Don’t you just love the outdoors? Sometimes gamers get a bad rap for only participating in indoor activities. But I can vouch, gamers can enjoy life outside of the air conditioner. But that’s not to say we can’t bring a game along with us when we camp, hike, or go to the beach.
Certain games are not made for outdoor play. Games with cards can be blown away with one gush of wind. The space to play certain games can be limited. Packing a large box game can be an inconvenience. So, we here at Board Game Quest have chosen games that meet most of those constraints (you’ll see the outliers as the list goes on).
Best Games to Play Outdoors
Chosen by Tony
When playing outdoors, you want to avoid anything light, flimsy, and containing lots of cards or the wind may ruin your game. That’s why you want a game with heavy and chunky components to weigh things down! Time to enter the Dragon Castle. In this abstract strategy game, players are deconstructing a central tile castle and using these blocks to build their own. The gameplay is built on the mechanics of the classic tile game Mahjong and is both simple and addictive. The only cards in the game are 2 special power cards that can either be tucked under the board or even left in the box as long you can remember what they do (not very hard).
2-4 Players • Ages 8+ • 30-45 minutes • $35
Chosen by Jon
My family spends a lot of time on roofs, porches, and beaches during the summer months, so we’re rather versed in the art of the outdoor game. The ground rules are generally nothing that is susceptible to taking flight and preferably something with weighted pieces (i.e. no cardboard chits at the shore). While the beach bag usually also carries a copy of Hive, Shobu, and/or Onitama, the game that gets the most play is still Tak. The depth of strategy and ease of play make this one that is accessible to new players, but also appeals to those Chess lovers out there. For me, I am in love with how well-matched plays can be a brain burner and I relish in those moments of my opponent’s analysis paralysis while I can take in the scenery. Bonus points for having both cloth-board and board-free options that make this an easy grab and go to get outside choice for me.
2 Players • Ages 12+ • 20-60 minutes • $30
Chosen by Michelle
This small, award-winning, gorgeous game is my pick for outdoor gaming fun! One of the main issues I think of when solving for picnic games or public benches in parks is space. You’ll probably have more than just the game with you and consequently less real estate to work with. You also certainly don’t want to have to lean forward, squinting at tiny iconography or text to understand what’s going on. For our friends who sunburn easily, lengthy rules explanations are a no-go. Skull solves for all of this since everything is based on seeing skulls or flowers on coaster-sized game components. Since the components are also made of thick cardboard, you don’t need to worry about them flying off somewhere or being knocked away. The gameplay focuses on bluffing, which means you can afford to be interrupted or pick up where you left off if needed. For those spending time outdoors with non-gamer friends this is a great option for a gateway into the hobby.
3-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 15-45 minutes • $19
Chosen by Dylan
Yes, it’s the oddball here. Abstracts and party games tend to have the right size and components for outdoor play. But alas, I am here to provide you with a Eurogame that can be played outdoors. Caylus 1303 only has chunky components, from the wooden resources and meeples, to the cardboard player power cards, buildings, and VP tokens. It plays in a reasonably quick time (60-90 minutes), while providing a different game experience each time through interaction and order the buildings are placed. Not every outdoor gaming experience needs to be one that is quick or be playable on a picnic blanket. Sometimes you’re looking for a game you can play without the wind sweeping away your pieces, even if you could have just as easily played under your roof. Caylus 1303 is the right choice if looking for a longer outdoor game.
2-5 Players • Ages 12+ • 60-90 minutes • $48
Chosen by Andrew
First, Shobu is amazing. Like one of the best abstract games ever. And all it has is wooden boards and rocks. Even if you accidentally forget to bring your copy along you can probably find what you need to play if you just look around hard enough. Nothing is going to blow away. It also doesn’t take up much table space. It is absolutely a game you can—and should—be playing regardless of where you are.
2 Players • Ages 8+ • 15-30 minutes • $30
Chosen by Jason
If you’re like me with young ones who are looking for some relief from the summer heat and like playing outside with water, Egged On is a fun game they might enjoy. Kids spin a wheel and crack plastic eggs on their heads from a provided carton, which may or may not contain water. They won’t know until it’s too late! It’s a silly game and my kids have had some good laughs with it, especially when their parent gets a wet head.
2-4 Players • Ages 5+ • 5-10 minutes • $15
Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
Chosen by Alex
Roll-and-writes were made for outdoor play, and Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is the superior spin-off of one of my all-time favorite games. It packs all the fun of the board game in a small form factor, using tried and true roll-and-write mechanics of filling in spots on your pad, then awarding bonuses based on the order and speed in which you filled them in. If you’re on uneven ground, you can even use the box top as an improvised dice tray. So, you get the portability of a small-box game, the fun of a roll-and-write, and gameplay derived from one of the classics that can be played virtually anywhere. Sign me up.
1-5 Players • Ages 10+ • 15-30 minutes • $15
What about the obvious?
Hive. That should be here. Hive can be played anywhere. Even underwater if the opportunity arose.
That would be D(h)ive then
How is Throw Throw Burrito not on this list?