Board Games for Travelers Stuck at Home (Not Pandemic, We Swear)

While you’re perfecting your social distancing skills at home on your own, with your roommates, or with your family, here are a bunch of our favorite games for players of different levels, numbers, and wanderlusts.

OK, so you’ve already toured the Louvre and crafted homemade hummus and spied on gorillas in the wild and it’s only day two of your city’s shelter-in-place order. Not to worry! Just because we’re spending a lot more time indoors these days doesn’t mean we can’t travel to lands far and wide—and we don’t even have to leave our dining room table. Here are some of the games keeping us entertained during our days of social distancing. 

Monopoly National Parks 

  • Best for: travelers dreaming of scenic vistas
  • Number of players: 2–6, plays well with 2
  • Buy now: campingworld.com

Yosemite may be closed, but in this themed edition of the historic Hasbro game, players can still travel there. More than 60 national parks are featured in the game; buy the Grand Canyon, trade Yellowstone, and spot wildlife while you’re at it. Rather than the traditional player tokens like a top hat, instead move your way around the board as a buffalo or a tent.  

Santorini

  • Best for: travelers yearning for an island sunset
  • Number of players: 2–4, plays very well with 2
  • Buy now: walmart.com

Families and folks who appreciate short strategy games (about 20 minutes) will enjoy this trip to the Greek isle of Santorini. There, players build the island’s iconic whitewashed, blue-domed structures—with a little assistance from the pantheon of Greek gods—on a 3-D board, and the first person to construct a third story wins. Developed by an educator, elementary-aged gamers and adults alike can learn the game quickly, but, like chess, every game is wholly different. 

Root 

  • Best for: travelers who seek a forest escape 
  • Number of players: 2–4 players, and can play very well with 2
  • Buy now: amazon.com

More dedicated tabletop game players can immerse themselves in a sylvan hideaway—one of warring factions led by the Marquise de Cat, the avian Eyrie, the Woodland Alliance, and the wily Vagabond. What makes Root so dynamic (and challenging to learn at first) is that every faction has a different way of scoring points. Will you earn points by building workshops and battling your foes, or sneaking around the forest and trading valuable cards for important items to fill your satchel? The art for this game is whimsical, and once players get a handle on their win conditions, it becomes a great way to spend a screen-free afternoon. 

The Grimm Forest

  • Best for: travelers wanting to slip into a magical fairyland
  • Number of players: 2–4 players, and can play very well with 2
  • Buy now: amazon.com

Enter the enchanted world of the Grimm Forest. Here, as a relative of the Three Little Pigs, collect wood, straw, and brick materials to race against other piggies and be the first to construct three houses. Deduce the strategy of other piggies to gain more resources, and receive aid from familiar fairy tale characters. But beware of the villains that may emerge to disrupt construction—like the Big Bad Wolf, who will blow part of your house down.  

Though the board game suggests starting age as 14, it’s actually well suited to kids as young as 7 or 8, especially if they’re willing to team up with a more advanced player to make decisions at first. The boards and cards are colorful and richly illustrated, and the miniatures of the monsters and all the house pieces make it a particularly tactile board game. 

Grand Austria Hotel 

  • Best for: travelers missing their nightly turndown service
  • Number of players: 2–4, plays very well with 2
  • Buy now: amazon.com

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel and thought, “I wonder what it’s like to run this place!”, now’s your chance. Set in a Vienna that’s enticing travelers with its creative and intellectual scenes, you must turn your café into a hotel to provide lodging for guests. With a roll of the dice, you might hire staff, work on your food and beverage options, or turn over rooms over the course of seven turns. Will you have what it takes to become the next Hotel Sacher Wien? (Note that this game is on the complex side, so is best for families with teens or adults.)

Ticket to Ride series

  • Best for: travelers who are train fans 
  • Number of players: 2–5 players, and can play very well with 2
  • Buy now: amazon.com

Miss riding the rails? Order from this popular series, which truly can take you around the world. The premise: players compete to lay tracks and complete train routes between cities. Bonus points go to whoever has the longest continuous route. Though the original Ticket to Ride is set in the United States, others in the series go to India, France, the Nordic countries, all of continental Europe, and beyond; its latest version, set in Japan, incorporates that country’s high-speed bullet train routes. The game is simple enough for elementary age kiddos to join in on the fun but complex enough to keep adults entertained. Bonus: You can play online if you’re on your own or don’t want to order a hard copy of the game.

Note: There’s a web version of this game, as well as app options for iOS and Android

7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Duel 

  • Best for: travelers wishing to go back in time
  • Number of players: 2–7 players, plays best with 3 or 4
  • Buy now: amazon.com

Venture back millenia for this game, which pits players against each other as they build one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Over the course of three ages, construct the pyramids of Gizah in Egypt or tend the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon, but remember that all great civilizations can’t just rely on commerce—make buildings dedicated to education, the arts, and more, and you’ll get points for cultivating these fields, too. The original version is best suited for four players, but 7 Wonders Duel is a card game version developed specifically for two players.

Note: An app version is available on iOS and Android.

Spaceteam

  • Best for: travelers who’d rather leave Earth’s orbit entirely
  • Number of players: 2–8, though definitely is more fun with at least 4 players
  • Buy now: amazon.com

In this fast-paced cooperative card game, you and your fellow astronauts are responsible for working together to repair your malfunctioning ship. No taking turns here—players must share card information aloud quickly and simultaneously to aid their teammates and also address their own system failures. Silly scenarios—like saving a teammate who has been sucked out of the spaceship—along with needing to call out for kooky space tools (“I need a depthgrater!”) keep this game fun for kiddos and adults alike. Yes, there’s a lot of shouting involved, and sometimes movement is required to achieve “all systems go,” but the games are a quick five minutes. 

Note: An app version of this game is also available on Android and iOS. Also, the box for this game is small enough to pack pretty well for when you go on your next trip.

Other tips for virtual game play 

  • Sites like Tabletopia and Board Game Arena allow for online tabletop gaming against folks around the world via your desktop and by app. 
  • Some games can be played via video chat software like Zoom if all parties have a copy of the games. Dice games and board games that don’t require too many card draws and exchanges tend to be easier to set up this way. 
  • Steam is another popular platform for digitized versions of board games. 

AFAR participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase an item featured in this story. All products and services listed here are independently selected by AFAR journalists.

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