Best Travel Games (Mike Trotzke Guest Post)

With the July 4th holiday on deck for those of us in the States, many are heading out on various adventures and outdoor activities.  However, a great way to keep the good times rolling while your waiting for dinner to cook at camp or pass out under the stars is to bust out some games.  My good friend Mike Trotzke is the biggest game guru that I know and last time we hung out, we played a ton of amazing games I’d never heard of before.  His game closet looks like he robbed a train transporting games instead of gold.  I asked him if he’d like to share with us a list of great games for traveling.  So, without further ado, here’s Mike’s list of games that you’ve probably never heard of and will love:

Games for All

These are games that work with experienced gamers and newbies alike. Simple, but well designed games.


Perfect portable card game. I carry it with me in my bag a lot. 2-4 players. Very simple set collection and light economics game with enough meat for gamers to like it as well.

Zombie Dice

Quick push your luck dice game. Nothing but dice so very durable. Ditch the cup it comes in and get a little dice bag for it. Also available as a Dino Hunt and Trophy Buck if you aren’t into zombies.


Requires 7 to play, but is only a few cards and is an absolute blast with the right group. The perfect game for large groups.


This comes in a bigger tin, but is great for being the container to carry other games in. You can fit a couple dice games and a card game in the tin which serves as an excellent place to roll dice from lots of games while traveling.

No Thanks

Kind of a reverse auction game. A few cards and 55 chips. It’s a fun abstract with a poker like feel to it. Requires 3-5 players.


Short Card game for 2-5 that has a really interesting push your luck/screw your neighbor card drafting mechanic. You try to collect the highest number of no more than 3 different colors. I also like the Zooleretto dice version, but it’s currently only available in Germany.

Martian Dice

Similar to Zombie Dice, but with a few more choices. Just dice so very portable and durable. Also comes in a cup you should ditch for a dice bag.

Qwirkle Travel

Abstract tile laying game with durable wood tiles. Feels like scrabble but with shapes instead of words.

Light Strategy Games

While these are still relatively easy to learn, they have a few more rules, last a little longer and have more replay value.

Love Letter

Very portable 16 card game of luck and deduction. Slightly more involved as the cards have a special actions, but still easy to pick up. You can play to any number of rounds. You can also mix two sets together and play with up to 8. I carry this in my wallet at all times.

Travel Carcassonne

A great tile laying and worker placement game. Scales well from 2-5 and has a ton of replay value. The travel edition isn’t compatible with other expansions, but it’s lightweight and comes in a handy little bag perfect for throwing in a backpack. For a more strategic game, you can play with a hand of 3 tiles, drawing back up to 3 at the end of your turn.


A more gamers game, with all pay auction, bluffing and area control mechanics that plays up to 6. This one feels more like a full sized strategy board game in a little package. You must play with the draw 3 variant at the back of the rule book (not the broken rules in the regular game) and print out a cheat sheet for the card actions (available here: Getting the game ready is some extra work, but it’s worth it. This is one of my favorite games at any size.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

Small box game that feels like a bigger board game because it uses cards as a board. Set collection game (similar to Ticket to Ride) about hauling goods around the Midwest. Plays 2-4 players. Unfortunately it looks like it’s currently sold out.


Classic role selection game that scales well from 2-7 players. A little hard to pick up and play as you need to familiarize yourself with the 8 different role cards to get going. Once you do it’s a great strategy game with a lot replay value.

Catan Dice

A simple dice game version of popular strategy game Settlers of Catan. Comprised of a pen and paper score sheet and custom dice. You don’t really need the cup for travel. Make sure and play the advanced rules (when not playing solo). It doesn’t really capture the feel of Settlers, but it’s a fun and very portable diversion for fans of the full board game. Also check out Struggle for Catan. It’s a card game that managers to capture a lot of the feel of Catan in just 110 cards. Make sure and ditch the way too big for the game box.


I actually haven’t gotten my hands on this one to play this yet. It’s new this year and getting a lot of buzz. It’s a cooperative game where you hold your cards backwards and can only see the other players cards. You work together to help each other play the right card in sequence. Looks interesting.

Great with Kids Games

These are light games that kids as little as 6 could get into, but are still fun for parents. Also great for non gamers, who just want something silly and fun.

Pass the Pigs

Simple push you luck pig rolling game. Really just a varient of the pig dice game, but rolling plastic pigs is always a hit. You don’t need the whole container, just the pigs, the little scorecard and scorekeeper app or pen and paper.

Apple To Apples Kids

This game might be made for travel, but it’s one of the few games everyone from 7 year olds to grandparents seem to enjoy. The kids version has just 288 cards and packs up nicely.


Almost too simple, but I find younger kids like it a lot. Reverse trick taking game that requires a little math, a lot of luck, but no reading. Has comic artwork of suburban stereotypes with increasingly powerful weapons.

Rory’s Story Cubes

This is much more of an activity than a game, but for very little ones it’s always a hit. Roll the dice and then tell a story using the icons on the dice to drive the narrative. Small and durable.

Animal upon Animal: Small and yet great!

A little 2 player dexterity game that fits in a little jewelry bag. Short and sweet this is more Jenga than a strategic game, but the wood pieces are engaging and it can be tough with the small pieces. Another popular choice with the smaller kids.

Spot-It On the Road

Look at 2 cards and try to be the first one to spot what symbol appears on both cards. The On the Road version has the added benifit of being able to look outside the car for matches with the cards while driving.

iOS Games and Apps

Sometimes your phone is a great tool for playing board games while traveling. There a couple of great apps worth checking out.

Heads Up

A fun party game for iOS. Hold your phone to your head where all the other players can see the word it displays. Depending on the pack, your teammates try to describe the word or act it out. Always a blas particularly in larger groups. Also see Time’s Up, Word Party and Reverse Charades on iOS for simular antics.!/id623592465?mt=8

Ticket To Ride

One of my favorite board games, works decent for pass and play but is excellent over bluetooth with multiple devices.




Excellent on the iPad since the game has no hidden information. Lay the ipad down on the table and start playing.

Score Keeper XL

A great simple free scorekeeper for when you don’t have a pen and paper handy.

Scoring Track Plus

A new clever little score track app that I end up using more than Score Keeper XL. There is no setup. Just pick a color and go.

Games You Already Own

Don’t forget  6 or more dice and a standard deck of plastic cards. There are tons of great games with standard components.


Puzzling game that you can play anywhere, anytime with just loose change. Each player takes a matching set of coins (typically 3 pennies, 2 nickels, and a dime). On a players turn, they must play a coin into the middle and may take back as many coins as they wish as long as the total value of the coins is less than the value of the coin played. Once one player is out of coins, whoever has the most total value of coins in front of them wins. That’s it. Very simple, accessible, durable and addictive. We often play a set number of rounds adding your scores together for each round.

Dice Games

There are several great dice games played with standard dice. Some of my favorites include: Dudo, Crag,  Indian Chief, Intelligence, Ten Thousand, Liar Dice, Poker Dice, and Dice Hold’em.

Card Games

There are also tons of traditional card games that are great games. In addition to the standard Rummy, Poker, Hearts and Spades I really like Big Two and Oh Hell!

That’s a lot of games. If I had to pick my top 6 travel games, I would probably go with Archeology, Love Letter, Pass the Pigs, Werewolf, Travel Carcassonne and Zombie Dice (with the slightly more cumbersome Condottiere, Heartland Hauling, and Citadels not far behind).

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