It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a new board game to the table, it’s mainly been playing a ton of Gloomhaven, which is awesome as always, but I’ve been wanting to get new games to the table. So this Saturday we had a board […]
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and you can have an awkward meal with your in-laws, but the whole time doesn’t have to be awkward because there are party games that everyone from the crazy uncle to the clingy aunt can enjoy. Now, might be a little bit late to order them today or you might not want to run out to a store as they might be a bit busy as well, but Christmas is coming up and New Years, and you probably will have to spend extended time with family again, or even with friends, and you might want something to do with them.
So, what makes the best party games?
Replayability is one of the biggest things for me. Having a game that I can go to multiple times without it feeling like all the jokes and moments are done is key.
Large group number so that you can get everyone playing is also important. You don’t want someone to feel like they have to sit out because there aren’t enough parts of the game to go around.
Simplicity so that even Grandma and Grandpa can pick it up is key. They might not want to play, but your parents might not be that much better at picking up either.
Limited or contained down time is also important in these games. You can have moments of people sitting around and thinking or writing something, but you don’t want to have people having too much down time while on person does something. That either leads to distracting conversation and people just checking out of the game.
Can you play the game with your parents? Seems like a lot of these other ones cover that suggestion, but there are games that have more of a dirty or adult twist on things, and you have to know if your parents are going to be fine with that, or even your grandparents, depending on who you might be playing with.
The game can end while everyone is still having fun. This can be because you can just end the game whenever, but it could also be because the game is a shorter game. If the game can’t end in 30 minutes, it’s probably too much for a party game.
So what are some games that fit the bill?
Balderdash is a game where people write down definitions to words, what acronyms mean, complete weird laws, and then get to vote on which one they think is real. This game is easy to teach and while the replayability is slightly more limited than some, simply because you might actually remember a categories answer from before, you can always go with another one of the options on the card. Like most good party games, this game is about the laughs. It can have a run away leader problem, but really, scoring is optional, being silly is more important.
Wits and Wagers
Very similar to the game above, except everyone is putting down a number instead of some other written answer and then people bid on which is the closest without going over. There is technically an ending to the game, but you can always just pick how many questions you want to do, or when people are winding down do a single final round where people can go crazy with their bidding for a chance to win.
Another trivia sort of game where people are looking to fill in answers for various categories but it all has to start with a single letter. What makes this game work more often than not is that someone who might be able to come up with more answers is probably still going to have a number of common answers with other people so can end up with fewer points. Trying to come up with something that is unique, but not unique that someone else might come up with as well is the balance, plus the limited amount of time for doing so.
A bit more abstract, but a similar basis for the ones above, in this one person picks from four things, occupation, life time supply, super power, and dream job that they’d want. That’s all great, but then everyone else gets to write a stipulation and the person who picked gets to pick their favorite because it’s the least bad one or because it’s the funniest one, their criteria is there own. This game works really well because depending on who you’re playing with, you can make the game dirtier or more family friendly, the choice is yours. This game is good for laughs, it comes with white boards for writing on, but you could easily expand it to a larger number by just taking post-it notes or some other smaller piece of paper and giving one to each person.
First game to actually have a board in the classic sense. Tsuro is a simple game of staying alive the longest as your dragon follows it’s path. The game plays very fast, so you’ll likely play a couple of times. For a game that seems like it could have some decent strategy, it really works well because you can only plan on your turn, and you have a limited number of choices, especially at higher player counts. It’s always fun to see how people take different strategies in the game as well, as some people might try and avoid everyone, while others might try and instigate conflict.
Sushi Go! Party
By far the most complex game, this is one that you won’t be able to pull out with everyone, but if your family is a gaming family, Sushi Go! Party offers interesting decision making as you are drafting cards. The game plays quickly, though the first hand might take a bit longer as people figure out their strategies. This game also offers the most variety in the play as you can swap out the meal that you are creating. The others all have a similar feel and rhythm every time you play it, but this one could have wildly different strategies each combination that you play.
ice Cool/Ice Cool 2
Now, this is a new one and probably the silliest out of all of them. All you are doing is either flicking delinquent penguins around a school as they try and avoid the hall monitor and collect snacks of fish, or you’re racing around the board to see who can circumnavigate the fastest. It is also different because you’re up and moving about as you cannot sit around a table to play this game, in fact you have to pull the chairs away from the table. This is limited to eight players, but it’s also the best on the list for kids, because what kid wouldn’t want to send a penguin flying around a board. And while the game is made for kids, it’s a lot of fun for adults as well as you try crazy shots to see if you can bank through a couple of doors or are you going to get stuck in a corner.
There are a lot of other options as well, but as you are looking at the store thinking about something about you might buy, remember the suggestions laid out at top of the article. Keeping it simple, replayable, and good for a large group are going to mean you’ve probably found a winner of a party game.
What are some of your favorite party games? Are there some that you actively avoid with your family?
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I won’t promise that this the last part of the post because I thought that part 2 was going to wrap everything up, but I do think this will likely wrap it up. I mainly want to go outside of the party and social deduction games and look at some higher player count games. While those are two of the most common categories, I think there are other games ranging from very simple to a bit more complex that can work.
Zombie Dice is one of the simplest games on the list, but it works well because you can be gaming while you are talking. There’s every little involvement by people in the game when it’s not your turn and that works out just fine. Even when it is your turn you don’t have to pay that much attention as you are just grabbing dice, rolling them, and then deciding when to stop and cash your brains in. It’s a simple die rolling game of push your luck where you are trying to be the first player to 13 or 15 or whatever number people pick, by collecting brains, because that’s what zombies do. But you got to be careful, because if you get shot three times, you don’t cash any brains for the round. Once someone has passed the end game total, then everyone has one turn to try and beat them. It’s very much Farkle like, but simpler and less math.
Tsuro is another game that falls into the simple and fast games. You can plan out your turn in advance, but normally that’s a pretty simple process. Tsuro, the game of the path, is about staying on the board the longest and can play up to eight people. You play a tile in front of your pawn and move it each round and you can only use the tiles you have in your hand. It’s not a highly interactive game between players until later in the game when you have to put your pawns fate into someone else hands. A nice thing about this game too is that you have a limited number of tiles, so if you have two people or if you have eight people, the game is going to take basically the same length. Just with more people the game is more interactive earlier on in the game. It’s also a game where when you get knocked out, you know you aren’t going to be sitting there long. This can be an issue with some of the social deduction games that eliminate players.
We Didn’t Playtest This At All! Legacy also falls into the category of very simple games. It’s a draw a card play a card game and be the last one standing. There are several versions of this game, but I prefer the legacy version. It adds to fun of the game which is extremely simple otherwise. We just got rid of our non-legacy version, so just We Didn’t Playtest This At All!, because it’s a little too simple. However, I do think for some groups there is a good spot for this on their shelves. It’s a good game for when people are showing up, because a single game lasts only a few minutes before everyone is eliminated. It’s also a goofy game, so it’s a good ice breaking game as well for people to interact a little bit.
Sushi Go! Party falls into a different category of game with the card drafting mechanic and is a bit more complex. It also lasts longer than most of the others that I’ve mentioned in social deduction and in this post (the party games can last a long time if you want). As players you are drafting a card in three rounds, each round is a full hand of cards, and then passing the cards to the next person. It’s a fun game with a lot of variability in it if you have the party edition. I highly recommend that. It’s also a game that is a bit thinkier, and people can form strategies, but because the artwork is very cute, people who haven’t gotten all the strategy with a particular set of scoring food items will still enjoy it because of the artwork. It’s a game that is quite aesthetically pleasing, and for all the cards and options you get for the game, it’s quite cheap as well. This is the first game where I’d say there’s less luck involved with it than a lot of others.
Say Bye to the Villains is one of my favorite resent purchase games that I think works well on this list. It has a maximum of eight players and is a cooperative game. You play a group of samurai who all have their own powers trying to defeat a bunch of villains. You have ten days per character to get your samurai ready to fight. You can do this by increasing your stats, speed, health, and power, or by finding out information on the villains. It’s a very tricky game to win, I think in three games I haven’t won, though it’s been close a couple of times. But it’s cooperative, so even if one person finishes up their days sooner, they can still be part of the strategizing. This game plays as a puzzle but you never know if you’ve cracked it, because you don’t know if you have all the information that you need, which inevitably you won’t.
Magic Maze and Captain Sonar are two games that fall into the same category in some ways. They are both real time games that can handle a large number of players. I’m not sure what the max is for Magic Maze, but Captain Sonar can play eight, and I think Magic Maze is similar. In Magic Maze you, as a group, are trying to get an adventuring party through a mall and out after they have stolen the adventuring goods that they need. Yes, it’s actually that and actually that silly. Each player has a specific action or two that they can do which is moving the adventurer meeples (small wooden pieces representing the characters) on the board. So someone can only move them north, someone can only move them east, and so on. There is some overlap on things, but not that much. It’s a timed game and everyone is in there, trying to work together to get them on the gear and then get them out.
Captain Sonar is also real time, though can be done turn by turn, where there are two teams out trying to sink the others submarine. The captains are barking out orders, the first mate is trying to keep the systems prepped and ready to go, the engineer is trying to keep systems in working order, and the radar operator is listening to the opposing teams captain trying to figure out where they are on the board. This game is stressful and hectic, as is Magic Maze, but a ton of fun. There’s some strategy that can be employed and there’s some luck that goes into it as well. There’s also an expansion for this game, but I don’t know what it adds.
Both of these games are a lot of fun as they get the blood pumping for people, however, because they are stressful for some people, you have to know your group. In the case of Captain Sonar, there is also fairly high lower bound limit as while the Captain and First Mates jobs can be combined, you are going to want to have at least six people to really get the full experience of the game without it becoming too confusing. There’s also the issue with these two games that they are a bit more complex than some of the others on the list. They have good themes for the games so good ways to explain what is going on without it seeming like too much, but be careful not to over explain it.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the games that you could play with larger groups and each group is going to have their own sweet spot for games. Try and branch out and try a number of these games and see what works the best for your group. With these games it also helps keep you from getting stale. And if you want to play something heavier, like I said before, split into smaller groups, but a lot of these games are great for kicking off a game night before jumping into heavier games, or closing down a game night as people slowly leave.
One game or type of game you’ll see that I left off of the list is Escape Room Games. While these games can technically have an infinite number of players, they say that six is the max. I would say that is a pretty good maximum otherwise people won’t be able to see the cards being played. Id’ recommend splitting into groups if you have more than six for games like Unlock and Exit.
What are some larger player count games that I haven’t mentioned that you enjoy?
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So, early on I did a post on different types of board games, and I’ve been wanting to come back to that topic, but I’ve been distracted by other posts, time constraints, and forgetting about it from time to time. Now is the time, though, where I’m going to be running a more in-depth look at board games and the different types of board games.
The first category that I want to touch on, keeping with the theme of Board Game Nights, is party games. Party games don’t have to go along with a specific board game night, but can be worked into a lot of different get-togethers.
What Makes Games Fall Into This Category?
Party games are generally games that can be played quickly, can be easily incorporated into the social side of a party, and are easy to pick up. You don’t want to stop the interactions to get the game rolling, but when there is a lull in talking, or as people wind down, you can pull out these games and add some energy back into the room.
What Are Some Examples?
I would say that some of the most common and classic examples are games like Scattergories, Catchphrase, and Apples to Apples. These games are the ones that my parents had, along with games like Taboo and Guesstures. These games are aimed at getting you to speak with other people and laugh as you try to get other people to guess a word, and are generally for keeping people entertained.
There are some games that have continued in that line which have come out recently. Games like Stipulations, which was just kickstarted in 2015, and Wits and Wagers have built upon the concepts of previous party games, and games like Cards Against Humanity have taken them to a darker place.
But these aren’t the only types of games that would fall into the category of party games. There is a card game series (each a stand-alone game) that is themed many different ways — the game Fluxx. This game, and its various versions, is a fun simple game where the rules are always changing, so you can’t plan ahead and make any strategy. And another example, Zombie Dice, is a game where you try and collect the most brains and avoid being shot, just by rolling dice. There’s also Tsuro, which Kristen wrote an article on recently; it is another fun game that goes fast and is always changing. And finally, We Didn’t Playtest This At All is a game that can last as little as five minutes, and you can play it over and over and over again. These are all great examples of games that you can play instead of games that fall into the more classic party game category.
Finally, there are games like Telephone Pictionary that you need nothing more than paper and pencil to play. And any game that makes you act out something or do something silly works well for a party. Cranium is the combination of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and charades; most people have heard of this one, but a similar game, Dicecapades, is a fun dice-based twist on that. These games keep you active and involved more than other games.
Do They Get Old?
This is an important question that you probably won’t think of all that much, but if you play these games often, especially the ones from higher on my list, they do get old. Catchphrase, while a fun game, has a limited number of options, and eventually, it seems like the same thing over and over again. Even Cards Against Humanity can get old. With a limited set of cards, you end up playing the same cards over and over again, and the variety eventually runs out. Thankfully, they are putting out expansions, but even those don’t change up the game greatly. But a lot of the games further down on my list have higher replay value. Fluxx changes every time, as the name would suggest, and Tsuro has some different strategies while going by quickly. We Didn’t Playtest This At All runs into the same issues as some of the other games on mylist, but they offer you some twists to the usual format. I think the most important thing is knowing your group. If you have creative types playing, games like Scattergories and Stipulations are going to get a much longer run for you.
If You Were to Recommend a Couple of Them, Which Would They Be?
The top three that I would recommend are Fluxx, Tsuro, and Zombie Dice. These games offer you a variety of playing styles, and are luck-based games. And most other people have some of the “thinking” party games like Scattergories. The nice thing about Fluxx and Tsuro is that they are easy to transport, so if you want to take them along to someone else’s place, you can do that.
What party board games do you like?
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