Summer break is looming near and many families will be hitting the road for vacations. On a smaller scale, Con-season approacheth and many gamers will be heading out for local and/or major conventions.
In light of that, I wanted to share my personal top 10 games for travel. My goal in this list is to represent a variety of the types of games that can easily be played while on “travel mode” and not just a listing of ‘deck-of-card-games.’
Furthermore, I will not be listing any solitaire games — many of those do work well for on-the-go scenarios. Instead, I wanted to focus on games you would be playing with 1 or more people.
Last, I will be addressing-slash-judging each of these games in regards to three general gaming scenarios while one is traveling: ease of play in a car, ease of play on a plane, and play experience when at your destination — whether that be a hotel, campground, or the house of a friend or family member.
#10 – One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a wonderful game, which I felt needed to make this list, but I put it at the bottom in the 10 spot, because it is not one you would break out while ‘in transit.’ Nevertheless, if your trip includes a destination where you will be spending time with friends or family — this is a great option to break out after all the hugging and catching up, when everyone is ready to relax and have some fun. The game is easy to teach, easy to play, and will inevitably lead to enjoyable interactions.
#9 – Doughnut Drive-Thru
I am putting this game on the list because I think Doughnut Drive-Thru is a great option for the traveler looking to keep a little bit of worker placement in their life. At home, I would easily pass on this game to get a full worker placement experience, but DDT’s simple play and small box size make it perfect for travel. Plus, DOUGHNUTS!!
#8 – Sprawlopolis
If you have been following me and my previous posts, you will know that I am a huge fan of this wallet-size game — enough that I would have ranked it higher if it weren’t for the amount of table space it requires. The game doesn’t require a ton of room, but enough to make it hard to play on a plane, and the need to keep cards flat (and not shifting) would make it difficult for a car-ride as well. That said, it is extremely easy to transport (literally in your pocket) and would be great for breaking out at a restaurant on your trip, or just back in the room. Perfect option for city-building while you are in another city.
#7 – Welcome to…
Give me a year and I might change my mind, but this game is new to me and on my mind as one I want to get played more often! Maybe I’m stretching on this one, but I believe it has pretty good playability while traveling. I can easily imagine two people being able to set this up on their plane’s tray tables, designing their neighborhoods while waiting for the pretzels and soda to show up.
#6 – Splendor
Splendor?! So now we’re bringing medium-sized boxes on the trip? Hear me out! It is well-known in the gaming community that there is way more box than components for this title. For travel, it would be very easy to put your cards in a deck box and the tokens in a bag to put in your backpack or suitcase. Easy transport for one outstanding game!
I generally find that travel games need to be light, quick, and easy to understand. Splendor fits into that definition very well and is my top pick for a modern classic that can easily rack up more plays while vacationing your heart out.
#5 – Shards of Infinity
Shards of Infinity is my choice for the voyager who still wants to get in some head-to-head card play or some deck-building. Like I mentioned for Splendor, this game is mostly cards, so it would be easy to stick the game in a deck box for easy packing. The most difficult issue is the “player boards” which keep track of health and mastery. These are big enough that you would still need the full box to safely bring these with you. Solution: don’t bring them. You’re on the road, which means be creative. And in this case, that creativity doesn’t need to go any further than having some paper and pencils with you. Your health starts at 50 and Mastery starts at 0 (max of 30). Just tally on some scratch paper to keep the packing light on this game. (Sorry, Ko Syn Wu)
And yes, I’m willing to bring this game with me despite the inevitable woe it will bring me.
#4 – Loonacy
Now I’m getting to the heart of games that are perfect for travel situations. One of the places my mind first goes to for this topic is card games — as a kid that would have been Black Jack, War, or something along those lines. There are even better options these days that go beyond games that require a basic deck of cards — the one that stands out as most enjoyable to me is Loonacy. Every card has two items on it and if one of those items matches a top-card from the play piles, then slap it down before your opponent and keep playing. First to manage to shed all of their cards wins. What would feel like just a filler game at home becomes a perfect option for travel and small rest moments during a vacation. There are multiple versions of this game and one of my favorites is Retro Loonacy –> splendid artwork!
#3 – Bellz!
Forget cards and dice — let’s talk about a dexterity-style game. Bellz! is a small-package game that comes with some…well…bells — and a double-sided magnet. Be the first to gather all of your colored bells (press-your-luck-style) before your opponents and win the game. Attract the wrong color, though, and you get nothing that round. Simple play, small table space, and a unique experience.
I’m fortunate enough to have the zip-up version of the game which makes this #3 pick a no-brainer for packing.
#2 – Rory’s Story Cubes
To pack this game, just decide how many of your story cubes you want to bring (my family has close to 30 at this point), put them in a small bag, and voila! Story Cubes are definitely a great choice for any travel situation and the heart of the game is not in action selection, card placement, etc. — but simply in the chance to create your own fun stories, interactively with your fellow players. This would be my #1 pick if making a list solely for car travel — a great way to get everyone off devices, laughing and chatting together. Plus, not only will the die in front of you help inspire your storytelling, but the rapidly changing landscape outside your window can fuel even more sparks of imagination.
#1 – Emotional IQ
Whether in a car with family, in a plane with a loved one, or hunkered down with friends halfway across the country — Emotional IQ is a peerless pick. On each turn, a player grabs an emotion card and a phrase card. The goal: say the phrase while conveying the emotion, getting your teammate(s) to guess which emotion you are using. Sounds easy, but the brilliance is in the variety of emotions available. Is Patrick showing fear or would that be horror…or maybe he’s just surprised (why do all his faces look exactly the same? Is he a stormtrooper?) Plus, it is a riot to try and look sad or apathetic while saying something like, “Chocolate ice cream is my favorite dessert!”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m suddenly very excited to start packing a bag full of games to take on a trip. How about you? What is your go-to travel game?