Tabletop Highlight: Shout-Out to All the Games I Can Carry in My Pocket

From a deck of playing cards to small sack full of stone tiles, I love games I can stick in my pocket or in the side pouch of my bag. I’m a big fan of being prepared and how can you call your Bastion of Nerdiness (built at a time when I was the only nerdy person where I worked and maintained because it felt really nice to have all that stuff with me at all times) fully prepared if you don’t have a game or games you can play with one or more additional people? Sure, you’ve got a first aid kit, clothing/cosplay repair kit, energy bars, and a basic survival kit, but no games to play? What kind of amateur preparation are you trying to do?

One of the reasons I was so excited to buy Tak through the Kickstarter was because one of the options was a travel pouch and a clothe board for the game. The whole idea was to create a version of the game people could carry around with them. Entire sets were built around the idea of being able to travel to a location and find someone else with a traveling set to play against. In the book world the game is from, it is apparently a common practice to make or purchase your own Tak set to bring to taverns in case you want to get in a quick game while you’re having your drinks. The pieces are so simple, even, that you could probably spend fifteen minutes walking around outside and find enough material to play a quick game with someone. I value my really nice pieces, the wonderful stone set I purchased as an add-on and the sleek, beautiful wooden sets I originally pledged for, but I enjoy the fact that knowledge of the rules is all I need to play a game because I can imagine a board and play using wood chips and flattish stones. I still travel everywhere with my full stone set, though. They’ll hold up better in my bag that the wooden pieces.

I also like to keep two decks of cards in my bag. It used to be three, but I almost never play Magic the Gathering’s standard, 60-card style anymore. I keep my Commander deck (99 unique cards plus a single legendary creature card whose colors dictate what colors I can used in my deck”) plus all the dice I need for a game (a lot, thanks to several counter-dependent plays) in my bag, along with a deck of normal playing cards. The Magic the Gathering cards are mostly for use with my friends since I don’t generally play much and usually only play because they wan to. I’d use one of their decks, but I prefer having my own to tinker with when the mood strikes me. The regular playing cards are great for everything from a friendly game of poker over lunch to a game of solitaire when I’m bored and trying to stay away from phone games that appeal to my addictive nature. There are so many games you can play with playing cards that they can be an almost ceaseless fount of entertainment. As long as you enjoy card games and the basic amount of psychology that goes with playing cards against other people.

Another game I’m going to soon add to my bag is Bananagrams. My girlfriend is a huge fan of the game and I’ve got to say that it is growing on me. It is a lot more fun to play when at least three people are playing, but you really only need two people. You also really need to love words because the whole point of the game is to use all of your letter tiles (like scrabble tiles, but without point values) to create words. If you run out of tiles, you say “peel” and everyone has to take a new tile from the pile in the center. Once all of the tiles who have been used, the person who says “peel” when there aren’t enough tiles for everyone to take one wins the game. It is a very simple game and dependent on your knowledge of spelling and how many words you know. Possibly the best part is that there generally isn’t a clear winner until the end because it is possible that you saying “peel” is going to give one of your opponents the letter they need to win the game while you struggle to figure out what to do with the “x” you just picked.

My life has improved since I started carrying games on me all the time, beyond just the general feeling of confidence that comes from seeing myself as prepared for whatever comes my way. For instance, I like to keep to myself most of the time, not because I actually dislike people, but because I’m so often unsure of what to say or how to act. Keeping games on me allows me to create a framework for longer social interactions and makes it easier to get comfortable enough with people to not feel so anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing. Anything I can do to lessen my anxiety has a positive impact on my life, even if this comes at the cost of adding a few extra pounds to an already heavy bag. My mental health thanks me but my physical health is a still waiting to see how all this plays out over the next few years before it comments.

Got any small games I should check out? I’d love to hear about them!

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