Over the past few years, I have started to turn into a bit of a self-confessed board game addict. At home, we have started to build up quite an impressive collection of games and in turn, have even purchased a dedicated board game shelf.
So naturally, when we travel we also like to have a game or two on us as well to play during downtime in the evenings or when we are on flights – something a bit more exciting than a standard deck of cards. Taking a couple of travel games on your trip can also be a great ice-breaker when travelling solo if you are looking to meet new people in a hostel or such as well.
Oh and in case you are wondering, board games have come a long way since your standard Monopoly and they are definitely not just for kids.
The very best board games for travel
My requirements for travel board and card games
Requirements? Yes, you have to have them especially if you are backpacker or traveller looking for the best board games. These are mine:
The games must be compact and lightweight, it is not practical to be lugging around a full-size board game. Therefore, any game I take on my travels has to be smaller enough to fit into one of the pockets of my backpack. If you are still trying to get grips with travelling light, check out my guide for the best packing tips.
It must not have too many pieces, this one is not essential as you will see from the list below, but it is good to keep in mind for practicalities, especially when buying travel games for kids. The last thing you want on a long haul flight is to be crawling down the aisle looking for a lost piece.
It must be a multiplayer game and to be fair, most of them are. As I mentioned, games have a great social aspect, therefore, you are going to want to be able to play them with people. Therefore quite a few games such as Dobble where you can play with up to 8 people, but generally I found the 2-4 player travel games the most entertaining and easy to follow.
They must be relatively quick games. You are taking these games travelling, yes you are taking them for your downtime or to play on a long haul flight, but you do not want to get so involved in a game of Catan you miss the beautiful surroundings outside your beach hut in South East Asia. Side note: Catan is an example of a game which is not very good for travel, the box is far too big and you need far too much space to play.
The game must have a good rating on Shut Up and Sit Down. These guys are the gurus of the board game world, what they do not know about games is not worth knowing. Their blog features extensive reviews of pretty much any game released and before purchasing a new one I will always check their review first.
It must be competitive because otherwise what is the point? However, maybe assess the people you are playing with first, the last thing you want is a full-scale argument on a flight because some collected my camels than you during a game of Jaipur.
‘Experience all the fun and unpredictability of travelling the world, as you try to outwit your opponents to be the player who returns home with the most photos. Visit different countries, enjoy beaches, trekking, wildlife and culture, meet other travellers and get good and bad advice, whilst trying to avoid getting sick or missing your plane. No two games are ever the same.’
Backpacker is the best board game for travellers or backpackers – hence the name. There are quite a few rules and gameplay to get your head around at first but once you get to know the game it flows really easily and becomes quite competitive. There are also different ‘levels’, therefore you can start on basic and then add in additional cards as you begin to understand the game more.
Size wise it is the same as a deck of cards making it super easy to slide into your backpack. At present, it is also only £9.99 on Amazon, which is great for an investment into a game which will last you years.
‘Pass the SUSHI! in this Fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of SUSHI dishes as they whiz by. Score points for making the most make rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi. Dip your favourite nigari in Wasabi to triple its value. But be sure to leave room for dessert or else you’ll eat into your score! gather the most points and consider yourself the SUSHI master!’
I adore Sushi Go – it is simple, quick and really good fun – all of my essentials for a great travel game. The bright, colourful nature of the game also makes it one of the best travel games for kids. I would say on average each round lasts around 5 minutes and there are 3 rounds in each game, however, it does become quite addictive. Sushi Go comes in a metal tin, however, the game itself is a deck of cards meaning it can easily be transferred into a smaller packaging if needed.
“Bananagrams is a fast and fun word game that requires no pencil, paper or board. All you need is a table. One hand can be played in as little as five minutes. It is great for family fun as well as being educational. Bananagrams’ portability makes it perfect for travel. Just grab the pouch and go.”
Remember when I said the best travel board games have minimal pieces? Bananagrams is my exception this to this rule as it has a ton of pieces. Bananagrams is mildly like Scrabble in that you have to spell words from tiles and they all must be interlinked, however, you each have your own board and you are racing to finish first and become the ‘Top Banana’ rather than collect the most points.
If you enjoy word games then you will enjoy Bananagrams, the game states it is for players aged 7 and up, however, I would say it is better suited to be a travel game for adults. You do need a bit more space than say a card game, therefore it may not be the best board game for flights, but it is good for a game on arrival or even if you are travelling by train and have a table seat.
‘Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. You are one of the two most powerful traders in the city.
But that’s not enough for you, because only the merchant with two Seals of Excellence will have the privilege of being invited to the Maharaja’s court. You are therefore going to have to do better than your direct competitor by buying, exchanging and selling at better prices, all while keeping an eye on both your camel herds.
A card game for two seasoned traders! When it’s your turn, you can either take or sell cards. If you take cards, you have to choose between taking all the camels, taking 1 card from the market or swapping 2 to 5 cards between the market and your cards. Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk and luck.’
Jaipur is really easy to follow game which is all about strategics or at times just plain luck. It is only suitable for two players and gameplay time is hard to assess but on average I would say each round last around 10 minutes which there being three rounds to each game. The game does have multiple pieces but it comes a nice compact and lightweight box.
‘Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding manoeuvres, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!
Instead of winning by competing with each other your team of adventurers must work together to keep Forbidden Island from sinking, in order to buy enough time to capture its four treasures. Once you’ve captured them, you must make it to Fools’ Landing and escape by helicopter to win. If however, the island sinks before you can complete your tasks, the mission ends in defeat for all players.’
If you are worried about competitive arguments then you may want to choose Forbidden Island, a game where you work together instead of against each other, this aspect of the game makes it a great travel game for kids (aged 10 years and up). The game is designed for 2 -4 players and has a playing time of roughly 30 minutes.
Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodamas
‘The enchanted forest of the Kodama is flourishing. But with so much growth, the ancient paths to the sanctuaries within have become overgrown and lost. Now the forest guardians call upon you, their loyal Kodama, to restore these paths. Help your Kodama build these paths, gather offerings for the guardians, and win their favour.
Kokoro is an exciting family travel game that can be played with up to six players (Each player has a forest map to draw their paths and turns are simultaneous so the game plays quickly. Connecting your sanctuaries to offerings will gain you a favour. Choose wisely because you never know exactly when the sanctuary will score. And you shouldn’t be too greedy, if a sanctuary is not connected to more offerings than your previous sanctuary, you lose points!’
If you are looking for a simple, easy to follow family travel game suitable for both kids and adults, then Kokoro will be suitable. However, I also wanted to add this game in as it can also be played with just one person making Kokoro a great travel game for solo travellers, something which I have not found available much.
Every morning Odin sends his ravens, Huginn and Muninn, across the entire planet to bring back news of what life is like on Earth. Naturally, after thousands of years, they’ve gotten a little competitive.
Race through the landscape in opposite directions to be the first to return to Odin with your news. Focus on speed, enlist the help of the trickster god Loki to create shortcuts, or hinder your opponent. Odin’s Ravens is a fast-playing race game of thought and memory for two players.
An easy to learn and follow two player game based on quick wit and a lot of luck. Each game of Odin’s Ravens takes roughly 10 -15 minutes with a lot of review sites calling it a ‘filler game’, filler games are similar to ‘ice-breaker games’ or ‘warm-up games’ and when playing at home they would be played before getting into a bigger game of a longer duration. I find the games reviewed a ‘filler games’ the best games for travel as it generally means they are quick light-hearted games.
and finally, the ultimate essential travel game –
A waterproof deck of cards
Yes, I am all for new and imaginative games of strategy but you also cannot go wrong with a plain deck of cards. I always take a deck of cards away on holiday with as there are endless amounts of games you can play with them. If you are travelling or a frequent traveller than invest in a waterproof deck of cards, they are only a few pounds more expensive but they will last longer and be protected from split drinks when things to get too competitive.
These are, at present, my favourite mix of games for travelling and generally, I will always pack one or two when going away. As I previously mentioned, if you are looking for further games for travel then always look out for games reviewed as ‘filler games’ and always ensure they are compact games suitable for putting in a backpack without taking up too much space.