Have Games, Will Travel

Todd S. writes:

Hello, Father Geek!
Can you recommend any good traveling games for kids age 4 to 10? I plan to take a long flight with my kids around the Holidays and would prefer to pass the time with games that are easy to store and to easy to play between the plane seats.

I Still Call Australia Home

The Flying Kangaroo

Thanks for the question, Todd. Flights pose a particular challenge for gamers, because of the following considerations:

  • Table space and side-by-side seating: this demands the selection of games whose layout (tableau, if you will) is not only small, but where the elements of that layout reside largely with the players, rather than in the center.
  • Jostling and turbulence: ever tried retrieving small game pieces from the floor of an airplane, or asking the passengers behind to vacate their seats while you do so? No, I haven’t either, but I’m not excited about the idea. Games with multiple small components are an invitation to disaster. For games that need dice, you can confine the rolls to a box lid, although I find that younger children have difficulty with this.
  • Space: as you mentioned, Todd, these games need to store compactly. No-one wants to be that guy who carries two large suitcases onto the plane and huffs and puffs when there’s not enough space in the overhead lockers to fit the personal luggage that is clearly more than double the cabin allowance just because he’s too lazy to check in his bags and too self-centered to consider that his fellow passengers have bags too. I hate that guy! And yet there’s at least one of these on every flight (I fly 7-8 times a month, on average). So don’t be that guy, Todd.

I have only flown twice with my children, but I can base my answer on my experience with gaming with my children at the restaurant, an approximately weekly occurrence. Here are some games that are moderately suitable for flying:

  • Duck, Duck, Bruce, reviewed here at our very own Father Geek. This game has a single die that is used 6 times during the game, but apart from that it’s perfect for flying.
  • Coloretto, a set collection card game that is only slightly less complex than its more highly fancied cousin Zooloretto, but much more suitable for flying.
  • No Thanks!, another set collection game, is admittedly not ideal because of the many flimsy plastic chips. It would be a suitable choice if you are very careful, and in any case, lost chips are easy to replace.
  • Snorta!, a fun but noisy version of Snap using animal cards and animal noises, is suitable in most respects. I wouldn’t play this one too many times on the plane, as the other passengers are likely to become quite annoyed.
  • Gumball Rally, a racing game using cards only (no track), fits the bill in all respects.
  • UNO, an oldie but a goodie for this age and environment.

With the exception of Snorta, which may run a little longer, all of these games will last 5-10 minutes (although No Thanks!, UNO and Duck, Duck, Bruce can be played over several rounds if you are keeping cumulative scores). You would do well to have at least 2 or 3 games packed if you wish to keep the children occupied for a couple of hours.

Then there also travel editions of classic designer games, of which I would venture to suggest Blokus To Go and Ingenious: Travel Edition may be good choices, although both are limited to 2 players, unlike the original versions of those games.

Finally, pass-and-play with the iPad may be an option, and I have covered some of the available boardgame apps in this article. Note that most of these games would be unplayable on a plane in their original cardboard form.

The title of this post is a tribute to the erstwhile podcast Have Games, Will Travel by Paul Tevis, in which boardgames and role-playing games were discussed regularly. On that subject, I know that regular readers of Father Geek are brimming with anticipation at the rumored announcement of a Father Geek podcast. I am pleased to confirm for you, now, today, you heard it here first, that we shall not be embarking on anything of the sort, I mean, c’mon folks, we have our hands full already!

Happy traveling, Todd, and please write back to tell us how the trip went.

About Meng

Board Game Fanatic, and Father of Two, Meng is an Australian who became hooked on board games at high school, with such classics as Talisman and Diplomacy. Years later, he rekindled his interest while living in the United States, both immersing himself in the local gaming scene and also taking advantage of mail-order to expand his collection to some 300 items. After returning to Australia in 2008, and with little time left after work, study and travel, the majority of his gaming nowadays is with his two young children. Hoping one day in the distant future to teach them to play a rollicking game of Die Macher, in the meantime he provides more age-appropriate fare and tries to discuss some life lessons along the way. Meng goes by the handle meng on Board Game Geek.
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3 Responses to Have Games, Will Travel

  1. Cyrus says:

    Also, bring snacks. Lots of snacks. 🙂

  2. Todd says:

    Wow! I can’t believe you guys actually responded! Very professional and great advice! And yes, I’ll bring snacks. Bags upon bags of finger food.

    I will most definitely try to remember to post the results of my trip.

    Thank you, Meng and Father Geek!

  3. Todd says:

    A successful trip! Thank you very much, Father Geek and Meng for your tips and tricks.

    I took Gumball Rally and Duck, Duck, Bruce with me per your suggestions. We had a some extra space below our legs (we were next to the emergency exit) and the kids played on the floor. The very long trip to Scotland didn’t seem so long at all!

    Just wanted to let you know how it went. Now, back to presents and good times.

    Happy Holidays from Dublin!

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