The Best Game Length


Ready, set, play!

One of the most common questions about board games is: “How long does the game take to play?”

That’s while you’ll often see this information printed on the side of a game box. It’s also why we started adding this info to our board game reviews.

When presented with a new game to play, inevitably people will ask about the length of the game.
They aren’t asking because they’re not interested in the game, but rather to get an idea about how much to invest in the game. Not how much money to invest/spend, but rather an investment of themselves.

In fact, whenever we’re presented with an activity, we make mental note about how much of a commitment we need to devote to that activity. It’s no different with our entertainment – movies, TV, books, or games. We want to know how long it will take because it means forgoing other options.

What’s the best amount of time to spend playing a game?
Well, it’s really a trick question because the answer depends on a lot of things. It’s like asking about what the best board game or best card game is. It all depends on the situation at hand.

Here are some potential situations that will affect the decision of optimal game length:

Game Info

Helpful information on the box.

  • Playing with Young Kids – the best game length when playing with younger kids is under 30 minutes and ideally around 10 minutes. You’ll want games that are quick to set up and quick to play. Shorter games also allow for either quitting time or repeated play depending on the continuing interest of the child.
  • Time of Day – taking time to play a game on a weekend afternoon will offer more options than a game just before bedtime. If we’re looking for a board game to play at bedtime, we’ll pick something that can be played quickly. We’ll leave our games of Risk, Mystery of the Abbey, or Power Grid for the weekends when we can be more relaxed with a game that takes more time to play.
  • Late Comers – when we invite friends over to play games, they won’t all arrive at the same time. So the first games we play will be short games that will end quickly when others arrive. Or they’ll be games that others can join in when they arrive. Starting a longer game when you know others will want to join later is a problem. The same is true in a family setting. Playing a 2-hour game with one child will be a problem when their siblings show up in the middle wanting to play.
  • Mental Effort required – choosing which board game to play should also take into account the level of brain power the players want to exert. Longer games will take more mental effort, if not in terms of strategic choices, at least in the length of focus. There are plenty of short games that also require strategic choices. But because they’re short, the thinking comes in quick bursts. Whereas, “meatier” games will engage your thinking for extended periods of time.

In the end, the best length of game will completely depend on the situation you find yourself in. Having a board game and card game shelf stocked with games of different lengths will ensure that you’ll have the right game for the right time.

But however long you play, time spent with family is well spent.

And if you’d like some board game ideas based on game length, check out our Find a Game page where you can sort our game reviews list by Time and find a game in the range you’re looking for.


Comments: 3

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What I read was “45 minutes”. Was that just me? I guess so! (Though really, I completely agree – this can’t really be answered without, “well, it depends…”)




What an inspiring story and tradition! thank you for sharing this with us, I’m going out today to by a game or two!! Look forward to seeing you this summer!




What an inspiring story and tradition! thank you for sharing this with us, I’m going out today to by a game or two!! Look forward to seeing you this summer!




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