How to host a great game night
In this age of screens, an evening of board games with friends has never been more relaxing. The popularity of board games has been on the rise in the past decade, with thousands of new games released each year.
If you're planning on hosting a game night with friends or family, there are some steps you can take to make sure everyone has a great time enjoying the games and each other's company.
1. Choosing the games
Maybe you already have shelves full of games to choose from, or maybe you're looking for something new. Either way, you should pick games that fit the group you're playing with. Not everyone enjoys social party games that put them on the spot, and some people might not be interested in more strategic games. Finding a middle ground can be tricky.
Know your group. What is the group's age range? What games have they enjoyed in the past? Are they okay with learning games with complex rules? These are questions to ask as you pick out games that are likely to stick.
Player count and game length. Will you be playing one or two quick games after dinner, or are you planning a whole evening (or even a whole day) of games? A two-hour game can easily take up a whole night, especially if you're teaching the game to new players. If you have a short amount of time, quick games you can play over and over may be your best option. Choosing a good game for the number of players you'll have is just as important. It can be hard to find a game for 8-10 players that everyone will enjoy. Sometimes your best option is to split the group and play two smaller games.
Read the rules beforehand. There's no easier way to deflate the atmosphere of a game night than opening up the rules for the first time when a game hits the table. Even simple games can take you 15 minutes to learn -- and reading the rules aloud is a tried and tested way to bore the group. Read the rules ahead of time and be prepared to teach so you can get right to gaming. Or, look for a YouTube video on how to play. Watch It Played is a great resource for learning games quickly, and you can even put on a how-to-play video instead of teaching the group yourself.
2. Types of games
Once you know who's coming and what types of games are likely to work best, you should think about what types of games you will offer.
Party games. These are often quick, simple, and silly. These can be a good choice for a mixed group of ages, but they can be a good choice for a group of adults as well. With the right crowd, Cards Against Humanity can be a hilarious game of offensive jokes.
Word games. If you want something that most people are likely to enjoy while being a little competitive, word games are a classic choice. Codenames is a great blend of a party game and a word game that pits two teams against each other as they interpret clues given by their teammates to identify words.
Strategy games. For a more competitive crowd up for a more complex game, strategy games can be deeply rewarding and are often fun to play over and over. Catan is a modern classic that Monopoly fans may enjoy.
3. Snacks and drinks
As with any gathering, you should prepare snacks and drinks according to the dietary restrictions of your guests so there is something for everyone. But when you're gaming, some snacks are easier to eat than others.
Stick with foods that aren't sticky. Foods like wings or cheese puffs may be a hit with most crowds, but they'll also make a mess of any game. Try pigs in a blanket, chips and dip, or a cheese platter for snacks that won't stick to your games.
Drinks over dice. Picking the right drinks is an easier task, though as with snacks you should offer a variety so there's something everyone can enjoy. Always offer a non-alcoholic option. You may want to consider a "no drinks on the table" rule, as a spill can easily ruin a game.
4. Gaming guidelines
Every game group is different. Maybe the rules are just a suggestion for you and your friends and you have a list of favorite house rules. Or maybe gaming is more competitive and the rules are treated as absolute law. One of the best parts of games is it doesn't matter how you play as long as you're having fun -- but you should make sure the whole group is comfortable and having fun.
Fudging the rules. You should always try playing a game by the books first, but if bending the rules here and there is more fun for your group, no one has to know. Decide before you start playing how closely you will adhere to the rulebook so no arguments break out mid-game.
Phone policy. Even simple games can lead to long turns, and some players may want to pull out their devices for a quick distraction. If you would prefer your game night be totally gadget-free, you should ask your group whether they're okay with this at the start of the evening. Some people may have good reason to check their phone from time to time, especially if they have kids to check on.
Remember what games are for. The most important part of any game night is that everyone has fun and enjoys the company. Whether you've gathered for some friendly competition or for a lighthearted evening of laughter, the games are less important than the people you play them with.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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