We have all been there. The food is taking a while. Your children are getting itchy! What's the best game you can pull out of your bag to buy yourself some fun and time?!

Ok, not so much during lockdown, but there have been so many times when I have been sat in a pub or restaurant, waiting for our food to come. It hasn’t taken long, but when I am with my two hungry children, 5 minutes can feel like a lifetime! The dot to dot game given to my kids by the kind staff has been scribbled on, torn and soaked by the inevitable water spill.

 

The faces off the near by patrons is slowly turning from the “I’ve been there” smiles, into a “control those kids” frowns! Time to pull some magic from your bag and get everything back under control! But what do you pull out? What game works best in these situations? Easy to learn. Easy to play. Small and portable to carry and doesn’t need much space to play on. Lets have a look at WBG top 5 portable games!

Splash – Best for a flat surface!

Age range - 4 and up

Space needed - Just something small and flat.

Fun factor - High

Portability - Tiny

Waterproof - Yes

Time killed! - 10 minutes

Splash is a perfect solution for the tummy rumble grumbles! It comes in a tin, the size of a doughnut which is durable and can be bashed around inside any handbag or rucksack. The lid snaps shut so you don’t need to worry about losing any pieces, and the components are hard wearing so there is no need to worry about any damage either.

The game itself is a great fun balancing game. Players pick their shapes at the start of the game, one at a time, ideally looking for a mix of colours and shapes. Players then take it in turns to give a piece to the next player for them to place. The only rule being you must follow the previous pieces colour or shape. If you knock the tower over, the player who gave you that piece wins a jewel. First to three jewels wins! Simple. But of course, you can just play to see how high you can build it, or how many pieces you can use before it falls. Maybe a race to build all the red pieces first! There is a lot of variation here that kids will love. There imaginatiosn will run riot with the possibilities within this tiny box of delights.

It takes up no space at all to play, but the pieces are small and when it falls there may be some scrambling around on the floor to find them. But that’s a game in itself, right? Just maybe don’t play over muddy ground when your daughter is wearing white tights before a big family event like we did!

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Peruke– Best for multiple games.

Age range - 4 and up

Space needed - Anything.

Fun factor - High

Portability - Tiny

Waterproof - Yes

Time killed! - 10 minutes

There is so much to love about Peruke. Independently made by a local designer using local products. Hand made from local wood. It comes in a perfectly sized tin. Like the ones your grandad had his tobacco in back in the day, and now are only used for artisan truffles, anchovies and games! Or so it seems.

Peruke is a simple game. You can learn, set up and play in minutes. But you will want to play game after game! It is designed for 2-4 players, and works well in any player count.

Players will set up their pieces, numbered 1-6 in opposing battle lines. The pieces are set target side up. That is, the side with the dark indent showing. Players will then roll the dice in turn, using the numbers they rolled to either secure a piece of their own, flipping it away from the target side. Or attack an opponent’s piece, if the target side is up. Defend or attack! Of course later in the game, dice rolls may not always be used as certain peices are already depleted. 

Once one person has lost all their pieces, the game ends. Scoring is simply a case of adding up the pieces you have. Rules are slightly different in two-player, but the game works just as well. If not better. But there is a specific two player set too for even more portablility.

As all the pieces are wood, and the box is tin, so this will work in any environment. It can get wet or muddy no worries. It wont blow away in the wind. And you don’t even need a flat surface to play on. This is the ultimate portable game, and brilliant fun to boot!

Kariba – Best for groups of six.

Age range - 5 and up

Space needed - Large dinner plate size.

Fun factor - High

Portability - Tiny

Waterproof - Not quite. 

Time killed! - 10 minutes

 

There are many brilliant small box Helvetiq games that I love. Kariba has been chosen for this top 5 because out of all the ones I have played and enjoyed, this is the most portable. The box itself is of course tiny, like most of Helvetiq’s games, and the game itself requires minimal space to play.

There is a small waterhole to set up with eight small cardboard pieces. This functions as the centre piece of the game where the small cards are all laid. In total, this will take up the space of a large dinner plate. If you have room for that, then this game could be for you.

Players will take it in turn to lay a card, sending an animal to the watering hole. If at any point there are three of the same animal at any space, they then scare the animal to their right, (the lower numbered animal) and the player that laid the third card, collects those animals that ran away. Play flows in turn until all cards are used, at which point each player scores a point for each card they have collected.

It really is that simple, but the choices in this game feel fun and you will be engaged throughout. You can of course add a few rules to spice it up if you like. Maybe you score the points of the card value, rather than just a flat one per card. This makes scaring the elephants with the mice a very big moment in the game! You can play best of three, first to collect all the odd numbers, whatever you like. Like most games, you can bring your own flavour to the table. That is until the garlic balls arrive anyway!

 

Zenteeko– Best for when its wet and windy.

Age range - 4 and up

Space needed - Anything!

Fun factor - High

Portability - Tiny

Waterproof - Yes

Time killed! - 10 minutes

Zenteeko is a lovely little abstract strategy game, similar to connect four. Although you can win if your four colour tiles are in a square shape or line in a any direction, and your peices can move. Players take it in turns to place tiles until all four are on for each player. Then, if there is no connect four at this stage, and trust me there can be! Play continues with players sliding their tiles one space in turn. Games can be very quick, so we often play in a race to five. Although often that isn’t enough, if I havn't won for example, and we play on for many more games.

This is a lovely production with a waterproof roll mat doubling up as the box to hold the pieces and acting as the game board. The tiles are a nice quality plastic and as such the entire game could be played in the middle of a rainstorm and nothing will get lost or damaged expect perhaps your pride.

We have played this game in restaurants, on the beach, even in the car. (not the driver!) It works absolutely anywhere and always attracts attention when we do play. It looks a little like checkers so people quickly feel at ease with it. And the actual rules, as you have seen, can be explained in less than a minute, so you will be playing with anyone, anywhere in seconds.

Considering this game is resistant to any spillage or accident, I would put it very high on this list for taking with you anywhere you go. It is a delight to have two children go from noise monsters to silent strategic thinkers when I unroll the Zenteeko board!

P For Pizza – Best for helping with vocabulary.

Age range - 8 and up

Space needed - Plat sized!

Fun factor - High

Portability - Tiny if you dont bring the box. 

Waterproof - No

Time killed! - 15 minutes

 

P for Pizza is the only game here that I wouldn’t recommend for under 7’s. I have tried with my children (5 and 7) and it works in part, and they did enjoy it. But I wasn’t really playing, more playing with them. This is fine, and I do this a fair bit, but this top 5 is about entertaining everyone equally so I think it only fair to set this to 8 and up.

The game does have a nice mechanic to open it to younger players though. Where each pizza slice card has three different categories of varying difficulties. Instead of being able to choose either one as in the actual game, you could say player one, the youngest, is only working to the easier category, the eldest on the hardest, etc.

The game is set up and played very simply. Stack all the pizza slice tiles in the centre of the game area. Place three cards either side of it. On each card in the central stack are three categories. On each card on the surrounding slices are three letters. Players then race to say a word that fits one of the categories and starts with the corresponding letter that is facing it. First one to get one right collects the card.

You need to try and get one hard category, three medium and five easy. This is a nice mechanic meaning once a player has got five easy cards, they cannot attempt the easy ones any more, thus giving other players the chance to catch up. There are nice variations where you can say younger players can always aim for easy, or as I said above maybe they can exclusively go for the easy ones.

Once you got an answer right you move into your own pizza stack. You are looking to build a pyramid shape pizza to win, but if space is tight, just hold them in your hands and count them as points. 3 for hard, 2 for medium, 1 for easy.

The game can be a little silent as you are thinking of the word but you won’t be thinking for long, and then the volume can get out of control as players try to outshout their opponents! So, you may need to control this in a crowded environment. But I would rather receive stares from nearby tables if my children are loudly shouting words in a vocabulary empowering word game, than the judgment I could receive if both kids were running around the table pretending to be police cars!

 

What are the best travel friendly games?

Top 5 Portable Travel Games

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