Figuring out what kind of games to bring to the table is usually the hardest part of planning your game night. Do you only bring games you love? Do you want to run a tabletop RPG campaign? Is the best option to grab a handful of shorter games for a taste of everything? There’s no easy answer here, but the most direct one is to play to your audience. Let’s look at how I categorize games, and the reasons I’d pick them.
Shorter games are a versatile addition to any game night. You can use them to get your playgroup in the strategic mindset before a longer game, slide them in between rounds of longer games, or even combine a few to make a complete game night. If your group is newer to gaming, short games are great way to introduce a wide variety of genres within a single night.
The Fast and the Furious
My favorite examples: Exploding Kittens (NSFW edition), Pretense (metagame), Fluxx, Munchkin, Boss Monster, Pixel Glory
These games are fun because the rules can be picked up in 5-10 minutes, have a low skill floor, but a high skill ceiling. A few rounds can be played quickly, and strategy becomes more prevalent as games go on. These games are great at the start of a night to help the playgroup get into a strategic mindset.
My favorite examples: Fiasco, Dread, Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf, Everyone is John
I love starting a tabletop RPG night with a preliminary round of one of these games. It helps the players get really into the role playing mindset, and brings out their more humorous side if you’re following up with a long or serious game like Call of Cthulhu. These could also be used as a fun night of one-shots, or giving your playgroup the opportunity to run a game without having the pressure of making an entire campaign.
Party games, fun hats always needed
My favorite examples: Superfight, Red Flags, million dollars but, Concept, Geek Out!
So everyone has heard of Cards Against Humanity, if they haven’t already been playing it over the past couple of years. While it has some decent replayability, it does get kind of old after a while if you don’t keep buying expansions. My examples offer a similar playstyle and the same kind of fun, but with a new twist. Whether it’s setting up an interesting “would you rather” scenario, hypothetically battling Chuck Norris riding a dinosaur vs. chainsaw armed Abraham Lincoln, or even showing off your insane nerd cred, it’s a great way to have a game night, and be able to include your “non-gamer” friends.
My favorite examples: Spyfall, The Resistance, Werewolf, Coup
Bluffing games are by far my favorite category of games. Their fun and replayability has definitely led to nights of only playing bluffing games. I separated this group out, because it tends to bleed across multiple types of games I write about in this post. I love this category because it gives you as a player the chance to meta game, and every time you sit down at the table, it’s a new experience. These games are easy to pick up, have extremely high replayability, and inspiring communication skills among both new and established playgroups.
Longer games are great for covering the span of an entire night. Playgroups will feel more cohesion than in shorter games because they’re not having to switch strategies or mindsets throughout the night. My biggest split here is between RPG’s, which use a bit of imagination and storytelling from the players, and tabletop games which typically have a board with pieces, and contain a clear goal. Within tabletop games, the decision between a competitive game or a cooperative game is more up for group preference.
My favorite examples: Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Arkham Horror, Lords of Waterdeep, Riskopoly, Smash Up, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride Europe
Tabletop games usually start off with a clear objective. For example, competitive games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are a race to get victory points, and cooperative games contain a shared goal, like getting off the island for Forbidden Island, and curing all the diseases in Pandemic. Co-op games are one of my favorite way to introduce people to newer board games. They help beginner players go into a strategic mindset with less pressure, and more competitive players have a more relaxed evening. Some of these games are great for bringing out the competitive side of your playgroup, especially if their introduction to games was something like Settlers of Catan.
My favorite examples: Fate Core, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, Heroquest
I love everything RPG, from the quintessential Dungeons and Dragons, to any kind of dungeon crawler. These games have so much variance within, from combat and interaction focused, to roleplay focused. I’ve included dungeon crawlers here because they tend to feel closer to an RPG than a co-op/competitive board game, with a usual inclusion of a Dungeon Master-esque player running the game. These games are great for any player, and any experience level.
Picking a few games for game nights is a seemingly daunting task. What I do is either pick a handful of small games, one long game and one small game, or have an RPG night. This way, the night has a bit of variance, but each one has its own kind of cohesion.
My last game night/day was a friend’s birthday. (Happy birthday like a month later when this gets posted) We started off with a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill, and transitioned to a bunch of rounds of Secret Hitler after cake!
Photos by Melissa DeVarney and Jordon Reese
Edited by Maria Belyaeva
Written by Adrian Darwin Rillon