Board games can take on many different forms. The most intricate have huge sprawling boards and massive amounts of components. There has also been a bit of a microgame movement in recent years; games with just a handful of cards that can be played anywhere. Below are my Top Ten Games That Travel Well – they have a small enough footprint to be played almost anywhere, approachable enough to be played by anyone, but have a decent amount of fun and interesting decisions too!
Top 10 Board Games for Traveling
10. Colossal Arena
Designed by Reiner Knizia, Colossal Arena is a 2-5 player game where various fantasy-genre monsters battle to the death. Players bet on which monsters they believe will survive and play cards to influence the outcome. It also has a bit of a hand management to go along with the betting. As it only requires some cards and a few betting tokens, it is one of the few small games that plays really well at all player counts.
9. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is one of the most played games in my collection. In part, because it only takes 10 minutes and you never just play one game. But also, you can play this with a large group of up to 10 players. This small box makes it into my game bag almost every time we go anywhere.
8. Tiny Epic Galaxies
The Tiny Epic series of games, in general, promises to provide full-scale game experiences in a tiny box. Tiny Epic Galaxies is far and away my favorite of the series so far. In Tiny Epic Galaxies, 1-5 players roll dice to determine which actions they can take. They must manage their resources and try to exert control over outlying planets. There are quite a few small components, but as far as table space is concerned, it’s small enough to be played on a park bench if you were so inclined. It even has a solo option, so if you are traveling alone you can keep yourself entertained.
Diamonds makes this list for a couple obvious reasons: it’s a deck of cards and some plastic gems. The box is small enough and the footprint is as well to take with you anywhere. But Diamonds is also a very easy to learn trick taking game. The other reason it makes my list is I can take it to play with any group. At least here in the Midwest, almost everyone is familiar with Euchre, Spades, or Hearts. So I can take Diamonds to any outing and teach it to people in a couple of minutes.
6. Tides of Time (review)
Tides of Time is a 2 player drafting game. The entire game consists of 18 cards that are drafted over three rounds. Each card scores points in different ways, based on the set of cards you have drafted. It’s a quick game, but has a lot of depth, especially when you are playing with someone who is very familiar with the cards and their interactions. Although I don’t play as much Magic: The Gathering as I used to, Tides of Time is a game I almost always take to MTG events to play between rounds, as the drafting element is one many Magic players are extremely familiar with.
5. Sushi Go! (review)
Sushi Go! is the card drafting game that makes drafting accessible to everyone. You pick a card and pass the rest, trying to acquire specific sets of cute little sushis. Each type of sushi scores differently and some have more of a risk vs. reward element if you go all-in trying to collect them. Its plays up to 5 players, and there is an updated Sushi Go Party version that plays up to 8.
4. Pairs (review)
When Pairs was Kickstarted, it was marketed as a “Pub Game”. And it’s exactly that, a small deck of cards you can take with you anywhere. There aren’t a bunch of rules or components, it’s one of the few games I enjoy that I’d be comfortable trying to play in a restaurant or bar somewhere. It has a cool little press-your-luck mechanism where you are trying to avoid points. On your turn you can fold and take the lowest value card in play. Or you can hit, but if your new card makes a pair you get that many points. There are tons of different themed Pairs decks and I recommend always having one nearby.
3. Rolling America
Roll-and-write games, as they have been called, have exploded onto the scene since Quixx was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2013. While I chose Rolling America – this could easily be Quixx, Quinto, or Rolling Japan. But the premise is similar, you roll some dice and choose a box to fill in on your grid. You start limiting your options as you have to follow specific rules about which numbers can be placed where. In addition to being inexpensive and small enough to go anywhere, it’s very approachable. I’ve largely got my family to give up Yahtzee to play these slightly more interesting alternatives.
Hive is another 2-player only game, this one an abstract strategy game. There is both a normal and “pocket” sized version, both of which are small enough to travel. Each player has a set of tiles showing various insects and you must try to capture the queen of the opposing player. The insects each move in different ways, allowing various strategies to be employed. There is no board involved, so you can play Hive on any flat surface you can find.
Timeline is the essential game to take with you whenever you are traveling. It’s incredibly approachable and can be played by anyone. Maybe it’s just the History major part of me, but I love the idea of making a game out of ordering events chronologically. You can choose your Timeline version to play a theme that is familiar: Music and Cinema, American History, Discoveries, Inventions, or many others. You can also mix different versions for a bit more variety. It can be played in a tent, camper, airplane tray… you’d be hard pressed to find a place where you can’t find enough room.