Every definition of a filler game mentions brevity as an essential characteristic. There is no consensus on what that brevity should be, however — anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.
Its flexibility rather than its duration better defines the filler. It is suitable in almost any circumstance. It retains its qualities whether played by two or more players. It can appeal to gamers of widely different tastes and styles. No session planning required, it is a spur-of-the-moment game. In short it can be played just about anywhere, at anytime, with anybody.
That said, a filler game is not likely to be a game night’s main event. A gaming group won’t normally meet especially to play a filler. Which does not imply that it is of lesser quality.
It simply is an all-purpose game.
- Palate cleanser. Just like sorbet, the filler offers a light, flavorful break between heavier, longer games.
- Appetizer. As the opening number on game night, a filler is perfect for putting a game group in the mood, or for waiting for all players to arrive.
- Nightcap. It is a good closer, too. When there’s not enough time — or players — left, or when people are too tired to start a heavier game.
- Lunch break. A filler is particularly well-suited for playing during lunch breaks at school or at work, where time is limited and player count can vary.
- Week nights. A filler is also ideal for those evenings at home when we don’t have enough time or energy to go out, and/or play a more involved game, but still want to escape the everyday routine.
A filler is easy to learn, but not necessarily easy to play. It is often more demanding than the average family game, and can be less random than a Beer and Pretzels game. A game like Modern Art (Reiner Knizia, 1992) is a good example of a filler that can sometimes border on a brain burner.
Many two-player games are technically filler games, but as game designer Lewis Pulsipher suggests in his glossary, a filler should be able to accommodate different numbers of players.
A filler game can include a board and several components, which distinguishes it from a micro-game.
References and Further Browsing
- In Praise of Filler Games, on Boardgamegeek
- Filler Game, by Lewis Pulsipher
- 2016 Top 10 Filler games, by Un Chien Andalou
- Top 10 “Filler” Games of 2015, by Joel Eddy
- 7 Awesome Filler Board Games, on Board Gamers Anonymous
- Filler or Micro-game? on Boardgamegeek
- A Wargame Filler? Is There Such a Thing?, on The Player’s Aid
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