Fun Board Games (For Rainy Days or Long Delays)

old man playing board game

So one of my recommendations is always to have a fun board game on-the-ready so that you can weather any storm, long travel delays, or even a quarantine without resorting to sticking your head into your phone.  This way you are present with your travel companions and really, that is one of the best reasons to be traveling in the first place.  So what games are portable, easy to learn for newbies, and fun?

My answers may surprise you, but the truth is with the way some of these games can be packed today you don’t need to go full minimalist and stick to the deck of cards.  I love board games and am eager to play anything from the old classics to the latest best seller.  As always the goal is to have fun, a little competition, and a lot of laughs.

Game: Ticket To Ride

me playing ticket to ride

just me and Alexa playing Ticket to Ride

Maker: Days of Wonder

Year Released: 2004

Price: $44.97

Cheapest Place To Purchase: Amazon

Fun Level: 5 out of 5

Portability: 3 out of 5 (Most likely need to get the travel case)

My Review: Ticket To Ride became an instant classic because of its simple-to-learn rules and classic board game strategy fun.  The objective is to build the longest continuous train with bonuses for claiming city to city routes.  The fun starts when more than one person is trying to get the right amount of cards to claim a route.  The map is accurate using North American cities and with 2-5 people is a sure way to spend a fun hour.   The time to play the game is also great for a quick game between travel legs with your family, or you can play multiple variations to spend a whole evening.

As a bonus, the makers of the game have teamed up with the Alexa app to allow Alexa to keep score for you as well as provide ambient train station sounds, or in the event you’re travelling solo, she can even step in to play against you!  And yes, I’ve done it.  She’s pretty good at it 🙂

Key takeaways:

  • Up to 5 players and even play just with yourself if you have Ticket to Ride on Alexa
  • They have different board destinations so if you are going to Europe, London, or New York City I recommend that board set
  • Lots of cards and train pieces so you need some space and about 30 minutes minimum for this game
  • One of the best board games I’ve played in a while!
  • Best for cruises or long vacations.  I do recommend also getting the travel case for it to pack it.  You can see that here.

Game: Backgammon

backgammon game image

This version rolls up

Maker: Sondergut (this version)

Year released: 5000 BCE

Price: $39.95

Cheapest Place to Purchase: Amazon

Fun Level: 5 out of 5 (when you play John, 2 out of 5 if you are John)

Portability: 6 out of 5 (yes, over the limit portability!)

My review: A list of travel games would not be complete if I didn’t include Backgammon, although I didn’t really want to because this happens to be one of the games my friends constantly win.  They seem to enjoy it, so I’ve got to include it!  Backgammon is an ancient game tracing its origins to Mesopotamia somewhere around 5,000 years ago!  The game rules are pretty simple, but the strategy can be complex (especially if your friend Sam probably practices this game every day).  Especially great on this version is the roll up design which stores the pieces and dice and rolling up to take less space than a t-shirt.  Perfect for quick accessibility from your day bag on a train ride or waiting to get on an airplane.

Key takeaways:

  • 2 players max
  • Timeless fun for everyone except me
  • Extremely portable great for traveling light

Game: Chess

Maker: Holyking

Year Released: 1200 AD (disputed)

Price: $19.99

Cheapest Place To Purchase: Amazon

Fun Level: 5 out of 5

Portability: 5 out of 5

My Review: For backpacking or traveling with just one other person, this is probably my top choice.  Chess is a fun, complex, and elegant game that requires the most out of your strategic mind to encompass the near infinite possible scenarios! Studying chess and the famous people in history that loved this game is also quite a thrill (Ben Franklin) so I always appreciate a cup of tea and a good game of chess on a rainy day or long flight.  This version has magnetic pieces and a wood finish, so at this price point I think it is a beautiful choice to keep in your day bag for the odd time out with your travel mates.

Key takeaways:

  • 2 players
  • Magnetic pieces and wood finish
  • Perfect for long train or flights

Game: Go

Maker: Yellow Mountain Imports

Year Released: 485 BCE (give or take)

Price: $33.62

Cheapest Place To Purchase: Amazon

Fun Level: 5 out of 5

Portability: 4 out of 5

My Review: Go has become more popular the last ten years among people looking for a change from Chess or Backgammon.  And it is fun, with a different type of strategy that is almost more like the Ticket To Ride in it’s spatial blocking of the opponent on the board.  It can provide for some rueful moments just like Chess though when you flip your opponents colors over to yours in a surprise attack 🙂  The only problem with Go is it’s portability.  This board is magnetic, and the board is high quality compared to some of the others I’ve seen, so this is the best choice.  If you are looking for a change up from Chess or Backgammon, Go is probably your next best choice!

Key takeaways:

  • 2 players
  • Magnetic pieces and sturdy plastic board
  • Perfect for quiet evenings and looking for a change from traditional games

Game: Spades

Maker: Bicycle Playing Cards

Year Released: 1920’s

Price: $3.89

Cheapest Place To Purchase: Amazon

Fun Level: 5 out of 5

Portability: 5 out of 5

My Review: Ok so I snuck in one that wasn’t a board game.  The trusty deck of cards has many options for the travelers and for groups of 4 (two couples), the game of Spades is a fun partnership game akin to Bridge but much shorter, simpler, and easier to teach.  Check out the instructions here. Many a night in a ski lodge have been passed with a hot tea and deck of cards passing the time.  If you find any plans cancelled for weather, the deck of cards you threw into the bag last minute might just save the day.  Social, exciting, and fun, Spades is a game that will keep the conversation flowing and the laughter going 🙂

If you’re more advanced than Spades, I do recommend Bridge, the instructions can be found here.

Key takeaways:

  • 4 players
  • Takes anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple hours
  • Perfect for weather delays

So What Board Game is the most fun?

Ultimately the size, age range, and taste of your group will determine which game is a hit.  Ask them which games they like to play in their quiet hours, or maybe you’ve already played a fun game with all of them and know exactly what game will bring smiles when you pull the box out and set up the board.

What games do you like to play with groups when traveling?  Anything I’ve left out that you’ve had fun with?  Let me know in the comments!

Saludos, John


8 thoughts on “Fun Board Games (For Rainy Days or Long Delays)”

  1. I like that you try to revert back the good old days and bring back board games smart. This should really be a great way to kill the time in sessions at a time. but what if you don’t have Alexa who would you play then.

  2. Hi John-great article. I learned about some new games, and will add them to my bag for next trip. It’s great to know that they are short play, don’t need an army to play them, and travel and entertain well. Thanks for these ideas.

  3. This article is a great cross of older versus newer game options. I myself like Backgammon. Played it a lot when first married. Then played more “kid ” games like snakes and ladders and Uno once we had kids. Uno is an all-age kind of a game. Sure would like to have your take on suggestions kid, young, pre-teen and teen for travel too

  4. We have just recently got back into setting aside time every Sunday for family board games. It is also proving to be an effective way of getting us off the electronics. Its funny how its one of those family experiences that are always rewarding and yet we still have to push ourselves into it every time. We just got our Ticket to Ride USA today so we will be breaking it out tomorrow for a first run. Last week it was Clue and before that Monopoly. It also makes a very welcome break from all the day long online marathons now that most of us are WFH.

    1. Hi Andy! You’ll have fun with a family and ticket to ride. I also am happy to hear you’ve set time aside on Sunday for your family and no electronics. It really is funny that we have to trudge ourselves off of electronics to realize how much we’ve got right in front of us. Thanks for your thoughts!

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