Our Favorite Small-Box Board Games

The vast majority of my board game collection consists of a large box of board games like Gloomhaven, Black Rose Wars and Kingdom of Death : Samples. That’s why I made a big mistake ignoring the names of the small boxes. To catch up, we’ve compiled a list of our top games that are small enough to take anywhere.

Cartographers

The only board games I played as a kid were Monopoly, Trouble, or Yahtzee. Because of that experience, I never touched Monopoly again, I avoided reels and tires, and every time I hear the sound of crunching tin, I have flashbacks. All of this is to say that it took a lot of effort to try and write a game, but when I finally gave the mappers a chance, I discovered how much I had missed by ignoring the genre.

Cartographers is a very useful game to have in your library. From the Tetris approach to placement to the flexibility of counting players, mappers are perfect for almost any game night. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, and offers a good amount of depth. All players perform their actions simultaneously, and the number of players is limited only by the number of score sheets and writing utensils you have available.

On each turn, players take a card that tells them what type of terrain they can draw, how much space it occupies, and what shape it should be. Players may draw this terrain anywhere on the map, but they must choose the location as strategically as possible. Over the course of the game, which lasts thirty-five minutes, players try to meet the four point criteria as best they can, and even the best laid plans can be ruined by drawing the wrong card.

Mapper’s short playing time makes it easy to use as a warm-up game or for a few game nights. The wide availability and low price make the game interesting, even if you don’t think you like Roll ‘n’ Roll yet.

If you want to map new countries, you can find cartographers here.

Friday

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t understand the appeal of single player games. If I wanted to play a game myself, I would just fire up Steam and play something on my computer. Because of the pandemic, I was on vacation last year and spent more time than usual playing games to keep my head above water. Even playing my favorite games and staring at the screen all day makes it even more isolating. To keep myself busy, I started playing board games.

It all started with the single-player campaign of Marble Hill: Jaws of the Lion, in which I played both Hatchet and Redguard, and then moved on to a full-blown single-player game of Tainted Grail: The fall of Avalon. Then I started playing single player games to keep my brain occupied during an incredibly slow season. Of all the games I tried, Friday was one of the few that stuck with me after the season ended.

In Friday, players take on the titular character Friday, whose quiet life was interrupted when Robinson Crusoe crashed into your island. If you want to reclaim your island and a peaceful life, you’ll have to teach the clumsy Robinson how to survive in the wilderness and fend off the pirates who followed him to the island.

Each round, players play a challenge card to show Robinson how to survive Friday. If Robinson succeeds, he adds a challenge card to his deck, which increases the success rate of his action cards and may give him special abilities that make the adventure easier. If he fails, Robinson Crusoe suffers and it becomes increasingly unlikely that Friday will ever get his island back.

As the game progresses, card challenges not claimed by Robinson are shuffled into play, raised to the next difficulty level, and then shuffled again to create a new, more complex game. The earlier in the game Robinson can stack his own deck with positive modifiers, the more likely he is to succeed.

Friday is a mechanically simple game, but it offers many challenges. Depending on the performance of the players, Friday’s game could last between fifteen and twenty-five minutes. Given its small footprint (if you discard the cards), low cost, and small box, it’s a great game to bring along when traveling alone and waiting at the airport.

If you want to help the clumsy Robinson Crusoe get home, you can help him.

Bound edition

Not too long ago, I was on vacation with COVID for a few days and stayed with my family near Atlanta. While they were working and doing all that adult stuff, I took the opportunity to check out the FLGS, since there are so few where I live. As nice as it was, these knowledgeable employees took advantage of my poor, non-earning wallet.

One of these ill-timed purchases was the hardback book we discussed shortly after. Hardback is a classic literary word game with deck-building elements. At each turn, players spell the word with the cards in their hand and are immediately rewarded for doing so. Rewards come in the form of victory currency points, which can be used to add new letter cards to the game. If the map format seems simple enough, add depth by adding map genres.

Each card player can buy one of the four types or colors: Horror, mystery, romance and adventure. Each gender adds additional rewards that the player gets if they use two cards of the same gender in the same word. This genre-specific mechanism offers clever ways to manipulate the game by doubling the rewards you get or blocking cards from the market and denying them to your opponent. By mixing genres, players can create a rewarding combo deck or an aggressive deck designed to slow down opponents.

What strikes me about Hardback is that it avoids the most common pitfall of wordplay: getting stuck on the wrong letters. At no point in Hardback will you find yourself in a position where you cannot finish a word. If players notice that they are missing an important letter, they can simply turn the card over and treat it as a wild card. The downside is that players don’t get a reward for their jokers. While the excessive use of wildcards may cause a delay in player ratings, it does ensure that players can still contribute.

Hardback is a small, easy to learn game with a lot of depth and many alternative game modes like single player and co-op, which makes it interesting. The best way to summarize Hardback is to say it’s a play on words.

If you’re looking for a substitute for Scrabble on a family game night, you can buy Hardback here.

Hive

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about the Hive, and I suspect it won’t be the last. Originally released in 2000, The Hive is a clever chess game in which two players compete to encircle their opponent’s queen bee.

The objectives are simple: Players take turns placing a new tile or moving an existing tile. The rules of the game are simple:

  • The ‘hive’ (the formation of placed tiles) can never be divided into two parts. The placed tile must always touch the other tile.
  • When you place a new piece, it may not touch any of your opponent’s existing pieces.
  • When moving stones (except for special moves like the grasshopper and the dung beetle), the stones must be able to slide from their original position to their new position. If it cannot move without interfering with an existing figure, it is blocked and cannot be used.

The other simple rules are about how the different parts move. From there, players must use their wits to deceive each other with calculated strategy and underhanded tactics. It’s a fairly easy game to learn, but it can be difficult to master.

Aside from the fact that the basic concepts of Hive are enjoyable, one of the most interesting aspects of the game is how it feels in your hands. Whichever version of the game you choose, the thick tiles really add (for me at least) to the tactile experience of handling game items like poker chips. The basic version of the Hive is small enough to carry on the go (and I travel with it often), but the Hive Pocket is even easier to carry and offers two improvements.

Whether it’s a beehive, a more portable bag or a monochrome carbon beehive, it’s your style. It’s an easy to find and surprisingly challenging two-player game that you can take anywhere and play with anyone.

If you plan to travel and are looking for the perfect game to play on the go, Hive is the perfect game for a quick game, and you can choose between the original, pocket or carbon version.

Peppermint

To my surprise, Mint Works became my favorite game on this list. It’s small, highly relevant and surprisingly smart. This functional little game shines brighter than the big box I played.

In Mint Works players compete to be the first to earn seven stars in their region. To do this, players must build their industrial district. For each round, players receive a Goldvreneli coin, which serves as a coin and worker. Players then go around the table and perform one action after another, placing their workers in different positions to get more coins, buy blueprints, or build new factories. If the coins run out or each player decides to pass, the turn ends and moves to the support phase, where bonuses from their buildings are awarded.

What makes Mint Works so exciting are the different types of factories found in the game. Each of the four draw types (Culture, Utility, Production, and Deed) has ways to enhance the effects of other cards of its type. With proper planning, players can significantly increase their resources and perhaps even their star status. Mines are a valuable resource that aren’t easy to keep, so these little turn-based bonuses make a difference, especially if players can get them early in the game.

Mint Works is a great little game that’s no bigger than a coin tin, so it’s easy to take anywhere.

Web-Ink

As I mentioned earlier, mappers opened my eyes to the world of roleplaying and game writing that I had so foolishly ignored. After that, it was my genre choice for a while. I tried many, but finally discovered Railroad Ink and haven’t had to use another since. I think I like railroad inks so much because they have similarities to card makers, but they are exactly where random stamping meets strategic planning.

In Rail Ink, players compete to create the most efficient series of interlocking roads and railways in their city. The longer the paths and the fewer dead ends they contain, the better the result. At each turn, players roll a common set of four hexagonal dice representing different shapes of roads and paths. Players must then find a place on their board to draw each of the four shapes and connect them to their existing transportation network. This is a simple task at first, as long as there is nothing on the board, but as the game progresses it becomes increasingly complex and punishes players who start the game without a plan.

As if that wasn’t enough, special dice sets are included in each edition of the game, which only increase the difficulty of the game. The Deep Blue edition pictured above contains two river stamps and two lake stamps. These are additional components that can be added for those who want a more sophisticated experience. So the river dies and water bodies come and block rail lines and highways, creating even more unwanted dead ends. The only way to get around these point-lowering obstacles is to turn the bridge around so that the river can be crossed by road or rail.

Other editions, such as. B. Blazing Red and Blazing Red, and Lush Green and Shiny Yellow, add alternative challenges that can be mixed and combined for new levels of difficulty. CMON’s latest Kickstarter campaign, which includes Lush Green and Shiny Yellow, is currently shipping out to backers, along with a host of mini-extensions that we’ll cover in more detail as they arrive in the coming weeks.

If transit lines and die cuts are your thing, you’ll find several editions of Terrible Guild’s railroad ink here.

Distribution

Button Shy games are known for releasing the smallest games. The games they play consist entirely of cards stored in a plastic box that fits into a wallet. Spread is such a brilliant game, offering lots of variety and fun in a small deck of just eighteen cards for only $12.

Before the game begins, players shuffle the cards, draw three and place the goal they scored face up in front of them. These cards guide players through the game as they build their city. Then each player draws a card from the remaining deck and places it in his hand. The first player then plays two more cards and begins the game.

Each turn, the active player chooses one of the three cards in his hand to begin building the group’s city, subject to the scoring conditions. The remaining two cards in your hand are passed to the next player before the card is drawn to ensure that he or she has only one card in hand if he or she is not an active player. The game continues until all fifteen cards have been used. The group then adds up their results to see how they did.

Sprawlopolis is a lot of fun and strategy in a pocket size. With eighteen different cards, there are plenty of choices in the one basic deck. Additional expansions, like the Beaches expansion, cost only $4 and add even more features to this already tight game.

If your driveway has a pocket-sized city map, you can find Sprawlopolis and its extensions here.

There are plenty of other little games worth playing, but for now these are the ones that have found their way into our hearts and onto our shelves. As soon as we know more, we’ll be sure to post this list so your bags are as full of games as possible.

If you are interested in any of the games mentioned in this article, please consider purchasing them through our Amazon affiliate links in the article. Run by a small group of enthusiasts who are passionate about games and the memories they create. With small gestures, such as purchases through our affiliate links, we can continue to provide new content on a regular basis without relying on algorithms or trends.

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