Craig and I have always carried board games with us, even before we got into the modern board gaming scene. On our first big trip, we had a pack of cards and a travel Scrabble set that we’d been given as a wedding present — I still remember playing while waiting for a bus in a freezing, warehouse-like cafe at Heathrow airport. However, Craig got sick of always losing (I’m very good at Scrabble), so we moved on to a miniature chess set, then backgammon after a trip to Turkey.
Back in New Zealand after three years away, someone introduced us to Settlers of Catan and other modern games, and Craig founded a board-game company with two friends. On our next trip, we took a card-game version of Catan with us, and played it across four different continents. Right now, we have a selection of games including Monopoly Deal.
So why do we carry board games? Is their weight really justified? We think so, and not just because playing strategy games is apparently good for your brain.
Games are great for interaction, both with your travelling companion if you have one, and with people you meet while you’re travelling. Sometimes Craig and I get so caught up with what’s happening on our computer screens that we need something to take us back to reality, and games are great for that — though that’s not likely to be a problem for most travellers!
If you’re in a hostel common room surrounded by people you don’t know, whipping out a pack of cards can be a good way to break the ice. Or if you’re couchsurfing and it turns out you don’t really have that much in common with your host, playing a game is a fun way to connect. And if you’re a solo traveller who has been alone for too long and needs some human contact, a game can be a lifesaver.
Although games aren’t necessarily restful — some are positively stressful — they can be a great way to disconnect from whatever’s going on around you. If you’ve just had a difficult travel day or have brain freeze after spending a few hours in planning mode, studying flight schedules and bus timetables, a game can help. This is especially true if the game requires a bit of concentration, because your thoughts will be focussed on the activity and not on your real-world problems.
3. Fill times when technology isn’t available (or you’re sick of it)
These days, technology is almost always available, even when electricity isn’t — smartphone and laptop batteries often last for ages. But there’s always the chance that your phone won’t last through that four-hour delay, or that the power in your guest house will fail right when you need to recharge. This is when a game really comes in handy.
Power cuts were pretty commonplace in Mui Ne, Vietnam, where we spent a month a couple of years ago. But we were unprepared for the electricity to be off for 12 hours straight — and of course we hadn’t charged any of our electronics beforehand. Luckily, a café down the road had a pool table, so we made the most of that… it’s not quite a board game, but it’s the same idea!
If you work and travel like we do, moving your leisure away from a computer screen can be helpful as well — we do play games online, but it’s not the same. There’s something about being able to look your opponent in the eye, about moving the piece with your own hand and not the click of a button, about just not ALWAYS looking at a screen!
Do you carry any games with you when you travel? Which ones?