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The 11 Best Portable Board Games, From Magnetic Chess To Travel Catan

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Whether it's time spent waiting at the airport, driving long stretches on a road trip, or during quiet nights spent indoors with family or friends, playing a board game often makes downtime during traveling far more fun. However, since there's not always room to pack bulky board games in your luggage or bags, the best portable board games are compact in size, making them easy to carry around.

When shopping for a portable board game, keep an eye out for board-less board games as well as travel versions of classic board games. Both of these options lend themselves to portability since, without a large full-size board and box, they'll typically be easier to pack or transport.

You'll also want to keep in mind the size of your group. Most portable board games are designed for two players, although it is possible to find ones that can accommodate more people. The length of gameplay should also be considered. The best travel-sized games are often simplified from their full-sized versions and/or relatively quick to learn and play without a lot of complicated rules to remember.

See the list below for five of the best portable board games to take on your next trip.

1

Hive — A Game Crawling With Possibilities

Age: 8 and up

Number of players: 2

What's great about it: Similar to chess but with pieces featuring different bugs instead of knights and rooks, Hive is a fun and fast game that can be played on any surface, since it doesn't require a board. The game's objective is to capture the other player's Queen Bee tile by surrounding it with your own tiles. When you're done, the durable plastic tiles can be put away in the included zippered nylon bag.

According to one reviewer: "I bought this game for camping trips, and it is exactly what I was looking for! It's portable, durable, beautiful to look at, and incredibly fun! It's a lot like a wacky, abstract version of chess (but more fun). The carrying case is awesome and durable, and I love that it zips up. You can totally toss this around and beat it up all you want on road trips, camping, etc. It's great!"

2

Bananagrams Game

Age: 7 and up

Number of players: 1 to 16

What's great about it: If you love Scrabble and other word-building games, you might want to pick up Bananagrams for your next trip. Tucked inside the banana-shaped carrying bag are 288 letter tiles that players use to build crossword grids. Instead of counting up points, the fastest person to use up all of their letters wins Bananagrams.

According to one reviewer: "This couldn't be a simpler game but very effective and competitive. The young ones can beat the adults because it is not the long words that will net the win, but the diverse words. The family has enjoyed this many a morning while we enjoy our coffee. One of the easiest games to travel with and always a good time when it comes out."

3

Scrabble To Go Board Game

Age: 8 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What's great about it: Scrabble has been popular for almost 100 years for a reason — it's a fun word game that multiple people can play at once. This Scrabble To Go board has everything you love about the larger version, but a foldable board, snap-in tiles, and lightweight, plastic privacy shields make this a great portable board game. Even better, the board, the tiles, the score pad, and the privacy shields can all fit into the case and zip closed, so you can toss it in your car or carry-on and go.

According to one reviewer: "Just received our travel scrabble board. We are very pleased with this travel game board. It seems very sturdy with a strong zipper. It holds everything within the zippered board; the board, the trays, the bag of tiles, the instructions, the score sheet pad and a place for 2 pencils. It will be easy to throw into a travel or rolling bag. The game board snaps into place and stays open nicely."

4

Magnetic Games 5-In-1 Travel Games

Age: 3 and up

Number of players: 2

What's great about it: Want more than one board game option to take with you on the go? This five-in-one magnetic travel set contains classic games like chess, checkers, dominoes, backgammon, and playing cards — all conveniently sized to fit inside a single box that's weighs a little more than a pound.

According to one reviewer: "We had a lot fun with this during our trip. The size is ideal for both kids and parents. We used it for chess and checkers games but also learned how to play dominoes and playing card games. Most importantly the price is pretty low for five different games in one single set."

5

Yahtzee To Go

Age: 8 and up

Number of players: 2+

What’s great about it: Yahtzee is a tired-and-true classic, and this portable version fits inside a compact cup, so you can take it with you anywhere. This set includes five dice, the cup with a lid for storage, and 100 score cards. The only thing you’ll need to pack is a writing utensil. While this doesn’t have a contained surface as a board, you can use any flat surface available to you to roll the dice, see your hand, and keep score. For fans of the original game, this is the most portable version you can find.

Editor’s note: I’ve played a similar version of Yahtzee on beach trips, and it’s so nice to be able to throw everything in the can and transport it all. — Amy Biggart

According to one reviewer: “It comes with basically all you need - Yahtzee score cards, dice, and a can to keep them in! All you will need is a writing pen or pencil. Love being able to play this in the car, on a plane, camping, or just at home!”

6

Pop-O-Matic Trouble Grab & Go

Age: 5 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What’s great about it: Another portable version of a classic game, this compact “Grab & Go” edition of Trouble offers all of the fun of the original. Contained inside a poppable clear bubble, you’ll roll the dice by pushing down on it, which then tell you how many spaces you can move your four game pieces. Get all of the pieces all around the board, and you’ll be the winner. This edition of Trouble also comes with a lid that you can put over the board to hold the game pieces in place while you travel, and a box for the entire set.

According to one reviewer: “I loved this game when I was a kid. We were getting ready for a long road trip with our family and thought it would be great for our kids. Turns out it was their favorite game to play in the car! So glad that we could share this game with them.”

7

Mancala

Age: 6 and up

Number of players: 2

What’s great about it: For a two-player game you can bring anywhere, this Mancala board folds up and can be brought anywhere easily. This game involves just two parts: the wooden board, and a collection of plastic stones. You’ll pick up the stones in any of the circles on your side of the game board, and drop one stone in each circle as you move in the direction of your “end zone” of the board. When all the stones have been moved to either your or your partner’s “end zone,” you’ll count up how many stones each of you has. The person with the most, wins!

According to one reviewer: “I had never heard of Mancala before, but my daughter had been introduced to it at her summer camp and wanted it at home. I bought this one so that we could take it with us on vacations and over to Grandpa's house. It has worked out great!”

8

Tic Tac Toe Travel Board Game

Age: 4 and up

Number of players: 2

What’s great about it: Tic Tac Toe is a fan favorite and a super simple game to play. This version is designed with kids in mind (though adults can play as well), and has a game board where you gradually take turns putting an “X” or an “O” in each box until one person makes a sequence of three in a row. This handheld game involves no pieces, and is easy to throw in the seat pocket of a car, or in a travel carry-on bag to keep kids and adults entertained when you’re on the go.

According to one reviewer: “This is really cute and came on time and package was like i just got it out of the store. [It’s] a great traveling game and my grandson loves it.”

9

Catan Traveler

Age: 10 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What's great about it: A more portable version of a classic game, this traveler Catan is a great buy, even if you've never played the larger version. This portable board allows you to settle the isle of Catan just like the larger version, but the board has built-in drawers to store roads, settlements, and cities, and the board it self has holes where you can plug in the game pieces. This makes it easy to travel with, and a breeze to play when you're on the go whether by plane, train, or automobile.

According to one reviewer: "This traveler edition is AMAZING. My friend bought me an early copy from GenCon. For perspective, I've played all versions of Catan and expansions. My favorite is Cities and Knights, so I was unsure about how much play I'd get out of this version, given that I haven't played 'regular' Catan in a while. The biggest pro about this traveler edition is ease of set-up - it takes literally 30 seconds to be ready to play, as opposed to 5-10 minutes for setting up the full version. The drawers hold the mini card-caddies with cards and all of the playing pieces, so all you have to do is unfold the case, randomly place your board tiles (there are 6 pieces, each reversible, making for many board variation possibilities), place the robber, and you're done - off and ready to play."

10

Connect 4 Grab-And-Go Game

Age: 6 and up

Number of players: 2

What’s great about it: Classic Connect 4 is a blast, and this travel-sized edition is no different. Designed for kids ages 6 and up (and adults of course), you’ll take turns sliding small discs into slots, trying to connect four discs by color, either diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. While fans of this compact version recommend storing the discs in a bag so they don’t move around, the rest of the game set fits in the portable box so you can take it on a car ride, on a plane, or wherever you’re headed.

According to one reviewer: “My son loves playing Connect 4, so this was the perfect travel toy for us to play on the plane. I took it out of the box and put it into a ziplock bag. A ziplock bag is a must, because the little discs fall out of the holder when tossed into a carry on bag. It worked perfectly and we played this game numerous times.”

11

Codenames

Age: 14 and up

Number of players: 4+

What’s great about it: This cult-favorite board and card game, Codenames, is designed for a group, and involves espionage. You’ll compete to uncover the identities of 25 secret agents, after receiving one-word clues from designated “Spymasters” that reveal which secret agent goes by which codename. Depending on your luck and skill, this game can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes (game play is 15 minutes on average). While this board game does involve cards and a timer, it takes up relatively little space and all fits compactly into its own box so you can carry it on trips or to game nights.

According to a Bustle editor: “Codenames is one of the smaller boxed games I own, and it's an easy size to carry to a friend's game night or on a road trip. My friends and I have spent countless hours craned over the cards and laughing at our unexpected prompts. Codenames is definitely a go-to in my house.” — Wesley Salazar