Small Family Games That Fit in My Purse
Call me nutty, but I always have a few small family games in my purse. Always. You never know when you are going to be somewhere (in a car, in a restaurant, waiting in line…) and need an activity. And NOTHING drives me more crazy than to see my kids sitting together … and all looking at their phones/devices. Look up! Pay attention! Play a game together!
There really are a lot of great small family games out there… primarily (because of space considerations) they are dice games or card games. The ones I’ve chosen are truly small, easily portable, fit into the average purse (and maybe even pocket!) and can be played with minimal space (some require a table for laying out cards… others just need a place to roll the dice). While they are all family friendly games (sorry, I had to leave Cards Against Humanity off the list), these games are all good for Adults to play without kids too. Take them on picnics, take them to your favorite pub, or just play them poolside.
Small Family Games – How I chose these Games
My criteria for these games was…
- Easy to carry in a purse or pocket.
- Requires little playing “space”
- Fun for ages 7 and up. (Up is important… because I’m much older than 7)
- Not overly complex… (you need to be able to play in all environments, even noisy ones. Complex games require too much discussion… which can be tough in some places).
- Short playing time. (20 minutes and under!)
Small Family Games- That Don’t Need Much Space to Play
We were just introduced to Niya, and my daughter is HOOKED. I guess you could say it’s an advanced form of Tic Tac Toe… You have to get 4 of your pieces in a row. There is a twist! (Naturally) You can only place a piece on a space that has a symbol that matches one of the two symbols from the space where your opponent put their last piece. It gets tricky!
Niya doesn’t take up much space… in fact, you can put the pieces in a plastic baggie and leave the metal box at home. It’s a simple 2 person game that works well as a filler when you are killing time. There are some really nice graphics, and I love the feel of the playing pieces.
Farkle has been our Go-To small game for years. I have a few different sets…. 2 miniature, 1 regular, 1 Spicy Farkle… I don’t even bother taking the miniature ones out of my purses. You can get the miniature set in container that looks like those old film containers (from the olden days…) or a Flat pack, about the size of a box of mints. The rules for Farkle are fairly straightforward. You roll 6 dice. Any 1s give you 100 points, 5s give you 50. Set those aside, and decide if you want to keep rolling. If you fail to roll a 1 or a 5, you Farkle, and lose all points you accumulated this turn. Other combinations of dice will also give you points (ie. 3 of a kind, 3 pairs, a straight) all of the point combinations are in the rules. First person to reach 10,000 wins.
Farkle is a game of chance and nerve…. do you keep rolling and run the risk of losing your points? Or do you go slow and steady? The game does not come with a score sheet, but any piece of paper and pen will do. All you need is a place to roll the dice.
Read a full review of Farkle HERE
Qwixx is another dice game of chance… but you are looking to “collect” as many numbers along a number line, in a specific color, as you can. The game comes with 6 dice (seems to be a theme), 2 white, 1 red, 1 blue, 1 green, 1 yellow. The active player rolls the dice, and calls out the sum of the 2 white dice. This number can be crossed off the score sheet by anyone/everyone. Then they look at combinations of the white die and colored die. If the active player finds a good combination, they may cross it off. Numbers must be crossed off in order (you can skip, but you can’t go back). After crossing off 5 of a color, the color can be closed by rolling the last number in the line (either a 2 or 12).
Qwixx is a game of probability. Did you roll a 5? Do you want to mark that number, if that means skipping 3 and 4? The person who collects the most numbers wins. You do need a space to roll dice, and each person needs a score sheet, which is included (and a pen or pencil).
Read a full review of Qwixx Here
Like anything associated with Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dice revolves around insanity. Although I suppose if you are playing with very young children, you can just call it points or nuttiness… (or whatever PC, non-threatening language you choose). Everyone starts with some glass sanity tokens (they are quite pretty). On your turn… pick a victim and roll the funky 12 sided die… then do what the die tells you. (There is a handy chart, but you will remember it quickly). Either steal sanity from your victim, lose sanity yourself, take some sanity from the middle, everyone loses one, or choose your favorite. (Then your victim gets a chance at revenge). After both of you attack each other, the next person to the left gets a turn. If you lose all your sanity, you can still attack, but no one can attack you. The winner is the last person with any sanity left. (Sounds a bit like being a mother)
This game is not very complex, but then, it also doesn’t take up much space. All you need is a spot to roll a die… everyone can keep their sanity in their hands.
Read the complete review of Cthulhu Dice HERE
Zombie Dice is another game that may not be for the very young… shotgun blasts, bloody feet… but it’s a favorite with my tween/teens and adults. The game itself is a dice game of chance… you want to roll brains, and you don’t want to blasts. Footprints are neutral. Roll and re-roll dice, setting aside the green brains and red blasts… and re-rolling the yellow footprints. Brains are points… and all points are lost if you get three red shotgun blasts. Better stop and score your points before that happens!
This simple game is a nice little filler. All you need is a place to roll, and set aside dice. First person to score 13 wins… but we change that to whatever number we want.
Read my complete review of Zombie Dice HERE
Catan Dice takes the game Catan, and boils it down to the most basic parts. Collect resources, build things. Instead of a game board and numbered dice, cards and buildings, you have dice with resource symbols and a score sheet. Roll the dice… set aside the dice resources you need… circle what you built.. score it… the next person goes. This game is played in 15 rounds, and the highest score wins. Catan Dice is a simple way to play Catan, and Catan players will probably enjoy it… unless they like to play cut-throat style (messing with people by sending the robber their way, or hoarding cards). This version really is just you against the dice. It can be played solo.. or with as many people as you have patience and pencils for.
There are a few versions… I went nuts and bought the DELUX version, because it comes with a groovy carrying container. You could get the basic Catan Dice, and just carry the scorepads, dice and pencils in a baggie. Up to you.
5 Crowns is a card game that takes the basic rules of Gin Rummy, and adds a twist (as well as a a new suit). The game is played in rounds. The first round you deal 3 cards to each player… players need to collect three of a suit, or three in a row (ie. 3,4,5). Threes are wild in the first round. The next round you get 4 cards… and collect. Then 5, then 6. In each round the number that matches the round is wild. As the hands get larger, you need to collect multiple sets. Winner is the person who places all their cards on the table (in one swoop) in any round. Score is counted by what you have left in your hand after the round. So, like golf, a high score is bad.
5 Crowns is a nice variation of Rummy, and my daughter and I enjoy playing. It’s not too difficult to pick up, and collecting the cards is easier than you think, because of the wild cards and extra suit. We do change the rules a bit. Instead of counting each cards value as points (ie. the 7 card= 7 points), we just count each card left in the hand as one point. Makes it easier….
Small Family Games- That Need a Bit More Space to Play
You don’t have to be a total history nut to enjoy Timeline. In fact, sometimes overthinking can get you into trouble. The game is simple. Each player is given cards that have specific events on them… one side has the date, the other doesn’t… .be sure not to peek at the date. A starter card is placed on the table. On your turn, you place your card on the timeline where you think it needs to be, in relation to the starter card…. then you flip to verify by date. If you are right, the card stays. Wrong, you discard it, and draw another to your hand. Winner is the first person to get rid of all their cards. We have the combination set, so our cards vary from “domestication of cattle” to “invention of the aerosol can”… but you can get cards based on specifics like American history or sports.
Honestly, we play this game a lot. If we fill like dragging it out, we hand everyone extra cards. Thing is, your “Timeline” can get long… so make sure you have a long enough playing surface. The game itself comes in a smallish tin.
I absolutely LOVE the container for Ninja Dice... it’s a little padded NINJA HEAD! Challenge dice that set up the House are rolled (locks, guards, residents) and then Skills dice get rolled (pick locks, fighting skills, stealth). Other players will roll dice that could cause you trouble…. It all depends on how the dice are positioned on the table (ie. you are only affected by dice that are in your plane). The object is to beat the house, and steal the treasure. Play the game in three rounds… adding a level of difficulty to the house with each round. The game mechanic is new to me… so it took a bit of practice to get it right, but now Ninja dice joins us on trips.
This game needs space to roll… so playing in a car won’t work. You need all players to be able to roll at once.
Fluxx is known for being the game whose rules change as you go along. It’s a card game that starts off with a basic… draw a card and play a card rule (read the instructions on the cards). There are a few different kinds of cards. Rule cards, Action Cards, Goal Cards and Keeper Cards. SO.. you may play a card that changes the basic rules… now you have to draw 3 cards and play 2. Some cards have goals.. and if you play a goal card, that’s the new goal. The keeper cards fulfill the goal… for example, if the Goal card is Lullaby, you need the Sleep and Music cards to win. But be careful, the goals, like the rules, can change!
Fluxx is easy, once you get the idea in your head… and it comes in a load of different variations from Regular to Family to Stars and Pirates. All you need is the ability to read, follow rules and a table to place your cards.
Iota is a smaller, slightly more complicated version of Qwirkle. It comes in a teeny Tiny metal box… so it fits in your pocket. Square cards have one of four numbers, colors and shapes on them. Cards are placed on the table in rows that fit with the previous card. So… if a red square three card is placed, you place a card by it that either matches the number, shape or color, or a combination of two. You can put a red square 4 next to it for example. or a red cross 2. Cards need to be the same, or all different. Score by adding up the numbers in the row you just made. If you complete a row of four cards, you get to double the score. You can also skip a turn by returning your cards to the draw deck and choosing new ones. You also get to use wild cards.
This game is small… really small… but it requires some playing room. Don’t bother trying this one in the car… but try it on a table instead. Why Iota instead of Qwirkle? Well… because you can stick it in your pocket.
Apples to Apples Mod
Consider Apples to Apples Mod a way to make the standard Apples to Apples game smaller. Instead of green cards that give you a topic to match, you roll a green die with letters on it. The judge for the turn rolls the die, and assigns an adjective to the turn according to the letter rolled. (So.. roll a C, and use the adjective “cranky” or “crunchy”, roll an F, and use “fast” etc.) Other players now play one of their cards that they feel most closely matches the chosen adjective. The judge picks the best… and score is kept. First to 5 wins.
We take Apples to Apples Mod with us to Soccer Tournaments. The sleek box fits neatly into my daughter’s bag, and the girls like to play between games. The standard Apples to Apples is a bit big and bulky for that. Plus, the kids love being creative with adjectives (and if you aren’t able to think of any, there is a list included).
Travel Sized Games