When looking to introduce friends and family to tabletop gaming, party games are perhaps the best place to start. Thanks to so-called “family classics” like Monopoly, many view board games as solely long and boring affairs with lots of rules to learn. Party games are designed to be easy to learn and quick to play, making the kind of games people might play at a party.
They’re perfect for those inexperienced with gaming as it shows them that the hobby isn’t all rules and dice rolling. What’s more, plenty of manufacturers have created some wonderfully innovative party games over the years to give players a taste of the wider tabletop gaming world without overloading them with information. Party games are for everyone, and here are ten of the best.
10 – A Fake Artist Goes To New York
As far as “things everyone understands” go, drawing is one of the most simple. Pictionary has been a popular party game for years because of this fact. People drawing a thing (probably badly) and other people trying to guess what it is always brings hilarity and intrigue in equal measure. A Fake Artist Goes To New York puts a neat little social deduction twist on the formula. Each round, a category is set, and then everyone is given a card with a specific thing from that category. For example, the category might say “animal”, and then the card might say “duck”.
The twist is that one person in the group gets a blank card, they are the fake artist, so they know they’ve got to draw an animal, but they don’t know which animal. Everyone then takes turns drawing a single line on a piece of paper. This paper gets passed around, so each person adds something new to the drawing. Players then must guess who the fake artist was based on how their lines contributed to the drawing. If they guess correctly, they win. However, the fake artist can still win if they correctly guess what they were supposed to be drawing, so players have to draw things that are subtle enough so the fake artist won’t get it, but not so subtle that others suspect them.
It’s a brilliant game that brings social deduction to a realm into a format it isn’t usually seen and will get everyone into the mindset of looking for clues and reading social cues.
9 – Funemployed
The problem with a mainstream party game like Cards Against Humanity is that there’s no wiggle room with the humour. Players simply attach pre-written punchlines to pre-written setups, and that leads to an unengaging social experience. Funemployed is part of a genre of games that fix this by leaving the punchlines up to the players. Each round, one player draws a job card. These can be standard real jobs or some silly made-up ones. Each player then interviews for that job.
In each interview, players must play “qualification” cards from their hands to explain why they’d be good for the job. This leads to everyone getting about a minute of improv with the cards as their focal point. Plus, some of the traits are negative, so players will have to spin traits like “poor judgement” into a positive. What makes this game, and many like it, so great is how easily they can bring the extroverted and funny side out of even some very shy people. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere, and because the jokes are entirely down to the players, in-jokes and nuances of specific friendship groups can be accounted for.
8 – Codenames
A more well-known game now, but Codenames is one that lives up to its reputation. Lateral thinking is a key skill in a lot of tabletop games. Sometimes it’s for strategy, other times it’s for mystery-solving, and Codenames is a great way to teach people that skill. Two teams of at least two people look at a 5×5 board of cards with words on them. Under 8 cards are blue cards for the blue team, under another 8 cards are red cards for the red team, and under 1 card is an assassin card, which causes a team to instantly lose if they pick it.
One player from each team has the cheat sheet and knows which words hide their cards, but they can’t just tell this to their teammates. Instead, each turn, they must say a word and a number. The word is a clue that relates to a card hiding their team’s colour, and the number states how many words relate to that clue. For example, your team might need to turn over the “Astronaut” and “Star” cards, so you might say “Space, 2” to tell them they need to turn over 2 cards that relate to Space.
This might go perfectly, but the team could misinterpret the clue and pick a card that says “Telescope”, which could be a neutral card, which is fine, but it might be an opponent’s card or, worse, the assassin card. For the clue-giver, it’s a challenging balance of knowing the right words to help your teammates. For the guessers, it’s a great lateral-thinking challenge of trying to interpret both clues and the mind of your teammates.
7 – Wits & Wagers
Trivia is something instantly understandable by all, but not everyone enjoys it, especially if someone in the group spends way too much time on Reddit learning pointless facts about rivers and wipes the floor with everyone. Wits & Wagers tweaks the formula by not requiring players to know the answers but knowing who in the group will know the answer. A question will come down to which the answer is always numerical, for example, “What percentage of American adults smoke?”. Everyone then writes down their guess.
Then, everyone’s guesses are placed from lowest to highest on a board, and players bet on those answers. So you might not know the answer, but you think that this kind of question is right up your friend’s alley, so you bet on their answer. Closest without going over to the real answer wins, and anyone who bet on that answers gains points, which they can then use to place bigger bets on the next go. It still rewards trivia knowledge, but the focal point of the game is more about knowing the group you’re playing with.
6 – Spyfall
Spyfall is another great and accessible social deduction game. Where A Fake Artist uses drawings as the thing to work from, Spyfall focuses entirely on the interplay between people. Everyone gets dealt the same location card from a pool of roughly 20, except one person who simply gets a card that says “Spy”, and they don’t know where everyone is. The round then starts, and players must take turns picking someone to ask a question to.
There’s no limit to the kind of question that can be asked, so players can drill for information and try to see if the person they’re asking knows where they are. They might ask, “How’s the weather here?” or “How crowded is it?”. You might want to ask a leading question like “Would you like me to open a window?” when you’re on a Submarine to try and catch the spy out. At any point, someone can accuse someone else of being the Spy. If the rest of the group agrees, it passes, and they either win or lose if they caught the real spy or not. However, people must be careful with their questions, as, at any point, the Spy can reveal themselves and guess where they are in order to win.
5 – Don’t Get Got
While most party games aren’t actually that great for parties, since people will likely be too drunk to sit down and engage with a game, this is one specifically designed for that environment. The idea is that before going/starting the evening, players all take a little wallet of 6 missions that they must try to complete throughout the night. These missions could be things like “Hide this card on a player without them noticing” or “Get another player to compliment you”.
Once a mission is completed, it can be marked as successful. However, if another player calls you out on just doing something for a mission, it will be failed. The first to three successful missions wins. It’s fantastic for a party environment because it seamlessly weaves into whatever you’re doing that night. It’s always going on in the background and can give players something to do in the dead moments of the party where they’re between conversations. In fact, it can be a point of conversation in and of itself, where players can get people not playing the game involved in their schemes for added fun.
4 – Wavelength
This game is great for gauging how your friends think, and you may even learn something about them whilst playing. Split into 2 teams, the game focuses on a dial. Each round, one player from one team, will spin the wheel to randomise where a wedge of points is located on the dial. They look at it, then draw a card that sets the scale. The scale could be “Hot to Cold”, but it could be something more subjective or abstract like “Geek to Nerd” or “Good Film to Bad Film”.
The player who saw the dial must then give their team a word or phrase as a clue as to where to put the dial. If the points are on the extreme ends of the spectrum, that might be quite easy, but if the points are in the middle or slightly off to one side, those areas become fuzzier. For example, on the “Good Film to Bad Film” scale, the clue-giver might say “The Dark Knight“. The popular opinion is that it’s a good film. However, you know that this particular clue-giver happens to hate The Dark Knight. Are they expecting you to know that and put the dial on bad? Or did they pick a film they knew was popular, so you’d put it on good? Or are they being really abstract and thinking you’ll split the difference and put it in the middle?
It’s an interesting balance that sees you learn how the people you play it with think.
3 – Superfight
This game is the best alternative to Cards Against Humanity out there. They look very similar stylistically, so it would certainly be the easiest to convince people to play instead. It’s also the most hilarious game of its kind out there. There are a bunch of different ways to play it, but the standard is that one player is a supervillain. They play one character card (which will be a figure(s), real or fictional, from pop culture), then play a superpower. There are standard things like “Can fly”, but there is also weirder stuff like “Can turn to air when they hold their breath” or “Constantly tap dancing”.
Each player then takes turns playing their own superhero and arguing why it would be the best candidate to fight and beat the supervillain. This already brings some hilarious arguments as people argue with deliberately warped logic, but it gets better. Once everyone has had their chance to argue, players take turns playing a second power. They can play this on their own hero to make them stronger, but they can also play them on other people’s heroes to make them weaker.
It’s a constant giggle-fest as people argue why Batman doing jazz hands with Lazer Eyes can beat a Pikachu in a Fighter Jet who can’t stop crying.
2 – Telestrations
Back to drawing, this is a formula that’s so successful, it keeps coming back under new names. Telestrations is essentially Pictionary meets the telephone game. Each player will start off with a simple thing to draw in 30 seconds. Once the time is up, people pass their drawings to the person on their right, and that person must guess what the drawing is without looking at the original word. It’s then passed ’round again, and the next person must draw what the previous person has written without looking at the original word or the previous drawing. This continues until everyone gets their booklet back.
People then take turns revealing what’s in their booklet, and people watch with raucous laughter and mild confusion as to how “Labrador” became “Bear having a stroke”. It’s a game that never fails to bring the laughs in a major way, and the 30 second time limit means that even people good at drawing can make mistakes and cause the whole thing to spiral down the wrong route. Telestrations is the original, but it can also be found as Scrawl or free online (with some slight variation) as Gartic Phone.
1 – Muffin Time
Muffin Time is a fantastically unique party game because it focuses entirely on the people playing the game and what people normally do whilst playing games. It was designed by Tomska & friends and is themed around the asdfmovie YouTube series, but no prior knowledge is required to enjoy the game. The goal is to have 10 cards in your hand. To do this, there are three different types of cards. Action Cards do something immediately. They’ll be full of conditions like “People with glasses pick up 2 cards” or “The tallest player must give 2 cards to the shortest player”. These can be countered with Counter Cards.
What makes the game so brilliant, though, are the Trap Cards. These are cards that players lay on the table face-down and sit there, waiting for another player to fulfil its conditions. They could activate when a player sings, asks the time, or takes a drink. There are even more obscure ones like getting people to talk about past events or speak another language. It’s a devious game where you constantly have to try and trigger your friends into doing something while having your guard up, so you don’t accidentally activate anyone’s trap.
It’s not mean, though, when someone asks you a question, and you answer “yes”, only for them to triumphantly turn over their Trap Card and steal some of your cards, it’s always a funny moment for everyone involved.