I attend an annual gaming get-together, where a dozen reprobates travel to a remote island, leaving the trappings of civilisation behind in order to fully concentrate on the gaming at hand.

In truth we were never particularly civilised in the first place.

Travel to this tabletop gaming paradise is undertaken by helicopter, so there’s a fairly strict luggage limit, which if you’re a board game fanatic, can be a little tricky to manage.

However, even if you’re not airlifted by chopper, chances are you’ve run into problems packing some tabletop favourites into your luggage without either running out of space for clothes and toiletries, or risking your game boxes looking like pizza boxes thanks to the tender mercies of baggage handlers.

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Baggage Handler

Because screw your stuff.

If only we could just pick one game to take with us, eh? Yeah, right. Sadly we’re like a four-year old taking “a couple of toys” to keep them amused at a restaurant: how can we possibly choose between all of our wonderful shiny things?

Best take loads, just in case.

Therefore the travelling tabletop gamer might take the following advice to allow them to maximise their game count without taking out a mortgage for excess baggage fees.

1. Unbox

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Unboxing

Transporting any game isn’t made any easier thanks to vastly outsized boxes, or the lack of any sort of functional box insert, leaving contents to smash merrily around the interior. Thus when travelling, step one is rid yourself of all that boxed air and rebox everything in something fit for purpose.

If the compartments are too snug for your pudgy fingers to access decks of cards, place a strip of paper in first to help you pull them out, unless you want to upend the entire box contents every time. Which doesn’t look clever.

2. The Fanny Pack/Bum Bag

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Fanny Pack Bum Bag

Okay so maybe the bum-bag/fanny-pack has come on a little since the 1980s…

Most folk these days wouldn’t be seen dead wearing this fashion relic from the 1980s/90s, but as a travelling gamer it’s useful for more than just carrying your wallet, keys, loose change or a concealed weapon.

For the RPGer it’s the perfect size for a collection of dice, plus pencil/erasers, but it really comes into its own when used to carry filler games that you can play down the pub, or to strap these games to yourself when luggage/weight limit has been reached.

Alternatively you can use it for your wallet, keys etc. when your actual pockets are full of games, which brings me on to…

3. Pockets

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Jacket of Holding

This is either an absolute absurdity, or a Magic: The Gathering player’s perfect travel jacket.

Winter gaming retreats are great, with vastly reduced tariffs on holiday properties, and an excuse to wear a nice big outdoor coat with pockets like Bags of Holding, or a specifically designed “travel jacket”.

Obviously you won’t be stashing Blood Rage about your person any time soon (although that’s now noted as a challenge), but most filler games are pocket sized, or at least can be made pocket sized by judicious unboxing and ziploc bagging.

Combine this approach with a fanny pack/bum bag concealed under your coat (so no one laughs at it) and there’s no reason why you couldn’t get about half a dozen fillers to your destination.

4. Non-Gamers

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Non-gamers

Muggles eh? These sad, uninitiated plebs should rightfully be viewed as mules to facilitate your gaming transport needs.

You’re travelling light aren’t you, mum? Here, have a copy of Cthulhu Wars to keep you company. I know it makes your arthritis play up, but carry it or I’ll never let you see your grandchildren again.

That said, you’d best be careful with this one if you want willing rather than stubborn mules for future trips. Go easy on the cardboard and exchange those pimped out metal coins for the crap originals.

If you’ve already outplayed your welcome on this front, just employ some deception during unboxing prep. Most spouses will be happy for you to pack a “wash bag” in their suitcase, or better still a box containing that “extra special shirt to look smart for you when we go out to dinner.” Sucker.

5. Heavy Duty Storage

There’s even room around the sides for about ten filler games.

If you can’t bear to deprive your games of their Intended Containers, or just enjoy the simple pleasure of admiring box art as you sip your holiday cocktail, then you’ll be wanting your games transported in something more resilient than a flimsy Ikea shopping bag.

A 12″ LP carry case comes lined with foam, has reinforced edges and corners, and can fit a padlock to keep the precious cargo safe from the thieving hands of baggage-handlers, who everyone knows are bang up for a bit of worker placement when they’re not trashing your stuff.

As a bonus you’ll look like a totally rad DJ, rather than a sad obsessive who can’t leave his games behind for a short holiday with the family.

6. Travel-Friendly Games

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Travel-friendly games

These aren’t your pocket-sized boxes, but they’re not huge and they’re packed to the brim with gaming goodness.

Some games need careful planning and a shipping container to transport them, whilst others seem custom-built for life on the move. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can only consider games with “Pocket” in the title, or other small format fillers, which you can fit in your pockets whether they say so on the box or not.

In addition to the standard pocket fillers and the easily unboxed, consider the following examples of good travelling bang-for-buck/size/weight based on lack of contained fresh air, travel-friendly insert, player count, play time and replayability:

  • Elder Sign — You can fit one complete, boxed expansion in it’s small format core box along with the core components. 1–8 players.
  • Ancient Terrible Things— The Lost Charter expansion gives you a medium format, custom travel box with integral dice tray. 1–5 players.
  • Samurai Spirit — The contents pack out the interior and are well stored in a useful insert. 1–7 players.
  • Run Fight or Die — You can fit the 5/6 Player and Co-Op expansions in the core box. Just. 1–6 players.
  • Sons of Anarchy — About the smallest format “big box” there is, which you can pack to the brim with both expansions for up to 6 players.

7. PDF Those Rule Books!

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Mobile device

Most games publishers now provide a PDF version of the rule book, so you should take advantage of this as, after the board, the rules manual/sheet/tome is the main obstacle to effective unboxing, unless you want to start folding the thing up and ruining its resale value.

8. Digital Tabletop

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Digital gaming

It’s a poor substitute, but it’s still Heroes of Normandie, eh?

The other bonus of taking all your rule books with you in digital form, is that you have your mobile device for digital versions of some tabletop classics. Obviously given the choice we’d rather be going analogue, but when needs must, beggars can’t be choosers, eh?

So when you’re in transit and don’t have enough space for a game of something without commandeering your neighbour’s food table/tray on the plane, you can whip out the phone or tablet for some instant gaming. Even a laptop can provide you with some PC- and Mac-friendly tabletop substitutes.

9. Kids

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Kids

(Disclaimer: No small child was distressed in the making of this image.)

If your kids are anything like mine, they don’t go anywhere without some sort of rucksack almost as big as they are, stuffed with bits of plastic crap from the front of magazines, along with other landfill fodder.

Distract them with something shiny/edible/phone-shaped and exchange a few of their Little Ponies and whatever Candyland-type shite they intend to force on you, and substitute a few well-worn classics you won’t mind sustaining the odd knock when their little legs inevitably give out under the weight.

Sure, you may have have a tear or two when they open their bag of booty to find The Others staring back at them, but that’s a small price to pay for your own enjoyment.

10. Improvise!

Travelling Tabletop Gamer - Improvise

Didn’t bring Skull with you? No problem, just borrow some beermats from the pub landlord (or a standard pack of cards if he has one) and you’re good to go . Remembered to pack all the cards for Ca$h’n’Gun$ but forgot the actual guns? Just use your hands as guns instead (or maybe not… they tried that as a real version and it was all a bit crap, but hey, with enough beer it might just work?)

Talking of improvisation, don’t forget that traditional pen-n-paper RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu make great travel games as it can be as light as one rulebook (maybe as a pdf?), character sheets, a few dice and pencils. That’ll give you days of gameplay.


So that’s it. In a nutshell:

  • unbox
  • adopt dubious 1980s fashion accessories
  • cram your pockets with filler games
  • trick unsuspecting family members into carrying your gaming contraband.

Failing that get yourself a hardcore storage solution that can stand up to some abuse, and fill it with games that seem custom-made for travel. Oh, and loathed as you might be to bring it, don’t forget your mobile/tablet/laptop.

If all else fails, use your imagination — it’s what us geeks are made of!

Bon Voyage, and Good Geeking!

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