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COG Gaming: Cruising With Board Games

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Board Game Cruise

Hey Everyone! I’m back after being out of the country for a week on a great Caribbean cruise! Of course, I couldn’t go a whole week without some sort of board-gaming fix, so an entire carry-on suitcase was dedicated to taking board games with me so my wife and I could game while abroad. I had a great time playing around the ship, and figured I’d take the opportunity to write up some suggestions for anyone who is planning on taking board games with them on a cruise.

Board Game Cruise Ship

Sara at a small table outside of the Schooner Lounge.

1) Scope out gaming spaces early

If you arrive early enough, you’ll probably have a few hours to kill on the ship before it departs port. Most people will use that time to eat and explore the ship, and I’d encourage you to do the same. As you’re discovering the ship, however, be mindful of where the table setups are located. On our ship, for example, there were tables in many of the bars on the main promenade, tables in the main cafeteria area, and even a small library/card room that had some limited space available.

Knowing where we could potentially play helped us plan our excursions around the ship, and gave us ready alternatives if our chosen spot was taken.

2) Don’t be ‘that guy’ or ‘that group’

You can pretty much play games anywhere there’s a table on-board(except the dining room), and no one is going to give you any problems. However, be courteous to everyone else around you. Don’t go into a bar or the card library and push a bunch of tables together to play a huge game or as a big group, thereby denying sitting access to others who want to come in and enjoy the area. Sure, it’s OK to maybe push a couple together depending on the venue to make a bigger playing space, but taking 6 out of 9 tables for your group is inconsiderate. Similarly, don’t take up large tables in the cafeteria for hours at a time. Even though those tables offer by-far the most playing space, you’re going to make it tough for large groups of passengers to sit together and eat, which is the space’s primary purpose.

Abyss on Cruise Ship

Don’t plan on bringing a game that takes up any more space than Abyss with 2 players. You won’t find many opportunities to play.

In short, just be considerate and mindful of others. Chances are, however, you’re going to run into groups who aren’t as considerate. For this I recommend checking back periodically throughout the day to see if they’ve vacated the area; you’ll probably notice a pattern as to when your gaming area is the most crowded, and can avoid trying to play at those times. Sometimes, though, you’re just going to have to relocate- most afternoons we couldn’t use the game room because large groups of elderly passengers filled the room to play Bridge, Dominos, etc.

3) When choosing what games to take, be Mindful of your spacial footprint

Space comes at a premium when you’re on a ship with thousands of other people, especially when tabletop space is concerned. MaSamurai Spirit on cruise shipny of the available tables around the ship are going to be just large enough for an appetizer plate and a few drinks to fit on them, so lugging your copy of Agricola on-board is probably not the most prudent thing to do. The largest game we took was Abyss, and that was really pushing it with 2 people, and would have been impossible with more than 2 unless we started combining tables. Most of the time the table we had to use for Abyss wasn’t available anyway, so you run the risk of not being able to play at all if you only bring games of that size. Since larger tables may not be readily available, your best bet is to limit the number of games you take that would require that amount of space, and try to focus on ones that fit in the space Tiny Epic Kingdoms on Cruise Shipof a cocktail table.

Keep in mind here that we’re talking about the space the game is going to take up when it’s all set up and ready to play; some games, like The Builders: Medieval Age, look small but end up taking up a fair amount of room. We had a great time with Samurai Spirit and Tiny Epic Kingdoms, both of which we were able to play in the on-board Pub’s and wine bar’s small tables with no issue.

4) If there’s a larger game you’d like to take, find an App alternative

iOS versions of games have come a long way in the last couple of years, and there are some really gAscension on cruise shipreat options now for certain genres and games that would normally take up a lot of space. You can maximize the number of games you take, and possibly bring versions of games that would be too large, by seeing if there are apps that might work instead. Agricola, Lords of Waterdeep, Small Worlds, Ghost Stories, and Ascension are all ones I’d highly recommend in place of their physical counterparts for the purposes of travel.

5) Pieces are your enemy

Taking games with lots of little pieces should be avoided. You’re either going to lose the pieces, or freak out the entire time you’re using them. Takenoko or Tiny Epic Kingdom probably had the most small pieces of any games we played that could easily roll away, and I’d be hesitant to take anything with more small components. I almost didn’t want to play Abyss because of the small pearls, but the room we played in was carpeted so I decided the chance of them rolling away was minimal.

Takenoko on Cruise Ship6) Don’t plan on gaming outside

It sound wonderful; sitting in the sun on your balcony with a game or two, or taking a small selection up to the top pool deck and sitting in the open air outside. Probably a really bad idea though. The top decks and your balcony are going to be fairly windy even in calm seas, and if the wind actually picks up there’s little to no chance you’ll be returning to your room with all the cards or light components you took out of the box. Game apps are a great alternative that will still allow you to play outside, should you so choose.

7) Keep an eye out for cool, local crafts you could use to supplement game theme and components

You can find some really cool stuff abroad at local craft fairs and markets, and if you think outside of Escape board game bowlthe box you might just be able to snag some pretty amazing supplemental materials to help bling out some of the games in your collection. We didn’t do a whole lot of shopping, but I was still able to find this cool bowl I intend on using to hold crystals for Escape: Big Box once it arrives. I also found another item that’s actually supposed to be an ash-tray, but is something Brittany will probably utilize as a blood-shard holder for Till Dawn.

This was my first cruise experience, and I’m glad I was able to incorporate some gaming in-between the shipboard shows and port excursions we took. I’ve already discussed the possibility with some of the others in our game group of actually doing a board game cruise, where the entire focus will really be on board gaming while on the ship. If we do this though, I fully intend on taking a couple of 36″x36″ folding tables along so we can play larger stuff in one of our rooms!

Has anyone else taken games on trips that required they play in public space, or on a cruise? Any additional advice you could offer people looking to do so in the future?


Author: bduerksen30 I have an m.a. in history focusing on naval and maritime history in the Atlantic from the seventeenth-early nineteenth centuries. I've worked as a website consultant, and am currently employed as an analyst. I also run the COG Gaming blog for board game reviews, news, and kickstarter highlights. COG Gaming also offers playesting and editing services for new designers, and we're in the process of developing a few titles of our own. Contact me if you're interested in having your game reviewed, previewed, or in one of our other services!

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