Board games

Pack O Game: one pouch, 8 games the size of packs of gum

I’m a sucker for highly portable games. Hive Pocket (paid link) is one of my all-time favorite games, period — and it just happens to be pocket-sized.[1] I also dig Love Letter (paid link), which supports four players and, at least in the US, was more or less solely responsible for making microgames a thing.

So I was thrilled to discover the Pack O Game (paid link) series from Perplext: Each game fits in a box about the size of a pack of gum, and 8 of them fit into a pocket-sized pouch. Here’s the pouch, with a buck for scale:

What’s inside?

Inside this neoprene pouch are 8 games.

They pack in nice and snug, and while the pouch isn’t going to keep them from getting crushed by something heavy, it does form them into a sort of “brick” that makes the whole bundle pretty resilient (and of course the padding provides, well, padding).

How portable are they?

The whole pouch, with 8 games inside, weighs just half a pound.

Individually, each game weighs less than an ounce.

True microgames

Each box holds a stack of small cards and a sheet of rules.

Overall, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the packaging and presentation of these games.

The cards are small, sure, but not microscopic. I’m six feet tall, and I can comfortably hold, fan, and see these cards — they don’t make me feel like a giant trying to use doll-sized cards.

You know how most tuckboxes have a tucked-in flap at either end? And you know how, if the cards are a tight fit, when you try to put them back in one or two get caught on the flap at the bottom? Well, not these!

One end has a traditional tuck-and-fold flap — the end you open. But the other is glued shut, with no folded-in piece to snag or jam up the cards. (And it’s easy to tell which end of the box to open.)

The outside of each box is well-designed, too. For example, the 8 games in the first Pack O Game set are all rated 1, 2, or 3 for complexity (casual, intermediate, challenging), which is easy to see along one edge of each box.

How do they play?

No idea, unfortunately! I’ve only had them for a few days, and I don’t have a regular board game group at the moment. It’ll take me awhile to work my way through them, as opportunities present themselves.

The series is still pretty new, too, but you can check out their ratings on BoardGameGeek (which should only become more accurate over time, as more people rate them).

My rule of thumb is that a BGG rating of 6 is a game I should check out if I like the genre/style, a 7 I’ll probably enjoy if I like that genre/style, and an 8 is a game I should try even if it doesn’t sound like my thing. At the moment, I see ratings of 6-8 for the Pack O Game series.

They’re also a neat mix of styles: FLY is a dexterity game (typically a good fit for kids, or mixed groups of kids and adults), SHH is a co-op word game, LIE is a bluffing game that supports up to 6 players, GEM is an auction game, and so forth.

There’s a second series on the way this year, skewed more towards the “gamer’s game” end of the complexity spectrum. I Kickstarted those, and I suspect I’ll winding up building a pouch of my favorite 8 games drawn from both sets.

If you’re in the market for highly portable games, Pack O Game (paid link) offers a truly unique option: a mix of different games, with an intriguing form factor, that all fit into an extremely travel-friendly case.

[1] Out of 503 games I’ve played and rated, just four have earned a 10/10. Hive is one of them.

Board games

Hive Pocket is amazing

Hive Pocket (paid link) is the first game I’ve ever given a 10 after one play session (of three plays). In a lifetime of playing board games, it’s also only my fifth 10 out of over 400 ratings. It’s sublime.

As a game, it succeeds at being everything it wants to be: fun, challenging, and intense — yet easy to learn, quick to play, and possessing considerable depth. As a physical thing, the Bakelite tiles are gorgeous (and functional, as the insects are clear and well-etched AND color-coded, making the game easier to play and teach), the bag is just the right size to include the rules without mashing them (and will work without the rules, as well), and the whole package is perfect.

The objective is simple: completely surround your opponent’s queen bee (the color of the surrounding pieces doesn’t matter) before they do the same to you. Each insect has a unique way of moving, though all must follow a couple of basic placement and movement rules. Part of the charm is that the insects move in a manner similar to how they move in real life — for example, beetles can clamber onto other pieces, neutralizing them. But out of those simple rules emerges a deep game full of both strategy and tactics.

I like the pocket edition because the tiles are smaller (yet not so small as to be irritating — they’re a great size: 25 mm wide and 10 mm high as compared to the original’s 38 mm and 12 mm) and it includes the Ladybug and Mosquito expansions, each of which add one new piece for each player with its own movement rules. Gameplay in all three editions (Original (paid link), which lacks the two expansions, and Hive Carbon (paid link), which has black and white insects and includes the expansions) is identical. It weighs less and costs less, too.

I love the combination of small size and great depth in games, and Hive is the flag carrier for that breed of game. Small enough to play virtually anywhere, simple enough to teach to just about anyone, and a blast to play. I can’t recommend it highly enough.