Games People Play- A Guide To Our Favorite Games To Play On the Road & At Home

In travel as in life, there will be down time. It's inevitable. There's a lot of misconception about life on the road, one being that we are touring and seeing and doing every waking minute. In fact, our life on the road looks remarkably similar to most socially healthy adults, we just live it in a different place every month. We cook, we stay in, we read, we work, and we go see things in our immediate vicinity or on short outings just like you. A particularly pleasing way we pass the time is similar to how I passed many evenings in Chicago; playing games with friends. It exercises the mind, it encourages the brain to think strategically, and it's a highly social way of passing the evening with or without a drink. In fact, I've never left my house in the past 7 or 8 years without carrying a deck of cards with me; it's as much a part of my departure routine as gathering my money wallet.

Games needn't be bulky, and you needn't be traveling to enjoy an afternoon or evening whiling away with friends playing a few games. Yes, it beats binge watching Netflix and it's better for your noggin. Obviously, we can't pack Settlers of Catan or Carcasonne in our small packs but we can pack more games than you think, and we offer our favorites here for you to play on your next trip or at home. We've conveniently divided games up first by number of players and then by type of game. Read on and give your brain and your social life a boost with these super fun offerings. But first you will need a few easy supplies, more specific equipment links are available for corresponding games:

A deck of cards (here US)

6-sided dice (here US)

2-Player Games

Cards

Schnapsen- Our favorite little 2-player card game, this Austrian variation on the German “66” is quick, requires very little table space, and will get you strategizing...heavily. We can play this game all night.

Durak- The Russian offering is a card game of attacks and conquering, and it's an all out strategic assault on your opponent, providing hours of fun.

Whist- Traditionally a 4-player trick taking game, the 2-player version is also tons of fun. Whist takes about a minute to learn but it is precisely the scarcity are few rules that allows for so much strategy and makes the game challenging to master. We absolutely love this game.

Bezique- This was Winston Churchill's entertainment of choice, and this French double deck game plays a bit like Pinochle. In fact, Pinochle is a derivative of Bezique. But we love this version as much as Churchill did.

Spades- Again, the 4-player partner version is fun but this 2-player offering is also challenging and a great fall back game for us.

Skip Bo- The same folks who make Uno, made Skip Bo (here US), a basic counting game that gets crazy quickly. You can play this with any number of people and it never loses its luster or strategy. Get your special deck here and prepare to spend an evening counting!

Hanafuda- Another special deck of cards available here (here US), Hanafuda was introduced to me from a dear friend (rules link here) and it's a special Korean flower card game that is as elegant as it is strategic. When we don't play with a standard deck, this is what we play.

Dice

Farkle- Prepare to count and get over your risk aversion! Farkle is fun for however many players your have, but it also works well with just two players in this competitive luck/strategy/chance taking 5-dice game.

Board Games

Backgammon- One of the oldest games in the world (here US), and one of our frequent plays. It's the ultimate 2-person game that can be played on a nice board at home, or as we have found, on a great rollup, self-contained board (here US). No two games are the same and there are plenty of variants!

Minute Realms- We came to this game recently in Italy (here US) and we love it. It's the most compact city building game on the market and it's over in only 8 rounds. Beware though, it's quite addictive!

3-Player Games

Cards

Skat- The Germans love their rules, and this highly strategic trick taking game has no shortage of them. It takes a while to learn and a little longer to master but man oh man, is this game something else. There's a very good reason why German students while away their down time devouring this game; it's amazing fun.

Durak- The Russian card game of attacks and conquering scales up easily for more players, and it's an all out strategic assault on your opponent, providing hours of fun

25- My neighbor in Chicago was Irish and we played 25, Ireland's clever trick-taking card game, every night for about a year. It's that fun and that addictive, and if you play your cards right (literally), you can really serve some humble pie to your friends.

Schnapsen- The 2-player game is also great as a 3-player game and is our favorite card game to play!

Bezique- Churchill's game scales well to 3 players, and this French double deck offering plays a bit like Pinochle, which is a derivative of this French version.

Spades- The more players you add to Spades, the more difficult Spades gets. The 3-player game is cut throat and we love the strategy required to set yourself up nicely and set your opponent up for disaster.

Pinochle- This double-deck game is a favorite among Americans and the 3-player version is quite fun; you may find yourself playing it all evening!

Skip Bo (here US)- By adding just one extra player, Skip Bo, a basic counting game gets even crazier. You can play this with any number of people and it never loses its luster or strategy. Get your special deck here and prepare to spend an evening counting!

Dice

Farkle- The risk factor goes up by orders of magnitude when a new player is added, so put away your risk-aversion for a while and rack up some major points!

Ship, Captain, Crew- I learned this 5-dice game in a bar in Los Angeles, when money was on the line. I walked away a winner and a lover of this really great progressive dice game!

Horse- Another progressive dice game, we played this one many times in the pubs of Chicago, with 3 to 10 people each time. It never got old!

Board Games

Minute Realms- We came to this game recently in Italy (here US) and we love it. It's the most compact city building game on the market and it's over in only 8 rounds. Beware though, it's quite addictive!

Settlers of Catan (here US)*- One of the most popular games on the market today, Catan offers strategic trading and realm building for as many players as can handle it.

Carcasonne (here US)*- Another realm building game, Carcasonne has an elegance that we love, as players compete and block for extra points.

4+-Player Games

Cards

Whist- Our favorite 4-player game is a partner game and it's an all out trick fest so learn it in about a minute and buckle up, because it gets crazy quickly. There's no give and take in this game, it's all take and it can get rough!

Durak- The Russian game of attacks and conquering scales up easily for more players, and it's an all out strategic assault on your opponent, providing hours of fun

Spades- With 4 players, this game can be played as a partner game or as individuals but either way, Spade has survived for as long as it has because it delivers fun and tactical play from the very first trick.

Pitch- I played this game growing up in Oklahoma and it's still one of my very favorite games. Get a partner your trust and try to outsmart your opponents in this high risk, high strategy game.

25- Ireland's high strategy trick-taking game is a personal favorite. Take some chances to win the bid or you'll be climbing uphill all night, but a win is never guaranteed with a bid win, as the other players gang up on you!

Pinochle- This double-deck game is a favorite among Americans and the 4-player version is quite fun; you may find yourself playing it all evening!

Oh Hell- I always get asked, when teaching this game, why it's called Oh Hell. It doesn't take many hands to figure out why. It's tough, it's risky, it's strategic, and sometimes it all fails you. It's amazing with as many people as you have and only gets harder as the game goes on.

Skip Bo (here US)- By adding just one extra player, Skip Bo, a basic counting game gets even crazier. You can play this with any number of people and it never loses its luster or strategy. Get your special deck here and prepare to spend an evening counting!

Dice

Farkle- The risk factor goes up by orders of magnitude when a new player is added, so put away your risk-aversion for a while and rack up some major points!

Ship, Captain, Crew- I learned this 5-dice game in a bar in Los Angeles, when money was on the line. I walked away a winner and a lover of this really great progressive dice game!

Horse- Another progressive dice game, we played this one many times in the pubs of Chicago, with 3 to 10 people each time. It never got old!

Board Games

Minute Realms (here US)- We came to this game recently in Italy and we love it. It's the most compact city building game on the market and it's over in only 8 rounds. Beware though, it's quite addictive!

Settlers of Catan (here US)*- One of the most popular games on the market today, Catan offers strategic trading and realm building for as many players as can handle it.

Carcasonne (here US)*- Another realm building game, Carcasonne has an elegance that we love, as players compete and block for extra points.

Got some games you like to play whilst you travel that we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear from you in the Comments section!

* these games do not travel well in small travel packs