Warning: This post contains a one-stop-location for how to host an memorable game night. As such, it is long and will not be read thoroughly in a five-minute sitting. HOWEVER, it is your lucky day and you only need to skim each section – Guests, Games, Grub – to get the information you need to ensure your next game night is a blast!
Want the “Shell Notes” Version of this Post?
- Guests: Think outside of your normal crowd
- Mix your “circles” together and provide opportunity for the different people you interact with to get to know each other.
- Selection 6-10 people for a memorable night. More than 16 becomes overwhelming, even if you play a team game.
- Games: Be creative and fun
- Know your motive: Do you want to have fun, learn about your friends, or just spend time with others? Select your game accordingly.
- Have players create new rules for old games to make things more fun.
- Grub: Offer easy-to-eat, no fuss food
- Know your budget and stick to it.
- Finger foods are the best always – but if you want to provide more:
- In the summer, BBQs are great and you can ask guests to bring food too.
- In the winter, comfort food like Baked Ziti and Mac & Cheese can win.
- Do potluck style meals for larger crowds.
- Always offer at least beverages and something to snack on.
I admit it: I am a game board junkie and someone who likes to see others have a great time. When you combine those traits, Game Nights are the perfect answer to ensuring I can enjoy an evening with friends without feeling overwhelmed by having a group to interact with. I used to host Game Nights almost every Friday at my house because it was so fun for my daughter and friends. One day soon I will get into that habit again, but first cheer season, plays, and all the other stuff that comes with having tweens. Here are my tips for a great a Game Night with your friends and family members.
Every awesome and memorable game night comprises 6 – 10 people with various personalities. I like to ensure I have a nice array of friends so I can laugh so hard I cry. Have you ever mixed your intellectual, Einsteinesque friends with your party-loving, dry humor, night-on-the-town buddies? Oh, talk about fun! Mixing up personalities is especially great if you are going to play the games suggested in Most Fun, Outrageous, and Informative Games as they require mixed personality types to achieve best results. It is best to have a mix of ages, backgrounds, and personality types, as well as to ensure you mix people from various social circles. Get your coworkers, PTA crowd, and church friends together with your night-out and book club friends. Needless to say, some will respect you more and others may respect you less, but it is all in the name of fun. (Besides, those who respect you less are just upset that you have better gaming skills. It is them, not you.)
Most Fun, Outrageous, and Informative Games
Want to have the BEST game night ever? Want to learn totally random facts about your guests? Have you always wondered what words or people your friends associate with certain characteristics or adjectives? Then choose from one of these games, which are sure to have you out of your seat, moving around, and perhaps even testing the boundaries of your bladder at times. I have truly laughed until I cried playing these games and love the results no matter what the personality mix of my guests.
Dicecapades, where were you during my high school years? This game is much like Quelf with its totally insane challenges, except they are not as spontaneous and outrageous. In Dicecapades, others know that you are about to get up from the table and run in and out of six rooms in the house, or that you are about to stack five dice in your hand while singing “America the Beautiful.” They are encouraging you as you do push ups, sit ups, and jumping jacks. The kids get a kick out of watching the adults do silly stunts while learning a value lesson in being a free spirit and letting go of inhibition. Think you are strong? You will have a chance to show it when you arm wrestle some a specific number of times in Action Land. Think you are smart? You will have a chance to show it in Triviaville by answering random questions. Think you know your gas companies? Prove it when you get to Thinking Town and have to roll the dice and name that many gas companies.
I have never laughed so hard as when I played Quelf for the first time. I cried when one friend was trying to make her face pouty so she could mumble the words of her favorite Christmas carol. Was it funny because of the effort to stop smiling? Or was it that as she did this, I had to sit with my arms and legs straight since it wasn’t my turn? Or was it that another player had his hand sitting in a bowl of water while he waited for his turn? I will never know, but I do know that I look forward to playing this game each time I play it. I’ve played it with church youth groups, out of control young adults, and middle-aged professionals – not once have we not all laughed and had a great time.
This game is so fun and so silly that I cannot imagine the creators are adults. If they are adults, I do not know how they could create these challenges without the use of some form of substance or lack of sleep. At one point in the game, I had to present as a lipless, toothless, rapping prison guard who had been tarred and feathered by the inmates. Oh, and did I mention that for each of these challenges, we weren’t allowed to tell one another what we were doing beforehand…just had to get up from our seats and do what it said. No warning. No idea what was about to come at us. Just rise and perform. And if anyone was curious why we did what we just did…penalty fee for being nosy – or bonus for being inquisitive! Amazing, fun, and creative game that is great for anyone from children through adults.
Warning: Before engaging in Quelf, ensure no cameras or cell phones are in arm’s reach of any player. This game can produce plenty of blackmail material you do not want to show up on Instagram or SnapChat.
Balderdash is one of my favorite games. With the right crowd, I can laugh all night. I have been shocked, disappointed, and outright flabbergasted by some of the responses I have heard while playing this game. Suddenly the shy, quiet kids are making the louder people laugh like a comedian was in the house.
In this game, one player reads a word from a card. Then all players write their best definition for the word, trying to think of what others will believe is the correct definition. All along, the player who read the card is writing down the right definition and will then read all of them aloud. Players will vote on which definition they think is correct, and the owner of each definition gets to move forward one space for each vote.
Can you guess the correct definition of “Flumadiddle” or “Wuhlah”? We sure had a blast trying on New Year’s Eve 2011!
Would You Rather wear high heels every day for a month or wear only socks every day for a year? Would you rather be stuck on an island with your mother in law or someone from a religion you dislike? In this game, players choose between two scenarios by writing down their selection and handing it to the current player. The current player must then guess which answer belongs to others.
The game can get pretty interesting if you have the right crowd, as players will begin to realize that sometimes it is fun to throw out what you don’t think others will guess for you. When you start to throw out bogus answers, it becomes funnier because you learn who is surprised and who truly knows you.
Apples to Apples and Sour Apples to Apples are wonderful games to get a crowd talking. This is a great game to play before Quelf or Dicecapades because it helps players to loosen up and get to know one another. Some are boring and play the game as it is intended…throwing out the right cards at the right times. Others love to mess up the judge’s thought process by throwing out cards that the judge will think belong to others! Why is this important? The point of Apples to Apples is for the judge to pick a card with an adjective and then judge which player responded with the best answer. For example, the judge throws out “Lovely” and the players respond with the card in their hand they believe the judge would find to define that word. It gets fun when players start throwing out random cards, such as “Stinky Socks” in response to “Lovely”. In Sour Apples to Apples, the person throwing out this card would have to spin the apple for having the worst response! Be careful, as spinning the apple can have some negative consequences.
Not ready to get up and moving, but still want some good laughs? These games provide a nice mix of learning about others, showing off your talents, and having fun. They are great games that produce a fun game night for everyone without being to active. They are also great games to play with children if you use teams.
My favorite game of all times: Uno. House rules make this game fun for the entire crowd. Have all your guests write down their favorite house rules and mix them in a hat. Pick out three rules to apply to each game. Let the fun begin!
Some Fun Uno House Rules
- If you play a wild, a person wearing the color you choose may select to trade hands with you.
- Anytime a 7 is played, all players switch hands with the person to their right.
- Anytime a 0 is played, all players switch hands with the person on their left.
- If you play a skip card, the person who is skipped may decide to trade hands with any player.
- If you forget to call Uno, you must trade hands with the person with the most cards.
- If you win, you get to wear a crown or tiara for the next hand.
Some of the Variations of Uno
- Giant Uno – These cards are so big you can’t help but have fun with others through the laughter of trying to hold them in your hands!
- Uno Wild Jackpot – A little twist on slots and cards… a full deck of cards AND a slot machine make this one fun for the whole family.
- Uno Deluxe – Regular Uno with a wipe off scorecard on the box.
- Uno Attack – This battery-operated version of Uno surprises players by randomly spitting out (or neglecting to spit out) cards when a button is pushed. Will you get no cards, a few cards, or a whole lot of cards? Be careful to not get the press twice card!
- Uno Spin – This version comes with a spinner that determines which actions you will take. Watch out, you may have to switch hands with other players.
- Uno Flip – How good is your aim? In this version, you get to catapult your “flip” guy across to someone else’s mat. If your aim is good, you get to give away some of your cards. If it isn’t, you will be the proud new owner of one of theirs.
- Uno Tippo – Do you have a steady hand? How good are you at remembering how many cards have been played? In this version, you have two stacks to choose between, but choose wisely. If you make the scales tip the game is over.
- Uno Reflex – This version comes with a machine you must press after each turn. Are you fast enough to react? After you press the button, the machine may show a color. If it does, the last person to place down a card of that color pays a penalty.
- Uno Roboto – Oh what fun it is to make your guests do crazy stunts! How much more fun is it to do it while your voice is disguised as a robot? This is your chance to finally become R2D2 and sound cool. Fun for the entire family, this game allows you to create house rules and record them in a robotic voice. The robot randomly issues instructions, including determining whose turn it is, telling players to trade hands, or enacting house rules.
- Uno Flash – Let’s talk about Uno not being a quick game! This game once took more than 2 hours because the electronic flasher determines whose turn it is next…and sometimes it is yours again! Never think you are ready to go out because you could be the one faced with acting upon the previous players Draw Four despite being six seats away.
Faithful Stand Bys
Scrabble, Nab It, and Scrabble Flash variations, provide for a faithful and true game night in which you get to impress your friends with your high school vocabulary, street language, and ability to convince everyone that AESTS is a word (remember it was on the latest episode of CSI when they were about to catch the criminal thanks to the wonderful discovery of AESTS in the person’s hair?).
Game of Things, Boggle, Scattergories, TriBond, Clue, Mad Gab, Cranium, and Scene It can also make for a fun night depending upon the crowd and their level of engagement with the games. Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture is great for a mixed ages crowd and can provide hours of fun and help everyone realize that you have a crowd of know-it-alls who know less about pop culture than they let on.
For me, the menu is one of the best parts of game night because I love to cook and entertain. I usually serve a main dish and a few appetizers / finger foods so we are all well fed throughout the night. This keeps the games fun and entertaining, the kids fed (if you are having a game night with adults and children), and the games going until everyone is exhausted from all the great times instead of hungry or grouchy.
For main dishes, I used to make a Baked Ziti, Chili (recipes 1, 2, 3), Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Meatballs (served with grinder rolls), homemade pizzas, or various sandwiches, depending upon the eating needs of the guests. I would then complement the main dish with veggie and fruit platters, a cheese tray, and some desserts. With today’s varying dietary needs, I usually just do finger foods now and ask everyone to bring a dish they enjoy so we can all try something new from the various styles of eating.
Taco bars are wonderful for mixed games nights with adults and children (also known as family game nights to some), varying dietary concerns, and a lower budget. Guests can use lettuce leaves or bowls if they don’t eat carbs, use just the toppings if they don’t eat meat, and make their own little salad if they don’t like tacos (but really, who doesn’t like tacos?). Cook all your meat (or meat substitute) ahead of time – ensuring it is cooked thoroughly. Prep the lettuce (both chopped and leaves for taco shells), cabbage, tomato, cilantro, onions, peppers, sour cream, Fritos, and other fun toppings during the day and store in the fridge. When guests arrive, warm the meat on the stove, and set out the various toppings. Open the bar for service and allow everyone to create his or her own tacos while preparing for a night of fun, laughter, and sometimes tears. The kids love the taco bar and adults enjoy seeing happy kids. This post shares some great taco recipes as well as some essential oils that are a wonderful complement to taco night.
If you are working on a budget, as each person to bring their favorite dish so you can have a potluck and sample foods others enjoy. Whatever your budget, the key to a good food arrangement is to have both a sustainable meal and snack foods for throughout the night. If you choose not to serve dinner, notify your guests ahead of time so they may choose to eat a full meal prior to coming. No one likes to think the invite includes a meal only to find out dinner will be Doritos and soda.
Success! Remember the Formula
The main ingredient to a successful game night is relaxation. Do not worry about whether you invited the right people, chose the right games, or served the right food. Instead focus on winning…er, having fun. Enjoy the company you have and laugh until you cry as you play fun and silly games with old and new friends.
Have some secrets of your own for hosting a fun and exciting game night? Share your tips on guests, games, and grub below to help us all make our games nights more successful and memorable.