Ultralight games are board games that are quick and very easy to learn. Let’s take a look at some of the best ultralight board games out there.
These light games are great for parties or for casual gaming events. They are perfect for playing with family and non-gamers and are great for gaming with multiple generations of gamers at the same table.
Looking for good very light board games?
This article is inspired by a question we received from Tabletop Bellhop Patreon patron, Donna.
“My question is about ultralight games, quick and easy to learn games that you can bring to Grandma’s house for a good time with multiple generations. Uno-like, perhaps!
My favorite of these type of games is Over and Out. A dead easy and quick game that is so much fun in a group where everybody always wants to play multiple times.
A tiny step up would be Quixx which plays well no matter the size of the group, from 2 to a bunch.
For the type of game I’m thinking of, the mechanics have to be minimal and easily grasped, preferably with instructions always right in front of you on the card or sheet.
What ultralight games would you recommend for groups of mixed generations, kids all the way to seniors?”
Sean and I discussed this topic in Ultralight, The Best of the Lightest of Games, Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast Episode 138.
In that podcast, we talked a bit about our personal experience with very light games and talk about how they fit in my board game collection. We also talk about what definition we are going to use for “Ultralight” with the end result being games that are rated at 1.25 or less for weight on BGG. (To learn what we mean by game weight check out our Board Game Weight: Weighing in on Game Complexity.
Check out the podcast episode for the full discussion on game weight. For this article, I just want to move onto our list of twenty-seven of the best ultralight games.
The Best Ultralight Board Games, Light, Easy to Learn and Quick Playing Board Games.
This list of light game recommendations is in order of weight. The lightest game being the first on the list with the heaviest being at the end.
Personal Preference – This classic mass market board game from the late 1980s is a great icebreaker game.
In Personal Preference, you place four cards out on the table and one player ranks them in order of their own preference from one to four. then everyone else bets on what they think the other players answered, with the option to push your luck with the double your money option that can double your score if right or cause you to lose points if wrong.
The active player rotates clockwise each round. There are some rules for keeping score but, like many party games, we just toss those out and play until we are sick of playing.
The best part of this game isn’t the mechanics, doing well or winning, it’s the inevitable discussion that comes up during the game and learning about the other players.
This game can also be a good team building or “get to know you” game.
Maki Stack – This sushi themed dexterity game has the unique twist of being team based.
Each round, two players on a team work together to stack wooden sushi pieces (and a cardboard tatami mat) trying to match what’s shown on a revealed card. The first team to do so collects the card with the first team collecting a set number of cards winning.
This sounds simple enough but there’s a twist.
These cards are colour coded and depending on what colour comes up it changes how you play. One colour has one player per team wearing a blindfold, with their partner having to direct their actions. The other colour has players working to move the pieces together but only able to touch them with one finger each.
This one is great for gamers of all ages as long as they have somewhat steady hands. It’s also worth noting that the pieces in this game are fantastic and very toyeriffic. My kids love playing with them as “play-food” as well as using them for Maki Stack.
Unlabeled the Blind Beer Tasting Game – So this isn’t a game you will be able to play with all generations, Unlabeled is definitely adults only.
As a fan of both board games and craft beer, I kickstarted Unlabeled as soon as I knew it was a thing. It successfully funded and is now available through Amazon.
This is a board game that Deanna and I like to break out on date nights but is also perfect for a beer and pretzels game night with a focus on the beer. While the game only comes with components for six players you can easily sub in anything for player pieces to play with more people.
In Unlabeled, each round, players get a beer sample to taste. They then place a barrel on the board indicating what they think they know about the beer. There are categories for the beer’s fermentation type, ABV level, broad type, style and even a spot where you can bet that you know the exact beer.
The more detailed you get, the more points you get if you are right, but you risk it all if you are wrong. There’s also a variant way to play (which we prefer), where players place a bet on each category and get points for each guess that is correct.
Read my Unlabeled review to learn more about this beer tasting board game.
Go Cuckoo – Anyone who’s listened to our podcast over the last couple of years should know I had to include Go Cuckoo on this list. This is a very simple dexterity game that is somewhat like the opposite of the classic game Kerplunk. In Go Cuckoo, players are drawing wooden sticks from a tube and use them to build a nest on top of that tube. The colours on the ends of the sticks tell you which colour of stick you must draw next. If the colours match you will also try to place an egg on top of the growing nest.
The goal of the game is to place your last egg onto the nest and then place the cuckoo meeple into the next. The first player to do this wins.
Interestingly this game was originally released in time for Easter by HABA. As you can read in my Go Cuckoo review this game has proven to be hugely popular with everyone I’ve shown it to, including players of all experience levels and ages.
8 Bit Box: Pixoid – A couple of years back IELLO put out what was meant to be the start of a whole series of games based on classic retro 8-bit video games. The 8 Bit Box, the core set for this system, included three games. The idea was that once you owned the system box you would pick up add-on “cartridges” featuring other games. Sadly only one of these was ever released.
While two of the three games that come with the core 8 Bit Box can be pretty involved, one game, Pixoid, is a perfect ultralight game.
Pixoid is a board game version of Pac Man with one player controlling the hero and the others playing ghosts each round, rotating hero players each round. While playing as the hero you try to stay alive for as many rounds as you can while collecting up to four energy cubes. The other players are of course playing the ghosts.
The game uses the very cool 8 Bit Box controllers in a way that players program their moves secretly and reveal them all at once.
You can read more about this unique board game system in my 8 Bit Box review.
Super Cats – This is a very quick-playing card game that only lasts two rounds.
In Super Cats, players play as a team of Sentai Cats (think Power Rangers) who are trying to defeat the evil Ro-B0-Dog.
Super Cats is great for gamers of all ages and uses the simple mechanic of holding up your hands and showing a number of fingers, where if players hold up the same numbers they cancel each other out and get nothing.
As you can read in my Super Cats review, I was very surprised by just how much fun this silly light card game is.
Breakdancing Meeples – In this lightning-fast game, you get a set of six meeple that you roll like dice while trying to match the patterns on various dance move cards as many times as you can before time runs out. At the end of each round, you get to draft new moves and improve your repertoire. This is a dead simple game with an amusing theme, featuring a new use for the traditional game component of meeples.
When I first played Breakdancing Meeples my first thought was that I was shocked no one had done it before. You can read more about this game in my Breakdancing Meeples review.
Icecool – This is a flicking dexterity game where you are flicking plastic penguins around a board made out of the box.
In Icecool you play penguins in high school attempting to sneak out of class and grab some fish to snack on. Each round one of the players takes on the role of a hall monitor who is trying to catch the other players.
The best part about this game is that the penguins are weighted like a Weeble (people still know what those are right?). Due to the way that the penguins are weighted, you can do some really interesting things with how you flick them including making them jump.
There’s also a second version of the game Icecool 2 which you can combine with the base game to make an even bigger board and play with more than four players.
Rhino Hero – Rhino Hero is a card stacking based dexterity game meant for kids but I’ve had a ton of fun playing it with gamers of all ages.
It combines the feel of building card houses with take-that elements like forcing your opponents to build twice in a row or having to find, pick up and move the surprisingly heavy Rhino Hero meeple up your growing structure. There’s even a card to reverse the turn order.
While you are building upwards the game is actually about trying to play all of the roof tiles from your hand. If the tower topples the player who has the least left in hand is the winner.
This game always evokes lots of tension and laughter every time we play it.
Animal Upon Animal – This is one of the most popular hobby dexterity games and something I’ve recommended many times to gamers of all ages. In Animal Upon Animal each player starts with a set of wooden animals. A rather wobbly and uneven crocodile is placed in the centre of the table. Each turn you roll the die to see what animal you have to place onto the growing animal pile next. If any of the wooden pieces fall you collect them all.
The first player to get rid of all of their animals wins. Interestingly this is a game I’ve seen kids get sick of way before adults, especially when there are adult beverages involved.
There are multiple versions of Animal Upon Animal and a number of expansions out there offering different shaped animals, many of which can be combined to make a bigger and longer game.
Loopin’ Louie – The most toyerific game on this list is Loopin’ Louie. I’m sure there are people out there that would argue this isn’t a game at all.
This game features a mechanical airplane on a boom arm and gimbal that flies around in a clockwise fashion. Players each control a paddle that can flip Louie and his plane up into the air where it will flip around wildly. The goal of this silly kids game is to get Louie to crash into your opponent’s chicken tokens. Each player starts with three of these and they are eliminated once their last chicken is lost. The winner is the last one standing.
This is such a silly and simple game that I’ve seen players, of all ages, play for hours and hours. There’s even a Star Wars re-theme called Loopin’ Chewie out there now, though that features only three player spots.
Age of War/a> – Age of War is the reason you won’t find Roll For It on this list. This is a Samurai themed push your luck dice rolling game where players are trying to take over the majority of fourteen castles.
Each castle has listed on it the requirements to conquer it through a series of battle lines. In a single turn, a player needs to defeat all of the battle lines using the seven dice, losing one die with each required re-roll.
One aspect I really like in Age of War, over Roll for It and similar games, is that you can conquer a card off of another player by using the same method as before but also having to defeat the Daimyo battle line in addition to the others.
Medium – This is a party game all about making psychic bonds with your fellow players. One of the most impressive things about Medium is that it’s great at all player counts. This makes it just as good for a date night or at a party.
In Medium players pair up, with each player playing a word card from their hand. They then try to guess the medium of those two words, aka a word that applies to both word cards. Both players count down and say their word simultaneously, if they match they get points. If they fail to match then they try again, trying to find the medium of the words they just said. Each team gets a total of three tries before the game moves on to the next pair of players.
This continues with players first pairing up with the player on their right, then with the player on their left, until three broken crystal balls are drawn from the deck. The player with the most points wins.
Dr, Eureka – This science themed game has players manipulating three test tubes filled with three different colours of balls.
A card is flipped up showing a unique pattern. The players then rush to pour the balls from tube to tube attempting to be the first to match the pattern on the card. The first player to do so wins the round and takes the card. The first to collect a set number of cards wins.
This is another one of those very simple kids games that I’ve had just as much fun playing with adults. It’s also another game that I think is better with some adult beverages once the kids are in bed.
Hamsterrolle – This balancing game is my all time favourite dexterity game. It features a rather large wooden wheel with slats on it.
Similar to Animal Upon Animal, which I mentioned earlier, players start with a matching set of wooden shapes and the winner is the one to place their last piece successfully on the wheel. The placement rules in Hamsterrolle add a solid level of tactics and a bit of strategy to this dexterity game. These rules force players to constantly be putting their pieces further up the wheel and at some point, the entire thing will roll.
One neat thing I love about this game is that each wheel is hand made and none of them are perfect. This makes playing on a different Hamsterrolle wheel actually feel different. Each has its own idiosyncrasies. Mine has one bump on it that will stop the wheel from rolling easily which means you can build up a lot of pieces on it when it hits that bump, but when things eventually do go, it rolls quite far usually causing almost everything on the wheel to fall out.
The Mind – The basic premise of The Mind is really simple. You take a deck of cards numbered one to one-hundred, shuffle them and give each player one card. Now play those cards in numerical order. Sounds easy right?
Well, the thing is, when playing The Mind players aren’t allowed to communicate in any way. If you manage to beat the first round you move on to a hand of two cards, and so on. The game gets harder and harder up to a final round where everyone has twelve cards each.
To help you out players have multiple lives, so if you make a mistake the game isn’t over and there’s a throwing star system for getting a hint in the middle of the round with ways to earn more stars as the game goes on.
Finally, yes this is a game and not an activity. There are definite rules that if broken ruin the experience and there’s a definite win and lose condition.
Telestrations – This party game is the game that killed both Win Lose or Draw and Pictionary for me. It’s a formalized version of Eat Poop You Cat!
Each player gets a clue, they draw that clue then pass their sketchbooks to the left. Now everyone has a drawing in front of them and they guess what it is and write it down. Then everyone passes to the left and now has a clue, they draw it, and so on until the book you started with gets back to you.
As your sketchbook in Telestrations goes around the table it alternates between players drawing and players guessing what the last drawing was, and trust me, there’s little chance that when you get your book back at the end it will match up with the clue you started with. It’s easily one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.
There is some system for scoring so that someone wins but we never use that part of the game.
But Wait, There’s More! – This is a pitch based card game where players are given an item and then select a feature card from their hand to give a Ronco-style pitch about the item. About halfway through their pitch, they have to say “But Wait, There’s More!” and flip over a new, random, feature and include that in the rest of their pitch.
This is, by far, the best pitching game I’ve played. It destroys other games of its type.
Sadly But Wait, There’s More! is out of print. I’ve been begging the Bamboozle Bros to bring it back and all they need now is a publisher. So hey Game Publishers, if you are looking for a light game for your collection you should pick this up!
Ratuki – Ratuki is a classic game that has been around for a long time that was recently reprinted by The Op. In Ratuki each player starts with their own deck of cards. Players play cards from their hands, trying to place them onto stacks of cards in the middle of the table that each must start with a one card. Each subsequent card played must be one higher or one lower than the card currently showing on the top of a stack. When you play a five onto a stack you shout Ratuki and claim that stack. The game goes on until either no one can play or one player plays the last card from their deck. At the end of each round you get points for cards you gathered but lose points for cards you never got to play.
Along with this is a system for discarding cards and cycling through your deck. What makes this game even more interesting is that the cards feature the numbers one to five written out or illustrated in different ways, showing Arabic numerals, fingers, dice pips, etc.
Check out my Ratuki review for more information on this very fast playing card game.
Rumble in the Dungeon – In this fantasy themed lightning quick board game you start by making a dungeon out of tiles and place one character in each room. A treasure chest is placed in the farthest room from the entrance.
Each turn, you either move a character from one room to another or have two characters in the same room fight, with you deciding who wins. This continues until there’s only one character left.
Players get points for how long they lasted with bonus points if your character escapes with the treasure. The trick, that makes this game so interesting and engaging is that no one knows which characters are played by which players.
This is one of the fastest and lightest games that I break out regularly. Rumble in the Dungeon gets played both with my home group and at public play events.
Pitchcar – Regular readers of this blog or listeners of the podcast had to know I was going to put Pitchcar on this list.
This is a fantastic flicking game featuring modular wooden track tiles and wooden Crokinole style cars. While the base set contains more than enough track to make a variety of layouts, this game gets to be even more fun with more than one set and with expansions. Pitchcar also features the ability to play with up to eight players out of the box, though it’s just as fun playing with less.
Pitchcar is a great attention grabber that keeps everyone engaged, even on other players’ turns, as it’s almost as fun to watch as play.
No Thanks – I somehow totally missed No Thanks when we talked about great light games on our Podcast. This great high player count filler game really does belong on this list though.
My favourite use for No Thanks is at the start of the night when I’ve got a group of six or seven players. We start off playing a round of No Thanks before splitting into two groups to play three and four player games. With more players, we’ve even had two rounds of No Thanks going at once. In No Thanks, players get a number of chips. Then a card is flipped up. The first player either takes that card or says, “No Thanks!” and pays a chip to the bank. The card then passes to the next player who also gets the same options, take the card or pay the bank. Once someone takes a card they get all the chips on it and a new card is flipped up.
The goal is to have the lowest total of all of your cards. The interesting bit is that any cards in a straight only count as their lowest numbered card.
Skull – This is a push your luck bluffing game featuring drink coaster-like cards. Players each start with a hand of one skull card and three flower cards. They arrange their stack of cards in any order they wish.
Players then bid how many cards they think they can flip over before revealing a skull. The winning player picks a player to flip a card (which can include themselves) one after another until they either hit their bid amount and win the round or turn up a skull and lose. When you lose, you randomly lose one of your cards. The first player to win two rounds wins the overall game.
The game can be played with any number of players as long as you have enough coasters. The version I own (which is linked here) has enough coasters for six players.
Kids love the silly looking monsters you can make with this game but there’s also enough depth in Monster Factory to keep adults and experienced gamers interested. This is mainly due to the fact that you can play your tiles on other players’ monsters and also from the scoring system that is based on how many eyes your monsters (and their minions) have and not how many tiles you use.
Point Salad – This is another game that came up during our Lobby Check-in during our podcast recording that I didn’t have on my initial list and that’s due to the fact that I haven’t personally played Point Salad. A number of people in our chatroom did recommend it though, so I thought I would include it on this list.
Point Salad is a card drafting game that features over one hundred different ways to score points. Cards come in six different types, and each type has a different scoring system. The list of accolades and honours for this game is really impressive with a ton of nominations and awards for things like Best Party Game, Best Card Game, Best Family Game and more.
Kingdomino – Kingdomino is a domino drafting game with unique tiles where each features up to two different terrain types.
Players build their kingdom by connecting similar terrain types to each other and including special scoring tiles featuring crowns on them. At the end of the game you multiple the crowns by the number of connected terrain tiles to get your score. Bonus points are awarded for filling your entire board and also optionally for having your castle in the centre of your completed kingdom.
Kingdomino shocked me both with how much depth there is here for such a simple to learn game and also for how well it plays at all player counts (but especially two).
Kingdomino was one of the first games I ever talked about on this blog, way back in my Is Queendomino Better Than Kingdomino? article.
Rack-O – This is a truly classic mass market card game that I still enjoy to this day. Whenever we have a white elephant gift exchange with extended family or strangers this is my go-to gift for under $15.
Each player starts a game of Rack-O with a set of numbered cards placed randomly into a rack. Each turn you replace one card in your rack with a newly drafted card taken either from the top of the deck or from the discard pile. The goal is to get all of your cards in numeric order in your rack.
I’ve enjoyed Rack-O ever since playing it with my parents as a kid and it’s one my grandmother used to love playing as well.
Tsuro – In Tsuro: The Game of the Path, each player places a cool dragon pawn on the start of a path at the edge of the board and draws three tiles.
Each turn you place a tile that connects to the path your dragon is on and move your dragon to the end of the growing pathway. You then draw a replacement tile. This continues, with each player playing a tile, moving their dragon and then drawing a replacement tile, with the goal being to not end up going off the board or crashing into any other players’ dragons. The last dragon standing wins.
Tsuro is my go-to ultralight game to have at every game event as it’s dead simple to teach. Players pick it up right away and don’t need a lot of supervision to play. This game is also great for keeping people occupied while waiting for other games to finish up or start.
Cash N Guns – If you want a game that will draw a crowd and get everyone at the table laughing check out Cash ‘N Guns.
This is a silly game about a group of thieves (the players) gathering after a big heist and deciding how to split the loot. That of course doesn’t go smoothly.
Now this game does feature pointing foam guns at the other players so it won’t be right for everyone but if you are cool with the theme this standoff can be a lot of fun to play out.
Ticket to Ride New York – Finally, I want to finish with Ticket to Ride New York.
To me, this simplified version of Ticket to Ride is right on the very edge of what I would consider ultralight. Honestly, it’s probably just over that edge, being my favourite ‘light’ game.
Ticket to Ride New York gives you all the feeling of Ticket to Ride in a small box, easy to learn, format that is great at lower player counts.
That’s it for my list of great ultralight board games. Games that are super quick to teach, learn and play. What’s your favourite very light board game? Did it make my list? If it didn’t I would love to hear about it (and potentially add it here).