Issue 26: Games I'm packing in my luggage

Well, hello, and a happy Tuesday to you! For the first time in what seems like years (really, it’s about 15 months, I think?), I’ll be flying on an airplane to reach a destination.

Normally, if I’ve gone to visit family, I’ll bring a slew of games with me — a tote or two full, usually. But when I take such an excursion on an airplane, I’ve rarely brought more than a game or two. This time, that’s changing. We’ll get to that in today’s main topic.

Before we get to that, a few points of varied housekeeping:

  • Please do share this if it’s helpful, interesting or entertaining. If you want to, I mean. Don’t feel any pressure on my part! (But really, I appreciate all of you who share, and I appreciate all of you who don’t.)

  • I’d love to hear what you’re playing lately! Drop me an email, add a comment here, or message me on Instagram.

  • Another episode of my sci-fi podcast, Vintage Sci-Fi Shorts, dropped on Sunday: “Death Sentence,” a short story by William C. Hoch.

What I’m packing in my luggage

I mean, aside from clothes. That should read “Games I’m packing in my luggage,” but you know what? What’s done is done. Past is prologue. All that.

Anyway, I’ve tucked all these games into a pretty small space — basically half the main interior of my messenger bag (it’s a Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag, if you’re curious about the dimensions.) It’s not a whole lot of space — it’s definitely less than, say, a standard box size, like Ticket to Ride or Catan.

Some of these games I’ve played, others I haven’t. They’re all in small boxes (or wallets, in some cases), which was a guiding principle in my selection here.

Three Oink games: Deep Sea Adventure, Startups and Nine Tiles Panic

I love taking games I haven’t played on vacation with me. Usually that somehow translates into me not even trying to play the game, but I swear, it’ll be different this time. (It won’t be different. I’m sorry, future self.) I’m taking three games because 1) they come in small boxes, and 2) they are almost always a lot of fun.

Deep Sea Adventure is a fantastic press-your-luck game, and it’s one I know reasonably well. It presents a really fun challenge, and it requires some measured cooperation for any one player to find success. That’s such a fun challenge.

Startups is one on my to-play list, and traveling might be a good opportunity to get it played, especially because the player count is pretty flexible. (3 to 7? Yes, please.)

Nine Tiles Panic is also on my to-play list (a shame, really!), and it’s another tiny-box game — but this one looks like a really great tile placement game. This is one I really just need to play, and I’m really excited to find an opportunity to do so.

Bad Medicine

This party game from Gil Hova is one of my favorite party games I’ve played, in part because it’s over-the-top and weird, but also in part because it’s not that over-the-top. In this one, you basically pitch weird medications to your fellow players, including complications, side effects and more. It scratches an itch I never really knew I had.


This has to be one of the greatest fast-action party games of all time. It’s basically a deck of cards with a category and a symbol on each. Your goal is to be the player at the end with a plurality of cards. How do you get those cards, you ask?

Well! First, you’ll place a card in front of you (and no, you don’t get to look at it first.) If the symbol on it matches a symbol on any other player’s card, you are tasked with immediately calling out something that matches the category on the other player’s card. (Not your own. Never your own.) If you manage to call something out that legitimately matches before the opposing player, you get their card. Importantly, you can only call something out if the card in front of you matches with another player’s, but the urge to answer quickly for grouping of players is one that you’ll have to fight.

It gets a bit more complicated than this, but not much. It’s a frenzied game of yelling random things, and at some point, you will just shout the words on your opponent’s card, while they calmly give an answer for yours, and you’ll lose your card as a result. Just thinking about this game gets me hyped.

Paper Apps: Dungeon

This is going to be my on-the-airplane game. It’s a really nice roll-and-write game contained in a small flip-top notebook, and while I haven’t decided if I’ll bring some dice or not, I think that would make it even more fun. It’s basically a very classic rogue-like game being played on paper, and each book and page are procedurally generated. I’ll definitely report back on this one. (Here’s a link, if you’re curious.)

Sea Change

A trick-taking game in a small box that plays up to eight players? And it’s about the ocean? Alright, I’m in. This one’s been on my radar for a while, especially as I dove head-first into trick-taking games. The twist in this one seems to be that the trump suit can change in the middle of a hand. Wild!

Button Shy Wallet Games — a bunch

I love Button Shy. Their wallet-sized games are just perfect for what they are, and so I’ll be bringing a slew of them. All together, they’ll take up slightly more room than a single Oink game. So cool. Here’s what I’ll be bringing, along with a quick one-liner about the game:

  • Supertall — build towers!

  • Food Chain Island — solo! Chaining! Animals!

  • Ugly Gryphon Inn — another solo! Run an inn!

  • Hórreos — keep mice out with a structure, apparently?

  • Adder — the subtitle is “realtime chase system,” so, neat

  • Fliptricks — a skateboarding card game? Well alright!

  • Trolling for Trouble — dungeons and stuff

  • Rube — I’m all about pointless contraptions

  • 3 Lands or King — I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure. Something about war?

  • Tony’s Treasures — a nine-card auction game!

  • The Forest Watch — another solo game! Evil cat knights?

  • Seasons of Rice — tile-laying, but with cards!

  • Tussie Mussie — a nice little drafting game!

Photo of the Week: Mass Transit

The Summer of Games

To Play: Surrealist Dinner Party

It’s not the most complicated or extravagant game out there, but I really like the theme of Surrealist Dinner Party, and I think it’s one that’s really underutilized. Art and artists provide such vibrancy to the world, and I’m excited for games implementing art history.

This one looks to be a not-too-complicated set collection game, and I think it’ll be great to break out with friends with whom we don’t normally play games.

Played: MonsDRAWsity

I played my first-ever game of MonsDRAWsity, and I’ve got to say, it’s a fantastic party game. Each round, one player takes a 20-second look at a card depicting a monster (with some lovely art, it must be said), after which they describe it to the other players, who then have just two minutes to draw what’s described. After that, the player who saw the card secretly picks the drawing they think is closest (and they’ll all be far off, don’t worry), the card is revealed, and everyone else picks the player whose drawing was closest to the original illustration.

This is a wonderful spin on drawing games. Eric Slauson really hit it out of the park on this one, and it really makes me want to play his other designs, especially Tattoo Stories.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you this week. Thanks as always for joining me in this newsletter, and I’m excited to talk about the games I played while away — and the games I didn’t play but maybe should have.