Updated on 04.20.11

Infinite Games

Trent Hamm

When I was going through the items in our garage loft as part of a spring cleaning of the garage, I came across a small shoebox that’s been a part of our camping gear for years. When I opened the top of it and peered inside, I got excited. There’s more fun in that small box than in almost anything else that I own.

That shoebox contains a gaming travel kit, perfect for rainy days when you’re stuck in a tent or a long evening near the light of a campfire with friends. It has about $10 worth of components and a small stack of printed sheets lining the bottom. It’s something I want along on every camping trip I ever go on, and if I ever had to sell off my game collection, this would be the one thing I’d keep.

Not only that, this can be a wonderful thing to have tucked away on your shelf somewhere for a rainy day. There’s enough good entertainment in this box to last a lifetime, and you can pick up everything in that box for mere peanuts.

What’s inside?

Three decks of playing cards These are just ordinary Bicycle cards with identical backs. Why identical backs? Some games, such as canasta, use two decks mixed together, and some (such as samba) mix together three decks with the same backs. Having three decks makes it easy to modify them as needed for pretty much any card game you might want to play.

A few pens and a thick pad of scratch paper These are included for keeping score, but also as components for other games like tic-tac-toe or the “dot game.”

A small chess and checkers combo set Our board, when folded, is about as wide as the shoebox, and we keep the pieces in a small baggie.

A small set of poker chips These are obviously useful for games like poker, but they can also be used as components for other games, particularly for score-keeping or any type of wagering.

A set of dominoes This allows us to play a quick game of dominoes. For us, this is probably the least essential component of the box, as it only allows for one game and doesn’t have the multiple uses of the other pieces.

A baggie full of miscellaneous dice These were scavenged from various places and collected in a baggie. With a few cups from the campsite, one can quickly play many different dice games, such as liar’s dice or Farkle.

A well-used copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games This contains the rules of most common games. We picked up our copy via PaperBackSwap.

The rules for a number of games, printed off and lining the bottom of the box However, there are certainly many games that aren’t covered within Hoyle’s that we quite like, such as Arimaa and Chess960. For these, we’ve printed off rules sheets, folded them in half, and used them to line the bottom of the shoebox.

There’s enough magic in this box for hundreds of hours of entertainment, and it’s portable enough to take with you on pretty much any road trip. Enjoy.

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  1. Cheryl says:

    What?? no cribbage board?? When I was a kid we had one with missing pegs. The first task before playing was to whittle new pegs at the campsite. Your kids are too young for this game, but try it out later. 2 or more can play.

  2. Wesley says:

    I feel like the most important reason to have 3 decks (or at least 2) is so that when you get to the campsite you don’t suddenly come to the horrible realization that you are missing the Queen of Diamonds…

  3. Stephan F- says:

    Ha, those are great. I had a small kit for playing Star Fleet Battles and ADND in college. Good days.

  4. Brittany says:

    Awesome. I second the cribbage board, even though its been forever since I played. I also just picked up an obscure german strategy game about fire fighting. You build out the board with small tiles as you play and the pawns are likewise small. It’s definitely getting added to my traveling pack.

  5. Leigh says:

    We had a VW Westphalia van for camping when we were in elementary school and our games kit included UNO and a great board game book with 2 dozen games and all sorts of pieces. It really got us through camping and two hour ferry line ups.

  6. Pat S. says:

    A dictionary and a pad of scratch paper. You can play balder-dash for hours.

  7. Jules says:

    We don’t have kids (yet), but we have a giant box with cheap craft kits, beads, building blocks, and playing cards for our younger visitors.

  8. BJD says:

    You’re limiting yourself if you only play the standard game of dominoes. Just like a deck of cards, there are a infinite number of games your can play with dominoes — do a google search on dominoes games and you can find the rules for hundreds of games

  9. Hunter says:

    I don’t know how my parents did it, but they managed to take Scrabble on all of our family vacations.

    I think your infinite games box is better than an iPhone or DSi. It really exercises the brain to compete against people rather than the computer.

  10. Mary says:

    I would add boggle and bananAgrams. we have both in our tv. We just finished a game of bananagrams after our Easter dinner. Happy Easter

  11. Kathryn says:

    I love the idea of a gamer’s emergency kit! I have a little something like this in my backpack right now, though it’s less comprehensive. A single deck of cards, six dice (intended for Farkle, but other games are possible), Bananagrams, a sudoku book, pencils, pens and a notebook for paper. We’re not campers (yet), but these options are suitable for anytime we’re stuck somewhere with limited entertainment options.

  12. Judy says:

    I second more dominoes games. Mexican Train and Chickenfoot are great fun. Cribbage is great, too. Thanks for the reminder.

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