Gamer gift guide: Travel-friendly games

This past summer, Brian and I spent two weeks in Ireland. Our first week, we were almost entirely on our own, traipsing through Counties Dublin, Offaly, and Galway. The second week was spent with family for an Irish wedding in County Kerry.

During that first week, we spent a lot of time in bars and restaurants as well as hotel lobbies (don’t judge our vacation style!). And as much as we love talking to each other, when you’re spending every second together, you don’t have many extra talking points outside of shared experiences. As Brian and I are gamers to the core, we decided to fill some of our drinking time with a little healthy competition. Our constant companions for the week became the games we could easily throw in our pockets, backpack, or purse.

Chrissy plays games in Ireland

And this leads me to the best stocking stuffer idea I’ve ever had! Pocket games! (Don’t tell Brian, but there may or may not be a few of these games in his stocking this year.)

Now, your mileage may vary depending on the type of gamer you are, as some games are definitely more strategic and detailed than others. But I’ve tried to provide a variety of options whether you’re a party game addict or a strategic game wizard.

In full-disclosure, any purchases made from these affiliate links may result in a tiny commission that help support my board game addiction. It doesn’t cost you anything extra.

Tiny games for international/carry-on travel

Pocket-sized travel-friendly games

When luggage space is tight, size matters. These games are perfect for carry-on luggage, international travel when every ounce makes a difference. These games are also really great to throw in your purse or pocket when you’re going somewhere with a long wait or hanging out in a bar or microbrewery.

Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction

$15. 1-5 Players

Manhattan Project Chain Reaction Card Game

This game is the condensed version of the larger, Manhattan Project, which, in full disclosure, I’ve never played. But Chain Reaction is a favorite of ours, and it plays well with two, three, and four players. It’s a pretty easy resource management card game with a strong randomized luck component, but it plays quickly and enjoyably. Basically, you create uranium using yellow cake and the appropriate workers; then turn that uranium into bombs to earn points.

GEM

$6. 2-4 players

Gem pocket-sized gum pack games pack-o-games

There are sixteen different Pack O Games — small card games in a box no bigger than a classic pack of gum, and I love the concept of these games more than anything else. They’re so tiny, they even fit in those piddly barely-a-pocket pockets that they have started adding to women’s clothing. And GEM is so fun. It’s an auction-style game in which you are bidding on gems in order to have the most valuable collection at the end of the game. Finally, a game I can beat Brian at!

Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms

$15. 1-5 players

Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms travel game

There is a series of games, known as Tiny Epic Games, by Gamelyn Games. These games pack a full-size strategy game into a relatively small box. But our first adventure with the Tiny Epic brand was their Ultra edition, which we received in a Board Game Bento Box (no longer available, but absolutely one of the best wedding gifts we were given!). This itty bitty game comes in a small box similar to that of Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction, but has a fully functional worker placement game inside. We love it. Brian especially loves it, because he usually wins. Whatever. It’s a fantastic game. We first played Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms at a bar at Gen Con, because of its travel-friendly size, and now it goes on every vacation with us.

Fun fact: There may or may not be a second Ultra Tiny Epic game coming out this month. So keep your eyes peeled for Galaxies!

Treasures and Traps

$13. 2-6 players

Treasures and Traps The Adventure Card Game

I played this game at Chicago Toy and Game Fair this year, and it was super fun. It’s a dice rolling game with some nerdy gamer strategy. The art is awesome, which is one of the big things I look at when buying a game. The primary reason I got this one was that it comes with a storytelling element in the expansion pack, The Adventure Story Game. But I also love that the Random Encounters expansion box is big enough to house all of the cards in each expansion (which is pictured below in the Domestic/local travel because it’s a little bit bigger than pocket-sized).

Love Letter

$16. 2-4 players

Love Letter Card Game

This is one of the social deduction games that I really enjoy. We have a slightly different version with Asian-inspired art. The goal is to send a love letter to the princess through one of the many messengers that are closest to her. Of course, you’ll have to pay attention to your opponents because the cards can change the course of the game and your opponents are watching your actions to beat you. It’s a fast game that’s relatively easy to learn if you have played deduction games before. It also comes with a convenient inner velvet bag that you can use to travel even lighter.

Saboteur

$9. 3-10 players

Saboteur game

There are several things I love about this game, not the least of which is that it plays up to 10 players, and the expansion, Saboteur 2 makes that 12 players, which is awesome if your game group gets a little too big for a 4-player game. I also think the concept is fun. Everyone is digging their way to the treasure, but one sneaky saboteur is trying to thwart the squad. Find the saboteur and prevent them from dominating to win.

We Didn’t Playtest This at All

$13. 2-10 players

We didn't playtest this at all game

This might be the silliest game on the list. The rules are simple: Read the cards. Follow the rules. Change the rules. Win the game. Basically, any card can change the rules of the game, create end conditions and win conditions. And other cards can thwart your attempts at winning. It’s a super fast-paced silly game.

Games for domestic/local travel

These games will fit into a tote, duffel bag, or suitcase, especially if you fly Southwest and bags fly free. Some of them are card games that can be repackaged in a smaller container, but all of these games should easily slide into your luggage.

Travel-friendly games

May Cause Side Effects

$25. 4+ players

May Cause Side Effects by Games Adults Play (Goliath Games)

This party game was gifted to me from my friends at Goliath Games is super great for a group of friends looking for an amped-up version of Taboo meets charades. The bottle is hilarious. The game is super fun, especially if you have a larger group of players. You play in teams and compete in a typical game of Taboo (providing clues to guess a word), with one exception. The player is experiencing side effects. So in addition to giving clues for the word, you’ll also have to perform two physical actions, traits, or body movements. For example, you might have to pretend to be a ballerina while whispering to guess the word owl. You have 40 seconds to get your teammates to guess as many words as possible.

Shit Happens

$12. 2+ players

Shit Happens by Games Adults Play (Goliath Games)

This is one of my best friend’s favorite games. She slays at it every single time. It’s super easy to learn and play, and really crazy. This game was also gifted to me by Goliath Games. It plays an unlimited number of players (though I wouldn’t recommend more than 10) Basically, you place the cards in the order you think they belong in based on the misery index one at a time. Each of the 200 cards have been pre-ranked based on surveys and research. Cards include shitty things like root canals, $115 parking ticket, smelling like a fart for the rest of your life, and darker, dirtier things like a ketchup bottle stuck up your ass. (I’m sort of looking forward to the Google searches that lead people here).

Side note: If the darker, dirtier part turned you off…good news! There are PG versions of the game: Stuff Happens and parenting Stuff Happens.

Shifty-Eyed Spies

$16. 4-8 players

Shifty-eyed spies game

I love this silly game. Each player is a spy trying to deliver and receive packages. The goal is to wink at the player to whom you need to deliver a package without anyone noticing. Then that player must tell you where to meet them. The game is super easy to play, and the winking aspect is hilarious.

Okey Dokey

$13. 1-5 players

Okey Dokey game

Okay, so this was on last year’s Tabletop gift guide, but I couldn’t help myself from putting it in again because it’s a nice pocket-sized game! This game is silly and amazing and I love it. Brian hates it. It’s very polarizing. You can play it by yourself in sort of a solitaire type game, or you can work together with your teammates to organize and order the cards properly…without saying a word. I’ve played it by myself and with others, and I really enjoy playing it.

Cthulhu Realms

$18. 2-4 players

Cthulhu Realms game

This is a big game in a little package. It’s one of the smallest boxes for deck builders that I’ve seen, but it’s got more to it than just deckbuilding. It’s an elimination game, and your goal is to make your opponents go insane before you do using the cards in your hand. Because it’s small, I sometimes forget it’s there, but when we play it, it’s always a good time.

LOOT

$12. 2-8 players

Loot Card Game

I randomly found this game at a thrift store years ago, but it is always fun to play. You’re collecting coins from pirate ships by one-upping each other as the bigger better pirate. This is another easy-to-learn game that has lots of replayability. Plus, again with the large player count! Just know that another over 5 is a partnership game, where teams of two compete with each other.

I hope you found this gift guide useful and interesting. Which of these games would you most like to play? Let me know in the comments below! I have a few more coming next week, but if you’re itching for more gift ideas, feel free to check out some of my guides from last year.

Tabletop gaming gift guide
2018 quirky holiday gift guide
Unique holiday gift guide for kids, pets, and grown ups
Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Quirky, Useful and Fun Gift Options for Everyone on Your List

I love giving gifts. Wrapping gifts in my super messy holiday workshop. Making it completely impossible to detect the contents of a package. The joy and delight when my boyfriend opens up a super special and romantic gift from yours truly. I can’t wait for Christmas to be here already!

While we’re waiting though, I can go ahead and assume that you failed on your resolution to be done shopping before Black Friday, amiright?

Good; me too.

The gift guide for everyone on your list

Some links used in this post are affiliate links and I’ll make a small percentage of dollars from any purchases you make. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve tested and tried all of these items on my own (many thanks to the kindness of generous sponsors) with the exception of the Harry Potter blanket and Alice in Wonderland purse. I hope you enjoy this year’s gift guide!

Luckily for you, I’ve put together the only gift guide for adults that you need this year. From stocking stuffers and toys for the children at heart to small kitchen appliances that girls like me dream about and everything in between, I’ve got you covered. Of course, if you’re not partial to this year’s list, feel free to check out the fantastic items I scavenged for last year’s gift guide or my wish list from a few years ago.

Stocking stuffers I can’t get enough of

X-Cube

The X-Cube is this year's it puzzle for stocking stuffers. Give them the gift of strategy and mind teasers with this tough cookie.

The X-Cube is this year’s it puzzle for stocking stuffers. Give them the gift of strategy and mind teasers with this tough cookie.

I freakin’ love puzzles. When we go to Gen Con, one of my big events is the giant puzzle quest (which is actually how I get to go to Gen Con next year for free!). I love puzzles in all their forms. Words. Tangible. Jigsaw. There’s this amazing puzzle cube extreme called the X-Cube. It’s like Rubik’s Cube on crack. In the best way possible. Want to spend hours trying to solve this thing? Give it to a kid, and you’ll be begging to play too. I am obsessed with this thing. Seriously. Everyone’s getting one in their stockings. Christmas Eve with the kids will be puzzlemania.

Card games

I always like to fill stockings with fun games that are super transportable. There are plenty of awesome card games you can stuff in everyone’s stockings whether you’re going for a traditional and simple game of Uno or looking for something a little more interesting like Cover Your A$$ets or Skull King. For the most adorable card games ever, try these tiny little gum pack games that are so small they fit in a pocket.

Gifts for the Danny Tanner (or you know…like a college student or something) in Your Life

Shark Rocket ® Powerhead

Okay, so Brian is no Danny Tanner, but he’s more than willing to pick up a broom or vacuum and dominate our floors. I named our Shark Rocket ® Powerhead vacuum Jaws. Get it? Shark. Jaws. Har har har. Anyways…

If you’re not afraid the wife/mom/daughter is going to swat you for wrapping an appliance this Christmas or if your boyfriend/hubs/college age son is in need of a practical gift, this one’s it. My mom got me a vacuum for Christmas one year. It was awesome. It was purple. It was her hint that I needed to move out of her house and into my own place. Which I did. 7 years later with Brian. Who HATED my purple vacuum. So my friends at Shark hooked me up with my very own Shark vacuum (in exchange for my honest opinion) so my boyfriend would stop complaining about the girly, useless vacuum we used to own. So yes, Virginia, you can gift a vacuum for Christmas.

Give the Danny Tanner in your life a Shark Rocket Powerhead for Christmas

We have carpet, tile and hardwood floors to clean. And this vacuum knocks it all out of the park with a sweet design that’s made to adjust for your height and preferences. We can peel right through the fancy dining room floor, kitchen floor, and carpet in one full swoop. It also has fancy engineering that combines the motor and dust cup in the head of the vacuum, reducing airflow path and maximizing efficiency and power. The thing about this awesome vacuum, is that if I need to bust out and get down and dirty with the cleaning, this puppy is only 9 lbs. One of my biggest reasons for not being a huge fan of vacuuming is the weight of a vacuum when I have to move it around. That feeling is just not awesome. But the Shark is that awesome. Brian is convinced this machine will help me get over my fear of vacuuming.  Until then, he’s been enjoying Jaws, and I think anyone on your list who needs a vacuum will too.

Gifts for Foodies

Nutri Ninja® Auto-IQ™ Pro Compact System

Never in a million years did I expect to say that I drink and like a good kale smoothie, and yet, here we are. I drink and like a good kale smoothie. From my Nutri Ninja with the extra smooth boost. A little pineapple, a little kale, a little apple or pear…delicious. No joke. The Nutri Ninja is magical. Brian loves using it to make homemade salsa. I used it to chop veggies for my Halloween chili (and NO ONE knew that there were 10x more vegetables than meat in the chili).

I made a Kale Smoothie with my Nutri Ninja using kale, pineapple slices, and pears.

You can also mix cookie dough and other batters in this beautiful blender of multitasking joy. I even made funky pumpkin spice banana pancake batter (like all-banana-and-egg, no-flour pancakes) in it once (and let’s be honest, probably never again. Banana pancakes are not good, you guys, no matter what Sarah Michelle Gellar says).

I make green smoothies in my Nutri Ninja and love them!

My friends at Ninja thought I would appreciate one of these little machines, and boy oh boy were there right! I bought a Cosco-size bag of kale for crying out loud! It blends nuts, seeds, and all sorts of other goodies that go in my smoothies. I’m going to be healthy if it kills me. But it won’t. Obviously.

Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

You guys, I am in absolute heaven.  I won one of these puppies at BlogHerFood a few weeks ago, and have been making nonstop sandwich experiments to really work this thing to the core. I haven’t cooked myself breakfast this frequently since I was unemployed…oh…wait…I spent two weeks without a job…making breakfast sandwiches in my breakfast sandwich maker. You can make other stuff too! I rocked out some afternoon sammies as well. Grilled cheese anyone?

Make your own Egg McMuffins with the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

I was originally skeptical. Really? My raw egg and cheese and bread and stuff just go in there like no big deal? Yeah. Right. But they do. They actually do. The egg cooks as much as you want it to. The well is deep enough that the cheese doesn’t touch or stick to the slidey part. It works so so so well. Aaaaaaaaaaaanyways, this magical little beasty is inexpensive, easy to clean and (wait for it) easy to store. For someone with as many small kitchen appliances as I have, counter space can seem daunting. This little sammy maker stores easily in my cabinets. This little guy is sure to be the bright light on Christmas morning for everyone (and every morning after that too!). If you want a double whammy, you can even get a two-sammy maker.

Tech accessories that make my life easier

iMagnetMount

Brian has been begging to find something to hold his phone in the Jolly Roger (our new vehicle). He likes to watch the GPS map when he’s driving so he knows where he’s going. Especially since I’m not very helpful when I’m all “Drive on, Jeeves” or worse, when I’m backseat driving from shotgun. He really hates that. I’m really good at it. Anyways…iMagnetMount offered to send me one to try and I was all, oh sure! Brian could use something like that. And guess who also loves it? Right. Me. The Jolly Roger is super fancy and has bluetooth connections and so I just keep my phone up there, and I’m all like, “OK Google, call Brian” And then Google is like, “Call Ryan?” And I’m like oh dear god no! Google. Pay attention. CALL BRIAN [LAST NAME REDACTED UNTIL BRIAN MARRIES ME]. And it works. All you have to do is put the phone-safe magnet between your phone and its case, and attach the mount to the car, and boom! Magnety sticky goodness. Just make sure you stick the mount on a CLEAN spot of your car. Dust and mount are not friends.

Winter Ice Welcome Box

Mighty Lifesaving Gifts for Clumsy Klutzes

Mighty Mug

The Mighty Mug is a serious lifesaver when you spill a lot like I do.

Okay, so it took me a hot minute to figure out how to make this work. Then I watched some YouTube videos of other people doing it and everything made sense. This magic mug (designed to NOT tip over when it’s full of liquid) protects me from myself. As you may well know, I spill things on myself, the floor, and other people with some frequency, and when I use my Mighty Mug, I’m spill free as I was meant to be. Mighty Mug sent me a mug to share with you because they knew I was a total klutz, and they thought I could use one of these. They were completely right. Skeptical as I may have been…they nailed it.

Speck Mightyshell + Faceplate

My Speck case helps keep my phone safe even in the bathroom when I'm taking Skinny Mirror Selfies and drop the phone twice because I'm so distracted...not that I did that or anything...

My Speck case helps keep my phone safe even in the bathroom when I’m taking Skinny Mirror Selfies and drop the phone twice because I’m so easily distracted…not that I did that or anything…

Okay, I know I mentioned Speck in last year’s holiday gift guide, but you guys, SERIOUSLY, I can’t tell you how many times my Mightyshell Speck case has saved me from having to buy a new phone. When I birthday gifted myself with a new Galaxy S6, my friends over at Speck hooked me up with a pretty pink industrial case and faceplate designed to withstand every test I could put it through. And believe me, I have tested its limits. I’ve dropped it, thrown it, stepped on it, sat on it…and the phone’s still kickin’ as if I had just purchased it. Everyone in your life needs one of these cases. I’ve been tempted to drop my phone from our indoor Juliet window as a test because I have so much faith in this thing, but Brian keeps telling me it’s a bad idea.

Gifts for kids from aunties (and uncles) who love them

I don’t have my own tiny humans, but my godson has said, “Auntie Chrissy gives the BEST presents.”

I chalk it up to the DINK phenomenon (double income no kids) and the fact that the toys live at their parents’ house and not my house…The louder the better, amiright? I realize that this will result in payback a few years down the road, but until the then… the louder the better.

Of course, not everything has to be loud. Sometimes, it’s just plain fun.

Versa Bricks (and Legos and K’Nex and Hot Wheels)

My godson is a die-hard Legoian. If that’s not a word, I just made it up and it’s totally a thing. But like, the kid seriously has so many freakin’ Legos, I don’t know what to get him anymore. Last year, I got him Brickstuff –  these amazing lights that go inside his Legos to light them up. This year, it’s Versa Bricks (thanks to my friends at Versa Bricks who offered  a set for my godson to try out and play with!) and some new add-ons that I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have. Hot Wheels and K’nex. The Versa Bricks make it possible to connect all three of these beloved kids’ toys and create and combine whole new worlds. He’s going to freakin’ love it. And I’m the aunt that wins all the love.

Board games

If you’re like me and training your nieces and nephews to be the ultimate gamer nerds, get them sweet gamer games for kids, like this one I got for my godson a few years ago, Catan Junior. If you’ve played Settlers of Catan, this game is the “junior” version, but it’s no Monopoly Junior. It’s a pretty solid beginner gamer game (and one that parents will actually enjoy too. See, I’m not all bad, parents!).

Barbie

This may set all the feminists out there ablaze, but I’m not going to lie, I’m still down with Barbie. When my cousin told me her daughter was finally getting into Barbie, I went out and bought a bazillion dolls like this windsurfing Barbie. Christmas done. I loved Barbie when I was a kid, and I still have my dolls for my future tiny humans. I remember playing with my friend’s mom’s dolls as a kid and it was awesome. So yes, Barbie for everyone!

And finally, gifts for the children at heart

I’m like a perptual 9-year-old girl. I want toys and games and nerdy book things. My assumption is that most adults do too. So this is what I’m proposing we give each other for Christmas.

Harry Potter blankies

This is the COOLEST blanket I’ve ever seen. Seriously. It’s the freakin’ Maurauder’s Map in blanket form. If you’re a Potterphile, you need this in your life. And then you need to watch and read all the movies and books again while wrapped up in your cozy blanky.

Alice in Wonderland purse

A BOOK purse, you guys. A purse that looks like a book! This Alice in Wonderland bag is seriously magical. You are welcome for this sweet find, people.

WHEW! That was exhausting! I hope you enjoyed my little blurbs and that maybe you found something unique or useful for someone special in your life. In honor of the holidays, I’m giving away another Swag Bag of goodies for you this holiday season! While I haven’t pieced it together yet, the value will likely be well over $50. To enter, just fill out the giveaway form below!
 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!