Board game Top 10: Zero contact games for lock down

Picture of a facemask saying 'Shiny happy Meeples holding hands' with five meeples

Restrictions on meeting up are easing in many places. But everyone should still be taking Coronavirus as seriously as they’ve ever been. This means lots of hand washing, while trying to avoid direct contact with people as much as possible. Which is pretty difficult if you’re playing board and card games. But not impossible. So below you’ll find my top 10 zero contact games.

Essentially, you can play these without having to touch each other’s game pieces. You’ll still need to be careful, and whoever sets the game up initially may need to wear gloves. But you should be able to play the game as intended, largely unhindered. And this also means most of them could be played over a Zoom (etc) call. I’m sure there are loads more examples – I’d love to hear them!

(All game name links go to my reviews elsewhere on this site.)

My top 10 zero contact games

box for zero contact top 10 list board game forbidden desert

10. Forbidden Island
(1-4 players, 30-60 mins)

Forbidden Island is a great introductory co-operative game, where players work together to escape a dangerous island. As with many co-ops, much of the game here is in the conversations between players. And as there’s no hidden information, it’s easy to select one player as the ‘game master’. They can handle all the cards and tiles, so the players only need touch their own player piece as it moves around the board.

9. Take it Easy
(1-8 players, 30 mins)

This mind-bending puzzle game sees each player having their own game board and set of components. You’re all competitively doing the same puzzle, so one player flips over a piece and each player finds and uses their own matching piece on their own board. It’s a pure abstract tile-laying game with super simple rules, while being really hard to master. If you want something two-player and combative, but also with your own components, check out micro card game Brave Rats.

box for zero contact top 10 list board game The King is Dead

8. The King is Dead
(2-4 players, 30-60 mins)

This classic area majority game sees each player going through their own set of cards. So it’s possible to play without contact. However, you will need one player to add/remove all the cubes from the board as players exert their influence across the regions. This will be a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s certainly doable. The game is largely abstract, but it has a unique feel that really builds tension.

7. Perudo/Liar’s Dice
(4-6 players, 30 mins)

This family/party game is all about rolling dice and bluffing/pushing your luck to victory. But thankfully each player has their own set of dice and a dice cup, so no contact is required at all. You can teach the rules in about 30 seconds and it’s a lot of fun with the right crowd. And it’s also a mass market game you can often spot cheap in charity shops.

box for zero contact top 10 list board game Codenames

6. Codenames
(2-8 players, 60 mins)

A brilliant word game with elements of deduction and push-your-luck. You try and deduce what words from a grid your teammate is trying to describe with their single word clue. But if you pick a word wrong, it could lose you the game. The original version lets you play in team (so is best for 4-8 players. While Codenames Duet is strictly for two. But either way, it’s simple to play with only one person touching the components.

5. Qwixx
(2-5 players, 15 mins)

I’m sure a lot of roll-and-write games can technically be played without sharing any components. But Qwixx is one of the most popular, so it makes the list. You’re simply rolling a set of dice and marking numbers off on a sheet. Sure, you could argue that half the fun of a game like this is rolling the dice. But if you don’t mind one player rolling for everyone you’re set. Alternatively, as this game uses basic six-sided dice in basic colours, you could probably make up a set for each player from other game components.

4. Adios Calavera
(2 players, 20 minutes)

Again, I’m sure there are many two-player abstract games where it is easy to avoid touching each other’s playing pieces (even Chess). But Adios Calavera happens to be one of my favourites. You line your pieces up at right angles to each other across a square grid of spaces. Then try to get all yours across to the other side first. Movement is really clever, while the pieces have special abilities that really spice things up.

3. Welcome To…
(1-10 players, 30 mins)

This is a flip-and-write game, rather than a roll-and-write. You flip over three cards each turn and players choose what to mark off on their sheets. I think this is more palatable, as no one is going to mind one player turning over the cards. Especially as they’re shared by all, so there’s no ‘taking turns’. The game is clever too, giving you a decreasing bunch of options as you try and build the neighbourhood that will score the most points.

2. Blokus
(2-4 players, 30 mins)

This classic abstract again sees each player having to place their own set of pieces – this time onto a shared board. But as no pieces are ever moved or removed, it should be easy for players to stick to touching their own pieces. It’s a great game of cat and mouse, and players try to claim territory but outmanoeuvring their opponents. And the two-player only version, Blokus Duo, is equally excellent.

1. Carcassonne
(2-5, 60 mins)

One of the all-time best-selling hobby games is also fit for my top 10 zero contact games. All you’ll need is one player to set the game up. Using gloves, they’ll make even piles of face-down tiles for each player to take from. In the game, you simply turn over a tile and add it to the ever-growing map being created in the centre of the table. Then, you choose whether to place one of your meeples on the tile. Clever placement of both meeples and tiles will win out in this classic family game.

  • Meeple mask image used without permission but clicking the image will take you to designer Ruth Robson’s RedBubble sales page. Please do not copy without linking. And please let me know if you want the image removed.

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