5 Competitive Tabletop Games You Can Play in Under 20 Minutes.

Have a hankering to get in a game or maybe a couple of rounds of a game, but don’t have the time to invest in a marathon session of something like Twilight Imperium? Also feeling a little competitive and would like the chance to take out some of your friends and/or family? No problem. I have you covered.

Here are 5 fun tabletop games you can easily play a round of in under 20 minutes, even including setup for most of them.


This one might surprise you on the list when you look the rest of my gaming habits, but the old classic is still a favorite of mine. There is just something that has always intrigued me about a game that has been around for over 1,000 years and is still wildly popular today.

Think about the board games of your generation and do you think any of them will have that kind of staying power? I cannot think of one.

Chess is a great game of strategy and sacrifice. Push and pull. Attack and defend. Thankfully, there are also some great websites online like Chess.com and Lichess.org with wonderful mobile apps, so I can get in a game whenever I feel like it.

There is something different though about sitting down across from someone face-to-face and matching wits.

Can you play it in under 20 minutes? Sure. Get one of those timers you have to hit after each move and you can keep things moving along.

Star Realms

Card games are going to dominate this list, and Star Realms is one of my favorites when I am looking for a fast game. It is a sci-fi deck-building game for 2 players. There are rules for playing with more players, but I have never found playing with more than 2 to be as much fun.

Once you are familiar with the rules and setup, you can literally set this game up and play an entire round in about 10 minutes. Sometimes even less, depending on how things go.

When you are finished, cleanup and setup for another game will only take a minute or two. You can be ready to go pretty much as fast as you can shuffle the deck.

The deck-building mechanics in this game are simple and the synergies between the different factions are easy to manage as well as a lot of fun. There are expansions for this game, but I have always had the most fun with just the basic base set.


Dominion might be as responsible for making deck-building games popular as any game on the planet. At least the sort of deck-building games where each player starts with the same deck. It’s not something like Magic: The Gathering where you build a deck before the game starts.

In Dominion, you start with the same basic deck (as you do in Star Realms too), and through your actions try to build a stronger and stronger deck that will allow you to outscore your opponent.

The downside of Dominion versus a game like Star Realms is that there is a little more involved with the setup. In even just the base game, you have some decisions to make on which cards will be available. The setup could take you 10-15 minutes and the cleanup is a bit more involved as the types of cards all need to be separated at the completion of the game.

The game itself, once started, can easily be finished in 15 minutes.

There are a number of expansions for this game that can add a lot of variety and keep it fresh. I recommend starting with Intrigue and Seaside if you are looking to expand.

This game has hit our table many, many times.

Summoner Wars

This might be one of my favorite board games of all time, and it has one of the best mobile app versions I have ever seen for a tabletop game. It’s a perfect recreation of the game. It has all of my favorite things: dragons, elves, dwarves, zombies, orcs, and dice.

If you have never played Summoner Wars, I would explain it as a deck-building card game meets Chess meets that holographic game Chewie was playing in the original Star Wars movie.

You move your cards around a board similar to how you would move Chess pieces in on a Chess board.

You have different races you can choose from including Phoenix Elves, Tundra Orcs, Guild Dwarves, Cave Goblins and more. They each have different units that have different abilities, much like Chess pieces can move in different ways.

There are some limited options for deck-building in this game, so you can bring your own unique strategy to whichever race you choose to play with.

The object is to kill the opponents Summoner, again much like Chess where you are trying to take out the opponent’s King.

If you have never played the game, it is highly addictive and a lot of fun. I would recommend checking it out.

You could easily play this in longer than 20 minutes, but for two players who are very familiar with the races involved, you can easily knock a game out in under that time.


This is a fun, fast-paced card game for 2-6 players. Even with 6 players, you can finish a round in under 10 minutes.

Coup is fairly simple. There are not a lot of mechanics involved here. It’s a game of bluffing, calling bluffs, uneasy alliances, attack, and strategy. Last man, or woman, standing wins.

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down with this game meaning to only play a few games, and before I know it 2 hours have passed and we are setting up our 18th round.

It goes fast. It’s simple. Setup is a breeze.

There you have it. There are 5 games that routinely hit my table when I am looking for a fast, competitive gaming experience.