This installment of the BOB series may seem trivial to many people, but it is not really. It may in fact be one of the most important articles in terms of maintaining your sanity in a real TSHTF scenario. We're going to look at games to bring along with you that are small enough to fit in your BOB, that are common enough that when you are with others in a shelter or on a long train or plane ride, most people will know how to play them
I did not place games in part 2 of the series, which covered Bag Contents. This because it does not really fit as an “essential” in terms of the “basic needs” of Food, Water, Clothing, and Shelter. Neither do all the electronics I included in there, but if your bugout is NOT into the wilderness but rather within the industrial society, your electronic communications tools of smart phone and laptop are essential for getting jobs and remaining in touch with friends and relatives.
While Games don't fit into the most basic hierarchy of needs, for a Homo Sap keeping your mind active to fend off boredom and cabin fever is of tremendous help in maintaining your sanity. Homo Sap has been playing various types of games going well back into the Hunter Gatherer era. Games include various sports, but for most current sports people play they tend to require a lot of bulky equipment you're not going to be able to fit in a bugout bag. I will cover some physical sporting type equipment you might carry in this article though, along with the primary focus of Mind Occupying games.
Now, one consideration here is that in the modern era, your Smart Phone can have Electronic version Apps of just about every game I mention, and if you use that this saves room in your BOB for other stuff, maybe a little more emergency food or water perhaps. However, the electronic version of the games doesn't usually have the same “feel” to it, if your phone is a typical small size one then it needs to be passed around from player to player, and of course finally if your phone quits on you (battery dies, EMP, you DROP it) then you lose all your games along with the phone! So it's good to have the physical version of the games along with you in case of any of these eventualities.
Besides being good for maintaining your own personal sanity, games are great ice-breakers for making new friends when surrounded by strangers, on a plane or train for instance. On my trips through Europe, my portable Chess set helped me meet many new friends along the way, and I could almost find at least one person who was interested in playing with me. People who play Chess are also generally a little smarter than the average Homo Sap, so they usually are more interesting to talk with also. Not always, but more often than not. As far as games go which challenge your mind and take some thinking, Chess is very high on the scale there and with an equally matched opponent, a game can take quite a while to play out unless you put a clock on it. A couple of games can easily fill up the time for a long plane flight. So Chess is high on my list of games to have along, but there are others as well which more people know how to play, or are easy to teach. I'll list the games here more or less in order of what will have the most usefulness with the most people you run into.
OK, LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Just about everybody knows how to play some kind of card game, and if they do you don't even need to speak the same language for most card games. Cards can also occupy your time alone by playing Solitaire, which is an advantage most games don't have. With the electronic version on your phone you can play these games against the computer, but not so much the physical versions. You're going to want to have 2 Decks with you, and the more games you know how to play, the better. Best Games to know how to play are Gin Rummy, Poker, Black Jack, Hearts & Bridge. All of these games can incorporate Gambling, but you can also just play for points which is usually a better idea with strangers. Lol.
You can get all 3 of these games combined into one folding magnetic set, which is great for travel. The size ranges go from pocket sized which use flat discs with the piece symbol embossed on it up to sets which are virtually full size with wood or metal pieces. It's much nicer to play on a larger board with 3D pieces, especially if they are wood or metal and not plastic, but you have to weigh this against how much room in your BOB you want to devote to such games. There also is a large selection in quality, materials and price, the nicer wooden sets go $50 and up, while plastic sets come in much cheaper, so you have to decide how much you want to spend. Weight is an issue to consider also in a BOB, and plastic comes in lighter than wood. This is an individual decision for every prepper to make for themselves.
Dice are used in Backgammon (along with a doubling cube), in Craps and in Yahtzee. For Yahtzee you need 5 of them, but this isn't much of an issue since dice are so small. For Craps, unless you have the whole craps table with all the odds memorized, you're going to need a small version of that drawn on paper, and then some chalk to be able to draw the board out on the ground. Another idea for this is to take one of your Tarps and draw out a board with a permanent marker. Craps is a definite Gambling game, so there are risks of course if you have a Floating Craps Game in a Refugee Camp. Lol. For Yahtzee, it's nice if you have a Pad with all the point values printed on it, but you can use plain paper pads as long as you have those memorized, which is not hard to do.
Scrabble sets like the Chess sets also come in small travel versions, and often the pieces will snap into place so you can close up a game in the middle, and then return to playing it again later. Advantage over Chess, Checkers and Backgammon is you can play with up to 4 people rather than just one, so it's a bit more social. Disadvantage is that everybody has to speak the same language, and that language has to use the Latin Alphabet. However, if you expect to mostly be staying within the English speaking countries on your Bugout, then this shouldn't prove to be much of a problem.
Marbles are more of a physical child's game, but you can still play as an adult, and if you have a child you want to keep entertained, they will be helpful. Marbles also are great Ammo for a Sling or Slingshot, they fly a lot straighter than rocks do because they are more perfectly round. You can take out chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and most birds if you are good with either sling or slingshot, although both take a lot of practice.
Darts are small and all you need is some cardboard or wood to draw a dartboard on and you're good to go. You can play them inside or outside, and it's always good to have your own set if you go into a bar where Darts are played regularly. Again, this is a good ice-breaker and way to meet new friends.
A small elastic ball is great for a simple game of Catch, great for kids of course but also good for keeping your Hand-Eye coordination sharp. You also can play the more athletic game of Handball anywhere there is a cement wall and flat pavement, such as against a building in most cities and at Train Stations as well. In NY shity when I was growing up, we also often played “Stoop Ball”, where you threw the ball against a set of brick or cement steps, and the opponent had to catch it on the rebound. Stickball also was popular, a variation on Baseball where you use something like a broom handle as the batting instrument.
Frisbees are small and lightweight, fabulous for hand eye coordination and there are many games you can play with them, from simple Catch to Ultimate Frisbee with 4 or more people to make teams and Frisbee Golf if you have enough open space such as in a Park to mark out your Frisbee Golf course. The Frisbee also can serve as an emergency plate to eat off of, and you can collect water from shallow streams with it also. Especially in situations where there are a fair number of people and you want to get some daily physical exercise in a fun manner, Frisbees are a great lightweight item that takes up little volume in your BOB.
Hacky Sacks are great for developing your coordination, are light in weight and take up little room in the BOB. You can play with them solo, or together with others passing them around. Developing your ability with a Hacky Sack takes time though, and you probably won't find too many people on your bugout who have experience playing with them.
The final sporting type equipment you might consider carrying is a Deflated Soccer Ball or Football (or Rugby ball or Australian Rules ball). Inflated, it's going to take up too much room in the BOB to be reasonable to carry along, but deflated it's not too bad. You'll need a pump to inflate it, or at least a pin for the inflation at gas stations or bike shops that have a compressor you can use for the inflation. Having such a ball along allows you to get some real sporting events going in a situation where there are lots of people around with nothing to do for a few hours, like waiting for the next train to arrive in a rural train station somewhere. Just about everybody knows how to play soccer to one extent or another, and you definitely get to burn off a lot of energy and keep in shape running around in a soccer game after spending several hours on a train. You're also going to be able to keep a lot of kids entertained with a soccer ball and burn off their energy too. Nothing worse than having fidgety kids around with nothing to do.
Besides all these games and sports equipment you might choose to carry along with you, you also can be creative and invent your own games with whatever materials happen to be around you.
With chess, on many occassions I created impromptu Chess sets using Coins, Sea Shells and Pebbles for pieces. Draw an 8 X 8 grid in the sand or dirt or on a piece of cardboard, and you're good to go for a game anywhere!
You can make an impromptu Horse Shoes game anywhere you have some sticks and some twine or string. Make your “horseshoe” by lashing together 3 sticks in a triangle shape, Take another stick and plant it in the ground and then fling the triangle to try and get it to either hit the stick or best, encircle it.
If you have a few people, don't forget games like “Charades”, where no equipment at all is needed and you just act out stuff for your teammates to guess on what you are acting out.
Being creative, being active both mentally and physically can go a long way toward keeping you sane and healthy in a Bugout situation. You don't have to include every last thing I mentioned in this article in your BOB, but everyone should have 2 or 3 favorites in there IMHO.
Other suggestions are welcome in the comments!