It’s nearly summertime, and that means summer vacations are a thing many people have to contend with. Fear not! I have a few recommendations for good, portable games to help the summer hours pass in entertaining fashion. These are games that kids will enjoy, but that will also keep adults amused for hours on end. Be sure to check out these titles at your Favorite Local Game Store (FLGS).
1. Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games
Stupid fun, zombie dice has the players trying to collect 13 or more brains before any other zombie. The dice feature icons for brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints (of escaping victims). Player can push their luck and keep rolling the remaining dice three dice at a time, but if 3 shotgun blasts are amassed, that player’s turn is over, and all brains they collected this turn disappear. If a player stops before three blasts, they “bank” any brains they’ve collected to that point, and next turn can add to their total. Fast-moving and fun, but if you aren’t a fan of luck-based games, this is not a game for you. Any number can play, but a practical limit is 2-8 players, ages 10 and up. Game last for 5-20 minutes – longer with more players.
2. Ingenious by Fantasy Flight Games
The goal of this simple strategy game is for your lowest score to be higher than your opponents’ lowest scores. Players score points in a color by adding a tile to a line or cluster of like-colored tiles. Each tile has two color options (sometimes two of the same color) out of six total colors, so there are numerous ways to place each tile on the board. Maxing out one color allows that player to immediately take a second turn, but remember the goal; if you concentrate too much on a few colors, you may get blocked from building up the others. Game ends when no more tiles can be played. Plays in under 30 minutes. For 1-4 players ages 10 and up.
3. Hanabi by R&R Games
The premise of this card game is that players are trying to put together the best fireworks display possible. Players play cards of matching colors in order, and each color is worth as many points to the team as the highest card showing. The trick: YOU can’t look at your own cards; you give hints to other players of what their hand contains by pointing out all the cards that match EITHER one number (“This card is a ‘3’.”) or a color (“These three cards are blue.”). This is a co-operative game: players win together, and by degrees. An intriguing concept matches with a simple premise for hours of fun. A game lasts roughly half an hour. For 2-5 players, ages 8 and up.
4. Frank’s Zoo by Rio Grande Games
A trick-taking card game, Frank’s Zoo also examines the food chain to a certain degree. Players are dealt a hand of cards featuring mosquitoes, killer whales, foxes, and many other critters. Play begins with a player laying down as many cards as desired showing the same animal. The next player must play the same number of creatures, but they must be animals that eat (trump) the previous play. Each animal’s card shows the creatures that trump it for ease of reference. Play is in teams, so teams gain points dependent on in which place both members of the team finished.
Scoring is slightly — but only slightly — complicated, and this is a good game for teaching trick-taking concepts as found in games like Bridge, Euchre, and Spades. Play for a single hand is less than five minutes; an entire game can last as long as 20 minutes to half an hour. For 3 to 7 players, ages 10 and up.
5. Hey, That’s My Fish! by Fantasy Flight Games
In this game, the players must maneuver their penguins to catch the most fish by landing on tiles and claiming them once that penguin moves elsewhere. Each catch captured leaves a hole in the ice, and soon the penguins will be scattered across several smaller ice floes. Penguins cannot pass through other penguins, nor pass over holes in the ice. The player who captures the largest number of fish wins! For 2-4 players, ages 8 and up.