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3 Camping Games To Pass The Time At The Picnic Table

Small, compact games are handy to have at the campsite. They’re easy to pack, and if it rains you have something to do in the tent or under a tarp. These aren’t really “camping games” per se, but they’re perfect for burning up a little time when you’re sitting around.


farkle dice game
What’s not to like about a game called Farcle?

If you’ve never played Farkle I’ll bet you a S’more that you’re going to love it. It’s a classic group dice game that is great for the campsite. You need to roll certain combinations to score points, and as long as you keep scoring points each roll, you can keep rolling. And therein lies the fun – because if you roll and you don’t score, you lose everything! How risky are you going to be? Will it pay off?

Big Bad Joe’s Spades 

spades card game
The classic game of Spades card game

Who’s Joe? He’s my brother-in-law, and he hates it when everyone gets to be a winner in a round of the card game called Spades. Spades is a classic bidding style card game. There are a lot of versions, and here’s how we play it when we go camping.

The Deal

We play Spades cutthroat, so anywhere from 4-6 players works the best. You deal 7 cards out to all players. In the second round you deal 6 cards, then 5, and so on. We deal all the way down to 1 card and then work our way back up to 7. This is a lot of fun because the strategy slowly changes the entire game.


Bidding – each person bids on how many “tricks” they can take in that round. You take a trick by having the highest card of the suit that was led that round. If someone played a ten of hearts and you laid a queen of hearts down, you would take that trick. However – the spade is the trump. You can only play a spade if you do not have the suit that opened the hand. Also – you can’t lead a hand with a spade until a spade has been played. Here’s the “Big Bad Joe” part – the total number of bids cannot equal the number of cards dealt, which means that in every round someone is not going to make their bid. And let me tell you, it sucks when you don’t get to bid what you want to bid. Let’s say six cards are out and you’re the last person to bid. If the total number of bids is four, you cannot bid two. You must bid one or three. Too bad for you if two was the bid you wanted.

So after the bidding is done (and recorded) the person who bids the highest plays first. After that, whoever takes the trick lays first on the next round.


If you make your bid you get the number of the bid plus a ten point bonus. This is what makes Spades a great game. You literally cannot be dealt a bad hand. Your success depends on your ability to make your bid, and nothing else. If you do not make your bid your score is only the number of tricks you take. If you bid three and take two tricks, your score is two, instead of thirteen. Pretty big difference.


You win by making your bid consistently. You can come out strong with high numbers and hope to take the trick, or bait people with lower cards in hopes of drawing out their higher cards – and then finish the hand strong in the end. Another well known strategy is “sluffing” cards, or throwing them strategically so you don’t take any points. My grandfather was a master sluffer and won many games by bidding zero often. He knew when to throw cards so they wouldn’t take the trick. It’s one of my favorite camping games – I hope you enjoy it!


sondergut backgammon
Beautiful compact backgammon set

I found a really cool travel backgammon game from Pitkins Stearns called Sondergut Backgammon. It’s made from leather and rolls up to take up very little space. They did a great job designing it because it’s well made and rolls out nice and flat.

Backgammon is a well known game that you’ve probably played at some point in your life. A little more luck is involved than chess, but strategy still plays a large role. One of my favorite things about backgammon is how the game can completely turn around right up to the end. The allows you to never give up hope! If you like chess and checkers I guarantee you’ll like backgammon too.

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