Summer is here, and that means getting together outside with friends and family. Picnics and barbecues can be a great time to get a new board game on the table, or to bust out an old classic to share. The trick is finding the right game to suit your audience — and your setting.
Here are our top 10 picks for board games to play outside this summer. They’ve all been chosen for their size, portability, and durability. You can get all of them online, or pick them up at your friendly local game store.
One of the more attractive games on our list is called Azul. It’s a competitive tile-laying game inspired by the Moorish art found inside the Portuguese palace at Évora. Inside the small, square box you’ll find a series of colorful resin components that you’ll use to construct mosaic patterns on the table. It’s very easy to learn the rules, travels well, and won’t be easily blown off the table. The 30-45 minute game accommodates 2-4 players aged 8 and up.
Gloom is a hilarious card game in which players compete to be the first to kill off their fictional family members, all the while keeping their opponents’ loved ones alive. All the cards needed to play the game are made of transparent plastic, making this the only game on our list that you can safely play in a pool, on the beach, or while lounging in the hot tub. If your group takes a shine to the game’s dark style of comedy, there’s also a heap of expansions to help grow your collection. The 60-minute game accommodates 2-4 players aged 8 and up.
Tile-laying game Kingdomino is a robust game that comes in a small package, making it perfect to travel with. There are no playing cards to blow away, and tiles will easily lay flat on a picnic table or blanket. The quick playtime makes it a hit with children and new players alike. The 2-4 player game only take about 15 minutes to play, and it’s suitable for ages 8 and up.
Not everyone at your summer get-together is going to be interested in board games, so here’s one to sneak in where they’re not expecting it. It’s called Klask, and it’s more or less a portable version of air hockey. It’s just the thing to set up on a sturdy table next to the cornhole set. Just be sure to grab a pack of replacement parts, because if you lose those little white pucks in the grass, they’re gone forever.
This game is physically the largest on our list, but the sturdy box comes with a plastic carry handle. This 10-minute game for 2-4 players is for ages 8 and up.
Flick ‘em Up
Dexterity-based games are always a hit at parties, but Flick ‘em Up takes things to the next level. Players will use their fingers to knock pucks across the table to drop their opponents. The classic, Western-themed version of the game is a hit, but you might want to pick up the Dead of Winter-themed version for the zombie lovers in your life. Just be sure that you’ve got a smooth, flat surface to play on, and you’re all set. The game accommodates 2-10 players aged 8 and up.
Whenever my family gets together, simple dice games like LCR invariably tend to come out of the woodwork. This summer, I plan to mix things up with The Furglars. What’s a Furgle, you might ask? It’s a little green puffball with googly eyes wedged inside a hollow plastic die. Roll the dice, grab those furry Furgles, and sell them off for bars of gold bullion. It’s fast, family-friendly fun that you can fit in your pocket. The 2-6 player game only takes 20 minutes and works with players aged 7 and up.
Modern board games tend to go heavy on the plastic miniatures, but Santorini ups the ante with a set of elaborate, modular plastic buildings as well. Inspired by the picturesque Greek vacation spot, players compete to build the tallest buildings. The game board sits on an elevated platform, further enhancing the visual profile of the game on the table. Set it up at your next party and you’ll have folks crowding around in no time. The 10” square box makes it reasonably portable, and the 20-minute playtime means everyone will get a chance to try their hand. Plays 2-4 ages 8 and up.
Sonora is a self-contained “flick and write” game published in 2020. Players shoot colored disks across the board, then use the results to fill in their own individual scoresheet. The game’s small footprint and easy-to-learn mechanics make it accessible for all ages 10 and up. For family gatherings, consider teaming up a youngest player (to do the flicking) with your oldest player (to leverage that hard-won Bingo strategy).
Built by game designer James Ernest and author Patrick Rothfuss, Tak is a little game that packs quite a punch. It’s a kind of slimmed down, abstract sort of Chess with beautiful components and a tiny tabletop footprint. Picking up the rules is fairly easy, especially with a good video tutorial. But developing offensive strategies and counters is surprisingly satisfying. Get locked into a few games against an eager opponent and the hours will begin to slip away. Tak is a two-player game for ages 12 and up.
No matter the setting, Telestrations is a fantastic game for any gathering. The party game mixes Pictionary-style drawing with the folk game Telephone. It utilizes dry erase markers and laminated player booklets, meaning that you’ve got everything you need for a good time right inside this one small box. The base game accommodates up to eight players, but you can easily pick up a few sets to expand it. There’s also Telestrations After Dark, an adult-themed version for when the kids are all in bed.