Top 10 outdoor/summer holiday games – even in the rain!

molkkyIf you’re currently ‘enjoying’ a typical English summer, or are anywhere looking for games to take on holiday – camping, to a festival etc – check out this list of my most likely candidates for outside gaming.

all these games are either totally non-cardboard/paper, or are close enough that you’ll be able to get away with it.

So don’t waste your poor old phone or tablet battery trying to entertain yourself in the tent or on the beach – grab a few of these classic games and enjoy the last of the drizzle in the great outdoors.

The outdoor gaming top 10

  1. Mölkky: Pictured above, this Finnish take on skittles sees players throwing a wooden baton at a bunch of other lumps of wood – but there’s more to it than initially meets the eye. You get a point per pin knocked over, or the number on the pin if you can hit just one. Plus, once they are knocked down, they are stood up again where they landed – meaning it gets harder as you go on. You need to finish on exactly 50 points – bust and you go back to 25. Alternatively it can end up being last man standing, as three straight misses and you’re out. Plays up to 10 people.
  2. Pickomino (Heck Meck): This classic push-your-luck dice game (think Yahtzee, but good) comes with just 8 dice and 16 domino-style plastic tiles, so all you need is a flat surface. You roll dice Yathzee style to claim scoring tiles from the centre, but can also steal them from your opponents – adding a great take-that element. Plays up to 7 players in about 30 minutes. Pickomino review here.
  3. hiveHive: If you prefer a more chess-like, two-player only abstract game experience you can’t go wrong with Hive. The travel edition is just 22 plastic tiles in a handy carry bag – you don’t even need a board, just a vaguely flat area. Each player places/moves their pieces in an attempt to surround their opponent’s queen – with a game lasting about 20 minutes.
  4. Werewolf: This classic party game is great for big groups as the original plays 8-24 people – with more modern variations filling in the gaps in both directions (One Night Werewolf plays with as few as 3, Ultimate Werewolf s many as 68…). Games run from 10 minutes to several hours. Each player receives a card with a role – werewolf or villager (many have specific powers). At night the villagers close their eyes and the werewolves will plot and kill a villager – but by day everyone will discuss who they think the werewolves are – and put one to death. Great, silly and often loud fun.
  5. Hanabi Deluxe: This prize winning co-operative game sees players trying to lay their tiles onto central stacks in the right number and colour order – the big catch being they can see everyone’s tiles except their own! Each turn you can lay a tile or give a clue to another player about what they have – but with restrictions on what you can say it’s incredibly tricky. Originally a card game, the deluxe version uses domino style tiles and takes 2-5 players about half an hour to play.
  6. Crossboule: Another ‘proper’ outdoor game, Crossboule is all about throwing hacky sacks at a smaller hacky ‘jack’, much in the same way you’d play classic French game Boules – but sillier. Each round begins with the jack-thrower making a rule for the round – maybe throwing under your leg, off the wall, over your head etc. You get bonuses for getting close, but also for landing on/touching other sacks. And while it plays up to six, you can of course add more sets for more mayhem.
  7. Blokus: Another classic abstract board game, Blokus is an all-plastic affair – both board and pieces. The bits look like Tetris pieces and you can only connect yours corner to corner. The idea is to block your opponents off while laying as many of your pieces as you can, with both defensive and attacking strategies at your disposal. Blokus Duo/To Go is great for travelling but only two-player, while the big box version plays two to four – either version in less than an hour.
  8. Can't Stop in playCan’t Stop: This is another classic push-your-luck dice game, also with a plastic board and plastic pieces – and like Blokus you can even play on the move, as it is played on a grid. A game lasts about 30 minutes and takes 2-4 players, but you can buy extra playing pieces cheaply to take it 5 or 6. This one isn’t as nasty as Pickomino, as the essence is much more on the pushing your luck than in the take-that elements – so pick your poison (I recommend both). Can’t Stop review here.
  9. Qwirkle: This award-winning wooden tile game sees players matching colours and shapes to score points in classic family game fashion. Playing 2-4 players in under an hour it’s a brilliant abstract game of pattern building – and all you need is the 108 tiles in a bag. There’s also a dice version, Qwirkle Cubes, which is every bit as good (same player numbers and time) – and better if you rolling dice, I guess!
  10. Liar’s Dice (Perudo): Talking of dice, this has 30 of the little blighters – plus six plastic cups. Roll your dice, secretly hide them under your cup, and then guess, lie and fluke your way through as you declare higher and higher totals of a number with your very limited information (three 4s, four 2s, five 6s etc) – until someone calls the last player to guess’ bluff. Everyone then reveals their dice and you count so see who was right – the loser losing a dice. Simple, thoroughly entertaining fun.

With the exception of Hanabi Deluxe (which is easy to find, but a little pricey) all of these games can easily be found inexpensively at your favourite friendly independent online retailer – as long as your favourite online retailer sells games, of course. Or worst case scenario, they’re all on Amazon.

You shouldn’t have to pay more than about £20 for any of them either. So what are you waiting for? Become part of the great social gaming renaissance. Or if you really can’t drag yourself away from your smart device; Qwirkle, Can’t Stop, Blokus, Hive, Perudo and Hanabi all have apps too…

What I have I missed? Let me know below.

Can’t Stop: A four-sided game review

Can't StopCan’t Stop is a classic push-your-luck dice game that retails for just over £20. It takes two-to-four players and scales well, playing out in about half an hour.

It’s a very simple yet clever abstract game that’s light on components, so works really well as a filler game.

Originally released in 1980 by Parker (the current English language edition is from Gryphon Games), it was designed by much loved game designer Sid Sackson (Acquire, Sleuth, I’m The Boss and many more), who sadly passed in 2002.

All you need to play is four dice, a simple board and 11 pieces in four player colours (in fact the game started life in the 70s as a pen-and-paper game). It would be simple to make your own version and I’ve seen some lovely wooden versions. And it is also possible to buy extra cones to make it playable with more players.

The components in the Gryphon version (the one I own) are solid. The board/pieces have a traffic sign/traffic cones ‘theme’ and although a little garish its perfectly serviceable; I just like the game enough that I’d love a fancier version!


Can't Stop rulesThe game is incredibly simple to teach. The rules are on a single two-sided piece of paper and the simplest thing to do is to just go first and play out your turn, rather than bothering explaining anything.

As I’ll prove now, it’s harder to explain than show… A player takes the four six-sided dice and rolls them, making two pairs of the results; so if you rolled 3,4,4,4 you would have to make a 7 and an 8.

The board has a track for each possible number (from 2 to 12). There are three neutral cones – in the example you would take two of them and place one on the first space of both the 7 and 8 tracks. You now roll again (if you want to) and again make two pairs of the results.

If (following our example) you rolled another 7 and/or 8, you could advance the neutral cones you’ve already placed. Otherwise, you can use your final neutral cone to advance another number. So, if you now rolled 3,3,4,4 you could take an 8 and 6; or two 7s.

Can't Stop cones longWhile you’ve got neutral cones unplaced, you’re not in much danger (at least early on). But once all three of your neutral cones are on the board, you have a tough choice. If you can’t make one of your three numbers with your roll, you lose all your progress.

So, to follow our example, say you’ve gone for 6, 7 and 8. If you then roll 5,5,5,6 you can only make 11 and 12 – the neutral cones are removed from the board and your turn ends with nowt.

You can of course decide to ‘stick’ before your next roll. If you do, replace the neutral cones with those of your colour and it’s the next player’s turn. The next time it comes to you, the exact same process happens – but this time the neutral cones move from the positions you’ve achieved before. If you push your luck and fail now, you only lose the progress from this turn.

You are all racing up each number to claim it. The easier the number to roll, the more of it you’ll need – so while you’ll need twelve 7s to claim them, you’ll only need two 12s. When you claim a number, everyone else’s progress on it is discarded. The first player to claim three numbers wins.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious amalgams drawn from observing my friends, and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: On the surface Can’t Stop may look simple and repetitive, but as the game goes on the dynamics shift. As fortunes ebb and flow you may be forced into crazier luck-pushing – but when it pays off it’s a blast. And as a game draws to an end and numbers are closed down, even that first roll can end in tears. For such a simple device, the game has a genuine story arc that’s always different.
  • The thinker: While I would be quick to jump on a poor game, it would not be fair to do that here. The game is a luck fest, but good judgement will make a difference; dice means odds and while every game will be touched by luck a good player will still win more than a bad one. That is enough to make a filler worthwhile and as a break between heavier games I’m always happy to play.
  • The trasher: There’s something brutally combative about Can’t Stop that has enduring appeal. Fortune doesn’t always favour the brave but at the same time this game rarely rewards over-cautious opponents; meaning there’s nothing more fun than chasing the timid up their chosen numbers and watching them fret all the way to the top. And one day, maybe, I can win in the first turn – I’ll always give it a try!
  • The dabbler: Great! The game can be taught in no seconds flat and, better still, everyone remembers the rules even if they only played once five years ago. You can socialise between turns too, as it’s easy to quickly work out the board position on your turn. But it’s just as much fun to ooh and aah, deride and cajole, as your friends try to make that tricky role-or-not decision.

Key observations

Can't Stop in playCan’t Stop is criticised by some for being a bit slow; especially in a four-player game, there can be quite a wait between turns.

But this comes down to your group. If you chat amongst yourselves, or like a lot of table banter, this really isn’t going to be an issue – quite the opposite in fact.

Beyond this, criticism tends to simply come down to personal preference. This is a simple push-your-luck dice game and if that concept really doesn’t float your boat, while this is a classic, it isn’t a miracle worker.


Sid Sackson was years ahead of his time and for me, alongside Acquire, this is his greatest gift to gamers. While more straightforward than his classic game of stocks and shares, this is every bit as enjoyable and in terms of push-your-luck dice games it simply hasn’t been bettered since.

Can't Stop cones

When he died (in his 80s) he left behind a personal collection of over 18,000 games. He was a true gamer and his love for the hobby shines through in his best designs: simple to learn, decisions to make, fun to play.

I wouldn’t say this about many games, but I think Can’t Stop deserves to be in pretty much every collection. It ticks so many boxes – it’s a good filler that’s easy to teach; its quick, with fast set up/put away time; it’s clever yet simple, while encouraging table banter and is suitable for all ages. What’s not to like?

I rate it 8 out of 10 and simply don’t have a bad word to say about it. If you’re new to the hobby, this one should definitely be on your shopping list; but don’t expect it to be more than it is – a fantastic game of gambling and luck that’s a great way to kill half an hour.