The Best Travel Games for New Zealand and the World!
Here at NZ Pocket Guide, we are a bit nerdy. We love board games, especially when travelling around New Zealand. There is nothing like bringing people together in a holiday park, campsite or hostel with a board game. Travel games are a fun way to break the ice when meeting complete strangers from another country, so it’s only fitting that we’ve put together a list of the best travel board games.
So in this list, we will go over the best travel board games that are available this year and beyond. Our main criteria for this list of the best travel board games is that they should pack as much fun as possible in a package as small as possible. That way, you still have plenty of luggage space for that rain jacket that we keep recommending for you to pack.
For more tips on things to pack, check out What Clothes to Pack to Backpack in New Zealand and What to Pack in Your Carry-On for New Zealand. For a complete list of things to pack for a trip around New Zealand, check out our complete New Zealand Packing List.
1. Archeology: The New Expedition – The Best Travel Game
This set collection game is quite simple. There is a bunch of cards in the middle of the table and all cards have a numbered value. On your turn, you will get to pick a card and exchange as many cards from your hand as you want with cards in the middle that totals the same value. Why? You are trying to create sets that will make your museum the best of all.
You can hold onto valuable cards to be able to do better exchange later but there are storms and thieves around that could make you lose them all! Or you can fill your museum with pot chards and ensure a low but steady point count. There are multiple variants in the game that make it replayable again and again and again… A sure bet if you ask us!
Check Archeology: The New Expedition out!
2. The Mind – The Best Travel Game for Adults
A fantastic travel board game and an even better social game, The Mind is a cooperative game where you win or lose together. The game contains 100 cards numbered one to 100. Every player gets a set number of cards each round and has to play them on the board in ascending order. You work together to empty your hands of cards and move onto the next level. If at any point somebody plays a card lower than what you have on hand, your whole team loses a life “rabbit”. Lose all your life rabbits; lose the game.
There’s one catch though: nobody can speak. You are just waiting as if in a Western shootout to see if somebody will place something. No, nobody, sure? Ok, I will place my 12 then… Suddenly somebody comes rushing with a 13 not wanting to be beaten by Laura that has a 16 in hand, while Robin relaxes in the corner as he has a 78 on hand and just wait for his moment to strike. It is tense yet fun and gets your “minds” in synch like no other game.
Check The Mind out!
3. Hanabi – The Best Travel Card Game
The concept of Hanabi is very simple: you are trying to create the best fireworks display by arranging cards in coloured suits and ascending numbers. Simple right? What if I told you that you do not have the right to look at your cards?! That’s right, this game is a cooperative game in which you win together or you lose together.
Using only a selected number of clues, you need to guide your teammates to play the correct card on their turn. If they play a card that did not fit in any suit, the fireworks get ever closer to being fired incomplete! Trying to get maximum score together is incredibly hard but a ton of fun, after a couple of games you’ll learn to read the stressed eye-twitches on your teammates faces more than any verbal clue.
Check Hanabi out!
4. Zombie Dice – The Best Travel Dice Game
This classic dice-chucking game asks you to roll dice three by three. For every “brain” you roll, you get a point. For every “footstep”, you get a reroll. For every “shotgun”, you get closer to losing it all. Roll more dice or stop while you are ahead: it’s your choice. If you ever get three shotgun blasts, you lose all the points you accumulated in the round. If you choose to stop, you get to keep the points. The first person to get 13 points win. Yahtzee-style dice throwing is universal, making Zombie Dice an incredibly fun game to play over a few evening drinks.
Check Zombie Dice out!
5. Cinko Linko – The Best Travel Game for Kids
Cinko Linko is so travel-friendly that it comes with a carabiner! Each player is given a set of coloured squares that can be played on the table/floor/matt. They must be played horizontally one to another or vertically one to another. The first person to link five of them horizontally, vertically or diagonally wins. But wait! If nobody succeeded once the players run out of squares (which happens often) each player gets to pick one of their squares and replace it elsewhere on the board. So, will you remove a token that will create an opening for your opponent? Will you place your token to block the next player from winning? Or will you place it to further your own path to victory? The concept is simple but the execution is… Well, you’ll see!
Check Cinko Linko out!
6. For Sale – The Best Travel Game for Families
For Sale is a better version of Monopoly! In this super small box, you will find two sets of cards and a set of money tokens. The game has two phases. In Phase One, you will need to bid money to buy the best properties possible. In Phase Two, you will need to bid/sell those properties for the most amount of money possible.
At the end of the game, you count all your earnings and the winner is the player with the most money. It takes about 15 minutes to play the whole game but it will take you a while to master it. Plus, buying and selling houses is kind of universal so the theme isn’t hard to understand.
Check For Sale out!
7. Love Letter – The Smallest Travel Game
Admittedly, this is the one game on our list that we have played the most. Love Letter comes in a ton of flavours, from Marvel to Munchkin. What’s more, it is the smallest game on our list with under 20 cards!
In this game, you are trying to gain the favours of the princess by scheming around the castle’s court. You are given one card that has a special power written on it and a “value” in the top left corner. On your turn, pick one extra card and choose one of these two cards to play. Use this power, for instance, “get one player to compare cards with you, the smaller card is out”. The last person standing wins the round. Or, if more than one player stands at the end of the round, the highest value wins.
The rules are on the cards so the game requires no teaching time, and each round takes only three minutes. We’ve taught it to hundreds of people!
Check Love Letter out!
8. Sushi Go! – The Best Travel Game for Groups
This party game is the smaller version of the game Sushi Go! Party – great to take with you on the go. In Sushi Go!, you need to create the perfect sushi menu by picking a card from your hand and placing it in your menu. The trick is that you then have to pass your hand to the player on your left and receive your new hand from the player on your right. In short, the hands of cards constantly rotate. This means that what you pick to place in front of you is as important as what you are choosing to pass to the next player, as you may just give them the card they’ve been waiting for.
Get the best combination of cards to get the most points and win the round! It’s super cute, perfectly themed, and most important of all, easy to teach.
Check Sushi Go! out!
9. Struggle for Catan – The Cheapest Travel Game
If you have ever heard anything about the board gaming culture, you probably have heard about Catan. This card version of the cult classic works pretty much the same as normal Catan in which you have to gather or trade resources to build your settlement and reach a certain point threshold first to claim victory. Struggle for Catan is a cheap game that will scratch the “gamers’ itch” for many hours.
Check Struggle for Catan out!
10. Illusion – The Fastest Travel Game
Illusion comes in a very small box so it is easy to carry, but it is also a really great travel card game. There is a thick deck of cards in the box, each card having different shapes and colours. The game is to arrange the cards one-by-one depending on the percentage of a particular colour on it. So what do you think: does this card has 15% red on it or 17%? And is that more or less than the previous card? Or do you think that somebody before you made a mistake and want to call them out?
It is super simple, not language-dependent at all, and really tricky to master. All in all, it’s a travel game that’s a lot of fun!
Check Illusion out!
11. Mint Co-Operative – The Best Travel-Size Game
You are a bunch of mint-related superheroes (don’t ask…) and Mintopia needs your help! This funny card and dice game packs a lot in a very very small tin. As its name indicates, it’s as big as a mint tin; perfect to carry around! The gameplay is tight, if not quite on-the-nose with the classic co-op trope of “here is a bad card, then take your turn”. The villains are tough to defeat so you better work well together if you want to save Mintopia before the Packer gets out of control. One of the strongest aspects of the game is that it truly is a full game in a tin. It’s like having a light version of Pandemic in your pocket, that should make any gamer happy!
Check Mint Co-Operative out!
12. Coup – The Best Competitive Travel Game
This bluffing game is a classic and for good reason. With only 15 cards, it achieves the perfect balance of power between safe actions and risks. But the game ultimately comes down to the players. In the hands of the right crowd, Coup becomes a hilarious cut-throat game of hidden roles.
The goal of the game is to “kill” each other players’ two characters and be the last one standing. To do so, you will need to collect seven influence tokens to eliminate a character, but will you collect from the bank or steal them from the players? Be careful, an assassin might be lurking that could kill you for only three tokens. And did I mention that you can lie about your role and pretend to be an assassin all along without even knowing what the assassin card look like?!
You’ll need three or more players to really unlock this game’s potential but likely, it is a super easy game to teach to new friends on the road.
Check Coup out!
13. Star Realms – The Best Travel Game for Two
This iconic deck-building game takes you all the way to space (talk about that for a travel destination!) to build your own armada of spaceships and destroy your opponent. In only 20 minutes and a simple card deck, Star Realms allows for a very rich deck building experience where each faction feels different yet complementary.
Every choice matters, from what to buy, which faction to focus on, where to spend your attack points etc. You’ll also be incredibly invested in the other player’s turn as there is pretty much no time where you will not have your eyes on a specific card in the market that you HOPE won’t be bought.
The game is a two-player game but you can combine multiple games to make it four players plus. Although, in our experience, Star Realms is best played at two players.
Check Star Realms out!
14. Dale of Merchants – The Prettiest Travel Game
This game mix card drafting with deck building and a cutie animal/fantasy theme. Lost yet?! Don’t be, Dale of Merchants is very easy to grasp with a mellow pace in which you will be attempting to build the best merchant stall to win a spot in the merchant guild.
One aspect of the game that is quite notable is that each game will be unique as you have to select a certain amount of “animalfolk” species to add to the pool depending on the number of players. And each species will play very differently; some will generate points, some will generate chaos.
The game comes with a small board (which could be argued is not needed at all), a deck of cards and some dice, making it super easy to pack for a trip.
15. Hokkaido – The Best Travel Board Game
It is super rare to find a city building game in a small format. Most of them are gigantic table hogs. Hokkaido manages to pack a neat map-building and resource generation game within its small box.
First, you’ll have to pick the best card for yourself, then you’ll have to avoid giving away the cards that your opponent needs, finally you’ll have to maximise your points within what is left for you to pick from. And did I mention that pesky mountain blocking your city’s expansion?
Hokkaido is a bit more complex than many other games on this list, but it is what makes it even more enjoyable to replay, the more you know it, the more you’ll master it.
16. Fugitive – The Best Travel Game for Couples
One fugitive; one marshall. Will you escape, or will you get caught? Incredibly, the 10 minutes it takes to play Fugitive creates real tension between both players where the fugitive will actually sweat before each of the marshall’s guesses.
In short, the player assuming the fugitive’s role has to reach the plane located on card 42 before all of their trail cards has been unveiled by the marshall. The concept is super simple, but it has great lasting power with near unlimited replayability. Plus, in the age of endless expansions, this game comes pre-loaded with a couple of extra modules to make the game easier for one side or the other or overall add some chaos to the whole endeavour. The game is hard to find nowadays, sadly, but if you manage to add it to your travel game collection, you’ll get hours of fun!
17. Tiny Epic Quest – The Best Solo Travel Game
Simply put, this game is The Legend of Zelda in a tiny box. You have goblins to fight, potions to drink and items to acquire.
Speaking of! The meeples in Tiny Epic Quest have small holes allowing you to ACTUALLY equip items to them such as swords and shields. That’s epically cute!
The game really feels like an adventure with day and night phases each turn and a whole range of transportation methods around the world such as horse, raft and even gryphon! But be aware, accomplishing your quests is done through a press your luck mechanism so you’ll need to know when to quit. There’s also an interesting solo mode should you be backpacking alone.
In conclusion, this game is way bigger than many full-size games around, and yet, it comes in a tiny box perfect for travellers!
Check Tiny Epic Quest out!
18. The Crew – Quest for Planet Nine – The Best Co-Operative Travel Game
Who knew that trick-taking games could be turned into a fantastic cooperative experience?! Well, it looks like the folks at Kosmo games did just that with The Crew – Quest for Planet Nine. Add limited communication for some hilariously frustrating moments and you’ve got a winner!
Story-wise, you are exploring the vastness of space through a series of increasingly complex missions to find Planet Nine. The mission difficulty curve is spot on; you will find mission one super easy – a perfect way to learn the rules – and will be challenged to no end by mission 50.
Out of all the games on this list, this is pretty much the only one that you’ll keep coming to “for the story” you’ll want to reach level 50 at some point so you’ll keep coming back to the game for that 20mins that it takes to finish a mission.
Check The Crew – Quest for Planet Nine out or its sequel, The Crew – Mission Deep Sea.
19. Space Hulk Death Angel – The Best Travel Card Game for Gamers
This sci-fi cooperative card game is a real hidden gem! In it, up to six players team up as space marines to explore a space hulk (a big spaceship wreck) and clear all the alien monsters within it.
Set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Space Hulk Death Angel is the geekiest entry in this list. The fighting is fun, the graphic design is great, the game mechanics are tight and overall, it is quite a hard game. We only recommend it to older gamers, say 15 years and older. But with the right group, it is an absolute blast where you absolutely have to depend on the other players to make it through the waves of enemies. Victory does not come cheap in this game.
20. 7 Wonders Duel – The Best Travel Game for Hobbyists
This entry came to great surprise to us as well. We never thought of 7 Wonders Duel as a travel game until we met a couple of eastern Europeans carrying it in a couple of ziplock bags in their backpack. And it turns out that, yes, it packs quite small.
If you have played any board game in the past decade, you know the drill: build an empire, develop your civilisation, and pass the ages to steal victory through scientific innovations or brute military force. If you have never played this kind of game, think of it similar to the Civilisation video game turned into analogue form.
The game is widely praised as one of the best games in the hobby and for good reason. We can not fault it. It looks great, it plays great, choices matter and victory is always deserved. It’s definitely a meatier game than most on this list but for the true gamers looking for a travel game, this is a fantastic travel board game.
Check 7 Wonders Duel out!
More About Travel Board Games, Things to Pack and How to Meet People to Play Travel Games With!
That’s it for our ultimate list of the best travel board games. Check out more packing and travelling tips in the guides below:
- 12 Genius Travel Gadgets for New Zealand
- 10 Items You Should Definitely Not Pack for New Zealand
- 8 Ways to Meet People When Travelling Alone in New Zealand
And if New Zealand is on your bucket list, don’t miss the 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.