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I would be interested to hear if anyone had recommendations for 2-player games that are particularly suitable for playing while travelling on trains. (I ask this as someone who mostly enjoys games like Carcassonne, Power Grid, Agricola, Pandemic, etc. around the table at home.) To be specific, the things that I think are important properties for these games are:

  1. Needing minimal table space. Most trains have a small table you could use, but not much more.
  2. Being quiet to play, so that other passengers won't be disturbed. For example, I imagine that games that involve repeatedly rolling dice wouldn't be appreciated.
  3. Packing down small, so that they don't take up much luggage space.
  4. Not requiring batteries or a power socket. (I appreciate that an iPhone or a Nintendo DS for each player might be a good solution more generally, but it's not what I'm after in this case.)
  5. Not being so delicate to arrange that motion from the train will unduly disrupt the play.

I think it would be best to recommend one game (or class of games) per answer, if that's appropriate, and explain why you think it's particularly suitable. (Incidentally, I've read the guidance on good questions about game recommendations and hope this question meets the criteria.)

Update: Thanks for so many excellent suggestions - we certainly won't be short of games for our next long train journey :)

Update 2: Unfortunately, I can't really playtest this many great games in any reasonable time period, so I'm going to accept the top-voted answer (Cribbage) and try out the others as soon as I can. Thanks again...

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closed as not constructive by LittleBobbyTables Aug 12 '11 at 11:10

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Do you enjoy card games at all or are you just interested in boardgames? –  Scott Mitchell Jan 18 '11 at 17:50
    
@Scott Mitchell: sure, I'd be interested in suggestions for card games, it's just that we just don't play them much at home (except sometimes Bohnanza, which really needs more than 2). I wondered if someone might suggest San Juan, for example, or Haggis, which both sound interesting. –  Mark Longair Jan 18 '11 at 18:58
    
Thanks for the clarification. I updated my answer to include card game suggestions - boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/2211/… –  Scott Mitchell Jan 19 '11 at 3:58

15 Answers 15

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would suggest Cribbage. Not much space is required, it is quick to set up and put away, involves no more noise than any game between two players, and is a very good game. It is also best enjoyed with a glass of something in the other hand, increasing its suitability for a train journey.

If you don't know how to play (and it isn't terribly complicated, although rather different from other card games), have a look here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cribbage

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1  
Thanks for the suggestion - I haven't tried cribbage before, but it sounds fun. Perhaps I should have added "leaves one hand free for a glass of something" to the list of requirements :) –  Mark Longair Jan 17 '11 at 9:01
    
Another thing to make Cribbage even more portable is instead of keeping score on a board, keep score on two stop watches. 1 point = 1 second. First person to 2:01 wins. –  David Oneill Jan 19 '11 at 19:29

Blokus To Go is a great travel game for two players:

  • It is compact (19cm x 19cm x 3cm).
  • It requires only little table space (19cm x 19cm is enough). You could even play it without a table.
  • Short set up time, say half a minute.
  • It is a short game, so you can play it whenever you've got a spare moment. You might even interrupt a gameby closing the box.
  • Last but not least it is a very enjoyable game without a luck factor, quite addicting really.

One drawback is that (in my copy) some of the blocks come off the board too easily. Because the box cannot be closed very tightly, it is easy to loose some components when traveling. Luckily this can be fixed by wrapping a elastic band around it.

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Hive is a very nice travel game:

  • It is compact, fitting in a bag of say the size of two fists.
  • It requires only little table space (40cm x 40cm is enough).
  • I has rock solid components you won't loose.
  • No set up time.
  • It is a short game, so you can play it whenever you've got a spare moment.

The only drawback however is it weight. My carbon edition weighs 550g, which is quite heavy (650g with the ladybug and the mosquito included). In comparison: Blokus To Go weighs only 320g.

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Another simple game would be the pen-and-paper "Dots", or similar.

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The base version of Carcassonne can be played on a very compact space, if you get an alternative scoring track.

I have a cloth scoring track, plus the draw bag that comes with B&T (I think) that I can carry in a mini-expansion box.

There is also a travel version of Carcassonne.

The iPad version of Caracassonne and Small World are also very nice. You only need one iPad, and the battery lasts ages.

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I'm really surprised by this suggestion - the tiles from the base set of Carcassonne takes up more space that I've ever had on a train table. I've considered the travel version, but I think even that version requires too much table space. –  Mark Longair Jan 26 '11 at 20:14
    
Not sure how big your train tables are, but I've played in some really compact spaces. Try laying out the tiles and see how much room they take :D You can also only take 2 sets of meeples with you if you want to reduce size even further. –  tunaranch Jan 30 '11 at 23:26

I know you suggest avoiding dice games, but I strongly suspect that Roll Through The Ages: The Late Bronze Age would fit the bill quite nicely.

Reasons:

1) The box it comes in acts as a nice sound-dampening dice-rolling tray, making it far less disruptive than your average dice game. I can imagine playing it on a train without disturbing other passengers.

2) Packs small, plays small, resistant to jostling.

3) Plays two players just fine, and scales to three or four (just in case).

4) On that note: It's relatively quick to teach (to gamers).

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In fact, "Roll Through The Ages" was exactly the game I was thinking of :) I haven't tried it, but remember reading somewhere that the dice rolling made it noisy. Thanks for the comment about dampening the noise, etc. though - another excuse to get a copy is very welcome. –  Mark Longair Jan 26 '11 at 19:46

I enjoy games that need no special equipment, those that can be played with just paper and pens. Examples are Bulls and cows and TwixT.

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For Twixt, you may need an eraser, too, as the rules specify you can delete some of your connections before adding a new one. –  ypercube Nov 24 '11 at 23:00

Boggle is one of my favorite games and can be enjoyably played alone or with two, three, or four players. It's got a small form factor and requires little space in your suitcase. The only potential downside is shaking the tiles can be a bit noisy if you're not careful, but it is possible to shake them with only minimal noise.

There are also a variety of boardgames that offer travel-sized versions, from Chess to Go to Checkers. These are usually considerably smaller and have magnetic pieces to ensure there isn't slippage when going around a bend or coming to a stop and are more suitable for car rides, but I imagine they'd work for a train ride.

Perhaps the most portable gaming system is a deck of playing cards. Unfortunately, there aren't nearly as many card games for two players as there are for three or more, but there are still some gems. As Brian Hooper noted, Cribbage is a great two player card game and can be played without a board, keeping score on a piece of paper. Here are some other two player card games that you might give a try:

  • Honeymoon bridge - if you enjoy bridge this is an entertaining variation for two. Not as much strategy as with four, but still fun and a great way to pass the time.
  • Gin rummy - played this a lot as a kid and, from what I remember, it was a lot of fun (at least for a kid!).
  • Speed - this might not be the most suitable game for a train ride since it involves each player "discarding" as quick as they can, which can make it a bit boisterous, but it is worth exploring and is especially fun after a cup (or two) of coffee.
  • Crazy 8s - fun and easy.

Most two player card games I've encountered are usually quite simple with straightforward rules and little to no strategy. They serve more as an outlet to pass the time. If you are looking for more of a thinking man's two player game, consider a classic like Chess or Go.

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Ingenious: Travel Edition

Ingenious is a very solid abstract game in its own right - a Knizia design. This travel edition looks like exactly what you're looking for. The board holds the pieces and score markers firmly in place, and it's made for two.

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Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

My family took this on our trip to Europe expressly to play on trains, and we successfully conducted several three-player games that way. You get a solid variant of the award-winning TtR in a very small space. We packed it into a box meant to hold a deck of Magic cards and thought the space it took was well worth it.

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Upvoted because, what better game to play on a train journey than Ticket to Ride? –  thesunneversets Jan 19 '11 at 0:16
    
@thesunneversets - I know, right? We loved the self-referential nature of it as well. –  gomad Jan 19 '11 at 16:45

How about any of the myriad "travel-size" games, such as chess, checkers, othello, scrabble, etc?

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Good if they have magnetic pieces. –  Andy May 19 '11 at 15:21
    
@Andy - or if they have those pocket boards like travel scrabble and othello do (or the peg-based boards) –  warren May 19 '11 at 15:32
    
Very true. How did I forget about those? –  Andy May 19 '11 at 15:33

Can't Stop

I built my own travel version out of Lego, but you might not be that keen. It is a dice game, so that might be a down side for you. I used some tiny little dice in a clear plastic container, so that was quieter and avoided losing the dice. You could also use a Deck of Dice to reduce dice hassles. It might even have some interesting effects on the game since you can't roll four of a kind with two cards from a single deck of dice. If you're feeling crafty, you could mount four spinners from thrift-store games onto a piece of cardboard and write the numbers 1-6 around each spinner.

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Fluxx

Fluxx and all the variants definitely meet all the requirements. However, if you want a strategy game its definitely not a good choice, so I expect this to get voted down just for that. Its a different game with two players, and fairly quiet if you ignore the zombie fluxx card that requires you to groan whenever a zombie creeper shows up. :)

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:) I've played Fluxx, and found it too chaotic for my tastes, but I can quite see it would fit the bill for many people. –  Mark Longair Jan 17 '11 at 15:12

set

The noise is minimal and the cards don't slip around very much.

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This game really makes you think hard. However, I've found that I can't play it more than twice in a row without getting a headache. –  Don Kirkby Jan 18 '11 at 5:57
    
Maybe so, but its still to play on a train. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 18 '11 at 13:40

blokus

I haven't been on a ton of trains, but blokus should meet your requirements pretty well. The pieces stay well enough on the board you should be fine even with a bumpier ride.

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Thanks for the suggestion. I didn't realise before that there's a variant called "Blokus Duo", which is 2-player only and uses a smaller board. –  Mark Longair Jan 17 '11 at 9:08
    
@Mark The normal version is awesome with 2 players as well. You just each pick 2 colors and play on the normal sized board. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 17 '11 at 13:37

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