“Go Play Outside”: Hot Tips For Gaming On Vacation


Friends, at this time of year we find ourselves fielding quite a few questions about “travel games”. Between cabins, beaches, summer camps and family reunions, it seems everyone’s headed out of town! To tell the truth, any game CAN be a travel game. The difficulty is in choosing titles that pack easily, suit where you wish to play and please the people with whom you wish to play. Here’s some advice and recommendations for having fun on the run.

Ditch The Box

Board games can be expensive, and the packaging designers want you to feel like their title is worth the cost. While custom inserts that separate all the game bits are convenient at home, they can double or triple the amount of space a game takes up in your bag. Sort components into small plastic bags, label them with a sharpie and stash all those bags in a labeled gallon bag, storing boards and rule books separately.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how compact games become: Pandemic: The Cure takes less space than one pair of shoes and King Of Tokyo is smaller than a single book.

Pandemic The Cure and a biography-sized beach read  King Of New York & Size 9 Sneakers

Manage The Wind

Don’t let cool and pleasant breezes be your enemy. The most practical games to play outside are tile or dice based, like Rummikub (being played on the beach, below left), Qwirkle or Perudo, but what if you want to play something “heavier”? It takes a little planning to keep your cards flying away, but more serious gaming on vacation is possible.

My preferred weight is the humble binder clip, as they allow for multiple cards to be held in a stack but are simple enough to open when cards are replaced. 25 ½-inch washers can generally be had for less than $5, and work well for games where new cards are frequently pulled from or placed on stacks, as shown with King of New York, below. Metal rulers can also be used as weights in games where there’s an array of cards in a line, like in Star Realms or Ladies & Gentlemen.

Rummikub on the beach   King of Tokyo

Choose The Right Games For Your Players

If you’re lucky enough to get out of town with a pack of gamers, a trip away can be the perfect responsibility-free time to learn something new and elaborate. As always, be sure to review the rules before sitting down to play, and it’s never a bad idea to print everyone a set of rules before leaving home.

If you’re traveling with family or kids, think about what they play now (or even ask!)  Do your aunties dominate at dominoes? Try Lanterns, a tile laying game where players look to maximize points by matching colored tile sides with an eye to depriving their opponents of the colors they need. Perhaps your pops is a poker pro. Cheaty Mages will have your whole family bluffing and betting without having to haul out the chips or shake down your little cousin for petty cash.

The most important thing to remember, for any group of players, is that learning new games is exhausting. Bring along a game or two that are familiar to your players and they might be more willing to make new memories.