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I often find myself in a bus/train/subway/car without a tray available or any other way of managing even a small play field. There's always games on my phone, but that lacks something compared to an IRL game.

Has anyone found good ways of adapting rulesets for situations like these? Particularly for RPG(ish) games: even simpler ones seem to require more of a layout and tracking tokens etc than can be managed in situations like this. I'm by myself, but I'm not sure that matters here: anything that could be adapted in a a multiplayer game should be doable in a solo game too.

I'm interested in general techniques people have adapted themselves but I'm also new to the BG scene so I don't really know if this is a (relatively) common thing. If so, it would be useful to know of any "official" rulesets that have adaptations like this to see examples of how game designers themselves make gameplay mechanism X is mapped to table-less mechanism Y, which I could then bring with me to other games.

An example technique would be something like "pen & paper w/ pocket notebook to track token states or die rolls that would normally stay on the table". Or a type of rule that could be dropped out altogether, or dropped & replaced with a simpler mechanism. It would be really useful to have a technique for adapting a play field tiled with cards into keeping them in-hand.

EDIT: I'll leave this open a little longer, I'm not sure how to choose "the" answer though to mark it as such and close it out-- each answer is giving useful information (so thank you for that). Having the option to mark multiple answers correct when they were correct in different ways would be useful.

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Solitaire on the bus has an old solution (really, two solutions).

Either standard cards with a play board that has horizontal folded/lapped slots (so a card or stack of cards can be tucked into the folds, often capable of folding up along one or more vertical creases with the tableau still in place), or a magnetic board (using the magnetic sheet material used for things like refrigerator calendars and magnetic cards (usually made of very thin spring steel, not itself magnetized -- so the cards won't stick together -- but attracted to the magnet sheet).

Either of these could be adapted to any game that can be played mainly or completely with cards, and were sold commercially (at least half a century ago when I used to ride Greyhound with some regularity and saw these in use several times).

I couldn't quickly find an image of the kind of boards I saw from time to time back in the early 1970s, but if you picture a Venetian blind, slats running horizontally, with the curve concave up and the lower edges of the slats glued/taped to the base board, you'll be close. This gives a number of horizontal overlaps, each of which can hold from one to several cards.

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  • "bring my own table" is obvious enough that I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it. Can you clarify "horizontal folded/lapped slots" though? Sometimes I'm a little crunched in though, so adaptations that allow playing just in my hands or were a little less obtrusive would be good too. Of course that would probably only work with games that were already not too complex.
    – Odj fourth
    Jan 11 at 15:11
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There are games that were designed specifically to address this issue. Here is BGG search for them. There are few games in this category, but some notable examples include: Palm Island a light resource management game Maiden's Quest is somewhat of a light push-your-luck/RPG that plays on a trope of maiden escaping evil captors. Gloomholdin' is severely downsized version of hit boardgame RPG title Gloomhaven.

Generally I think some solitaire other games that consist mostly of cards can be adjusted for this purpose too, for example Friday, but I haven't tried that myself and amount of work/fiddlyness to do this can get excessive

Also peg solitaire games should work well enough

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  • Thanks-- I've come across some of those and they look interesting, may give them a shot. Gloomholding looks particularly interesting since it's adapted from Gloomhaven, so if I learn that ruleset I may be able to used examples of how the same mechanics mapped to Gloomholding & use that in other games. It seems the games built specifically for this sort of limited space are a bit niche & uncommon vs. huge numbers of other games. I've been looking at simpler card games I could adapt. I printed a copy of Mage Lite and am working on that now. I think I can work it to play completely in hand.
    – Odj fourth
    Jan 13 at 21:11
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I know of various physical (non-phone) solo games that can be played without a table (e.g. Boggle, arguably a board game), but only one which comes vaguely close to being RPG.

Solo chess

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