What are some great board/card games that aren't too big?
November 29, 2018 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm going on a trip with family and want to bring along some games that won't take up too much space. Ideally they'd be good for about 4 people give or take, and fun/novel to play. I'm thinking of buying Fluxx, for example. Our favorite games of recent years have been Pandemic and Codenames, but those are both a little bigger than would be ideal for this trip. Ideas? Thank you!
posted by malhouse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (56 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Fluxx would be a great buy. You may also want to consider Munchkin or one of its many expansions.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Zombie Dice!
posted by capricorn at 9:03 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Pandemic has a small version based on lots of dice, it’s very fun, called Pandemic, the Cure.

Azul is a compact abstract puzzle/strategy game, very easy to pick up and learn.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:05 AM on November 29, 2018

Iota You need a flat space to play it but it’s a fun game and comes in a tiny box.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

With a bit of packing, Codenames could live in a much smaller box than the default.

I'm fond of Qwixx as a compact easy to learn game.

A set or two of Looney pyramids plus some preprinted rules can make almost infinite games. (these come in many quantities and can stack and pack pretty small)
posted by Wulfhere at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

The Great Dalmuti and Bohnanza are our favorite compact games.
posted by molasses at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bohnanza definitely!

Love Letter is very small and good for 4 or so. We have the Adventure Time skinned version though, which is clearly superior.
posted by little cow make small moo at 9:12 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

+1 for Qwixx. We also like Ruckus and Phase 10.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2018

I always bring Sushi Go with me when I visit my parents—they love it! Pro-tip: rubber band it closed so the tin doesn't pop open in your suitcase. Learn from my failure.

There's also a super cool travel size version of Settlers of Catan that could be fun.

Also: if you wanted to go REALLY small, Perplext has a line of what they call Pack O Games and each one is roughly the size of a pack of gum. Not all of them are four player games, but some of them definitely are.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

Guillotine is small and fun.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seconding Sushi Go!
Also, since you mention Pandemic: Hanabi is a great, compact cooperative game.
posted by Bardolph at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

Jungle Speed. Though it looks like the new totems are plastic, which is a real downer since they won't retain bloodstains so well.
posted by asperity at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Hanabi! And not cooperative, but Set is fun and compact.
posted by aka burlap at 9:19 AM on November 29, 2018

+1 Hanabi.
posted by greermahoney at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2018

Hanabi is perfect for this -- the smaller package is barely more than a deck of cards, four to five people is ideal, you can play light and quick games, or (since you like Pandemic), you can play a really complex game of Hanabi, too.

Gloom is also just a pack of cards, with a neat see-through card mechanic -- it's about making your characters as miserable as possible, which makes for fun table chat.

Mini Quoridor is one I bring to bars -- the rules are dead simple but the game can get thrillingly complex, it plays two or four people, and it only takes five by five inches of table space.
posted by Pwoink at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fluxx is great (we have like 5 different versions because my kid loves it so much). We also enjoy Mille Bornes, which is easy to learn and play but not a game that most Americans already know.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:25 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Highly recommend Illimat, which comes in a small box that is actually part of the game mechanics, and a cloth board plus cards and tokens. If you like the Decemberists, the game may be extra fun as it's based on the themes of their album, The Hazards of Love, and has a Crane Wife expansion, too.
posted by miratime at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Phase 10 (cards, not the dice version) is a great game for 3-4 people. It is like rummy. Easy to learn. Takes a lot of luck and a bit of skill.
posted by hydra77 at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2018

Bears vs Babies is an easy to pick up, compact card game.
posted by jeoc at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2018

Another vote for Sushi Go. We did need to watch a run-through on YouTube to understand the scoring first, but we love it.
posted by gryphonlover at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It's great for small groups because unlike other games in the Werewolf/Mafia genre, there's a smartphone app that narrates the night phase. The box is fairly small as-is and you could shrink it down by leaving out roles you think might be too complicated.

Codenames is also great for 4 people, though it's a lot of fun when you have 6+ and can get into long arguments of what various clues were supposed to mean all while the spymaster is trying not yell out in exasperation.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Another vote for One Night Ultimate Werewolf, we have had some absolutely hilarious games, and the app narration works really well. Also has lots of add-on packs so but the core game is my favorite.
posted by machinecraig at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2018

Hive: Pocket is two player, but it's the BEST travel game. Similar to playing chess, but a bit shorter and more fun. 15-30 minutes.

Love Letter is a perfect game, comes in a little travel bag. Great replay value and a good learning curve. 30 minutes - good replay value.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a lot of fun with at least 4, though you need an app to play, and it involves closing your eyes - a la mafia. 10 minutes - but you'll want to replay. A ton of fun!

With a deck of cards, Oh Hell is one of the best trick-taking games. It requires a pen and paper but is just amazingly fun team game. Beats Euchre out of the water any day. 60 minutes.

Bohnanza is an excellent game for 3-5 players. It's a "trading" game and there's not many just like it. 45-90 minutes.

Guillotine is a silly game that is enjoyable, but doesn't have a ton of replay value. 20 minutes.

Set is a brain-buster. I've gotten headaches. I've also made it into a drinking game in the past. 20 minutes (unless you're drunk).

Last, if your group likes codenames, it can pretty easily be broken down into a smaller size. It's mostly cards and mini cards. Just take half of the grid cards and 1/4th of the clue cards, and the cover tokens. No reason it wouldn't be just as fun for the first 10+ plays!

My recommendation would be to get Love Letter, a deck of cards (for Oh hell!), and Bohnanza. That way you'll have a card game for any length of time, for any player count. Also they are all under $10!
posted by bbqturtle at 9:46 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hero Realms is a deck building combat game which my wife and I get a lot of enjoyment out of. There's a bunch of expansions and whatnot but the basic set plays up to four players without needing anything extra.

Gamelyn Games make a bunch of games of the form "Tiny Epic X" where X is a genre. I own Tiny Epic Galaxies but there's a bunch more. They are indeed tiny as the name suggests.

I'll also add my vote for any Fluxx variant as well as Gloom. Those are great games!
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 9:46 AM on November 29, 2018

Seconding One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and also: Bananagrams! Both are our go-to quick grab games.
posted by brook horse at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fluxx is great, though I recommend one of the older versions before creepers where added as they slow the game down a lot (Plus it game in a smaller package back then.)

Caracasson comes in a decently small box.

Guillotine is also great.

Three Dragon Ante by Wizards of the Coast.

Oh, I almost forgot one of my favourite small games: Citadels. Great little game.

Also look for travel editions, a number of popular games have travel versions.
posted by Canageek at 9:48 AM on November 29, 2018

Monopoly Go is really good IME!!
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:56 AM on November 29, 2018

Lots were mentioned last week when I asked for small, light Christmas presents for my grandkids.
posted by FencingGal at 10:02 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

We are big fans of Monopoly Deal around here. Kids, adults. Everyone we've introduced to it has gone off to get their own afterward.
posted by jquinby at 10:03 AM on November 29, 2018

Seconding Sushi Go and Guillotine, adding Forbidden Island (it's co-op like Pandemic, and comes in a shoebox-sized container but could easily be stuffed into something smaller because it's all cards, no big map.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:11 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

NB: as somebody who grew up playing Mille Bornes I have to present the warning that the current edition apparently has revised rules and less charming art with the French text removed. I was going to grab it in a recent Amazon gold box offer and backed off after learning that. Seconding it if you can find a vintage edition for a reasonable price, though.

Also my wife loves Uno for this purpose. I only like Uno when it doesn't run on too long, which is rare.
posted by fedward at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of a 10" (or larger) tablet (or convertible laptop) loaded with electronic versions of games that are too bulky or fiddley to take on trips. There's a current Humble Bundle of electronic versions of board games, though depending on the age of your players, some may be too complex.

No Thanks is a good, small card game if the players are up for moderate levels of "screw your neighbor" style play. 6 Nimmt! is a less good but sometimes chaotically fun card game.
posted by Candleman at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2018

Jaipur (2 player only)
(I have fitted all the above games inside the Kingdomino box for taking on holiday - you could swap Jaipur for Love Letter)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:31 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Deep Sea Adventure is great fun and tiny.
posted by oh pollo! at 10:33 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

If there's exactly four, Tichu and Nyet! are excellent and double-deck-of-cards sized. However Nyet! is a trick taking game, and Tichu has some trick taking dynamics, so if like 3 of you are good at trick taking games and the other is not, these might be a little rough)

Oh, actually Fool!, by Friedmann Friese is a very good trick taking game that shines with 5 players (but works well with a large range of player counts). And now that I'm talking about Friedmann Friese, I'm reminded of his Fast Forward series of Fabled games, like Fortress, Fear, and Flee, all of which have this neat gimmick where they start out simple and most of the rules come from the deck, and you progress through that over multiple game plays. They're also fairly small, and I think they could all pack down smaller (i.e., a ziploc baggie full of cards)
posted by aubilenon at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2018

Seconding Zombie Dice, Love Letter and Sushi Go, which are all great family games.

Adding Hive Pocket Edition which fits in a tiny bag and is really neat with lots of replay value. Board Game Geek link here, with some in-depth reviews linked within.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:02 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just played Unstable Unicorns for this first time this weekend and it is more fun than Exploding Kittens and Bears v Babies, imho. Graphics are similarly fun, but the game play is a little more dynamic.
posted by LKWorking at 11:12 AM on November 29, 2018

Seconding Tiny Epic Galaxies.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:02 PM on November 29, 2018

Pass the Pigs!
posted by deezil at 12:12 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

We've got a lot of play out of Timeline (if you like trivia), and Coup, both of which come in fairly small boxes.
posted by Law of Demeter at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2018

Rhyme Out is a 5 X 4 X 2.5 boxed rhyming game that packs really well.
posted by smuna at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2018

Railroad Ink is a roll & write game and comes in 2 versions (each is the same with a unique variant). There are 6 dry-erase boards and markers in the box, so you have everything you need to play; it's also very easy to learn and the boards themselves are also player aids. You're building roads and railways.
Box size: 6.1 x 5.9 x 1.7 in

The Lady & the Tiger is a card game(s) with beautiful art; the other nice thing is that there are actually 5 games designed around the same deck of cards, so you can play a game for 4, or a 2 player game, or even a solitaire game all from the same box and also get a little variety.
Box size: 5.70 x 4.00 x 1.50 inches

Lastly, Welcome to... is a roll & write that uses cards instead of dice. It's lots of fun and you can play with as few or as many people as you want. You're building a town/ neighbourhood.
Box size: 7.87 x 7.87 x 1.57 inches
posted by Laura in Canada at 12:44 PM on November 29, 2018

Here's another for Bohnanza -- it's many hours of fun in a deck-of-cards sized package.
posted by ourobouros at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2018

Cult Following is silly fun.

Martian Dice is similar to Zombie Dice, recommended upthread, but with aliens instead of zombies. Both are great.

Sushi Go is also great. Get the original edition: the party pack is larger and doesn’t travel well. Nthing the rubber band around the tin!
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:49 PM on November 29, 2018

Oh, and this rundown of cheap and free games has a bunch that meet your criteria.
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:55 PM on November 29, 2018

Red7 is my favorite card game - and I think I learned about it from ask. I gave it to my board-game-nerd dad and his whole games group ended up loving it, too (several of them bought it the next day!)
posted by mosst at 2:49 PM on November 29, 2018

Caveat that I haven't played it yet, but I'm very excited about my new copy of Space Cats Fight Facism .
posted by theweasel at 4:35 PM on November 29, 2018

My current favorites are Sparkle Kitty and We Didn’t Playtest This at All.
posted by skycrashesdown at 6:22 PM on November 29, 2018

Soulfall has a tiny board and is probably the best game from Small Box Games. I think currently out of print.
No Thanks
Kreus is Hanabi like
Red 7
Flow of History is a pretty compact Civ game
Sky Tango works with 2 teams of 2
King of Siam
Ingenious Travel Edition is a great abstract

And some 2 player only
Pocket Battles is a series of 4 tactical battle games.
2 de Mayo
Fight for Olympus
7 Ronin

And this upcoming game looks like it will be compact
posted by ridogi at 6:38 PM on November 29, 2018

I like Qwirkle; it's one of the board games I play with my family. I've heard it described as dominoes-meets-Scrabble-meets-Rummy. It comes with a bag to hold all the tiles; that's really all you'll need (that and a flat surface, and something to keep score with). There aren't that many rules and they're simple to learn. The bag of tiles doesn't take up a lot of space.

There's apparently a travel version as well -- here's a BoardGameGeek forum thread about the travel game. Seems like it's the same game, just with smaller pieces.

Depending on how much space you have, Carcassonne might be something worth considering -- it's another game I enjoy playing with my family. You could leave the expansion cards at home and play with the original base tiles and standard meeples, and keep score on paper if you don't want to take the scoreboard. Actually I see there's Travel Carcassonne too, although I haven't seen it in person.

If you're interested and timing is urgent, both games are available at Target (at least I've seen them at my local store -- not sure about the travel versions though).
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:44 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

(Correction - I shouldn't have said Qwirkle is a board game -- it definitely doesn't have a board, just wooden tiles. No other pieces needed. Carcassonne has cardboard tiles and then little figures you can place on the tiles.)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 12:10 AM on November 30, 2018

I'd second Carcassonne as a travel-friendly option. My wife and I carried it on a month long backpacking trip across the Alps, just leaving behind the box and scoreboard, and bringing the tiles and meeple figures in a little bag. Bringing it was probably overkill, but it was nice to pass the time when we were delayed a day for weather/injuries/availability of lodging.
posted by JiBB at 2:31 AM on November 30, 2018

Bananagrams is packed into a life-size, fabric banana. You need a bunch of flat space to play, but it is very small when not in use.

Story cubes are small, too, but not exactly a game as such — unless you are good at making your own fun.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:11 AM on November 30, 2018

One Night Ultimate Werewolf - fun, fast, and great for big groups of ever-changing numbers. Lots of good conversation and group logic-ing.

Love Letter - very small package, very easy to understand, and a nice balance of competition but low stakes strategy (it's played in a series of rounds, so there are a lot of fresh starts)

Hanabi - this is 100% my favorite game of all time. I've played it 10-15 times as often as any other game. The package is tiny, and if you like the cooperation of Pandemic, you will love Hanabi - it is one of the only truly cooperative games I've ever played, because someone can't take over and start telling people what to do.

Birds of a Feather - love this birdwatching game for playing with people who don't have a lot of practice with games, or who get anxious during very competitive games. The art is GORGEOUS, the gameplay is quick, but it's a very relaxed game.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 3:34 AM on November 30, 2018

I'll second Bohnanza and Sushi Go. I'd also suggest Gloom, particularly if you're fans of the macabre. Fuji Flush is also fun, and it barely needs any table space at all to play; every player has at most one card in front of them at any one time (unlike the three other games I've mentioned.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:53 AM on November 30, 2018

Seconding Qwirkle! There is a travel edition that comes in quite a small pouch. Easy to learn, but you get some surprisingly complex and strategic gameplay out of it.
posted by Kabanos at 5:24 AM on November 30, 2018

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