Top 5 Games to Throw in Your Bag

“You’ve probably brought a game we can play Tom?”

So goes the call at a pub, on a train, or during a thrilling heist, and the answer, as always, is yes, yes I have. I love to throw a small game or two in my bag “just in case.”

When I started writing this article I quickly realised how many awesome small box games there are out there, so for this top 5 I decided to stick to card games only (leaving the way open for a thrilling sequel… will any of these games survive to make the sequel? Probably, as cards cannot die, yet another great reason to pick up a copy!)


The easiest answer of course would have been, “Take a regular deck of cards,” but now you don’t have to! Or rather, you can take a deck of cards with you and still impress friends, relatives, passing tradesmen etc. because this fantastic co-op card game comprises a regular deck of cards but with added gorgeous artwork and that all-important rule sheet. In it you’ll play plucky warriors facing terrifying odds to battle great Kings, Queens and those pesky Jacks (I have no real idea what a Jack is, but good to kill them just in case). So why not ditch that deck of cards and make things much more complicated by taking Regicide and using THAT as a deck of cards if need be? Fair warning, this game is really tough to win, killing Kings, Queens and whatever Jacks are is not easy it turns out, but that’ll just make you want to play one more round because, dammit, you were so close!

Love Letter

There is one game that lives permanently tucked into the front pocket of my everyday bag just in case. It would now be weird if I didn’t say it’s “Love Letter”, but, we needn’t worry about that, because, it IS Love Letter! There’s a good chance you’ll have played this classic. It’s a brilliant use of only 16 cards in which you draw a card, play a card and try to work out who everyone else is so you can be the one to… well… and I realise now I only think this is what is happening in the game… but you have to be the first to get a love letter to a Princess, unless you ARE the Princess in which case you have to hide from everyone, which might sound harsh considering these people are supposedly besotted with you. Well, love is fickle I suppose (spoiler alert) but my love for this game shall shine on and on. There are lots of other reskins of this game out there including a Batman version. I haven’t played that but I assume everyone is hoping to send Batman a love letter. He deserves it! He works really hard.


I’m a sucker for good art and cool themes, but this game doesn’t bother with either. The art looks like maths homework that hasn’t left the house for weeks and yet it was easily my most played game of last year. Everyone gets dealt 10 number cards, they are played at the same time, added to a row, and if you would ever be the 6th card in a row, unlucky, you got just Nimmt! It plays from 2 players allegedly up to 10 which seems like far too many to successfully get around the tiny table you need to play this game, but it’s a real, “everyone who plays it buys a copy” classic that you should hurl straight into your bag.

Star Realms

There are big box versions and countless expansions, but all you need (and all I ever want to play with) is this brilliant base game box of 128 cards. It’s the first deck building game I ever played and easily still my favourite. A 2 player only, head to head game of spaceships blowing up other spaceships, but also earning you coins (presumably some spaceships have jobs) to buy bigger, better spaceships to do even more space explosions (and get promoted in whatever space job they have.) It plays fast, it fits on a regular sized train table (not that small one near the train toilet, the other ones) and you get to make space laser sounds. It’s all good!


My most played game of all time, the ultimate warm up or warm down game in my group, we can’t get enough of this super portable social deduction/bluffing game. You have 2 cards in hand. Each turn you can name one of the cards and do that character’s ability. The trick being, you don’t actually have to have the card in front of you to do the action, you can lie. Lying! Well well, that doesn’t sound very family friendly, does it? My Gran would hate that, you think. Wrong! Grans love lying and if you think they don’t that’s just because they’ve got you so fooled. But, I digress, if you think someone’s lying you can challenge them. This all leads to great across the table play of… “Come on! There’s no way he’s got a Duke, someone call b*llshit” Some social deduction games can outstay their welcome and fry your brain but this one plays in 10 minutes and, if anything, cools your brain down somehow. If that’s a thing.

Now, look, some of those 5 are pretty classic (some might say, obvious) answers to this question so I’ll throw you two bonus games largely so I can seem cool and in the know with some hipster choices. Want to push-your-luck against some goblins? Give “Welcome to the Dungeon” a spin. How about an auction game where you can pretend to be able to afford property? That’s “For Sale” you’ll be after. And now your bag is full! Good to be prepared.

Written by Tom Bell.

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.