Separable Games

A few months ago, a club that I’m associated with at my university wanted to host an event that involved setting board games out for visitors to play while hanging out. Problem is the club itself had no board games and a very limited budget for acquiring board games and were expecting a fair number of people. As I am known as that person that plays board games a lot I was asked for advice on how to resolve this situation, so I gave some advice on which games can be bought for cheap and are easy to learn and teach. Then they forgot to buy the board games because they weren’t all that important to the event and opted to focus on other stuff that was probably more important, like the fact that like a third of the people involved in organizing the event “suddenly” couldn’t make it to said event, but they still kind of wanted board games there anyway so I offered to lend some of mine.

I looked through my games library to find some cheap stuff that I feel okay with letting random strangers molest, and pulled out Spot It. Then I realized that this game was actually perfect for accommodating multiple groups of people. You could divide the deck into two and effectively have two decks, as the actual game only requires that you use a small subset of the cards. In fact, you could divide it into more than two decks. I found another game that you can effectively do this with, Timeline, and brought them over and explained my findings to the group before the event, and, in that way, just as how our lord and savior Jesus Christ split 7 fish into like 5000 loaves of bread, I split 2 board games into more than 2 board games.

The event went I don’t know. I wasn’t there because I was busy with classes or something but I was excited about having another thing to let my autism obsess over. What other separable games do I have? What else is out there? What third question can I put here for dramatic effect?

Here’s a list of what I found, but first I should probably explain what criteria I’m using to classify a game as a separable game. Simply put, it’s a game that can be played with more people and groups than intended without compromising the quality of gameplay. Typically, this happens when a game uses a very small subset of the components that are responsible for causing the game to be replayable and mostly revolves around using those components and little else. I’m also choosing to exclude stuff like splitting up Dominion, which has enough for 4 people, into two 2-player games.

– Spot It/Dobble


Spot It uses cards that each depict eight different objects in a way that, given any two cards, both cards have exactly one of those objects in common with each other. It’s presented as a sort of game system that you can play several games with but they all involve just finding the common object the quickest and yelling out the name or a description of the object, so it’s pretty rubbish as a game system but the lack of strict rules helps us achieve what we want to do with it.

The rules for most of the games included with Spot It involve flipping cards off of a central deck until it runs out, so all that needs to be done is to modify the rules a bit so that the games use fewer cards. For example, in The Tower, each player is dealt one card while the rest of the deck is placed in the center of the table face up, and each player will look at the top card of the deck and find the object it has in common with their dealt card and yell out the name/description of the common object. The player that completes this task the fastest takes the top card, and the process starts anew. This continues until the deck runs out of cards and whoever has the most cards wins. This ruleset can be modified so that players play up to x amount of points (ie: whoever has x points wins the game) so with n players the game can be played with just x*n+1 cards in the deck.

– Timeline


In Timeline, each card depicts an event or invention or work of art on the front side, while the back side features the same but with the date said event/invention/art occurred. Each player is dealt some number of cards with the front side face up and another card is dealt to the center of the table with the back side face up on an imaginary linear track. Players take turns placing a card at some point on this track and flipping it over. If the number on the card placed is equal to or higher than the number on the card on the left and equal to or lower than the number of the card on the right, it stays and nothing happens. If these conditions are not fulfilled, the card is discarded and the player who placed the card draws another card. The player that plays their last card successfully without being forced to draw another card wins the game. Fairly straightforward to split up. Depending on the amount of players, you typically only play with like a third or half the cards. If you run out of cards after splitting the deck, simply have someone walk up to another group and them swap their discard pile with your group’s and then reshuffle that into a new draw deck.

– Sushi Go

Sushi Go is a card drafting game in the same vein as 7 Wonders. Everyone gets a hand of cards and simultaneously pick a card from their hand and pass the rest clockwise, repeating this until all the cards are taken. The procedure for separating this is basically the same as Timeline, with one change. The rules demand players to score their cards and discard them every round, which helps in making the game separable, with the exception of Pudding, which everyone keeps until the end of the game. Of course, having players keep their Pudding cards messes with the balance of the game, since if another table uses your table’s discard pile as their draw deck they won’t draw any pudding cards. The solution to this is simple. Just keep track of them separately, using counters or pen and paper or something. The game demands that you keep track of points on pen and paper anyway, so it shouldn’t hurt that much to just use that to keep track, but I do recommend representing Pudding with some kind of physical objects so that players can keep track of how of them each player has.

– Codenames

I don’t really feel like explaining the rules to this one since I’m too lazy and a short summary of the rules won’t do it justice. Also, admittedly I’ve only done it for all the previous ones to achieve a higher word to picture ratio because posts with more words than pictures are more aesthetically pleasing. Each game of Codenames uses 25 word cards (out of 200) and 1 grid card (out of 40), which can easily be separated, but one session holds up all of its tiles. Basically all you need to do for the other sessions is provide additional sets of markers, using poker chips, colored scraps of paper, or whatever else.

– Apples to Apples and its several clones

So when I say clones, I mean any other party game that has a deck of “question” cards and a deck of “answer” cards that function more or less the way Apples to Apples cards do. This includes blatant ripoffs like Cards Against Humanity and games that iterate on the idea like Snake Oil and Channel A. Separating this game works just like Timeline, but with two decks. So you might be wondering why you’d want to split off games of [Apples to Apples style game] when it works so well with large groups. Basically, it’s just to spend less time playing the game.

Let’s say you’re playing a 14-player game Cards Against Humanity, and everyone agrees to play until someone has 5 points. Worst case scenario, you’re playing 57 rounds of CAH, with 13 responses read in each of those rounds, meaning you could be sitting through everyone reading 741 cards, whereas in a 7-player game the worst case scenario involves playing 29 games, with 174 responses read. Basically, with n players playing up to x points, the worst case scenario is n(x-1)+1 rounds played per game and (n(x-1)+1)(n-1) responses in those rounds. This is particularly relevant in storytelling games, like Channel A, where responses take a lot more time, which can wear you out, even if the game is, unlike CAH, actually fun.

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