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5 board games to make you sweat

Who said board games couldn't burn calories? These tense games against the clock will get you dripping under the pressure.

We checked and it’s definitely still winter outside, yet this list already has us reaching for the aircon. Board gaming is usually our go-to relaxation hobby, but sometimes you need to get that heart rate racing instead. What better way then, than to challenge yourself with time-based board games that’ll whet your appetite for action -- and wet your armpits as well. Prepare to perspire with our suggestions for five board games to make you sweat.


Games to make you sweat - Fuse

Sweat-o-meter: Bring a towel

Kicking our list off with a bang, FUSE is a cooperative race against the clock to solve dice puzzles and defuse a deck of bomb cards. FUSE’s “bombs” task you with laying down dice of certain colors or numbers, sometimes even stacking them up on top of one another. Meet the card’s criteria, and you can discard it to draw another from the deck. 

Each turn, dice are drawn equal to the number of players, then it’s up to the team to discuss who gets what. Or in the case of our games, squabble for a full minute before making a desperate grab for the die we’re after. Fail to solve the entire deck within 10 minutes and, you guessed it, kablooey.

What makes it so intense?

Aside from the fact that FUSE comes with an app that blares out a mix of alarms and stern-yet-urgent instructions to put even the iciest nerves on edge, the rules of the game are meticulously crafted to cause panic. Fumble too many dice out of the bag? You have to put them all back before drawing again. Can’t take a die this round? Roll it, and everyone loses all dice that match the color or number. Some cards in the bomb pile just straight-up force the entire table to discard dice. Did we mention that FUSE is hard?

Nine Tiles Panic

Board games to make you sweat - Nine tiles panic

Sweat-o-meter: A mildly damp brow

You remember those sliding block puzzles that video games are all-too fond of? The ones where you need to move pieces around until they form the right shape? Nine Tiles Panic is a bit like that, only the pieces are all double-sided, and you’ve got just a minute to slot them together. 

As the name suggests, each player has a set of nine village tiles, each featuring some combination of aliens, dogs, roads, cheeseburgers, and more. A round of the game has you trying to build a Rule-Abiding VillageTM while also scoring highly on three objective cards. One might see you filling your village with girls while another asks you to build as bendy a road as possible. It’s weird, stressful, and over in a flash.

What makes it so intense?

Oh we’re sorry, did you not finish your village in time? That’s too bad. Why don’t you sit in that corner over there while the rest of us all tally up our points. Yes, the spot marked “Losers.” For all its silly art, Nine Tiles Panic is a mean game. 

Mess up on a single round and you’ll probably be out of the competition, watching friends who barely bothered to meet the objectives rack up points in your place. The incentive to complete your town is high, but all too often you’ll sit smugly with a finished town only to look down once the timer has passed and find you’ve missed a vital road connection. Oh dear.

Magic Maze

Intense board games - magic maze

Sweat-o-meter: Silent but deadly

Magic Maze is about as close as you can get to an argument while sitting in complete silence. The premise is simple: You’re a group of fantasy stereotypes collaborating to rob a mall. You need to explore the tile-based map as quickly as possible, get each character to their item of choice, then back out again before security catches you. The catch? Each player controls only one direction of movement for all four characters. The bigger catch? You’re not allowed to talk.

What makes it so intense?

Keeping track of the positions and goals of all four characters is surprisingly tough. Finding the entire table’s eyes fixed angrily on you as they wait for the one crucial movie you’ve missed will have you cowering in shame as you scan the board for your mistake. 

Even worse is needing another player to do the same, tapping the single alert token in front of them with increasing frustration as they fail to follow your meaning. However, those times when you do sync up perfectly will make it all worth it as you tear through the mall with your purloined wares.

Space Cadets: Dice Duel

board games against the clock - space cadets dice duel

Sweat-o-meter: Is my brain on fire?

Star Wars and Star Trek make running a spaceship look easy. Space Cadets: Dice Duel assures us that it is anything but. Two teams of players split the roles of helm, engineering, shields, torpedoes, and more between them, doing their best to outmaneuver the opposition through frantic rolling and assigning of dice. Need to make an abrupt turn? Engineering will have to roll dice to assign power before the Helm can roll their own and plot a course.

So long as you’re calm and cooperative, your ship’s operation can be smooth, efficient, and deadly. You’re not against a traditional clock, instead trying to outpace the other team in loading up weapons and shields before launching an attack. The good news is that they’re just as incompetent as you. Probably.

What makes it so intense?

In reality, Space Cadets: Dice Duel is an attempt to harness chaos. Every single player on both teams will be shouting near constantly as they demand dice for their sector, leaving your poor engineer bewildered as they assign power here and there. 

Whichever side moves faster will likely win, pushing both crews to shout even louder, making more mistakes in the process. The only time the cacophony relents is when you check if a torpedo has hit. If calculating whether you’ve been blown into space is your idea of a reprieve, then you know things are getting sweaty.

Sorcerer City

time based board games sorcerer city

Sweat-o-meter: Slightly moist

City planning is one of those jobs you daydream about as a kid, assuming it’d be a satisfying, thoughtful career, especially if you grew up playing SimCity. Sorcerer City provides the perfect chance to live out that fantasy, laying down tiles to split a city into distinct, colored districts, scoring points based on patterns you form. Design a quality city and you’ll rake in money, prestige, influence, and raw magic -- that is how it works in real life, right?. 

With just two minutes on the clock, planning your tile placement is far from easy. Thankfully, sorcerers are a fickle bunch, and you’ll be able to start your town from scratch each year, purchasing new tiles to improve your chances of raking in prestige, gold, and points..

What makes it so intense?

City tiles are drawn from a shuffled stack, and even if you purchase new tiles to improve your layout, you’ll never know when or even if they’ll come out. It’s almost impossible to plan ahead, and even a moment’s hesitation placing a tile can prove costly. 

What’s worse, monsters -- notorious enemies of both architects and wizards -- aren’t too pleased by your construction work and want a word with the manager. They’ll burst into your city, taking up space and threatening negative effects that you need to plan around. Designing a high-scoring city is hard enough, but draw one of these, and you’ll need to think fast but clearly to escape falling behind or irreparably damaging to your layout.

Honorable mentions: 5-Minute Dungeon, Escape: The Curse of the Temple

If you need to vent your board game stress, tell us about the games that get you sweating through the Going Analog Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Need to relax? Whack on the Going Analog Podcast, lie back, and let that stress ebb away.

Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Frosthaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found scouring the web for the latest and greatest games, then wondering why he never has time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him at @Fernoface on Twitter or drop an email to henry@moonrock.agency.