Summer is almost here, which means that it’s getting to that time where you can start playing games outside again! But don’t you just hate carrying those big heavy boxes around (you don’t wanna bring Gloomhaven to the park, do you?). Well don’t worry… I’m here to help. I’ve got a great list of 5 small games that pack a big punch but fit inside your pocket, so you don’t have to carry all that cardboard and plastic in big tote bags everywhere. And not to worry… I got a game for every kind of pocket required!
Sushi Go! (For the bigger sweater pocket)
Sushi Go! is card drafting at it’s purest form. Everyone gets a hand of cards (based on the number of players), takes one face down to play once everyone has chosen and then passes the hand to the next person. Over 3 rounds, you are trying to collect sets of different kinds of sushi, appetizers, maki, learn to use some chopsticks, and if you are brave, have some wasabi and at the end of the 3rd round, maybe have some dessert as well. Scoring is simple: Maki is scored by whoever has the most in front of them. Tempura must be in sets of 2 or is worth nothing, and Sashimi is the same but in sets of 3. The more dumplings you have, the more points they are worth. Nigiri scores a set amount of points, but if you have wasabi under it you get triple the points. Chopsticks let you take multiple cards, and then pudding give you points if you have the most at the end of the game! And who doesn’t love pudding? Designer Phil Walker-Harding (Imhotep, Bärenpark) really created a wonderful game that the whole family can enjoy. It plays in about 15 minutes and everyone has a great time!
At the end of the day, Sushi Go! loses some style points because it comes in a bigger tin box which won’t fit in any pant pockets. Like real sushi, you don’t want to serve it too hot: save it for those cooler summer nights where you need a sweater with a bigger pocket. Just be careful if you bring it to a beach fire… those cards can burn easily!
Sushi Go! Verdict: 8/10 summer nights
Linko! (For the back pocket)
Linko! is created by the legendary duo of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling (Tikal, Torres)! Known as Abluxxen (a much cooler name) in Germany, the game has cards numbered 1-13 (8 of each) and 5 jokers. The whole point of the game is to play sets of the same number cards down and then at the end of the game have no cards in your hand. If you play a higher number than your opponent AND the same amount of cards, you can either make them pick theirs up or snatch them! So why would you want to snatch them? Well, if you had 6 #1 cards, your opponents would have to play 6 of another number to snatch or make you pick yours up. It’s a really unique mechanic, and if you don’t mind being mean in games, this one is perfect! Go ahead and snatch your opponents’ cards!
Linko! is a lot smaller than Sushi go, but still a little bigger than the other games on our list, so its a perfect candidate for the back pocket. Just be careful to remove the game before sitting down! The original game came in an unnecessarily large box, but thankfully the new edition is pocket sized and therefore can travel with you wherever the games take you!
Linko! Verdict: 8.5/10 accidentally crushed game boxes
Hanabi (For those hot days when you need shorts)
Hanabi is different than the previous games because instead of trying to crush your opponents’ hopes and dreams, you are actually all trying to work together, with your end goal being to set off the most beautiful fireworks display. A perfect game for those long holiday weekends, but there’s a tiny little catch. You see… you are holding your cards away from you, meaning you can’t see your hand but all the other players can. And you gotta play the cards down in colour AND number sequence… but don’t worry! You can give hints… as long as you tell the person every green colour card, or every number 2 they have in their hand. Sounds easy right? Play the wrong card as well (you already played that red 3!) 3 times and you set the fireworks off early! Hahabi is a Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) winner, and its a blast (literally!) to play!
Hanabi is a game that will fit in most pockets, including those shorts that fit you so well last year but just don’t fit as nice this year, but you love them so much you just don’t care! It’s perfect for creating some teamwork, or just getting frustrated with each other cause no one can read each other’s minds on what card to play. So go on, bring it to your next big national holiday and have a bang!
Hanabi Verdict: 9/10 accidental firework explosions
The Game: Are You Ready To Play? (For the business casual meeting)
You think Hanabi is difficult? Well, you’re in for a treat… The Game is another team building exercise where there are 98 cards (numbered 2-99) and 4 piles to play on. Two of them start at 100 and must be played descending, and two start at 1 and must be played ascending. You draw 6 cards, and on your turn you must play at least two cards out of your hand down on the piles. So if there is a 42 down on the ascending pile you must play a 43 or higher. But don’t worry, your friends are there to help you, except they can’t really communicate with you using any numbers. The one nice rule is that you can play backwards on any pile as long as you use the card that is 10 less or more to go up or down (example: there is a 63 on the descending pile, and you have a 73 in your hand, so you can play it to go up). It’s so painful to watch someone go before you, knowing you have a card that can make you go backwards and watch them place the next number thinking they did you a favour.
When you get to the point when you can’t draw any more cards, you only have to play one card from your hand. The game ends when one player can’t play any cards from their hand, or you played every single card and you’ve won The Game. Which doesn’t ever happen. Wanna make it more interesting? Make The Game become ON FIRE! Replace some of the regular cards with those blue fire cards, and if it’s not covered on the next players turn… you immediately lose. Seriously though… I’m making this sound bad, but this has to be one of the best co-operative game I’ve ever played. Extremely challenging and so intense with every card laid down, everyone who plays will wanna try again right away to do better.
Being a great team building exercise, The Game really fits nicely into a dress shirt pocket. Bring it your next business meeting, and when your boss asks what it is, tell him its a team building exercise you should all try. And if you’re the boss… well make them all play it! It’s also the same size as Hanabi, so you can easily swap the 2. Double the fun!
The Game Verdict: 9/10 wage increases
Love Letter (For any occasion! Skinny jeans friendly*)
In Love Letter, you are a suitor trying to get your… wait for it… love letter to the princess. But theres a bunch of people in your way trying to keep that from happening. There’s only 16 cards, and one card will be removed from the game for each round, and each player will get one card as their hand. On your turn, you will draw a card and then play one from your hand. The cards have a number value (1-8) and an action, which will allow you to discard cards, look at your opponents hand, trade hands, protect you or eliminate your opponents. If you are the last one standing, you win the round and gain a token of affection. Otherwise you play until there are no cards left to draw, and then players reveal their hand. The player with the highest number card gains the token of affection. When a player reaches a certain number of tokens (dependent on player count), they win the game (and the affection of the princess of course). Seriously fast and fun, Love Letter takes minutes to play and is one of the most easily accessible games I have ever seen. You can bust this game out in line for movie tickets and seriously get a couple of rounds in!
*Love letter comes in 2 versions: one in a bag and one in a box. The bag version is the one I have here, if you have the box version you can try putting it in your skinny jeans pockets, but you may experience some discomfort from the sharp corners. Also thank you to my lovely wife who posed for this photo so I didn’t have to put on skinny jeans.
Love Letter will fit in almost any pocket. Rock star with leather pants who needs to play something backstage with your bandmates? Check! Runner with one of those little zipper pockets in your tights who needs a game after a marathon? Check! Heck, if your pants don’t have pockets you can probably tie the strings from the bag around your wrist and carry it everywhere. This game should always be on you. I don’t want to hear any excuses! Now go out and play some Love Letter, you won’t regret it.
Love Letter Verdict: 10/10 letters of affection delivered