peas, and potatoes. As an added bonus, the cards all come in a super cute storage tin!
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Release Year: 2012
Play Time: 15 minutes
Age Recommendation: 13+
Coup is a fast-paced social deduction game in which players are each dealt two cards depicting secret roles, each with the ability to perform unique actions or counteractions with the goal of collecting enough credits to launch a “coup” against another player. Launching a coup means that a player will lose one of their secret role cards. The game refers to this as “losing an influence”. When a player has lost both role cards (two influence), they are eliminated. Of course, the last player standing wins.
The catch is that on each player’s turn, they may perform ANY action or counteraction that any of the roles in the game are capable of. If they are caught bluffing or suspected of bluffing, any player may challenge them, forcing them to reveal their role to prove that they are, indeed, who they claim to be. If they are, the challenging player loses an influence. If they are not, they will lose an influence, and move that much closer to elimination.
Each round of Coup can be played in just about five to ten minutes so it’s a good one to shuffle up and reboot round after round. Groups that enjoy other social deduction games like The Resistance, Secret Hitler, or Werewolf will have a blast with Coup.
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Release Year: 2015
Play Time: 30-60 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
Harbour is a card-based worker placement and market management game. Players have one pawn to assign each turn to to any face-up Building Card or Starting Building. When they do, they take the action detailed on that card. Typically, these actions result in acquiring or converting one or more of the four primary resources; livestock, stone, lumber, or fish. Players will eventually ship these resources to generate a profit based on the current market conditions (determined by the market board which is constantly changing as players ship goods) and immediately spend that income to purchase a new Building Card to their personal collection. These buildings are worth victory points which will be totaled up at the conclusion of the game to determine a winner.
Harbour comes in a small package and is generally pretty affordable as a result but packs a bit of a euro game punch to it. It’s not terribly challenging to learn but can be really tough to play optimally and will involve quite a bit of strategy and planning. It’s one of our favorites to bring along on camping trips when we are looking to bring a game with a little more depth but don’t have enough space for the likes of something like Agricola.
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Release Year: 2016
Play Time: 20-30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 12+
For those that are familiar with the deck-builder genre, I could describe Hero Realms as a deck builder game that is solid design with a very predictable take on the buy or attack formula. That said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The game is almost exactly the same as White Wizard’s 2014 Sci-Fi deck builder hit, Star Realms, when it comes to gameplay. Both games uniquely approach the attack element by allowing players to deal damage either directly to one another or to each other’s Hero cards (rather than attacking cards that are randomly dealt to a central display like in Ascension or Legendary). Though seemingly subtle, this is a big improvement to this genre as it adds a much needed element of player interaction and reduces a lot of the feel bad that comes from the randomness of available attack targets.
For this price, you can’t find a better deck builder and Hero Realms is both a great intro into the genre and a crowd pleaser for those that are experienced in it.
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Release Year: 2020
Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+
Stellar is an incredibly unique blend of card market drafting, set collection, and hand management, all with a beautiful astrological aesthetic. To start the game, each player assembles what is essentially a game board out of twelve cards stacked in formation. These cards combine to depict a large image of a telescope pointed into the night sky. This telescope formation represents twelve places in which Celestial Object cards can be played in order to score points at the end of the game. In addition, players will play Celestial Object cards in suited piles beside their telescope with the goal of collecting runs. When scoring, the length of the longest run in each suit is multiplied by the total number of stars shown on the cards in the same suit placed in the telescope. Points are also awarded to the player who has the highest numeric value shown in each section of the telescope (it is divided into four segments) and ten bonus points are awarded to any player who has played at least one of each suit in their telescope.
There are a lot of diverse ways to score points in Stellar and this results in a lot to keep track of, especially for your first few games. After a few short rounds, however (roughly 30 minutes each), the scoring will become more familiar and the cleverness of this game’s unique design will delight you. There are a lot of challenging yet rewarding decision-making points in Stellar that make for a fantastically dynamic two-player experience.
Release Year: 2013
Play Time: 15 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+
Sushi Go! is a pick and pass set collection game in which players simultaneously choose a card from their hand to play into their scoring zone before passing that hand on to the player to their left and receiving a new set of cards from the player to their right. Each card shows a type of sushi or other food item that might be available at a sushi restaurant and each one is scored in a unique way at the end of each round (when all cards have been chosen). For example, players will only score points from Maki Rolls if they have the most or the second most at the table and point values for Dumplings increase with each Dumpling card present in a set.
The game is simple to learn, fast to play, and keeps everyone engaged throughout the experience. There isn’t a lot of wait time while others are taking their turns as cards are selected simultaneously. That said, this might be a great pick up for a squirrelly crowd! Sushi Go! is a fantastic family game as it can appeal to younger board gamers while keeping more advanced players interested, too.
Unlock! Escape Adventures
Play Time: 45-75 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
Puzzles & Riddles
Both Kosmos and Space Cowboys have been knocking it out of the park lately with their ‘escape room in a box’ series. In either case, for just $10-20, you can get all you need for a complete escape room experience that supports a full group for a one hour experience (save for a smart phone which will be needed as a timer device, and in some cases, a code checker).
We chose to feature the “Unlock!” series (by Space Cowboys) in this post, which is completely card-based. Kosmos’ “Exit” series, on the other hand, features other items including assorted cardboard pieces and a booklet. Some of the pieces from this title may even need to be destroyed or written on to complete the puzzles but everything in “Unlock!” will remain intact after completion of the game so it can be easily shared or traded with friends after your group has solved it.
“Unlock!” begins a scenario with a location depicted in a “scene card” in which numbered icons identify which items and lock cards will be available to players in that particular room. When players attempt to combine objects to solve puzzles, crack codes, or open locks the numbers on each of the two cards involved in the puzzle are combined and the solution card with that same total is located from the deck.
The “Unlock!” series games feature a variety of logical problem solving, mathematical challenges, and hidden objects to keep the group on their toes at all times. Though they are one-time play-throughs, the cost is well worth it and scheduling a night for a coordinated escape room effort with plenty of quality snacks (you never know how long you’ll be trapped in there) is certainly a night well spent!