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8 great board games you can play anywhere

Leave the tabletop, take the games: Here are some great compact titles for your summer trips

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A collage image of four titles included in this list: Coin Age, Cult Following, Cubeo, and Dice of Pirates. Graphic: Pete Volk/Polygon | Image sources: Tasty Minstrel Games; Marek Kolcun; Bravely Told Games; Thing 12

Ah, the great outdoors... Nothing is better than a good week camping, a trip to the beach, or a hike in the forest to celebrate the great summer weather. Birds chirping, water rushing, sun warming your skin, it’s a great change of pace from stuffy weekends gaming inside.

But after a few hours of those stunning natural views, you may find yourself a bit… bored. Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring more than just a pack of playing cards or a book for entertainment? There’s no need to daydream of your console or game table back home. We’ve compiled a list of eight great board games that are compact, have less components to lose, and are playable just about anywhere.

From two-player strategy and family-friendly titles to party games great for large groups, find something new to play au naturel this summer.

Hive Pocket

A red pouch that says “Hive Pocket” next to a bunch of tiles with bugs on them Image: Gen42 Games
  • $31 at Amazon

Sometimes you only have one other person interested in playing a game on a day out. Challenge them to a match of Hive Pocket! This tile-layer is a sized-down version of the classic (Hive) making it a great option for familiar but easily portable play. Your objective is simple: completely surround your opponent’s queen piece. Games move fast, but don’t underestimate this tile placement game - strategies and blocking tactics keep gameplay fresh.

The 26 tiles come in a handy pouch so you’re less likely to lose them. Every piece you play also stays on the “board” until the end of the game so there are no loose pieces to keep track of. Lay out the beach blanket, find a flat log, or dust off a picnic table - you can play anywhere. This makes the game great for travel, and we think the bug-themed tiles shine best in the great outdoors. Take it on the go this summer for some strategic play under the sun!

Dice of Pirates

A tin that says “Dice of Pirates” on it, styled like a barrel, next to some pirate-themed dice, tokens, and a small ship. Image: Thing 12
  • $23 at Target

Can’t find a flat surface to roll on? To play Dice of Pirates all you need is the game’s “box”.

It takes up the same space as a tin of mints, so you can definitely bring this refreshing luck-based game anywhere you roam. There is a small bag of tokens, a pirate ship, and seven dice — not much to keep track of even out on a summer trip. Ready to play? Each die has six different symbols: The more matching faces you roll, the more tokens you earn. Roll the dice in the tin (or on another surface) to rack up matches, earn tokens, and eventually win control of the ship.

Gameplay is quick, allows up to six players, and is easy for kids and folks who don’t often play board games to learn and enjoy. It’s definitely a great way to spice up a long day on the beach or pass some time while traveling this summer.


Cover art for Cubeo, with cubist text and black squares against an orange background. Image: Marek Kolcun

Cubeo is an ultra-portable two-player game that is fast-paced, strategic, and only requires 12 six-sided dice and a flat surface to play on. The first one to merge their dice to a value over six wins. Block your opponent to get a leg up, or lay down a die to gain points.

Not only is the game quick to play and easy to learn, but you probably already have everything you need to play. Find the rules online and use your own dice (we recommend two different colored sets of six six-sided dice) for an easy last-minute addition to your summer trip bag. Take it on a hike for some trailside fun that fits in your pack and is easy to play even on the ground… if you don’t mind dusting off your dice.

Cult Following

The box for the game Cult Following, which shows a cult figure on a hillside as sheep fall off. Image: Bravely Told Games
  • $18 at Macy’s
  • $18 at Amazon

Choose Cult Following as your go-to party game for the summer. Each round, a few players blend prompts from their hand into a ridiculous cult. The rest of the group then listens to their pitches and decides which cult to join. Whoever gets two followers the fastest wins the round. Creative storytelling keeps this game engaging for groups of up to eight players (and countless onlookers).

The small box and limited cards make the game super portable and great for outdoor use. Discard used cards into the box lid so nothing gets lost as you play outside. To really get the cult initiation ambiance, bring it camping and play a few rounds by the fire after dark.

Find it on Macy’s or Amazon for $18.29


The box for Similo Fables, which shows two characters on the cover (a genie and someone holding a very red fruit) and prompts you to find out the secret charafcter. Image: Horrible Guild
  • $10 at Amazon
  • Walmart

If cults aren’t your jam, Similo is a great choice. This card-based character guesser comes in tons of themes, from animals to mythological and historical figures. Grab your favorite pack and between two and eight players for this fun co-op deduction game. Play cards as clues to help other players guess your secret character. If they rule it out you lose, but if they guess right, everyone wins!

This game is another easy one to teach kids, friends, and relatives on the go. You can even pick up two different packs and mix-and-match them to add an extra challenge. Since it’s just a single pack of 12 cards, you can really play anywhere. Start deducing on the beach, by the trail, or at your campsite to keep summer boredom at bay.

Happy Salmon

The box for Happy Salmon, which is green and red with a happy salmon on it. It says it’s “a 90-second game that you will play for hours.” Image; NorthStar Game Studio
  • $13 at Amazon
  • $13 at Target
  • $13 at Walmart

When you’ve had enough time lounging in the sun, get up and move with Happy Salmon. There are no turns, players just call out the action (like a high five or swapping places) from their deck and find someone to match with. When you find a match, perform the action and move to the next card in your pile. The first person with zero cards remaining wins.

The game comes inside a fake fish about the size of a banana, so it’s fun and easy to take to the beach or river (or anywhere else). Plus, it only includes cards, so there are no pieces to lose. Grab the family to get some energy out or a group of up to six friends to embrace some chaos. This game is fun for all ages and hilarious to play (or watch) in public.

Coin Age

Cover image for Coin Age, which shows a map and a collection of coins taking up space on it. Image: Tasty Minstrel Games

Don’t want to take a bag from the car to your favorite summer spot? You can still play Coin Age. Start an epic duel of area control on a single card with just change from your pocket. Place coins down to capture spaces and gain victory points. The player that ends with the most points wins.

This is the best complex gameplay you could want for a single card “board”. It’s quick, a true microgame, and packs a ton of strategy into every match. Print the card out before you leave the house and enjoy on any flat surface. Take it to the beach, poolside, or even on plane and car trips to your final destination. Lost a piece? It’s just a few cents and a single card you can replace.

Get the print-and-play instructions here, and make sure you have the coins to play!


The box for Fugitive, showing a pair of people filled with intrigue, and a shot of them running. Image; Fowers Games
  • $30 at Fowers Games

If you can’t get enough deduction, Fugitive is a must-play. Bring it camping, picnicking, or on beach trips for an epic two-player chase that’s easily playable on any flat surface. The fugitive leaves a trail of clue cards and tries to escape before the detective can figure it out and catch them. Whoever succeeds in their goal first wins.

It’s fun, easy to learn, and a short time investment for a game on the go. This is another easy-to-teach game for older kids, family, and friends. Plus, there aren’t loose pieces to lose in the sand or dirt. Give this fun Clue-esque game a try as a boredom buster while you enjoy some time outside.