Board games are relaxing. Board games are something to play on a chill rainy day, where you can really take your time and think out your moves.
All of the above is true, however, there exists a genre of board games that blows all of that out of the water.
Real time board games.
As the name suggests, these are games where you are encouraged to be as quick as possible, usually because you’re up against a timer. What’s great about this genre of games is that it provides a sense of frantic urgency, much like you’d find in a video game, but without sacrificing the tactility and strategy that characterises the medium.
So with that, here are five real time board games to get your adrenaline pumping!
1) Magic Maze
You are already likely to be familiar with this wildly popular real time game, but we would be remiss not to mention it!
In Magic Maze, a group of adventurers have had their weapons stolen! Their only choice now is to ransack a local shopping mall and get out before time runs out! In this cooperative game, players can control all four of the heroes. However, they can only move each hero in one direction. Perhaps you’re in charge of moving the pawns up, but if you want them to go left, that’s all on another player.
Oh, did I forget to mention?
This game is played entirely in silence.
If you want a player to do something, instead of talking, all you can do is take the large red “attention” pawn and place—or frustratedly bang—it in front of them until they get the message. And oh boy, when that pawn gets placed in front of you and you can’t figure out what your teammates want you to do or which pawn they want you to move? Instant stress! However, it’s a fun kind of stress and frenzy that is truly unique to Magic Maze. If you want a board game where you can silently yell at your friends, you have got to try Magic Maze.
If your group prefers more of a party game, the perfect real time board game for you is We’re Doomed.
In this semi-cooperative game, the world is ending! In only 15 minutes, 4-10 players, acting as leaders of different governments, will have to build a rocket and get off this planet! To win, all you have to do is survive. Simple, right? Well…
To build this rocket, players will have to contribute nondescript white tokens known simply as ‘resources’. However, depending on how many resources are contributed over the 15 minutes, your rocket might not...have enough seats. Because here we look at the other commodity in this game: influence. The more influence you have, the more important the world thinks you are and therefore you will be let onto the rocket first, taking up valuable seats.
So this game is just contributing resources and gaining influence?
Good thing that’s not all this game has to offer.
Those resources that you use to build the rocket? Yeah, instead of putting them towards the rocket in the common pool, you can instead save them up. If you accumulate enough, you can spend them to nuke another player.
Just completely take them out of the game.
We at Gameology played this at our staff Christmas party and it was a resounding hit, even with the few of us that don’t play board games. Our retail manager even got nuked in our last game but that’s a story for another blog post!
To summarise, We’re Doomed comes highly recommended from not just me, but the whole Gameology team.
Think of the classic board game, Battleship. Now, just imagine you have to actually, you know, run the ships. Or at least one of them. A submarine to be exact. Captain, Chief Mate, Engineer, Radio Operator—you need them all to keep your sub running and hunt the enemy sub.
Maybe it’s not quite like Battleship, hm...
In Captain Sonar, 4-8 players will split into two teams, each controlling one submarine. They will sit on opposite sides of the table and assume one of the four command roles. Perhaps you’re the Captain, deciding where your team’s submarine will move. Perhaps you’re the Radio Operator, listening into the other team’s Captain, trying to figure out where they are. Maybe you’re the Engineer, trying to keep the ship from sinking while preparing torpedoes for battle. Or maybe you’re the Chief Mate, charging the various gadgets in your submarine and deploying them as necessary.
It’s like team cat-and-mouse, blending hidden movement with the tension and urgency you can only find in a real-time game. This game does have a rather demanding player count but if your gaming group is on the large side, Captain Sonar is ideal with a full eight players! However if this looks a bit too complicated, or you prefer a smaller player count, there is also a simpler 2-4 player version available called Sonar Family.
From the designer of Codenames comes Galaxy Trucker, an underrated gem of a real-time game. In this strange space game, you are racing to build a spaceship from frantically scavenged components after which you will have to send them into space and cross your fingers that they survive the onslaught of galactic hazards.
Basically, Galaxy Trucker is a real-time tile-laying game. During a round, all players will simultaneously start grabbing tiles from a face down sprawl in the middle of the table, flipping them over and deciding, as quickly as possible, where to put them in their spaceships—or whether they want them at all! You need engines for the ship to fly, but the engines need batteries, and what about cannons and cabins and cargo holds?
And then, you move to phase two—actually flying the ship. Here is where you will use your engines and your cannons and your cargo holds to zoom through a series of randomised cards, blasting enemies, picking up goods, and making money.
This game first released in 2007 and hence, it has that kind of retro feel to it. The art style might be appealing to some, but to others, it might appear outdated. However, if you’re looking for a real-time game that gives you a sense of progress and personal achievement, Galaxy Trucker with its mechanics of building and improving your own unique ships, scratches that itch nicely.
From the publishers of board game heavyweights, Wingspan and Scythe (yeah, I bet you‘ve heard of those games before), comes Pendulum, the quietly underappreciated real-time worker placement game. Yes, you heard me right—worker placement.
In Pendulum, players are nobles vying to be the next ruler. Much like any other worker placement, you must gain different resources, move up different victory tracks, and expand your provinces. Unlike many of the other games on this list, Pendulum is rich and complex, slightly heavier. The decisions you are making are much the same as a typical Euro game—but you have to make them in real time.
In Pendulum, time is treated more like any other resource than something to race against. Like a resource, you must spend your time with care and thought. Yes, there is an element of quick thinking and frantic decisions, but far less than in the other games on this list.
However, like Captain Sonar, Pendulum does come with a turn-based variant that is thorough and fleshed out. Some people actually prefer the turn-based variant over the real-time one, depending on what mood they’re in, and it’s wonderful that this game gives you that option, especially when you’re learning the game and the real-time seems a bit overwhelming.
With Pendulum, you are getting both an innovative real-time Euro game and a beautiful traditional worker placement, all in one beautiful box.
In summary, if you’re looking for...
Something frantic and cooperative? Magic Maze.
A party game where you can nuke your friends? We’re Doomed.
A team version of Battleship? Captain Sonar.
A tile-laying game in space? Galaxy Trucker.
A worker placement abstract game? Pendulum.
And there we have it! Our top 5 real time board games! What do you think? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!