Plan on waiting in this? Better pack some games. Image by Flickr user chrislee-cm, used under Creative Commons License
As geeks around the globe prepare to make their annual pilgrimage to San Diego, a common question will arise: what should I be packing? If you plan on spending hours upon hours waiting in line, hoping to enter Hall H for a seat at some celebrity-studded panels, then the answer is clear. You should be packing a few games to help you and your fellow con-goers pass the time.
But the floor of a convention center is no place for a full-size board game; this situation calls for an arsenal of card games and portable abstract strategy titles. You'll want to pack games that are lightweight, compact, and preferably, ones you can pick up and move with you should the line shift unexpectedly.
Without further ado, here are five options that cover all of the bases, from 2-player strategic duels to 8+ player party games:
A pile of Spot It! cards waiting to be played with. Image by BoardGameGeek.com user msaari, used under Creative Commons License
Sometimes, a brutally simple game can lead to brutal competition. Spot It! is equal parts quick wit and dexterity. Hold a card face up in each hand and frantically search other player's cards for a matching symbol between one of their cards and your own. When you spot a match, slam your card down on top of theirs, and hope you were able to do before you were the last person standing. They'll get to keep all of the cards used that turn, distancing themselves from the game's goal: run out of cards completely.
Spot It! has the honors of being both the smallest and fastest-playing game on this list, so if that's the sort of game you were looking for, it's an essential item to bring along.
Cards Against Humanity
Trust me, it only gets more offensive.
Cards Against Humanity is a bit of a heavy brick (the base set contains 550 cards), so while you may not be toting it around the show floor all day, it is still an essential con game. As a take on the incredibly popular Apple to Apples, most con-goers probably already know how to play Cards Against Humanity, but for those who don't, it's fairly simple to explain: Pick something from your hand of ten White Cards that best answers the question posed on the current round's Black Card. What Apples to Apples fans won't be expecting is for the cards to be so brutally offensive. As long as your gamer crowd has a good sense of humor, or at least a thick skin, expect Cards Against Humanity to be a laugh riot and an instance classic.
Everything you need to play The Resistance. Fits in your pocket, and can be easily transported mid-game. Image by BoardGameGeek.com user veenicks, used under Creative Commons License.
Players in The Resistance are split into two teams: Resistance members hoping to carry out missions, and Spies attempting to perform sabotage, so each player's objectives are clearly laid out from the start. Each turn (or "mission") has players taking a secret vote to either sabotage the mission or not. Yet there's much more depth to this game than a simple vote.
This game quickly boils down to some pretty fierce social engineering as players attempt to root out the true intentions of others. Who was given a vote this turn? Who agreed and disagreed with that decision? What happened when some of these players voted in previous turns? Every bit of information is another piece in the puzzle that tells you who to trust, and who to prevent from getting voting powers.
The Resistance is a fresh take on the classic Werewolf game, but fixes some of Werewolf's flaws, most notably by removing player elimination. The Resistance also manages to be both one of the most strategic and portable games on this list, earning it a spot in your con bag.
The stylishly-monochrome "Carbon Edition" of Hive
If you're looking for a two-player strategy experience, Hive is by far the best portable option. The game is a zipper-bag of heavy bakelite tiles, each embossed with the image of an insect to denote that tile's abilities. The goal is to surround your opponent's queen, but the varying movement rules for different tiles turns Hive into quite the chess match.
Don't feel like having to teach a bunch of rules to a crowd of con-goers when you break out a card game in line? Well then Fluxx is perfect. You draw a card, you play a card, and it's on to the next guy's turn. Additional rules only pop up when appropriately titled "New Rule" cards are played, and the current rules (as well as the current victory condition) are continuously changing.
This bizarre concept for a game will surely turn heads among the Monopoly and Scrabble crowd. There's also more versions of Fluxx than you can shake a stick at. Zombie Fluxx is pictured above, but you've also got your choice of traditional Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Martian Flux, Star Fluxx, Oz Fluxx... The list goes on. Pick one that best fits your group and toss it in your con bag.