If you’ve never done this before, the idea of hosting a game night could be overwhelming. You might think “what if they don’t like my games? Should there be food? How many people is too many?”
Stop worrying, we have you covered! Today we’re going to talk about what makes a fun, inexpensive, and hopefully low-stress game night.
Who Should Come?
RYAN: Inviting the right people can be crucial to the success of a game night. Think about the kind of games you have or want to play and invite people accordingly. Your friend who craves a 3 hour game of RISK probably won’t care for multiple games of Codenames. Pairing the right games with the right personalities will make it a fun night for everyone.
RIC: One area where I struggle is trying to not invite over too many people. If I’m hosting a game night, my brain immediately goes into thinking that I should get as many people over as possible. I always think that if we want, we could split into two groups and play two different games, but that has never, ever happened. Most non-party games hover around the 4 or 5 player mark, so you need to keep that in mind as you plan out who you want to invite.
RYAN: If you plan to have both adults and kids at your game night, set up a kids table with age appropriate games. We’ve had great game nights where both kids and adults play together, but we also know that not every game is ideal for a wide age range. A little planning goes a long way to make sure the kids have something fun to play while the adults can dig into a deeper game.
What Should We Play?
RYAN: Not everyone is ready to host a 6 hour gaming marathon at their home. Maybe start small by setting aside 2 hours and having a theme for the night. It can be overwhelming to tell people to “pick a game” if they have no clue what they’re choosing.
Here are some game night themes that might click with your friends and family:
- Filler Games – 15 to 30 minute games that are quick to learn and move fast. This is perfect for the friends that have a hard time paying attention during a slower-paced game.
- Party Games – If you want a bigger group to show up, choose a couple 8 player games like Cash N Guns, Scattegories, Secret Hitler or Captain Sonar.
- Trivia Night – This is perfect for all your know-it-all friends. Grab a copy of Wits & Wagers, LINKEE or even good ol’ Trivial Pursuit for a night based around people’s knowledge.
- Mystery Night – Have a couple games on hand that are based on solving a mystery. There are some great “escape room” games like Unlock!, EXIT and Escape the Room that are perfect for 4 to 6 players. You can introduce your friends to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective or maybe a deduction game like Antidote.
- Co-op Games – Inviting people who aren’t savvy gamers? Maybe cooperative games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island or The Captain is Dead will ease your guests into the hobby. Working together toward a goal might be less intimidating.
Knowing your guests and setting out the right game selection is a must.
RIC: You will NEVER have as much time as you think you will. The times on those game boxes always get you excited that you’ll be able to squeeze in 4 or 5 games, but it always ends up being 1 or 2. You’ll always underestimate the time it will take to explain the rules, and the time non-gamers will need between turns to really understand what’s going on.
Don’t Serve Cheetos!
RYAN: If you plan to serve snacks or food, be wise with your decision making. No one wants Sushi Go cards caked with Cheeto dust. Think about the games you picked out. Are you holding and passing a lot of cards? Does it require people to flail their arms to act things out around the table?
RIC: But do have food! And drinks! And understand that if your game time overlaps with the traditional time of a meal, you need to have a meal. Don’t think to yourself that people can just get a late dinner at 8 PM when you started after noon.
RYAN: Keeping messy foods away from the games and taking snack breaks will keep your friends from dropping cheese dip all over your new game. This will also help you continue to be friends.
“I don’t understand”
RYAN: If you host and you own the game, chances are that everyone is looking for you to explain how to play. Make sure that you know the rules of the game and even understand what to do in the case of a tie game.
For more complex games, printing out a quick player aid is really helpful. You can find player aids on Board Game Geek for a variety of games. By giving the players the information they need, they won’t ask every 5 seconds if their move is legal. You can even write some key rules on a couple note cards that guide players through a new game.
RIC: This is a spot that really stands out for me personally. I know that I have struggled in the past with explaining the rules of games. My mind rushes so fast that I often forget about certain details, or I lose track of what I was discussing. My skill in this area is growing, mostly due to my relaxing about the whole thing. I now hold the rule book while explaining so that I can quickly reference it if I have a question about a detail. Allow others to look at the rule book as well – something that used to hurt my pride for some stupid reason. I also make sure that I review the rules of any games that I am considering playing the night before – you can never be too fresh on the instructions! I’ve even considered sending out tutorial videos for my more serious game nights so that everyone comes in with a pretty good idea about the game.
RYAN: Ric brings up an awesome idea here. If you invite someone through social media or by email, toss in a playthrough video of the game you plan to play. Not everyone will watch it, but having another person at the table understand the mechanics will cut down on the time you have to teach the game. YouTube channels like Watch It Played and The Rules Girl are fantastic resources.
RYAN: Once you’ve hosted a couple game nights, you’ll know what games people gravitate to. If you’re introducing only new games every game night, players don’t get to develop strategies and enjoy the deeper aspects of a particular game. Playing the latest and greatest games can be fun, but bringing a game to the table that everyone has played before allows people to stop obsessing over the instructions and really enjoy their time at the table.
At the end of the day, this is what a game night should be. A time to bond and build relationships should always be at the heart of a good game night. You may not remember who wins or loses a particular game, but you will remember the people that sat around the table sharing a couple hours of their week with you.
Do you have some tips for hosting a great game night? We’d love to hear what you’ve learned. Post your suggestions in the comments below.