Wouldn't say no to a holiday right now! I've only been on a week in Devon recently (still fun, the West Country is awesome - #homebias) and a day in Amsterdam. Would have liked it to have been longer, but let's just say my ex-girlfriend decided otherwise. And with only a week left to take off work in November, there is nothing that I can think of to do and cruises want to charge you double the fare to go by yourself, how dare they?!
Ah well, hopefully, some of you were luckier this year or are planning your next big venture. Well, you can't go away without some great games to pass the time when you're sitting in the apartment or hotel with not much else to do in the evening. Not to mention the travel - I hate that part of any holiday which doesn't involve a cruise ship, hours of waiting, hours of boredom. So you may want something that's good for the journey as well, and of course, for this list, we're going to assume you've never heard of an iPad because of course, you can get a bunch of games on one of those.
With holidays being so in demand at the moment, let's take a look at the games you can play when you get on them!
Let's go with physical products for the time being and assume we live in the Middle Ages. I've got a bit of a mix on this list because, in fairness, there are a ton of choices to pick from. As a bare minimum, the game must be able to accommodate four players (i.e. a typical family size), but other considerations include:
How many different ages would enjoy this game?
How portable is the game for travel in a suitcase/bag?
Can it be played in multiple locations including during travel?
Now to be fair, I don't enjoy this game, but then I'm not the target audience here. But I can't deny that when it comes to entertaining a family with younger children, there's few that manage to do so with such ease without disturbing other people too much. So it certainly deserves a mention.
I've seen this game played in queues of all places, it's that portable. Five mini-games in one tiny tin that all involve these round cards that are different from each other by only one symbol. This teaches some good quick observation skills and will certainly do the trick on holiday, just maybe reserved for the younger families.
It won't get as many laughs from the children as Dobble, but they'll learn something more useful out of the process. Pick any edition you want, they're all good, but this is one excellent game for teaching history to the kids. It's portable for your bag as well, though don't try playing this one on an aeroplane any time soon with the extending timeline of cards.
And it doesn't have to be kids. I enjoy this game and own a few editions of it and get some good times with adults as well. My history knowledge sucks so it doesn't hurt me to learn a few things. If I was to pick a favourite, I'd say Inventions, but any of the specific historical sets will do nicely as well.
Now this is one of the bigger boxes out of the list and certainly, you're unlikely to play this outside of a hotel or cafe table, hence it's not higher on the list. But this one is an unsung hero from 2017 that deserves more love.
Out of all the polyomino games, where you're laying Tetris pieces down to fill up spaces, this one is my personal pick of all of them. It's got a cutesy theme with all the bears, looks very colourful
on the table and is so simple to teach and play, even to younger children. Leave it in the bag during travel, but be sure to whip this out when you arrive.
Another under-rated game, or at least one I don't see played very often any more. This is a great tableau/push your luck game from Antoine Bauza, who is great at making these light games with more depth than would first appear.
A fairly compact box for a board game and some of the nicest art and components to come out of IELLO in a while. You're building up a landscape art piece full of tress, people, buildings and
weather effects and manipulating these cool brush pot miniatures in your studio to use what colours you have.
A very simple game to learn, but provides several paths to victory and a zen-like experience. Perfectly suited for any holiday especially if you've ventured down into Asian territory.
OK, this is the biggest box of the lot and definitely one for the hotel only, but when we talk about family games these days, can you really leave out King of Tokyo? It's basically an essential staple of gamer collections let alone a great one for families.
It's definitely the biggest box on this list hence why it's in the bottom half, but if you can get it there, it's going to provide hours of fun and all ages will gravitate to this. A simple Yahtzee mechanic combined with big monsters that you can use to beat down on your opponents - or if you're a big wuss you can try to obtain 20 points while my awesome Gigazaur smacks you with his tail!
About the same bag space as Kanagawa and definitely one to consider if you enjoy push your luck games with a side order of bluffing. A reprint of an older classic with vibrant, beautiful artwork and components including a giant airship.
Celestia will easily appeal to all ages and I'm sure kids will enjoy the odd little lie to their parents about their chances of making the journey. Roll some dice, match the symbols on the cards, and travel as far as you can while hoping that you can scare off other passengers or if the worse comes to the worse, take them down with you.
Great fun with a lot of laughs.
Doesn't really matter which one you get, but if you want the most portable, then Island is your best bet. If you want a bit more of a challenge, then Desert is the one. But co-operative games mean you won't get angry kids at the table as you're all working together for a common goal.
But the biggest aspect of this is that it still baffles me how Gamewright can produce these games for such a small outlay. So cheap, yet full of nice components and colourful artwork, I mean you even get a plastic toy airship in Forbidden Desert which serves no purpose other than something to put together as you play. Considering how expensive games are getting now, it's mind-boggling.
Whichever one you get, they will serve you well, just base it on how portable you want it and how young the kids are.
Super portable, super easy. . . well to teach anyway, but actually doing well at this game especially with multiple players, that takes some extra work. But an old Spiel Des Jahres winner, this little tiny box of cards (though recently there is also a tin version with tiles I believe) will rack your brain cells no matter where you are.
You need little to no table space at all, just somewhere to sit so that you can see everyone's cards. Though getting kids to remember not to look at those cards can be a problem! Again, being a co-
operative game, there should be no bad blood among the family. . . well until someone discards a '5'. . .
Even more portable, a dozen versions to choose from and takes up even less table space than Hanabi and is even cheaper to boot. It's been one of the best and cheapest microgames to ever be released and for good reason.
It's straight-up simplicity with a small element of bluffing/deduction that could literally be played in your cramped seats on the aeroplane. Draw a card, play a card, carry on, how easy is that? Pick any version your kids like, be it Adventure Time, Batman or Lord of the Rings.
The Premium versions look the business and are still portable so you can consider these as well, but you'll be paying for them so bear that in mind.
Another awesome microgame, but with a little bit more meat to it than Love Letter. Whether you're young or an adult it's a great drafting game and again it has that portability and ease of play wherever you are.
Kids can enjoy the cutesy theme of smiling sushi products and the parents will get into the drafting aspect. You can get a party version which is the one I own, but it's less portable, adds more complexity and unless your family consists of eight children you won't be playing with that many people, but I guess you could rope in some random holidaymakers as well.
For travel, I would aim for the dirt cheap, small box version, which will suit you nicely. This is my choice pick for teaching anyone how to draft and I believe a staple in the collection regardless of how far you're travelling.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on July 3rd, 2017. Updated on June 22nd, 2022 to improve the information available.