Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
For years now, some friends and I have been frequenting the cozy cabins of Idyllwild, that picturesque mountain town just 90 minutes outside of L.A. And while we've been known to curl up fireside with a good romcom once in a while, often the best part of the trip is that we finally get to unplug. Instead of turning to yet another screen for entertainment, we'll avail ourselves of the AirBNB's board game collection and only look up five hours later after a particularly heated game of Risk.
The greatest hits are well-known quantities by now: your Yahtzees, your Clues. But here at TQE we're always on the lookout for what's next, and within the DTC world there are equally fantastic but lesser known (for now, at least) games. Considering Cards Against Humanity got its start selling directly to customers through Kickstarter, there's a strong possibility one of these ten products could be the next household name.
The games below are sure bets to have you laughing, strategizing, and notification-silencing your way through friends and family trips for years to come. So game on.
GET THE PARTY STARTED WITH…
Actually Curious ($25 per pack)
Billed as "game night meets group therapy," Actually Curious is a valuable icebreaker for even the closest of cabin-bound companions. Sick of your travel group only discussing work or streaming recommendations? Whip out The Starter Bundle, which digs into backgrounds, dreams and memories in a lighthearted way, or the Icebreaker Bundle, which opens up the floor to your culture and values. If that all sounds a little heavy, rest assured that this sunny branding and optimistic framework keeps things light – and that it's more fun getting to know your travel buddies than to hear another recap of Season 2 of Hacks.
Biñho (from $100)
And now for something completely different: Biñho, the tabletop sport inspired by diehard Brazilian soccer culture. Like foosball but even more hands-on, Binho players flick a metal ball in an attempt to get it past defensive pegs and into their opponents' goal – which is a lot harder (and more exciting) than you might think. With a customizable board layout that keeps you on your toes, Biñho is the high-energy but easily portable game that'll have your housemates screaming "GOOOOLLLLLL!" long into the night.
Doomlings (from $29)
As a former middle school GameBoy addict, I'm well aware that the most screen-obsessed among us are often the youngest. If you're traveling with kids in tow, keep them excited with a rousing game of Doomlings, the funny, competitive card game suitable for ages 10 and up. With point-based scoring and a race against the clock, these twenty-minute rounds keep things fun and digestible without dragging on like the interminable Monopoly games we grew up with. If it's a slam dunk with the fam, feel free to add on the expansion packs while you're at it.
Whether you're a diehard Survivor nerd like I am or you're… a normal person, sometimes we all get the itch for a good old strategy game. Fanorona, a board game invented centuries ago in Madagascar, is like mancala or backgammon but with real, no-holds-barred gameplay. Kubiya Games makes a fantastic board and describes the beginning of each game as "a bloodbath" due to how quickly the strategy heats up. Bonus points for the gorgeous monochrome palette that makes this game a display piece as well.
Hunt a Killer (premium games from $29.99)
With true-crime mania sweeping the nation, it's high time that the murder mystery game had a revival. Hunt a Killer makes a genuinely thrilling product, full of intricate twists and turns that you can immerse yourself in whether you're playing the detective or the suspect(s). With over 3.5 million installments sold and shoutouts everywhere from Bustle to The Washington Post, HAK is certainly meeting the moment with addicting mysteries worth crawling inside. With tons of games of all different lengths and difficulties, this is a brand you can keep revisiting once you're hooked – especially if you take the plunge and grab a subscription plan.
JackBox (party packs from $29.99)
True story: when I found out a college acquaintance of mine worked with JackBox, I was genuinely starstruck. Not only are JackBox's games hysterical and wildly inventive, they became a staple for my entire friend group during COVID lockdowns. Now that we're back out in the world, we still find ourselves turning to JackBox for game nights – and while this technically goes against my no-screens-on-vacation rule, these games are so interactive that I'll give them a pass. Thanks to JackBox's virtual game rooms, you can play against friends and family whether they're next to you on the couch or thousands of miles away. And with variations on Pictionary, Balderdash, trivia games, and others so unique they can hardly be described (shoutout to Tee KO), JackBox has truly got something for everyone.
Klask (from $59.99)
Back to the land of the tactile: Klask is a tabletop version of Air Hockey that's become the #1 party game in Denmark. Light on rules but full of excitement, Klask comes with magnetic pieces that you pilot from under the table to knock your pieces into the scoring ball. Available for two players and also in an even more chaotic four-person edition, Klask is wildly addictive for all its frenetic energy. Bring the thrill of the arcade right to your kitchen table.
Another Euro-inspired thrill ride, Lacorsa is inspired by grand prix racing and indeed takes its name from the Italian word for "the race." The game is true to its name, with fast-paced competitive rounds of under 15 minutes, and the kind of strategy around positioning that takes place on actual grand prix courses. Plus, the game is gorgeously designed and equally fun with anywhere from 2 to 6 players, making it the perfect option for all kinds of trips. Start those engines and andiamo, ragazzi.
Ladder Toss ($99)
If you're blessed with outdoor space on your next voyage, there's a whole other realm of fun to be had with lawn games. Ladder Toss is a classic, to be sure, but one that I feel has been slept on lately in favor of Cornhole. Ladder Toss is the perfect poolside entertainment, though, a leisurely test of accuracy that doesn't cause loud thudding noises every few seconds. And with this adorable, Ethan Allen-esque set from Mark and Graham, you'll be looking stylish whether or not you claim the victory.
Scatter Lawn Game ($76)
Last but not least is my new favorite lawn diversion: Scatter, the Finnish-born game (the Europeans, every time!) that's easy to set up but excitingly difficult to win. It's played by throwing a baton at numbered pins which are then added to your total score, with the target total being 50 points – but if you don't hit 50 exactly, your score resets and the game continues. You'll need good aim and passable math skills, but don't worry: this is the kind of simple addition you can muddle through with drink in hand.