Boardgames can test your intelligence. They can be tactical, they can be strategic or they can just be simple and fun. Some boardgames offer a taste of all of these aspects, although not everyone finds a heavy Euro as fun as I do. That’s when we turn to party games, which put fun in the center. That’s not to say a party game can’t be strategic, but it won’t be like a night playing Caylus stressing your mind out whether you made the perfect, most efficient move. Party games also have the benefit of bringing a lot of people together at the table, whether you’re having a small beer-sipping event with your six close friends or having a nerdy cocktail party with more than 12 people. (Sorry, there aren’t a lot of options for your thousand-person rager.) So next time you’re throwing a small party and looking for the right boardgame to play, consider the 10 games below.
1. The Resistance
The Resistance is not a game to play if you’re looking for a nice, quiet night of gaming. People across the room will be screaming at each other. Girlfriends/boyfriends will “promise” that they’re not spies because “when have I ever lied to you?” Players will constantly shrug their shoulders in confusement. The Resistance is a social deduction game that is so simple that I’ve replicated the game on paper when I left it at home. There’s also The Resistance: Avalon if you’re looking for depth, but I actually prefer simple, vanilla Resistance due to how easy it it is to teach. If you’re really feeling the itch on this one and want to expand your player pool to even more people, I’d recommend checking out Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition, which can play up to 68 people. If you want a game that is purely table talk (my friend likes to refer to these games as an “opportunity to lie to friends”) and replayable to an amazing degree, check out The Resistance.
Number of players that can play: 5 to 10
2. Cash ‘N Guns
Cash ‘N Guns is a great game to have in your collection because it is so easy to convince your non-gaming friends to play when you dump out the styrofoam pistols and explain that you’ll be pointing them at each other. The guns feel cartoonish, almost ridiculous—they are clearly a fake silhouette of a pistol in styrofoam with an orange tip just to make 100 percent sure that no one thinks it’s a real gun. The game is themed around a group of robbers trying to get the most amount of loot for themselves. At the start of each turn, each player points a gun at their choice of a player, although it might be one of their blanks. Each player that didn’t back out or get shot gets a share of the loot. Rinse and repeat for eight rounds and the player who gained the most of money will be crowned the winner. This is a party game that can lean on the mean side, which can call for a “don’t take things personally” speech. It has a natural Mario Kart blue shell-type handicap, where being an early frontrunner usually means having a lot of guns pointed at you. Many people like to argue that this isn’t a party game—it has elements of set collection and negotiation seen in heavy games—but everyone I’ve played this with has a great time that seems to increase with the level of alcohol in their bodies.
Number of players that can play: 4 to 8
I am awful at drawing. I’m a creative guy and can come up with big ideas, but I wouldn’t be able to put it in (pretty) picture form to save my life. That’s why I love Telestrations. In a mix of telephone and pictionary, players all have a word that’s chosen by a dice roll that they then draw under a short time limit and pass. Players then rotate between guessing the drawing and then drawing that guess until the card reaches its original owner. The thing about this game is the experience improves when you throw in some bad drawers like myself in between some great, inspiring artists. It’s a funny game—there will be a lot of “WHAT IS THAT?!” and innuendos if you’re playing with an immature group. If you’re looking for a simple game that people will understand in seconds and that gives an opportunity to draw goofy pictures, check out Telestrations.
Number of players that can play: 4 to 8 or 4 to 12 depending on the edition
4. Bang: The Dice Game
Dice games are fun with a big group because bad things can happen no matter how hard you try to prevent them—which is hilarious with the right group. In Bang: The Dice Game players all have secret roles that affect how they play the game. You could be a deputy and attempt to protect the sheriff by killing all of the bandits or you could be a renegade with the goal of being the last man standing. The fun in all of this is that no one really knows whether their neighbor is who they say they are. This so called deputy may have healed the sheriff just to stay on the people’s good side and could easily turn the tables at any given moment. This is another game that will have people screaming at each other claiming that they would never lie, not even in a game. If you’re looking for a game that has some hidden role elements mixed in with a lot of luck (and laughter), Bang: The Dice Game is the way to go.
Number of players that can play: 3 to 8
5. Wits & Wagers
I love trivia but I’m not good at trivia. Thankfully, Wits & Wagers has a solution to my dilemma. It is a trivia game that is all based on numerical answers—questions like “How many Sports Illustrated covers has Michael Jordan been on?” Instead of simply answering the question, players write their guess (and believe me, it is a game that requires a lot of guessing) on a mini-dry erase board and put them in the middle. Then, players bid on the answer that they think is correct, even if it isn’t their own. You always have at least $300 to bid with, but as you earn more poker chips (the reward for bidding on or guessing the right answer) you can use those to increase your potential earnings. This game is really good at making people feel dumb, but luckily everyone will eventually be put on the idiot spotlight. There are plenty of different editions (I like the party edition), so it takes A LOT of playing to get through all of the questions and honestly it’s fast paced enough that you could forget a lot of the answers to the questions. Also, for the ultimate factoid collector, each card adds some context to the answer as well as the source material. The game box claims that it plays up to 7, but you could set up teams to play a huge crowd—which is when the game shines the most. If you need a game to convince your family to stop playing Trivia Pursuit or are just really into trivia, make sure to add Wits & Wagers to your collection.
Number of players that can play: 3 to 7 or 4 to 18 depending on the edition
6. Liar’s Dice
Liar’s Dice may be the most popular game on the list, at least in the amount of people that have heard of it. It was featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, How To Train Your Dragon and even the popular videogame Red Dead Redemption. There are even several popular drinking games centered around Liar’s Dice—I’ve even seen it being referred to specifically as a drinking game. The game is simple: Players are each given a set amount of dice (usually five) that they roll under a cup. Then players begin bidding and going up in value like you would in poker. Players go back and forth until it gets to the point of whether you want to call out the other player for lying. The bluffs and strategic play are similar to poker—I’ve even seen some scary-looking math equations that show the probability of certain values happening. It’s a great game that has plenty of different variety to keep it interesting and only requires dice (you can buy 100 white dice from Amazon for $10) and some Solo cups. It is also the only game on this list that feels like it was made to be a drinking game. If you had to pick one game for your next rager, this would be the one.
Number of players that can play: As many as dice you have, but 8 is a good number
Games based around improvisation can be a disaster, especially when there isn’t enough guidelines to help lead players in the right direction. Luckily, that is not the case with Funemployed, a party game about interviewing for a job. The last step in the job hunt is simulated in Funemployed—players interview for positions that range from astronaut to lawyer to pimp. The catch is players are given different qualifications and “skills” such as slender frame, heavy flow and “can’t lie.” Instead of just throwing down cards anonymously like Apples to Apples, players actually do a mock interview with the player who is playing the boss that round and must work the cards into their speech at some point. They can add as much or as little detail as they see fit. The boss then chooses who got the job based on the interview and they get a point. The game continues like this for as long as players see fit—I prefer to not keep score and just play for the fun of it. Funemployed is a blast for people that can come up with creative answers and come up with context for some insane qualifications, especially with the help of some liquid courage. If you’re looking for a game to play with your favorite group of dramatic friends, this is the one to go with.
Number of players that can play: 3 to 20
8. Two Rooms and a Boom
Not a lot of games can play up to 30 people, which automatically makes Two Rooms and a Boom appealing for when you have a lot of people over to play games, or if you’re feeling the urge to throw a casual tournament. Players are split into two different groups, with one group having the president and another group having a bomber. Players are divided equally into separate areas, whether it’s opposite corners of the kitchen or completely different rooms. Then, at the end of each of the five rounds some players switch spots. If the president ever ends a round in the same room as a bomber, the bomber team wins. It’s a game that will involve a lot of lying and deception, which seems to be the theme of a lot of good party games. The best part of this game is that you can get a printable version of it for free. Try out Two Rooms and a Boom next time you have a huge group of people looking for something to do. It would be a great team building activity with the right group!
Number of players that can play: 6 to 30
9. Say Anything
Sometimes you want to take it easy and enjoy a lighthearted night of gaming with a group of friends and Say Anything is the answer to that. First of all, you could find this game at any Wal-Mart or Target, so if it’s late and in you’re in a rush to play something without a big plan it’s easy enough to grab. At the heart of it, there isn’t much new to this game that came out in 2008—it follows the Apples to Apples mechanic that we’ve already seen with Funemployed, but adds the perfect twist to put it a level higher. As the name implies, Say Anything uses exclusively open-ended questions instead of sets of white cards. Automatically, this allows the game to be played in many different styles—immature like a game of Cards Against Humanity, very serious as a way to get to know each other or joking around and throwing out answers like “Nickelback” to questions about great bands. The game should take about 20 seconds to teach and is the lightest game on the list, which is something even the most serious gaming group needs sometimes. If you’re looking for a game you could play with literally anyone, whether it’s your grandma or your office buddies, you can’t go wrong with Say Anything.
Number of players that can play: 3 to 8
10. Dixit Odyssey
A picture is worth 1000 words, but you have to be on the creative side to come up with just 100 words to describe a picture. This is the name of the game with Dixit Odyssey. There are a plethora of versions, but Odyssey is generally the crowd favorite for the extra 84 cards that feature stunning visions from artists Pierô and Marie Cardouat. Dixit is often referred to as an abstract party game, which sounds like an oxymoron until you see the first few cards hit the table. Players take turns being the storyteller by selecting a card from their hand, which will have some sort of illustration, and describing it in a word or sentence. Players will then play a card from their hand that also matches that description and vote for the one that best fits the storyteller. If no one or everyone guesses the storyteller, then the storyteller will get no points. So as you can see, this requires some deep creativity and giving some information but not so much that your card is obvious. As you can see in the image above, the illustrations are gorgeous while allowing for some creative freedom upon describing them. You could play the knight card and only use the word “hero” or you could say “someone going on an adventure” and both would allow for creativity from the other players. If you’re looking for a game that immerses you and lets you relax while you kick back a few beers, Dixit Odyssey is a fantastic choice.
Number of players that can play: 3 to 12
Jay Egger works in digital media in Austin, Texas and writes whenever he gets the chance. You can catch him playing boardgames while drinking fancy beer. His Twitter handle is @jayeggr.