All you need to do is look at my history of card game posts to see that I’m kind of crazy about card games. I have a small collection of eclectic card games at home that I force my partner to play with me as often as possible.
Unfortunately, most card games aren’t feasible to play when you’re on the move or when you don’t have a large flat surface readily available. Those times might be exactly the times you need entertainment the most, though, whether you’re camping or traveling.
To ensure that you can gather your loved ones around a card game whenever and wherever, I’ve put together this list of the best card games to play without a table. Let me show you what I came up with.
Best Card Games to Play Without a Table
Spy was a game we included in our list of the best card games for plane rides, which is partly the reason why I chose it for this list, too. It’s probably the most compact game on this list, with the entire deck being roughly the same size as a pack of gum. (Hence the name, Pack o Game.)
You don’t need to make any piles, shuffle, or even discard cards from your hand. In Spy, you use all the cards from a single color to make your hand into a “base” that your opponents must explore in search of secrets. You explore their base by moving your spy around in your hand to reflect the movements you make.
Your goal is to find your opponents’ secrets without setting one of the few hidden bombs off in the base. I think it sounds more complicated than it actually is, and it’s something you’ll likely be able to pick up fast.
- Incredibly small size makes it great for travel or tight spaces.
- The cards are fairly sturdy.
- It’s easy to hold the cards in your hand.
- Supports up to four players.
- Has a fun and colorful spy theme.
- It can take a couple turns to get the hang of.
Are you the kind of person who likes teasing your brain? Do you watch game shows and shout out the answers? Then I’ve got the perfect option for you: 100 PICS Riddles.
This game was originally designed to be taken along while you travel, but that’s precisely what makes it perfect when you find yourself lacking a table. You can hold it in your hand the entire time. No need to discard or make a pile of cards anywhere.
The objective of the game is fairly simple: see if you know the answers to the riddles. It looks like it comes with something that will hold the cards and obscure the answer for you, but you could also just as easily have someone read the riddle to you so you don’t see the answer.
- Perfect for players with a strong grasp on trivia knowledge.
- Has 100 riddles for you to tease your brain with.
- Includes a holder that conceals the answers from you.
- Small size makes it easy to take and play anywhere.
- After answering all the riddles, there isn’t a reason to replay it.
- The riddles are on the easy side.
I saw this one keep turning up in my suggestions on Amazon, and after a quick look, I think Sushi Go! would likely work well if you don’t have much playing space. This is a pick and pass card game in which your objective is to match different types of sushi on your cards.
You gain points by making matches, then increase the value of those matches by adding wasabi to them. To make matches, players pass cards around, choosing which ones to keep and which to pass.
If you have any sushi lovers in your social circle, they’ll probably get a kick out of this game. One of the worst things about it is probably how hungry it may make you.
- Great for beginners or those who don’t often play card games.
- Has a delicious sushi theme that may have your mouth watering.
- Games are quick, so won’t take up much of your time.
- Suitable for just about all ages.
- The cards are stored in a sturdy tin that’s great for traveling.
- It can feel repetitive if you play it more than once or twice in one sitting.
- The cute artwork looks a bit childish.
Have you ever joked with your friends that you know each other so well, you could finish each other’s sentences? Do you know anyone that you’re just on the same wavelength with time and time again?
In that case, let me introduce you to Think ‘N Sync. This is the perfect card game for groups of friends or couples that are close.
The objective is simple: you’ll be given a prompt that you must shout out the answer to. Your chosen partner for the round must shout out the same answer as you at the same time.
- Simple to learn.
- Fun for tight-knit families or groups of friends.
- Trivia lovers will likely enjoy this game.
- Has 225 cards with tons of prompts for you to try.
- Once you’ve gone through all the prompts, there isn’t really incentive to play it again.
- You may need to establish some house rules for it, as some players have reported it’s easy to cheat in this game.
Okay, so I get that this isn’t a card game specifically. Rather, it’s a basic set of Bicycle playing cards. The reason I’m suggesting playing cards is that there are tons of games you can play with them that don’t require a table.
So, in case you don’t already have a good ‘ole fashioned deck of cards, I found a cool set that’s worth your consideration.
If you do already have a set, you can play games such as Go Fish and War without having a large playing surface. You can also check out my list of games you can play with a regular deck of cards for more suggestions.
- It’s a basic set of cards, so it tends to be affordable.
- Printed on traditional and durable cardstock.
- Unique design that’s fun to look at.
- You can play hundreds of games on this simple deck of cards.
- You’ll have to search online to find the rules for different card games.
With Uno, you will need to have a small space to lay down a draw pile and a small stack beside the pile. Provided you have that small amount of flat space, though, you can easily play this old classic.
Uno is the type of game that can potentially break friendships – just like Monopoly. If you don’t mind a little friendly competition, it’s a good option.
Your objective is to be the first person to gain 500 points, although many people play it simply by trying to empty their hand first. There’s a draw pile in easy reach, and someone flips over the top card of the draw pile to determine what card others will match with. You empty your hand by playing a card that matches in one of several different ways with that card.
- Comes in a durable tin that you can store the cards in.
- Classic gameplay that’s suitable for the whole family.
- Games can be played quickly.
- Can be simple or complex, since there are different strategies you can use.
- Some owners feel that the tin is too large.
Spot It is an excellent card game for the whole family and can even be used to help develop a child’s perception. That’s because it is just a speed matching game.
Any two cards share one matching symbol. Your objective in the game is to spot the match between two cards before anyone else can.
Granted, you will need a small area to have a pile of cards for matching. However, it won’t take much space, and you could easily play on a small tray, plate, or even the ground if you had to. There are also multiple ways to play Spot It, so it doesn’t have to feel the same every time.
- Simple gameplay – anyone can learn to play it in seconds.
- Good for sharpening or developing perception skills.
- There are different ways to play the game, so you can shake up the routine each time you play.
- Like some of the other card games on this list, it comes in a tough tin for transport.
- Great for all age groups.
- Fast and exciting gameplay.
- If, like me, you have bad reflexes, you may have a hard time slapping the pile to declare a match before anyone else can.
- You’ll definitely feel the pressure while searching for matching symbols.
Picking the Right Card Game (When You Lack a Table)
If you’re restricted to card games that can be played almost entirely from your hand, size should be one of your top considerations. I guess this may not be the same issue for you, but I’ve got really small hands.
Extra-large cards are a pain in the butt (or hand, I guess) for me to shuffle and deal with. Even if this doesn’t apply to you, other people you’re playing with might have this problem.
Basically, be sure to check the dimensions of the cards if you can. Try to find pictures of people holding their cards in their hand or see if the product page lists the size of the cards. You’ll find it a lot easier to keep all the cards in your hand if they’re smaller.
Spatially Conservative Gameplay
I wasn’t really sure how to define or title this section. Spatially conservative sounds convoluted and silly, but what I mean is that if you don’t have a table, you don’t want a card game that takes up a lot of space. Not just the size of the cards, but in the gameplay itself.
In other words, you don’t want a game that you’ll have to lay out on the table or make a lot of piles. You can see how this would be difficult to do without a large, flat surface of some kind.
How long do you have time to sit around playing the card game? If you don’t have a table around, you’re not at home, which means you probably have plans. This is something to think about whenever you choose a card game, but it’s especially pertinent when you’re on the go.
If you’re camping and you’re looking for something to pass the afternoons or nights, you can probably afford a game with a duration over an hour or so. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something to do in the midst of a short layover or during a road trip, you may not want to spend as much time on a single game.
The duration is usually pretty easy to find. Most card games will say right on the box or their product page.
There are easily many card games that could be played without a table. Because you have so many options, you can develop a number of requirements to help you decide, including something like theme.
When I say “theme,” I’m talking about the artwork, look, and gameplay of the game in question. You can find card games for every sort of interest, whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or even romance.
Read Next: Best Horror-Themed Card Games for Adults
Number of Players
You should also be asking yourself how many people you want to play with. There are plenty of card games for any number of players, whether it’s just you or even as many as twenty people.
I realize the amount of people playing can vary from game to game, but try to consider how many people on average you would want to play with. Once you’ve determined what an average number of players would be for you, check the product description for each card game to see if it supports as many players as you would like.
Related Post: Best Card Games for More than 4 Players
Short on space? That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fun card game. With any of the card games on this list, you can play something to pass the time pretty much anywhere.
My personal favorite on the list is Spy because it’s a strategic blast. It’s a relatively little-known card game, though, so I can understand why many people might be hesitant to buy it.
If you want to ensure you always have the room to whip out your favorite card games, then you can also consider getting something like this makeshift poker tabletop. I know it’s designed for poker, but it still gives you a large enough flat area to play virtually any other card game on, too.