Jan 04, 2022

Do It Better: How to host a great game night

By Joyce Venezia Suss

It’s normal to feel like hibernating during the winter months, but when you start to get restless and want some company, consider hosting a game night for family and friends. It’s easy, inexpensive and good fun!

Game nights can be organized spontaneously, but for a memorable event, here are some ideas to make it a big win for everyone.

Select your guests carefully. 

A game night is a great way to introduce like-minded family and friends – namely, those who enjoy playing games. The age range of your guests will help determine the kind of games to play. Another consideration is whether they enjoy competition, humor or fast paced. 

Use your best judgment. Will your chess-playing brainy friends who thrive on strategy enjoy your friends who prefer topical games that prompt, off-color answers? Will your competitive cousin intimidate your quiet friend during a social game? Your sister who loves to chat may interrupt the flow of an intense game. Your friends who hired a babysitter may prefer several quick games.

Ultimately, the guest list for a great game night depends on what games you plan to play, how long you want the evening to last and whether you have a large or small group.

Mix ages and interests.

Many games work well for all ages, and can be successful with large groups, such as Pictionary, charades or trivia. Alternately, you can arrange two or three smaller groups to target their interests.

Choose your games wisely. 

Group games with verbal answers are great for larger groups, while uncomplicated board and card games work well with a smaller number of guests. Ask your guests for suggestions, but you – the host – should ultimately select quick-moving games that will work best for all. An adults-only evening could include word or trivia games, or topical games that prompt hilarious answers. A group of young families can play classic board games appropriate for all ages.

Play just one or two games over the course of the evening. And make sure you know the instructions and rules for the games before your guests arrive! It’s OK to modify the rules if it works best for all players.

Set the “playing field.” 

Complex games with many parts are better on a table. Other games can be played around a coffee table, with guests on sofas, end chairs, or cross-legged on your comfy carpet or floor cushions. Skip the mood lighting – everyone needs to see the game board or read the clues.

Introduce the players. 

Let everyone mingle when they arrive, especially if they don’t know each other. This is the perfect time to offer drinks. As the host, you must eventually announce, “Let the games begin!” Throughout the evening, be alert to make sure every guest is having fun and not feeling intimidated.

Turn off the TV. 

Turn off the TV unless it’s used as a game screen because some trivia games work well in an electronic format. Another rule to consider: No cell phones at the game table. They can be in a separate location, especially if a babysitter needs to check in.

Finger foods and small bites work best. 

Because table space might be limited with games, start your evening after the dinner hour, and serve an assortment of appetizers, chips and dips, and munchy snacks guests can easily eat on a cocktail napkin or small paper plate. Make sure there is enough room for drinks, served in cans, bottles or heavy glasses to prevent spills.

Midway through the evening, invite everyone to take a break for desserts and coffee. The sugar and caffeine will boost everyone’s energy for another round or two.

Know when to fold them. 

Monitor your guests’ attention spans, and call an end to the games when appropriate.