5 can be an awkward number as many games can only play up to 4, or work best with an even number of players. But 5 is the perfect number for many great games:
Colt Express (2014)
First off, Colt Express is a great game. It’s a fun, quick (under 1 hour) little romp where the theme and mechanics are very well matched. Mechanically, it’s a programming game, which means that you think you know what you’re going to do when you set your cards, but your opponents’ actions can change things up on you. What better theme for this than an old west train robbery? It’s so appropriately chaotic. Also, I often write about games where you do something, what’s more fun than robbing a train? Even if you finish last place, you’ve probably taken some loot and fired a few shots and your buddies. Plus there are fun characters to play, a nice train set to play on, totally unexpected outcomes, and great upgrades available from meeplesource.
It can be played with 3-6 players but in my opinion, it works best with 5 players, and is otherwise best with 4. If you have only 3 players, I’d play something else and if you have 6, there are some balance issues. The main reason 5 is the best is because there are 5 total rounds, so in a 5 player game, each player goes first (and last) exactly once. (In 6 players, you might never go first (or last), and in 4 players, you might do it twice, hence some potential balance issues). Another reason is that you get more of a crowd going on the train with 5 players, which allows for more shooting and fisticuffs. You can also exclude Tuco (though Django isn’t quite as good as the others), but Belle is easily the best in 5-player (and even more so in 6p), but too fun to exclude.
Puerto Rico (2002)
With the exception of Star Wars Epic Duels, Puerto Rico is probably my favorite game of all time. After hundreds of plays (mostly on boardgamearena.com) and some hard-fought tournaments (finished as high as 2nd place in tournaments of roughly 60 people) I’ve come around to the view that this game truly comes to life as a 5-player game. There are only 4 of the key buildings like the small indigo plant and the small sugar mill, so your strategy has to include how to deal with the chance that you might miss out on those. There are only 4 spots available at the trading post, so you can miss out on that too if you don’t prioritize it. There are still only 3 ships, so you will miss out. It’s a tough game in 5-player and one that’s hard to win, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you do.
Glory to Rome: Republic Expansion (2012)
Already mentioned as a great 3-player game, and it’s perfectly fun as a 4-player game, too. But it’s great as a 5-player game as well, and I particularly like the way the Legionary works in a 5-player game. Just a really fun game that I’ll play any time. I love the way the cards work in multiple ways: As buildings, as clientele, and as materials for building or to store in the vault for victory points. I also love the “lead-follow” mechanic, as well as the ability to “think” as an action (draw cards). Just brilliant.
Brings the excitement of first person shooter (FPS) video games to the tabletop. Best as a 5-player game, where you can really unleash the power of your weapons when you get such a crowded board and bloody shoot-fest. This one will take 90 minutes to 2 hours to unleash all the 5-shooter mayhem but you’ll have fun doing it. My only real knock on Adrenaline is having to constantly refer to the weapons manual.
My other favorite from GenCon 2017 along with Adrenaline, I’m just plugging this one because it’s a great game, though I haven’t really had enough experience with it to know which number of players works best for it. However, with 3 different areas of the body to conquer, 5 players seems like the best number to make conquering any area of the body a challenge.
7 Wonders (2010)
Of course, 7 Wonders plays up to 7 players, and one of its strengths is that it works well with 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 players (it can be played with 2, but it’s not my favorite for doing so). When you have 7 players though, I’m more into the social deduction types of games (e.g. Secret Hitler, more on that in another post). Anyways, with 4 players there are a multitude of games I’d probably play before 7 Wonders but with 5 players wanting something quick-ish, this is about as good as it gets.
Between Two Cities (2015)
Another fairly quick, fun semi-cooperative but competitive game of building cities. 5 is a great number of people with which to play this great game, maybe even twice because the game time is fairly short (under an hour). You will construct 5 cooperatively built and hopefully great cities to compare at the end of the game. Hoping Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig offers similar fun for 5 players.