What are we going to do today? I don’t feel like going out tonight. There’s nothing good on TV. We’ve eaten the cake and opened the presents…now what? I’m bored. Sure, let’s all get together…what are we going to do?
When I was growing up, game night was a regular thing for my family. We had a huge collection of board games, and added to it frequently. Playing games was an inexpensive way to spend time together and have a lot of fun, and we still frequently play games as a (now larger) family. By the time I was a teenager, I started having game nights with friends, and that has also remained a regular part of my life. I’m now the proud owner of my own game collection (as are my sisters). Actively participating in a game, whether it’s cooperative or competitive, encourages connections between people while having fun.
Game nights are good for all ages, all types of groups, and can be planned or spontaneous. Here are a few “Amanda Approved” suggestions:
Board and Card Games
Tried and true, as well as reusable, these kinds of games can be pulled out and played at a moment’s notice. When I was a kid, our staples included Life, Monopoly, and Clue. We also enjoyed party style games like Pictionary, Outburst, and Taboo, which can be played in small or large groups. These days, my personal collection includes all the above, as well as more complicated games like Arkham Horror, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic (just to name a few). Apples to Apples is also a favorite (and some of my friends swear by the similar, but R rated, Cards Against Humanity…not really my thing, but really popular with people who don’t mind things getting raunchy).
There are also trivia games, traditional card games, memory games…I could go on, but you get the idea. I do want to mention just one more re-playable game, though, because it’s a little bit different and a ton of fun. A writer friend recently introduced a group of us to The Storymatic, which can be used for independent writing prompts or for cooperative storytelling. We drew cards related to settings and characters, and went around the room adding our cards to the narrative, then drawing new cards until the story was “finished”. It was a more free form kind of game, required some creativity, and was hilarious. I mean, when a pirate and a psychic walk into a hospital waiting room, anything can happen.
There are so many games out there, so check your basement, poke around on Amazon, or visit a game store, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something perfect for a few hours of fun with friends or family.
Puzzle and Mystery Games
I’ve talked to a few people who’ve balked at the idea of spending $20 or more on a game that they can only play once, but when I think about how much it costs for three or four people to go to a movie or other entertainment activity, I don’t see a problem spending less than that for a fun evening in. I’m a big fan of mystery box games, and am now getting into escape room box sets.
My first mystery game experience was when I was fourteen. The game was called “Barbecue with the Vampire”, designed specifically for teenagers, and a friend’s parents put it together for her birthday party. I loved it, and over the years have played, and hosted, many other box mystery sets. The concept is simple: each player is assigned a character, and given specific knowledge and information. The games also provide clues and information for the group. The goal is to solve the crime and identify the guilty party…unless you happen to be the guilty party, in which case you’re trying to keep from being found out. Everything you need is in the box, and the experience can be as simple or elaborate as you want. I’ve participated in games where the host decorated their house according to the theme and we were encouraged to wear costumes, and I’ve had groups decide last minute to just open the box and get started. If you don’t have the maximum number of players, one person can take on multiple roles and shepherd the game in a more “gamemaster” style (I’ve used hats and accessories to indicate when I’m becoming a different character). There are lots of box sets available, and although the same people can’t play the same game twice, they can be loaned out and passed on for others to play with their friends and families.
I’ve been an escape room freak for almost two years now, and have posted about why they’re such great experiences. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at the idea of trying it at home, but I’ve been surprised and pleased at how much fun my friends and I had when we tried it. Last weekend, we played a game called “The Werewolf Experiment”, which promised, correctly, that we could just open the box and start playing. The instructions were easy to follow, the puzzles were challenging but doable, and while we had to look in the hints booklet twice (three times was the game’s suggested maximum), we never had to get into the answer book (although we were glad it was available, just in case). When we unlocked the last box, everyone cheered.
This is another case where each player can only play once, but the game can still be reused. This particular game has PDFs on their website to allow you to print new copies of the consumable puzzles, and detailed instructions for putting everything back together. I’m planning on taking it to my parents’ house for our next family get together, so they can play while I control the hints and add to the atmosphere. Two of my friends have asked to borrow it to do the same with other groups of people, so we’re definitely getting our money’s worth. When we considered that the game cost just over $20, and most physical escape rooms cost about that much per person, we all agreed that it was worth the cost for just one play…and then we ordered three more.
What are your favorite games? Who do you play with (or plan to play with)? What are some ways to make game nights even more awesome? Let’s talk!