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5 Great Little Games to Take on Holiday


I was about to go on holiday to my daughter’s wedding in Bali. Whilst I would be more than busy on the great day itself we would spend a few days beforehand with the wedding guests and afterwards with my elder daughter and family. So I thought let’s see about some games to play, small enough to not bust my luggage allowance yet worth playing. Varied from quick, not mind stretching, when alcohol may be involved, to a bit more thinky for the quieter moments.

These are the 5, all new to me, that I came up with.

Cockroach Poker

This is an ideal little game of bluffing (let’s not say lying!). It consists of just one deck of 64 cards and a small easily memorisable little rule book. It doesn’t need much table space and can be played from kids to rowdy adults in any number, though 3 to 6 is probably best.

The cards depict, in stunning artwork, 8 different types of creepy crawlies: flies, spiders, toads, rats and the ilk, there are 8 of each type and the aim is to get one player to have 4 of any one type in front of them. They then are the loser and everyone else wins. Should the loser complete a forfeit? That’s up to you but it’s quick enough to play many times.

The whole deck is dealt out to the players and the starting player offers a face down card to any other player stating what it is. Are they telling the truth though? The receiving player can accept the offered card and call truth or lie. Guess right and the originator has to put it down in front of them if not the receiver gets it.

Alternatively they can not accept it, look at it and offer it to another receiver either repeating the original description or changing it and the process is repeated. Play continues until one player has the dreaded 4 of a kind or has no cards to play.

There is a lot of cod psychology in this game, the fun lies in seeing who thinks they are a good liar and who actually is! The tension mounts steeply when players have 3 of a kind in front of them and as there is no strict order of play the others may gang up on them. There is even some strategy as there are only 8 of any type and you can see the cards in your hand and those played on the table so you can make informed choices on which to play.

It’s also a great watch even if you’re not actively playing as you see friends and couples be amazed at their partners mendacity!


Now, this is a simple game!

You pick one of the 6 cards laid out in front of you. They all depict cacti with from 1 to 3 pretty, coloured flowers on them. The number of flowers indicates how many sides of the card have cactus spines on the other side. Choose one edge when you pick a card and turn it. If your edge is clear you keep the card and score the number of flowers. If not Ouch! You get pricked and the card goes back in the box.

And that’s it. Play continues, refreshing the 6 on the table until all the cards are gone and the player with the most flowers wins. One other thing, red flowers are special and the player with the highest number of those gets a 5 point bonus. However when choosing a red flower card if you get an Ouch! you have to lose one card you’ve already got as well. (Spoiler alert go for a red card on your first turn when you haven’t got anything else to lose!)

There are a couple of optional rules: Desert Animals and Set Collecting. With the basics being that simple you’ll probably want to add them.

Desert Animals. Some cacti may turn out to have a Snake or a Fennec on the other side and reduce the number of flowers and spines to 1. If successfully picked these give bonuses. The Snake means if the following player Ouches (is that a word?) you get the card rather than it go in the box. The Fennec means you can have another go. However if you get Ouched then you lose the Fennec card as well.

Set Collecting. There are 4 different colours of flowers and you get a 4 point bonus for each set of 4 you collect.

Play ends when 1 player has collected 8 cards or the deck is exhausted. In a low player count game we found the 8 card rule too quick so played through the deck anyway.

This is simple enough to play with quite young children or older drinkers who may have to take a nip every time they get pricked!


A game in a small box that assumes you want to travel with it, stating “Take me with you” and provides a flip top box for your cards, helpfully labelled “Let’s Play”. Once you’ve learned the almost intuitive rules that’s all you need.

The deck consists of Letter cards and Action cards. You deal all the cards out to however many are playing – from 3 up to how many fit round the table – after putting 3 random letter cards on the table. Players take turns to play the top of their face down deck on to one of the existing letters until an Action card turns up.

Cue mayhem!

The 7 different types of Action require an answer based on the 2 letters left showing. These could be: name someone with those initials, words that start and end with the letters or words that have those letters in them for example. Then everyone tries to be the first to shout out a correct answer and if they are they take the Action card and place it in front of them.

Of course, they have to overcome the twin hurdles of everyone else agreeing they were the first and that it was an acceptable answer and this can provoke some debate, particularly with the Actions “words that are associated” and “words that are not associated” but let’s look on this as a chance for banter rather than heated argument. When the cards are all played out the one with the most Action cards is the winner.

There is one additional rule that if, when there is no action card out, the 3 letters showing spell an actual word you can call it and take an Action from another player. But beware! This only applies clockwise if it’s anti-clockwise you lose an Action.

The games are fast and furious – it’s probably taken you longer to read this description than to play it.


Right, now moving to the other end of the scale in terms of player count, only 2, and both taking up a bit more table space and a bit more brain power we have Fungi. This has been on my wishlist for some time and now I’ve finally got it I must say I really like it and not just because I’m a fun guy myself! (C’mon I had to have that in somewhere! ).

The theme has you collecting mushrooms in sets of various values and cooking them in your frying pan to score points. You can also add butter and/or cider to the mix to enhance the flavour and hence the points value. I must say I always cook my own mushrooms in butter though I haven’t tried them with cider yet. I’ll add that to my bucket list! Surprised there’s no garlic on offer, but hey!

The Forest comprises 8 cards laid out between the foragers with the 2 rightmost in front of your feet. You can pick either of these 2 on your turn whereas any others, deeper into the forest will require Sticks to root them out. You collect sets of the 8 different types of mushrooms in a Basket and score their value by declaring them on the table in front of you. There must be at least 3 in the set and if there is 4 you can add Butter for a 3 point bonus. With 5 you can add Cider for a 5 point bonus (I really must try that!)

Alternatively you can trade unwanted cards in for sticks that help you poke about deeper in the Forest and get mushrooms to the left of your feet. Some cards are moonlight cards and you can swap these for night versions with double point value for us we all know their flavour is best when picked under the moonlight!

There’s a reasonable amount of strategy to this as higher value fungi are rarer and so harder to find. Also do you declare sets early or hold hoping for a bigger score and the ability to add butter and cider? You only get points for sets on the table so don’t hang on too long.

The artwork is very pretty and it’s a lovely game to play. As for the mushrooms they’re Magic!


And last but certainly not least we have Vaalbara. Here you are trying to claim lands for your Clan in a mythic neolithic region. Each player, Clan Leader, has the same set of 12 Clan Members numbered 1 to 12. These Character cards each have their own special ability. You draw 5 Characters from your shuffled deck and you are good to go. But what are you playing for? Land!

The luxuriously illustrated land cards are laid out in two rows of 2 – 4 cards dependent on the number of players. There are 6 types of lands and they will score points for the Clans in different ways gaining bonuses for multiple copies or set collection etc. Play ends when players have 9 of these lands in front of them.

The Game Turn has 2 phases. All players secretly select a Character from their hand and reveal them simultaneously. These are then played from lowest to highest. The Character’s special ability is resolved, even though at the lower values this might not be to the Leader’s advantage, and then you get to chose a land for your Realm from the bottom row of the table. After all characters are resolved the Lands are replenished by adding a new row across the top. Players then refresh their decks to 5 cards.

Strategy revolves around the choice to play a low value weak Character to get first pick at the Lands or a higher value Character to reap greater immediate benefits. Every Leader has the same set of 12 Characters but you will only get to play 9 of them and you don’t know when they will turn up.

Some players have found the constant shuffling of the Victory Point tokens fiddly and can be tricky in a limited space, we just kept scores with pen and paper. Simples!

So there we have it. 5 different games for different situations all of them excellent, very portable and great value. Pick any of these to suit your circumstances and you won’t be disappointed. It’s hard to rank them as they serve different purposes but the one I enjoy most for its quick interesting decisions and beautiful art is Vaalbara.