You won't even need a Ticket to Ride.
Do not try to smuggle a gaming table through airport security. Look, we love our beefy box games as much as the next player, but Twilight Imperium really isn’t suited to airplane travel. No, we know what you’re thinking, not even for long-haul flights.
That doesn’t mean all your valuable travel time is a fun-free zone, however. Planes, trains, and even buses are all ripe ground to scratch that board gaming itch, provided you come prepared. Thankfully, we have the perfect answers with a collection of compact, travel-friendly games that won’t try to devour your table the second you lift up the lid. They’ll also make the perfect purchase for severely space-deficient gamers, you poor souls.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Size: Smaller than a box of crayons
Transport suitability: trains, planes and buses
Publisher Oink Games has made a name for itself by cramming entertaining yet involved games into packages tiny enough to make your typical small-box release look like a shelf-hogging glutton. There are plenty of superb games in their collection, but A Fake Artist Goes to New York is comfortably our favorite. After all, who doesn’t like regularly lying to and manipulating their friends (in a socially acceptable framework, naturally)?
In Fake Artist, players take turns collaboratively adding to a drawing of an object or concept. The catch? One person -- the titular fake artist -- has no idea what they’re drawing. With each player using a different colored pen, the real artists have to figure out who’s bluffing their way through, without giving away the answer. Thanks to the emphasis on drawing, it’s a great game even for players who struggle with lying directly.
When all you need is a notepad and a handful of pens, A Fake Artist Goes to New York is playable pretty much anywhere. Well, anywhere you can get away with the bursts of laughter or arguments that accompany the end of each round.
Size: A pocketable pouch
Transport suitability: Trains and planes
Taking a romantic trip to Paris? Add a bit of spice to the journey by accusing your partner of flirting with a local prince, then laugh smugly as the guards evict them, and you’re left alone with the princess. Or you could just play Love Letter, Seiji Kanai’s iconic game of risk and deduction.
Players take turns in Love Letter by discarding one of two cards in their hand. Each has a unique effect, with the aim of the game to knock out the other players or end the round with the highest card in hand. Guess what your rival is holding, or clasp the princess when the final card is played, and you’re one step closer to winning her affection.
Packed neatly in a svelte pouch, Love Letter is the ideal travel companion. It can be set up or packed away in seconds and provided you’ve got a knee to rest the deck on, doesn’t even require a table. If Love Letter seems a touch too simple, consider picking up the sequel Lost Legacy games instead, though you’ll need a bit more room to lay that one out.
The Fox in the Forest
Size: Smaller than a broccoli tree
Transport suitability: trains
Idly staring out of a train window is one of our favorite ways to absorb the scenery when travelling abroad. If your view from the rails is more urban jungle than unknown scenic delights, however, let the stunning artwork of The Fox in the Forest whisk you away to the wilderness of another world instead. Careful though. Foxes are tricky creatures, and there’s little room for distraction in this meticulous two-player trick-taking card game
Trick-taking games are commonplace, but The Fox in the Forest builds on the standard premise by packing in unique card mechanics and a smart system that asks players to curtail their greed and intentionally lose some rounds. Even lengthy trips will fly by as you rack your brain in an attempt to outwit your rival, making it the perfect companion for competitive couples on the go. A word of warning though, you might be surprised by just how conniving your other half can be.
You’ll need a tad more space to lay out the deck, discard, and play piles for The Fox in the Forest than the other games covered here, but trust us: It’ll be worth it just to see passengers craning their necks for a glimpse of this gorgeous deck of cards. Due to the size requirements, you’ll likely only have room on a train journey -- or anywhere with a stable table to play on.
Pack O Game
Size: An old-school pack of gum
Transport suitability: game dependent
If Oink Games is the king of small boxes, then Perplext has already ascended to godhood. Their Pack O Game sets are filled with eight micro-scale boxes that looks suspiciously like packs of gum (note: do not chew the games). Though each one contains only a slim set of cards, the experiences between boxes are wildly different. The uniting factor is that all of them aim to be speedy, moreish treats (we repeat: do not chew the games).
There are so many different games on offer here, and how each one lands with your group may vary. But, with eight in each pack there’s sure to be a winner in there for you and your friends. We recommend checking out Dig, Bus, Shh, or Lie to see if they whet your appetite for more. Avoid picking up TKO or Fly unless you plan to play with very young kids and want something simple.
The slim size means it’s possible to lay out almost all of these microgames on as little space as an airplane tray table, and the bright themes ought to distract even the most fidgety children. Make sure you remember to pack them up again before the midflight meal arrives though, or you might absentmindedly end up with a mouthful of cardboard when reaching for a snack.
We’ve no doubt that there are plenty of other great picks for transport-friendly board games, so if you know of any that we’ve missed, be sure to tell us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. And if you’re travelling alone then there’s always the Going Analog Podcast to accompany you.
When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.