For this list we only picked games that take about an hour-ish or less where the base game plays with 5 people. It happens all the time, you’re planning on playing games. You’ve got 4 or 3 players and then the dreaded 5th player shows up! So many base games are designed for 4 or less. It’s like the Board Game industries version of buns and hot dogs. If you want an extra player you need to buy the extension. Don’t worry we’ve got you covered with these base game options. Here are our top picks for Strategy games that will let you play with 5 players.
2–5 Players | 30–45 Min | Age: 7+ | Complexity low
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If you have not heard of Carcassonne but have heard of the term “meeple” then you need to play this ASAP. This is supposedly the first game to reference a token called a “meeple” in its rules. The term meeple is commonly accepted as short for my people, hence your collection of tokens.
Carcassonne is a super easy game that grows as you play. The board is made up of square tile puzzle pieces. Every time it’s your turn, you draw a piece and add it to the puzzle, you can stop there and end your turn. And that’s it! But to win, you’ll want to strategically place your meeples on the board. Everytime you place a tile you can place 1 and only 1 meeple on that tile, claiming roadways, walled cities or cloisters so long as another meeple doesn’t already occupy that same item, whether yours or your opponent’s. There’s farming too, but the rules suggest ignoring that part in your first play. If you manage to merge roads or castles with opponents after the fact, you can share points or just outright steal them if you happen to end up with more meeples on that structure than your opponent’s.
2. Ticket to Ride
2–5 Players | 30–60 Min | Age: 8+ | Complexity low
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I love the simplicity of turns in this game. Players can only do 1 of 3 actions every turn and that’s it. Players start off with an equal amount of plastic trains and train cards. To give you some direction, the game will additionally start each player off with 3 destination tickets. These tickets will score you points if you connect the two cities shown on that card with your coloured trains, but penalize you if you fail to do so.
A turn is either: discard train cards and claim track, pickup train cards, or pickup more destination tickets. Game ends when one player is down to 2 trains and then everyone gets one more turn. Points are scored with each track claimed and at the end of the game points are won or lost for destination tickets and one player will get a bonus 10 points for creating the longest train. Pretty much everyone here can teach you this game in 5-10 minutes or less. If you haven’t played, give it a try today!
3. Lords of Waterdeep
2–5 Players | 60 min | Age: 12+ | Complexity medium
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More and more people than ever before seem to love D&D. This game is a worker-placement game with a D&D theme. If you sadly hate D&D, don’t turn a blind eye to this game. It is amazing and we’re pretty sure you’ll love it just the same.
When playing with 5 players, everyone gets 2 meeples/agents to send out to collect money or adventures from the destinations on the board. When round 5 hits, everyone gets a 3rd agent to add to their pool of agents.
You’ll have 2 missions/quests to complete at the beginning of the game and can have as many on the go as you like. The quest cards will tell you what resources ie. money/adventures you need to collect to complete the quest and the reward you get for doing so. Sometimes you’ll be rewarded with more resources, points or both. Use your quests as a guide to send your agents to desirable destinations and get what you need.
In a round, players take turns placing one of their agents on any empty space and collecting what’s there. Once everyone has used up their agents, retrieve them and start a new round. That’s it. Super easy! There are of course a couple of more rules, but that’s the basics of play.
This is one of Sean and Jeanette’s favourites
1–5 Players | 40–70 Min | Age: 10+ | Complexity medium+
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Your main goal is to collect birds. But to do that, you’ll collect food, use that food to lure more birds, and then use their precious eggs and more food to lure even more birds. Build a huge aviary for a chance to win. My one gripe with this game is that many players seem to get confused with the layout of the player boards. But, once you are ‘nest’led in, you’ll be flying through your turns in no time.
This game is played over 4 rounds and features 6 different ways to score points. Bird cards already present on your player board in the row of the action you take may activate giving you additional benefits. So, choose your birds wisely to maximize your turn effects.
5. Small World
??2–5 Players | 40–80 Min | Age: 8+ | Complexity medium
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A quick fantasy-based game of “Risk” is a good summary if you are unfamiliar with this game. This game plays over a fixed amount of rounds, so it doesn’t take forever. The more players, the longer the gameplay, unless you have that one person that takes forever to go, you know who you are! (It’s me). This game is really easy to learn despite the daunting rule book. We highly recommend it.
Basically, you’ll have a race of beings and try to occupy as much territory as you can on your turn. You score a gold per territory plus any bonuses your race may have.
There’s no real defence in this game when you are attacked. So, you’ll eventually run out of tokens at which point you can switch it up and choose another race. You’ll probably get to be 2-3 races in a game so there’s lots of variety during each play. Additionally, each race has a separate modifier that will probably be different for each game which creates lots of replayability.
If you’re a ‘risk’aholic but can’t convince your friends to play, give this a go.
6. 7 Wonders
2–7 Players | 30 Min | Age: 10+ | Complexity low/medium
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This is a great game for a larger group. All players are pretty much active, so there is not much waiting around. Players draft cards from a dealt hand and build out their cities gaining resources and new buildings, technology and even building a wonder of the world. After each card is played however, remaining cards are passed to another player so your hand of available cards will keep adjusting. There is some trading and conflict to be had with the players sitting directly adjacent to you, and many different ways to score points in this game, making it one you’ll want to play again and again.
2–5 Players | 40–60 Min | Age: 10+ | Complexity medium
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Probably one of my top favourites and a regular go-to game for me. In Istanbul, you play the role of a merchant moving around town with your assistants buying and trading goods. As you get wealthier, you can buy a bigger cart and sell more stuff or trade for precious gems. It’s a race to 5 gems with everyone getting an equal amount of turns. You can also send your family out to do tasks, but apparently in this game they’re all crooks, if another player encounters your family, it’s off to jail for them and a bounty is collected.
What I love most about this game is that it’s a modular board that gives you some unexpected variability between plays. You’ll have to manage your assistants and family member effectively, to not waste any turns and maximize your time to get all the gems before anyone else.
8. Colt Express
2–6 Players | 30–40 Min | Age: 10+ | Complexity low
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Train robbing, need we say more? This game has a very interesting mechanic in that you “preload” all your actions for a round. You need to predict what other players may do to maximize your own effects. The goal of the game is to get the most loot of all the train robbers. You’ll have to watch out for each other and the marshal as you navigate the train and collect your loot.
This game includes special traits for each character. Personally, I feel like these break the game, giving unfair advantages to some rather than others. In my opinion, the game plays better without them, but try it both ways and see what you think. This a great one to keep in mind if you ever find yourself with a 6th player. It’s always hard to find a good 6 player that doesn’t require an expansion.
9. Camel Up
2–8 Players | 20–30 Min | Age: 8+ | Complexity low
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Camel Up, also commonly called Camel Cup is an easy-to-learn betting game. In this game, you are betting on the outcome of a race. You are unfortunately not one of the camels. But, on your turn, moving the camels is one of several actions you can choose from. Each turn is a choice to do one of four actions. I like this aspect of the game as turns tend to go pretty quickly making for a fast, fun game. Choose your bets wisely and earn the most money before the race is over to win.
2–6 Players | 30–60 Min | Age: 8+ | Complexity low
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Race, battle, steal from your opponents. This game is a pirate race. The first one around Jamaica will trigger the end of the game. It’s not just a race though, you need a combination of race placement and gold to win the game.
2–6 Players | 60 Min | Age: 12+ | Complexity Medium
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In this game of evolution you are in charge of 1 or more dinosaur creatures and you are basically trying to eat the most food. That’s your key point indicator, food tokens. After round players will have the opportunity to expand the physical stature or population of their creatures and/or physically modify the traits of their creatures. Most creatures are herbivores and will need to compete for food at a communal watering hole but some are carnivores and will have to consume other creatures to survive and thrive. The game plays until the deck of cards runs out, for a shorter game just dump some cards it doesn’t impact the game much. After all, some of your creations will only last a few rounds anyway. If all your creatures die you get a new freebie at the start of the next round so everyone is in this game until the very end.
2-6 Players | 40-60 Min | Age 14+ | Complexity Medium
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In this pirate game, like most pirate games, you are trying to become the richest pirate to win. The game plays over 3 rounds. Each round basically has 6 turns where you will play a card. You’ll start a round with 9 cards. In round 1, every player will have the same 9 cards which makes things quite interesting as the order you play those cards in relation to your opponents makes all the difference. You’ll also be able to carry 3 of these 9 cards to the next round where you’ll have 6 more identical cards added to your hands. So as the game progresses you’ll have some different cards but most are the same.
On a turn, everyone plays a card facedown. Once everyone has played their card, cards are placed in order and actions are carried out through the day as listed in each card left to right and then finally right to left to collect loot. If your card character was successful and didn’t die, it gets to go back to it’s den. It ‘may’ continue to benefit you depending on card effects but it’s not safe. Your opponents to your left or right might kill a crew member in your den. So to recap, get the most money after 3 rounds to win.