I like games and I travel a lot. While I often have either my Nintendo Switch or 3DS with me, I also enjoy playing games offline whenever I can. You know, analog! It’s more personal. It gets the family together. You can talk to other humans. Have some fun! But great games like Ticket to Ride or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong will never find their way into my travel bag — they are just too large and the boxes might get crushed. So what games do travel well? Here’s my list of games that I recommend for travel. There are many lists like this… but this one is mine.
Note, this post contains links to the games mentioned. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Hive Pocket is frequently mentioned in discussions about games that travel well. Here’s why. It’s so small it can actually fit in a large pocket — a cargo pant pocket if you will. The pieces are bakelite making them near indestructible and easily cleaned. There is no board — the game just uses its pieces. Finally, the game is great and is one of my personal all-time favorites. If you like games that are like chess, i.e., one vs one, no luck, and have pieces that have unique movements, then you’ll probably like Hive.
Yeah but what is the game about?
Expected you to google that! But thanks for sticking with me. The short and skinny of Hive is that each player has the same set of insect tiles. On your turn you will either place a new one, or move one that is already in play. Each type of bug moves differently. Unlike chess, pieces never leave the field once placed. To win the game you must completely surround your opponent’s Queen Bee piece. Hive is a very thinky game that can play as quickly or as slowly as you please. On average, I would say games take about 15-25 minutes.
But Hive can’t be perfect… give me the straight story.
OK fine. Here’s what to watch out for. As Hive is a no-luck game, if you’re playing against the same opponent over and over again eventually one of you will likely emerge as the better player. Being a no-luck game like chess, it will be nearly impossible for the weaker player to win. Some people might not like that, but here are a couple of Hive house rules you can use to adjust the game to fit players of different skill levels.
House Rule Hive to Support Different Skill Levels
Blind draw: Have the stronger player turn all of their pieces upside down except for the Queen Bee. When they choose to place a piece on their turn, instead of picking which piece they want to place, they must instead randomly select one of the face down pieces, look at it, and then place it.
Fewer Ants: Ants are clearly a strong piece in Hive. By default each player has three. To balance the game, give the stronger player fewer ants.
Blind draw and fewer Ants: Combine the previous two house rules! I have used this method to play Hive with my elementary school aged kid to even things out.
Sprawlopolis can be purchased at ButtonShyGames.com and is in their line of 16-card micro games. This is a cooperative city building game that can be played solo or with another player. Basically, you’ll look at your card options and choose a card to add to the city. Cards can overlap as you place them, leading to countless (at least feels like it anyway) possibilities. If you want to actually figure out the optimal place to play each turn, your brain will melt out of your ears. Analysis paralysis to the max. Your goal is to score points in a variety of goal categories that change each time you play. It’s an amazing design accomplishment for such a small package!
Take 5 (AKA 6 Nimmt)
Take 5, which is also known as 6 Nimmt in the original German, is a game placed with a unique deck of cards. I have never had this game fail when introducing it to a group. People understand it quickly, it brings lots of laughs, and everyone will quickly think they have figured out the ultimate strategy only to get blown out of the water when something unexpected happens. Take 5 plays 2-10 players according to the box, and I have found it to be great fun from 2, all the way up to 6-7 players. For this reason it’s a great travel game, as you can pretty easily include any unexpected friends you might make along the way.
Another perfect game huh? Seriously…
Okay, negatives about Take 5 would be that while the game is “just a stack of cards,” it is 104 cards so it’s a fat deck. For reference, a standard deck of playing cards consists of 52 cards. Also, once the number of players exceeds seven or so, Take 5 becomes hard to predict and chaotic — very much not a game of pure skill. It’s still hilarious fun though!
For more on Take 5 (aka 6 Nimmt), check out this 6 Nimmt review by Shut up and Sit Down.
You’ll also find some viable travel game options in print and play games. I have blogged about several, including Ada Lovelace Consulting Detective, and Raging Bulls which would be a great place to start. All you’ll need is a pre-printed piece of paper and a few dice to play these.
This list of travel-ready board games should be a good start for anyone. You’ve got a head-to-head game with endless strategic possibilities (Hive Pocket), a difficult cooperative game (Sprawlopolis), and a zany party game that can play up to 10 but still works reasonably well at two players (Take 5). Maybe I’ll do a part two to introduce more travel-friendly games!
Try some of these out! Might be fun!