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So, You’re Hosting a Game Night

As we grow older, we tend to go out less and less. Like the seasons changing, the Patriots playing the Superbowl, and Trump’s twitter hurling insults at someone at least once a day, it’s just unavoidable. Whether you smarten up and realize a handful of $8 cock tails adds up when you go out twice a week, your vitality slowly deteriorates to the point where closing down bars is considered a monumental achievement, or you get tied down and are forced into couple-y things every weekend, you will reach a point in life that things slow down and your entertainment habits and expectations will evolve. You can’t sit and watch Netflix all night every weekend because there are only so many shows out there. But you also don’t want to leave the comfort of your home – so why not host a game night?

The Cush household loves games. I have grown up having friends over to play board games till the wee hours of the morning. Any given weekend I can drive over to my parent’s house for an afternoon of cards. In college, every semester there was one game that my group of friends was temporarily obsessed with – and it changed from semester to semester. Risk, checkers, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, each of those made an appearance. Now that my wife and I have a place of our own, we enjoy having people over to our house for an evening of good, wholesome fun. Take it from someone who enjoys hosting and enjoys games – these are the things you want to think about when hosting a game night.

Group Dynamics

The demographic of your gathering for game night dictates every other decision you will make for the game night. Are you having just a few of your friends over? Things can get a little rowdy. There might be a little bit more liquor involved and that couple who has no problem with addressing conflicts in front of other people may just take the gloves off at your coffee table when one of them is slighted by the other in the heat of competition. Or maybe it is just a small family gathering where you and your parents sit down at the dinner table for a few games of cribbage and a glass of wine. You’ve got to know the crowd you’re catering to. Sometimes shooting out a bunch of invites can come back to bite you in the ass. Unless you have a progressive thinking Grandmother – you probably don’t want to have here stop by when you and your friends are in the middle of a game of Cards Against Humanity.

The Spread

Like most gatherings, you want some sort of spread. It doesn’t need to be a full Thanksgiving dinner, but you also don’t want to be scrambling last minute for a couple of bags of potato chips from your cupboard that were already opened. Not going to lie, I’ve pulled that move before but that’s a move of desperation when a game night kind of just happens. If the event is planned, so should the spread. Potluck’s work great if you’re having a handful of people over because then you get everyone bringing something different to snack on. If it’s just you and another couple – a meat and cheese platter or some hummus, crackers and a veggie plate will do just fine. Nachos or stuffed bread will bring it to the next level, but hot apps aren’t always necessary. You just want something to distract the other players from the diabolical plan you’re carrying out during your turn.

As for booze, I always just say BYOB. No one expects you to have a 30-rack or a full bar for a casual game night, so it is always safe to tell everyone to bring what they want.

The Timing

I’m not one to stick a time frame on game night because I usually want to play as long as possible. However, there may someone amongst your group that tends to linger, so you are forced to establish a time limit. If the Mrs. wants to go to bed, everyone must leave. If you have work in the morning, you probably don’t want to power through the rest of your six pack in hopes that you outlast the lingerer. You know who this person is, and you must set boundaries, otherwise they will stick around and proceed to not only finish every bit of food that was put out but also rummage through your pantry and fridge. Hi Ben.

The Games

Of course, the most important thing to a game night is the game (or games) that you will be playing. As I stated earlier, the group dynamic has a big say in the games you’ll be playing. Most games come with player limits and if you exceed that, you are forcing people to “team up” and everyone knows that just leads to one person making all the decisions and that’s how relationships end. For this reason, I like to keep it under a total of 6 people for game night but there are a bunch of games that work great with larger groups (think “Cranium” or “Catch Phrase” or “Taboo”). Also, think about how long you’re planning on entertaining people. This generally rules out Monopoly which is unfortunate. In my opinion, the games listed below are must have games for your closet.

Cards Against Humanity or What Do You Meme (min. 3 players – no max)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of both of these games. Both are extremely entertaining and incredibly inappropriate. Perfect for you and your degenerate friends. They are like Apples to Apples but for adults.

Settlers of Catan (3-6 players)
My personal all-time favorite game and if you like games of building, progress, and trading, this game will have you hooked. The first time I played it – I went out and bought it immediately and played it until 3am with a few of my friends. A ton of expansions are out there to add to the replay-ability of the game and add some interesting elements. Monopoly meets Risk is how I typically describe it.

Catch Phrase
Don’t play this game if you don’t want everyone screaming at each other or if you don’t like fun. Science has proven through this game that the louder you yell, the more correct your answer is. You’ll know what I mean when you play it.

Cribbage (2-4 players)
A true classic. A gentlemen’s game of cards. Learning cribbage is almost like a right-of-passage for my family. One of the first gifts my wife gave me when we first started dating over 8 years ago was a cribbage board. That’s when I knew she was the one.

Dominion (2-4 players but scales well to 6 if need be)
A bit of a dark horse here as I suspect most haven’t even heard of it, but it is easy to learn and there is a ton of variation in how it is played. You are essentially building a deck out of cards that you are cycling through in order to buy more cards and victory points. There is not a lot of random element, so you control your own fate (to a certain extent) which is appealing.

7 Wonders (2-7 Players)
This game I will admit, is a bitch to try to explain. But once you play it once, it is very easy to understand and can be played very quickly. It is a resource based, progressive game which has an interesting dynamic where players pass around hands of cards to work to build their civilization and score points. There is not a ton of conflict among players save one dynamic of the game so, it’s a good one to play if you’re worried about a certain player losing their shit in a more cut-throat game.

Good luck and happy gaming!

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Lucas Starritt
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Lucas Starritt

SETTLERS OF CATAN. Yes. Anywhere. Anytime.

Edward Jose
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Edward Jose

Learn to play the games prior to the game night. I tried to explain Ticket to Ride last weekend but it was impossible once people had a few beers.

dirtengineer
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dirtengineer

Cones of Dunshire is also a classic

Brandon
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Brandon

Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders are awesome! I’ve played 7 wonders for years and still haven’t figured out the best strategy.

Cush
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Cush

5 or more players – It is the largest army. Below that, you gotta really mix and match. Never scientific structures. I’ve never won trying to go for a bunch of those. They are too easy for someone to notice you are doing it, so they can sacrifice one of them and then it’s impossible to get 4 of a kind.