December: Travel Sized Games

December often sees us going from coast to coast, trying to reconnect with far-flung family. It is also a month when a lot of Americans buy gifts for each other. So for this month, we collected recommendations for small games that travel well. Most of them are also cheap games, but good games that would make perfect gifts. Happy Winter!

Board Game: Kluster

• Designer: Paula and Robert Henning
• Publisher: Borderline Editions
• 1-4 players
• 15 min
• 14+

Kluster is a strategy and dexterity game where players attempt to discard their hand in a playing field in order to win. But instead of traditional cards or tokens, you’re using magnets! If any magnets stick together on your turn, you must add those magnets back into your hand. Kluster is an incredibly easy game to learn but it doesn’t get old with replay. Players can pick up sneaky strategies using the demonstration video provided by the publishers.  

Card Game: Aquarius

• Designer: Kristin and Andrew Looney
• Publisher: Looney Labs
• 2-5 players
• 10-30 min
• 3+

Aquarius is a fun, intuitive card game that works for all ages. The game has five “elements,” all of which are depicted at random on the game cards. On their turn, each player draws a card and then lays a card down to connect it to the others, much like a tile-laying game. You can only place cards of the same element next to each other or wild cards, and each player has a secret goal element. Once a player has connected seven of their goal element, they win. Because the game is largely pictorial, it can be grasped by players across language barriers. The rules are simple and elegant enough for new players, but the occasional special action card can keep things interesting for seasoned gamers. 

Card Game: Fluxx

• Designer: Kristin and Andrew Looney
• Publisher: Looney Labs
• 2-6 players
• 5-30 min
• 8+

Advertised as a game with ever-changing rules, Fluxx is a card game that is very simple to learn and works well for groups of hesitant or new gamers. The basic premise of the game is that you take turns drawing cards and then playing a card from your hand in the hopes of achieving the goal from the active goal card. However, the goal card can change when someone plays a new one, and so can the rules of the game. With 31 different editions of the game including a Spanish-language translation and numerous fun themed versions (monsters, pirates, Star Trek, Spongebob, Marvel, Doctor Who, etc.), Fluxx appeals to a very wide audience. Fluxx is chaotic in nature, but quick, easy, and fun to play.

Card Game: SHH

• Designer: Chris Handy
• Publisher: Perplext
• 2-4 players
• 10 min
• 10+

SHH is one of the Pack O Game sets, so called because the small card games are each the size of a pack of gum. SHH is a cooperative game in which the players try to use up all of the cards in the alphabet by spelling out words onto the table. The trick is that the players can’t speak and don’t know what letters are in the other players’ hands. The game is a lot of fun and super easy to teach. 

We got a few of the Pack O Games donated to our library and were considering how to circulate them. The best idea yet was to get a travel sized carrying case and circulate six to eight games in the pouch, as Perplext sells them. Has anyone circulated these before? What was the solution? 

Party Game: Happy Salmon

• Designer: Ken Gruhl, Matthew Inman, Elan Lee, Quentin Weir
• Publisher: Exploding Kittens LLC
• 3-6 players
• 2 min
• 6+

With an advertised play time of 90 seconds this is one of the quickest games we’ve come across. Gameplay is simple, get a stack of cards with a variety of actions and perform the actions on the cards until you have no cards left. Actions all require a partner to complete and range from a fist bump to a high five to the title drop happy salmon.  The joy (and chaos) of this game comes in the fact that there is no turn order and your whole group is trying simultaneously to find partners, perform actions, and mill through their decks as quickly as possible. Fun to play and just as fun to watch this is an excellent game for just about any group. 

TTRPG: Fate Accelerated

• Designer: Fred Hicks et al.
• Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
• 3-5 players
• 6+
• Available:

For $5 you can get a simple, streamlined and extremely accessible ruleset suitable for pretty much any setting in which you care to stick your players.  FATE requires only D6 dice (they sell their own special versions, but any will work), and characters are based in “high concepts” (Fun-loving goofball necromancer) and aspects (“Overly morbid,” or “Talks to spirits only they can see”).The rest relies on overcoming challenges of various difficulty using (or not using) those aspects and acquiring more.  The game can thus easily be pitched as an introduction to young or first-time players of TTRPGs, and at only 50 pages can easily make for a good introduction to GMing a campaign as well.

Video Game: Jackbox Party Packs

• Designer and Publisher : Jackbox Games, Inc.
• Publisher: Exploding Kittens
• 2-10,000 players
• 10-30 min
• Ages: Child – Adult depending on the game
• Available:

If you’re traveling to see family and friends and are unsure what to do, Jackbox Party Packs are collections of quick, party minigames. They’re also great for playing when apart. Someone hosts the game using a device like a computer, gaming console, or smart TV, and then everyone plays with their own web-enable device (i.e. phone or computer) while watching the game on the screen. Examples of games include: Quiplash, where players respond to prompts and then everyone votes on their favorites; Tee K.O. where players design T-shirts to win the most votes; and Guesspionage where players try to guess how people responded to a poll question (think of Family Feud). Most games can be played by 1-8 people, but if you have more players, they join as audience members which gives them unique ways to affect the outcome of the games. The games are rated T, but include moderation settings to make sure the game is good for everyone.

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