Summer Getaway Games

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on Jul 18, 2016

Vacation. It’s a summertime ritual that many look forward to every year, a chance to get away and head to the beach, to theme parks, to see family or just to escape from the workaday rigmarole. But let’s face it, there are logistics involved with vacation that aren’t always very exciting- travel time, lots of waiting, rain days and so forth. And there is often downtime between events or attractions, or cool down at the end of a long day of having fun. This is why some folks like to take things like games with them on vacation.

Frankly, I think that’s just crazy and I leave all my games at home. When I vacate, I tend to vacate away from hobbies as well as work. It’s kind of ironic because the first hobby game I ever bought was a copy of Dungeon, which I picked up when my family was on a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina circa 1981. I don’t believe I have taken a game on vacation since.

But for some of our Review Corner writers, they have some favorites they like to load up in the luggage. I asked them to come forward with titles that were easy to transport, easy to store and easy to keep track of when you are on the road, on a flight or hanging out at a hotel. So here are their picks for Summer Getaway Games.

Michael Barnes


Vacations are by nature “on-the-go.” So it would stand that if you want to take a game along it needs to be portable and compact. Ideally you’d also like to play anywhere and accommodate a handful of people – certainly more than the ubiquitous 4-player threshold. Citadels fits the bill and delivers big fun in a small package. It’s easy to learn and constantly moves apace while keeping everyone at the table – or wherever you’re playing – engaged. It takes up modest table space and it doesn’t require a lot of administration or manipulation. All of that makes Citadels an ideal light, humorous game to take on the go.


When you need a break from sightseeing, sunburn or senile relatives, pull out Dr. Knizia's classic Lost Cities for tabletop exploration and relaxation. Its simple rules and medium strategy provide fun for the whole family, even those who aren't into games without "opoly" in the title. Tell Dad it's just like playing two-person solitaire, or point out to Mom it has wagering that's almost like bridge, and before they know it they'll be on the path to deeper gaming.

If you want a nice filler between sand castles and roller coasters, explore the fun of Lost Cities with your family this summer.


I’ve brought big box games with me on vacation before with serious intent to get them to the table in whatever tiny amount of free time we have. But then I realized that the “tiny amount of time” means even a 60-minute game isn’t going to be completed before someone passes out, and that hotel tables are usually REALLY small!

IELLO’s Welcome to the Dungeon is the solution to both problems. It’s a push-your-luck game of chicken where the group sends a mighty hero into the monster-infested dungeon, but not until after players take turns stripping the hero of equipment integral to his survival. The last player to pass must delve into the dungeon with whatever is left!

The game's tiny box fits in the side pocket of a suitcase and, fully set up, the footprint is a deck of cards and handful of cardboard tiles per hero. Two to four vacationers can play a full game—which lasts until someone successfully delves twice or all but one player is eliminated by two failures—in about 15-20 minutes.


On vacation with a special someone? There’s no better way to say “Hey, I’m really enjoying my time with you” than hate-drafting that last card they need to score big points in a set and foiling their entire plans. Tides of Time is a 2-player 18-card drafting game that plays in about 20 minutes. It’s perfect to play along with morning coffee or on a break in between excursions. The game is simple: pick a card, and then pass. As you start building sets in front of you and learn which cards you’re passing back and forth to your opponent, the mind games start. Do you take the card you think your opponent needs? Is he/she choosing the card you need next turn? This double-think tension absolutely makes the game, which continues to get better with more plays, especially against the same opponent. Tides of Time is a must have for any microgame, set collection, and/or 2-player card game lovers.


Hive Pocket is the holy Trinity of travel games: it's nearly indestructible, it fits in your pocket, and it can be played in ten minutes. Only, you won't just play it once—you'll finish a game and say, "Huh. I didn't see that finishing move coming. Let's give it another go..." And before you know it, you'll have spent half your camping trip or beach house time knocking out games of Hive here and there. It lends itself to repeat play against the same opponent as you think and double-think your moves, allowing previous games to inform your play. But it's also ridiculously easy to pick up, so even if you and a friend start playing, your other vacation pals are sure to gather around asking when they can have a turn.


I know that when I'm going on holiday, I always bring a couple of light games, and my go-to has been Eight Minute Empire. It's small enough to take up negligible room in a carry-on bag, and it can be played on a couple of seat back tray tables on an airplane. It's fast enough that you can play it in a half an hour as well, so it's the perfect game to play with the spouse over morning coffee while the kids are still asleep from a full day of romping around whatever tourist attraction they begged you to go to. It's even great for a larger family gathering, and the rules are so simple to understand that it won't have that eye rolling effect that Agricola can have when you tried to get your mother in law to play last year. All in all, it's a fantastic little game that I have adored for years and that can be brought with you wherever you go.


On vacation, you need something that travels well, can be explained in moments, and is accessible to young and old alike. And hardly anything fits that bill as well as Red7. The rule is that you need to be winning at the end of your turn. If you aren't you're out. And all you need to do is play the highest card. Of course, other players might play higher cards. Or they might change the rules entirely. Maybe the win condition changes to most of a kind, or most of a color. And the advanced rules even allow for tricky extra draws or plays. Red7 is also flexible enough to be played in a series of micro-rounds while waiting for the burgers to cook, or with cumulative scoring if you want it to last a little longer.


6 Nimmt! comes in a box that will fit in the pocket of your jeans (or bathing suit) but packs in a game that can be played for hours. The premise is simple: play your numbered cards to the table adding them to one of five rows. Cards are assigned to rows in ascending order and when a row gains its 6th card, that player collects all the cards in the row to their score pile. The person with the least points at the end of the game wins. It's easy to teach and plays up to 10 people which makes it perfect for impromptu vacation gaming. Whether you're crammed into the common room of a hostel or lounging by the pool, 6 Nimmt! is the kind of game that can draw a crowd and make for a memorable evening. Play once or play a string of games with cumulative scoring; either way it's hard to go wrong with this classic.


Being on vacation makes me feel like I sometimes need to leave the "real" games at home while the stuff that's easier to transport makes the trip. But as I prepare for a vacation of my own, I know one game that will be making the long trip with us. Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game is an outstanding distillation of the dungeon-crawling experience, recreating all of the monster-smashing and loot-grabbing we've come to expect from the genre in a couple stacks of cards and piles of tokens. But what if you don't have anyone else who's as into gutting Skaven as you are? Never fear, WHQ:ACG plays extremely well in a solitaire format. It's a surprisingly replayable game in a small box that works in a wide range of circumstances. Good thing too, because evil never takes a vacation


When you're on vacation you want to relax and have a few laughs. More than likely you're inebriated and quite possibly you have kids in tow. Hey, Cockroach Poker doesn't judge - it just brings the fun.

You're lying through your teeth and making point blank accusations over a few cards with ugly-as-sin insects. It brings everyone together and forces confrontation in a way that evokes giggle fits. It also helps that the rules are dead simple and can even be grokked by that rickety wooden chair in the corner. This game is a winner no matter the climate and should be tossed in your bag pronto.