It's a Card Day's Night
It’s a Card Day’s Night
Ranking, reviewing, and Rating 11 filler card games
By Shane Barnick
Edited by Andrew Davidson
I love medium to heavy euro-style games, ones that require a lot of mental drainage to the old think tank. However, despite my love of draining the think tank, I find that some of my favorite games are little “filler” card games. They are, in my opinion, the most versatile type of game. They come in a small, portable box and are a fraction of the price of your bigger box competitors. They are always an excellent choice to start your game night—do a quick game in between two more massive games, finish the night off when everyone’s brain juices are running on empty, or even fill an entire night with several of these fast games. Also, filler games are great gateway games into the hobby for people daunted by the more sophisticated significant box options. Let’s take a quick look at eleven of these games. I’ll give a review, the boardgamegeek.com rating, and also my rating.
A few years back, I received Dude as a gag gift, and it took me until recently to get it out and play it. It turns out I was not missing anything. Seriously. Nothing. In Dude, players get several cards with the word “dude” written on them; but each card has the word written a different way (e.g., dewd, dooode, dude?). On your turn, a player says how they subjectively think to pronounce their version of “dude” in an attempt to find another player who is pronouncing their “dude” the same way. If players find a matching “dude,” they receive a point. This game turns from cute to annoying after about zero point five seconds of four people yelling “dude” at each more times than Ashton Kutcher in the early 2000s. In the end, this game is a total bummer, dude.
BGG Rating: 5.8 My Rating: 4
10. Joking Hazard
Joking Hazard is a player judge game, the same mechanism as Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. Hazard brings to the table the IP of the infamous Cyanide and Happiness comic. In Hazard, players make a 3-panel comic strip by laying down one card from their hand to add to the two panels already down. Then, a judge picks what he or she thinks is the funniest card played to complete the comic—which awards that player a point. Hands down: A game of Hazard overstays its welcome. If you are a fan of Cyanide and Happiness and enjoy that type of crass humor, you may find some entertainment value in this game. Unfortunately, If you are unfamiliar with it, be warned you may find it crude and controversial. For my friends and I, Hazard is worth a few laughs, but then we put the game away before it concluded and nobody has mentioned it since. I would consider Joking Hazard more of an activity than any sort of a game.
BGG Rating: 6.4 My Rating: 5.2
9. Exploding Kittens
Exploding Kittens is a push your luck, player elimination game where players take turns playing as many cards as they want and then drawing a card off the deck—which is not all sunshine and lollipops like it may sound. If a player draws an exploding kitten card, the player elimination portion of the evening has commenced. Last player seated at the table. To give the game a veil of strategy, certain cards allow a player to maneuver around the deck such as: skipping your turn, looking at the next few cards, forcing other players to take more turns, or stealing other player’s cards. This little card game raised over 8.5 million dollars on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. I have no idea how (seriously, I have no clue) or why it raised so much as it does not offer much outside of its uniquely strange art style. Sure, you could say Exploding Kittens has some strategy in it, but about as much as Monopoly has. With a name like Exploding Kittens, you get what you expect from it.
BGG Rating: 6.0 My Rating: 5.8
8. The Mind
The Mind is a cooperative game where zero communication takes place during the game. The Mind comes with a deck of cards numbered 1-100. Each round, each player deals the number of cards equal to the round number. Without any type of communication, players try, collectively, to discard in the center of the table their cards in ascending order without skipping anyone holding a lower card. Teams try and see how many rounds they can complete before using up their limited number of mistakes allowed within the game. The Mind is a fun little game. I’ve had many laughs with it—for what it is. However, once a group plays The Mind a few times it starts losing its replayability rapidly. Once you start understanding each persons’ idiosyncrasies of how they handle their situation. I enjoy The Mind, until about the third time when the magic wore off, and I had no desire to play anymore. It was fun while it lasted…
BGG Rating: 7.0 My Rating: 6.5
7. Fox in the Forest
Fox in the Forest is another two-player trick-taking game. Each player gets thirteen cards with four different suits and cards numbering from one through eleven. All of the odd number of cards have small special abilities. The players attempt to win the majority of the tricks, but not a significant majority, or they are considered “greedy” and receive zero points for the round. The number of tricks a player wins during the round will determine how many points he will get. The game ends when someone reaches 21 points; the highest total wins. All in all, it is a beautiful trick-taking game, but it doesn’t differentiate itself much from the genre to stand out for myself. I don’t find Fox in the Forest to be very original, but if you enjoy trick-taking games, you will enjoy this one.
BGG Rating: 7.3 My Rating: 6.8
6. A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King is a set collecting, grid movement game. The game consists of 35 cards with members of seven different Game of Thrones’ families—plus one card with the Varys character on it. The game starts with players making a random six by six grid of all gameplay cards, and then players maneuver the Varys card vertically or horizontally as many spaces as they wish. After moving Varys, the player collects all of the members of one family that they moved Varys through or to. When a player has more members of one family, they receive that family’s banner. Once all members of a family are taken, you get to use a one-time companion unique ability. The player with the most banners at the end wins. This is the most surprising game on this list for me. I expected Hand of the King to be just a quick money grab with the Game of Thrones IP slapped onto it. There is a game here, and it has a more complicated strategy element than one may think.
BGG Rating: 6.7 My Rating: 6.9
5. Sushi Go!
Sushi Go is a modern classic game, and for a good reason. It is a set collecting, drafting card game where players try to make the best set of sushi dishes. Players start with a large hand of cards, drafting one and then passing the rest. This gameplay style continues until all cards are gone, then players add up all points for the different sets of dishes. You play three rounds of this, add up all scores, high score wins. If you love the drafting found in the immensely popular 7 Wonders like myself, I would highly recommend Sushi Go.
BGG Rating: 7.1 My Rating: 7.2
4. Archaeology: The New Expedition
Archeology: The New Expedition is a push your luck, set collection game where players trade, sell, and explore. You pull cards off of a deck, trying to obtain a set of different artifacts,--which are worth an increasing amount of money the more you have of one item. You can sell sets to the museum for end game points, trade artifacts in your hand to the open market, or explore chamber by discarding map cards and reap the rewards of that chamber (mmm sweet, sweet chamber points). Be warned, though; every card pulled could be a sandstorm or a thief, which makes you lose some of your hard-earned artifacts. It may be better to sell sets earlier rather than waiting for just one more of that item to bump up your earnings on it. I enjoy playing Archaeology. The push your luck aspect of the game is so exciting (and yet so frustrating). This card game gives me the feel of a bigger box game but in fifteen minutes.
BGG Rating: 7.2 My Rating: 7.5
3. CABO (Second Edition)
Cabo is a memory card game where your goal is to have the lowest value of cards at the end of each round. The game will start with you having four cards face down in front of you, which you can look at two of them. Then each player takes turns drawing from a pile in the middle, which they can either swap with a card in front of them by placing it face down as well, or they can discard that card gaining the special ability of that card if it has one. The different abilities are spying on an opponent’s cards, peaking at one of your own, and swapping any card of yours with anyone else’s card. Once a player thinks they have the lowest total out of all their cards added together he chooses to say “Cabo,” which will skip his turn and all players have one more turn before the end of the round. If the player who called “Cabo” has the lowest, they receive zero points. If someone else has a lower score, the player who called “Cabo” adds 10 points to their total. All other players add up their total like normal. Play continues until one player reaches 100 points; then the player with the lowest total wins. I am atrocious at memory games, and yet I adore this game. It’s light enough that I can play with my son and nephew, yet engaging enough that gamers will find it entertaining as well.
BGG Rating: 7.3 My Rating: 7.7
2. Point Salad
Possibly the easiest and fastest teach out of any game on my shelf. In Point Salad, you have a deck of cards that, on one side, will have a vegetable, and on the reverse side, have some sort of rule how you will score that game. You set up the game by splitting the deck into three separate piles scoring side up, flip two cards from each deck, placing them below the deck, veggie side up. On your turn, take either two veggie cards or one scoring card. Replace all veggie cards by flipping scoring cards to veggies, replacing the taken cards. Play until all cards are gone and count up your scores. Point Salad is a fast and simple game, but yet, offers quite a bit of depth and complexity. Every scoring card is unique in how you score points. Point Salad has become one of my favorite filler games rather quickly and goes over quite well in any situation.
BGG Rating: 7.4 My Rating: 8
1.The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
The Crew is a cooperative, limited communication, trick-taking game that comes with a 50 scenario campaign! The cards are made up of four different colored suits numbered 1-9 and four rocket/trump cards. Most of the missions in The Crew desire specific players to win tricks that contain a specific card. Players are not allowed to discuss the cards in their hands except for one card which they can lay in front of them and put a token on that card. Where they put, that token will show their teammates if that is their highest, lowest, or only card of that suit. The higher the number mission you try, the harder and more complex the missions become. Every mission offers an intricate puzzle that players must cooperate to overcome. The Crew has become a group favorite in my circle and has gained a substantial amount of praise in the board game world, which is impressive and rare for small card games to accomplish. The Crew will make you do some brain cardio, and if you play one wrong card, you could cost your team the mission. The positive news is, each mission takes less than five minutes, so you won’t feel too bad before you try again. This is an addicting game and will always make you want to play the next mission. If you sit down planning on playing one mission, expect that you’ll do ten.
BGG Rating: 8.1 My Rating: 8.6
In closing, the only games on this list I would prefer not to play again would be Dude, Joking Hazard, and Exploding Kittens. On the other hand, The Crew, Point Salad, and CABO are games I actively encourage others to try regularly. Fillers tend to get overlooked and never make anyone’s top list of games. End the stigma and get your fill of fillers. I promise you it will be fulfilling.