I think four must be the magic number for board games. It just seems to be the number that provides the best, most balanced gameplay experience in some of your favorites. Sure, there may be a ‘two player variant’, and there may be pieces to throw in for a few more people, but you know the makers meant for you and exactly three friends to be sitting at the table when you open up their box.
So where does that leave the families with five family members? Or gaming groups where that’s the number that show up? You can’t tell one person to break out Solitaire while the rest of you play together. And splitting up into a group of two and a group of three rarely works. So what should you do? Well, never fear, because today we’re going to give you a few options that will work great for five players.
RIC: Camel Up (or is it Camel Cup?) is a race betting game that came out in 2014 and quickly won all kinds of accolades, and with good reason. You are all betting on a five camel race that takes place over a series of legs. In each leg, you can move one of the camels forward (with dice that come out of a pyramid – how cool is that?), bet on which camel will win that particular leg, or put an obstacle on the course that either improves or hinders the camels’ movement. You all keep betting and manipulating the race until one camel comes out the winner.
This game strikes a great balance between strategy and plain dumb luck that I think leads to memorable moments. The game boasts a player count of 2-8, but I think five is where it really sings. With fewer people, everyone ends up being able to take enough actions so that the risk is lowered, while more people causes you to have too few actions and can lead to some people feeling left out. The game is pretty quick to learn, and you’ll often find yourself asking for another round after your first playthrough. It goes in and out of print, but as of this writing it’s at a pretty great price, so check it out!
Buy Camel Up on Amazon
RIC: We don’t highlight a whole lot of ‘cutthroat’ games on this website. The genre doesn’t fit well with most gamers, who would prefer to have a cooperative experience, or at least one where the objective isn’t to completely frustrate everyone else. However, given the right group of people, it can be fun to be a jerk from time to time.
Family Business is over 30 years old, and it has become a staple in some gaming groups, usually those that don’t mind making all of their friends angry. In the game, you take on the role of a family of mobsters, and you’re trying to eliminate everyone else before you are gone. You’re taking out hits on other players, who can counter and put your mobsters in the firing line. There are even cards that cause 2 mobsters from all other players to end up on the hit list. It’s not a game for people with short tempers or easily hurt feelings. Five is a great number for this game because it keeps the attacks from becoming more personal – you’re able to spread the wealth when it comes to targeting mobsters. If you’ve got the stomach for it, this can be a great way to send your friends into a gamer rage.
RYAN: We love Family Business so much! This is a game we picked up years ago off an Amazon recommendation. This is the game that can send someone into a rage so fast. The constant “take that” mechanic is perfect with 5 players. Often the weakest player will beg someone to help them and form an alliance. Those never last and it’s fun to watch the inevitable double cross.
Buy Family Business on Amazon
RIC: Many of us have those in our gamer groups who begin to sour at a game as soon as the rules are explained. I know that I often get nervous as I’m trying to give an explanation as I see the faces start to turn after I’ve only been talking for about 30 seconds. Jungle Speed can be your solution when playing when these types of gamers. If you remove most of the special cards, the explanation becomes pretty simple. Flip your cards, and if your shape matches anyone, grab the stick. Done! And these deceptively simple rules quickly lead into a crazy time with some friends.
I think five is a great number for this game because it provides a solid balance. Too few people and there’s not enough of a challenge – it’s really easy to watch 2 or 3 other cards. With more, the game can become a little too thin as each player has only a small stack of cards, and so the game ends too quickly. There will be some that hate the lightning fast speed of the game, but for those who like to play on their toes, this will be a match made in heaven.
Jungle Speed Review | Buy Jungle Speed on Game Surplus
Sheriff of Nottingham
RYAN: This bluffing game that is loosely based in the world of Robin Hood is at its best with the full player count of five. Sheriff of Nottingham gives each player two chances to fill the role of the Sheriff as other players try to pass resources through the city checkpoint. Players bluff and bribe their way to filling their market with goods that will earn them victory points at the end of the game.
One of my issues with game is that it can end quickly when you are trying to collect specific resources. The game seems like it would benefit from an additional round of play at only 3 players while the five player count gives everyone a total of 8 chances to stock their market with goods. This can make a huge difference when you have a bluffing strategy to get that sweet contraband into your shop. This game definitely feels complete with the full table of five players.
RIC: I agree that this game feels very incomplete without five players. You don’t get enough time to implement any sort of strategy – you just sort of hope that you did well. I also like that this game can even work for those who aren’t all that good at bluffing. You can make it pretty obvious that you’re lying about what’s in the bag, but if you work your bribes right, you have a good chance of winning the game. I also think that this fits incredibly well for younger gamers. I mean, as long as you’re okay with teaching them that it’s okay to lie straight to your face.
Sheriff of Nottingham Review | Buy Sheriff of Nottingham on Amazon
King of Tokyo / King of New York
RYAN: One thing we love about King of Tokyo is the versatility of the game. I have enjoyed this game at each player count from 3 to the maximum of 6. There is something special about the five player count though.
King of Tokyo has two places on the board where players can “attack the city”. The first location is open when playing up to 4 players and the second location, Tokyo Bay, is open at five and 6 players. This changes the game a little because two players are essentially teaming up against everyone else. When one player is eliminated from the game, Tokyo Bay is not accessible anymore and the game shifts to 1 vs. 3.
This game made it onto our 10×10 Challenge this year for 2 reasons. One, the game is quick and fun. Two, the game is really great with five players! Don’t pass this one up the next time you find an odd number sitting at the game table.
RIC: King of Tokyo is a game that I was a big fan of, but often my gaming groups felt that they wanted more. If you’re the type of player that enjoys the more complex versions of things, maybe you should check out King of New York, which is incredibly similar to KoT but adds a few components that make it more of a gamer’s game. I know plenty of people that own copies of both so that they can satisfy different audiences, so it sounds like you can’t lose!
Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon, Buy King of New York on Amazon
These are just a couple of our favorite games for your party of 5. Share your favorites in the comments below.