Monday, March 2, 2015

Portable Gaming for Geeks and Non-Geeks

To some degree we all enjoy playing games. I have run into the rare individual who swears they do not enjoy playing games; they probably spend their free time torturing small bunnies or something like that. But for the rest of us, whether we live in our parents' basements or not, getting together with friends, or those you have kidnapped for those who live in basements, and playing a game is a fun time. But some of us have small apartments or not many friends or other circumstances make it difficult to play games at home.

In school and college, students will carry around backpacks. In school it is a requirement, and of course it must be clear as privacy is a thing of the past. In college it is a choice geeks make to carry around their roleplaying manuals and such. Some of us though just carry around a shoulder bag, a small messenger bag or military bag, a fanny pack or any number of other over the shoulder or off the waist portable bags that are designed to carry essentials and not tons of geek stuff. Card decks, paperbacks, and even some magazines might fit in them, but what about games? 

Here are a few suggestions of games available that don't take up a lot a space for transporting them. Some are just smaller travel versions of a game where others are just small games.


I have written an article before about the 1PG Gaming system by Deep7. It is a roleplaying system in which the core rules and character sheet fit on one page and is available in subjects including fantasy, science fiction, wild west, superheroes, disaster movies, pirates and even more.

Each gaming book is available as a PDF file which can be downloaded and printed out on your home computer, or you can order printed copies through Precis Intermedia which are just slightly larger than a comic book and you still get the PDF file as well. In each book are the basic rules, special rules for the gaming world, a character sheet with the core rules, and usually 5 or 6 adventures.

1PG games are ideal for pick-up games where you don't have characters generated or an adventure ready. Character generation literally only take a few minutes and each adventure is one page long and broken into parts to make it easy for you to set it up for players if you are gamemastering. Additionally they only require one common 6 sided die (singular for dice) to play.

If your shoulder bag is smaller than a comic book size then you can easily fold up the printed pages as each book is generally no more than 13 pages long.

Card Games

Card games are easy to carry in a purse, shoulder bag, fanny pack or other small bag. From a simple pack of playing cards you can get anywhere to specialized card games such as Uno which comes in a double pack and is still conveniently small for portability.

For regular playing cards I like a brand actually called Joker that can be bought at Big Lots stores, though other stores may carry it for all I know. Any deck will do, but the Joker brand comes with a folded up rulesheet in every deck which has the rules for several card games so rule disagreements can be settled or new games can be played.

Uno is a now classic card game that is based on the card game of Crazy 8s (Crazy 8s can be played with a regular deck of cards). Uno is a fun game that can handle up to 10 players and is great for when you have a bunch of people and don't want to leave anyone out. 2 player games are not much fun, but the more players the better it gets.

Although in a little larger package, Take Stock by Z-Man Games is a fun card game of the stock market that can be played by up to 6 players.

Monopoly Deal is a card game version of the Monopoly board game for 2 to 5 players. The object is to collect properties and it can be quite devious like its parent game.


Back in the late 70s and early 80s there was a fad of games coming out in micro, mini, and generally more portable versions. Metagaming was the leader in regard to these games and even though it has been something like 30 years since the company folded, several of their paperback sized Microgames have been kept in print, to varying degrees, by Decision Games.

Microgames are more complex than your average family board games and card games as they were aimed at the wargaming crowd and are smaller wargames, and like chess they are for two players. They include titles like: Rommel's Panzers, tank-to-tank battles in World War 2 North Africa; Stalin's Tanks, tank-to-tank battles in World War 2 Eastern Front (Russia); and Ram Speed, ship-to-ship naval battles with biremes, triremes and other galley warships in ancient Roman and Greek times.

Dice Games

Yahtzee is a fun game and can even be played solitaire, but it is not necessary to buy the game to play it as any 5 dice and an improvised scoresheet will work, and you can find rules for the game as an old dice game called Yacht.

Another really fun dice game is Cosmic Wimpout. It does require buying a set as they are specialized dice, but it comes in a small tube that is easily portable and includes the rules. The object of the game is to score with each roll without wimping out. Of course the higher you score the harder it is to quit and you could end up losing everything on one bad roll of the dice.

Many games can be played with 5 dice. There are various game rules books available with lots of rules for simple pick-up dice games that are fast to play and don't take up a lot of space to play.

Travel Games

Many board games are available in travel versions. Some of them are just scaled down versions of the complete game while others are different games based on the parent game but with simpler rules and components to allow it to be portable.

Chess is a favorite two-player game for many and is readily available in lots of travel versions. The travel versions are the complete game in just a smaller format are are available as a folding magnetic board and pieces and even a folding checkbook style with flat magnetic pieces. This 6 3/8 inch folding set is a really nice on and inexpensive. And if you want a more regular sized set, this 9.7 inch set can be a regular chess set or a compact one for travel; both sets are magnetic.

Clue and Monopoly are available in travel versions, though with some assembly required. They are fairly complete versions of the respective game with Monopoly using a randomizer for Community Chest and Chance rather than cards. Though they are advertised as travel games they are not very car travel friendly as with so many small pieces and being non-magnetic one good bump will scatter parts and pieces everywhere.

Sorry! has been available in different travel versions that are great for car play, but compared to the full game they have been castrated to one degree or another. Usually the board and track have fewer spaces, there are fewer playing pieces (usually only 2 instead of 4) and the cards which are the most fun part of the game have been replaced with much fewer disks or a spinner. Ideal for car travel as the pieces will stay, but outside of that they don't offer much. I'd link to the games but they are apparently out of print and expensive. Check Dollar General and Family Dollar stores for them as I have seen some travel games there.

The most basic deck of cards or pair of dice can provide hours of fun for a group of people, and are very portable. The suggestions I have made take those components and others to even further levels. We don't need to play games to have fun in groups as that's what movies, dinners, orgies (kidding) and stuff like that are for. But games are fun and having a deck of cards or more handy when among friends is a great way to pass the time.

Toxic Fletch

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