06 December 2023
The best board games for parties: guaranteed to put you on everyone's good list. Bring a little gaming to your holiday meetups with these fantastic party games that’ll bring festive cheer to any event!
Don’t Get Got!
Probably one of the best party games ever, purely because it can be played at any party. At the start of the night, players are given a little wallet containing five random challenge cards and a ‘Guess What?’ challenge. These can range from ‘Get someone to look out the window’ to ‘Convince a player that an electronic is voice activated (when it isn’t),’ offering a wild variety of tasks with the caveat that, if anyone ever asks if what you’re doing is part of the game, you must reveal the relevant challenge card and mark it as ‘failed.’
Perfect for injecting a little mischief into any meet-up, especially when you can start the night setting this up, then have it play out throughout the evening. Whilst an Xmas edition exists, we recommend you keep with the original for replayability throughout the year.
One of the best bluffing games, Skull is about daring your friends whilst trying to keep your cool, as players must attempt to flip over a set number of cards without revealing a skull. Players start with a hand of three flowers and a skull card, each starting the round by placing one of them face down. Each player in turn can then either play another card or commence betting, declaring how many cards they’re willing to flip over. From then on, players can either increase the bet or pass, until eventually one player has to test their mettle, scoring one of two points needed to win if they succeed, losing a random card permanently if they fail.
The kind of instantly cool, staring down your rivals and proving your powers of deception experience that will have everyone around the table hooked.
With endless boxes of ‘The Best Party Trivia Quiz’ sprouting up on supermarket shelves around this time of year, don’t fall for their hastily knocked up selection of the same boring questions, instead have your friends and family focusing on whether the wine bottle was invented before plumbing.
Everyone is dealt out cards depicting events, inventions etc. and must lay them out on the table. Each card is double sided, with the other side showing when said thing first happened. Players take turns trying to place a card onto a communal timeline. If they get it within the right date range, the card gets added and they get closer to victory, all the while making it harder for others to place their cards correctly.
A trivia game that lets you rationalise your answers whilst making for great after dinner conversations, perfect for when you’re waiting for pudding.
Wits and Wagers
An alternative trivia game for when dessert is done and you’ve moved onto to drinks, Wits and Wagers has players betting on who they think is closest to the correct answer for a question, giving you a trivia game that’s possible to win without ever getting a question right.
All of the questions require numerical answers (things like ‘What year were DVDs introduced or ‘how many children are in the Weasley family) with correct answers being whichever is closest without going over. It’s a game that rewards you for not only knowing the right answers, but being able to judge who would best know if you don’t. It’s also a great ice breaker that lets you get to know people’s interests a bit more, with a wide range of questions keeping you guessing right until the end. The game can also be enjoyed in teams too, letting you win big together!
If team spirit is high on your Christmas list, then Codenames will be the one to either make it or break it the most efficiently. Two teams of secret agents must work together to decipher their spymaster’s cryptic clues. The Spymaster for each time can only communicate with a single word clue followed by a number, trying to navigate their team into picking the correct options out of 25 different secret agents (with codenames like ‘Tree’ or ‘Wellington’) and avoiding enemy agents or worse, the assassin who will instantly lose your team the game.
Trying to get onto the same wavelength as your teammates is a wonderfully collaborative moment, with turns constantly going back and forth to encourage clever thinking. Plus watching the opposing Spymaster go mad as their teammates consistently fail to figure out their clues is always good for a laugh.
Looking to blow off a little steam? Jungle Speed is a game that lets you be as wild as your surroundings will permit. Each player has an equal share of a square deck filled with varied designs in different colours. Players in turn will reveal a card so everyone can see, then check if that card design matches any other face-up cards on other player’s discard piles. If there’s a match, those two players must race to grab the totem first, the loser having to add both player’s discarded cards to their stack.
The winner is whoever empties their stack first, with extra rules for bonus cards where everyone has to try and grab the totem, or for a round the rules are switched to matching colours. It’s an engine for silliness that will have people grabbing, laughing and potentially glass breaking, all in the name of good fun.
So many of us have played party games of drawing and shouting, often being dismayed by someone’s attempts at visualising an orange. A much better way to experience these amateur art shows is with everyone drawing and guessing simultaneously, which is what makes Pictomania such an engaging experience.
There are three cards each with a numbered list of things, from animals and places to films and emotions. Everyone is dealt a unique number and a letter specifying which list their prompt is on, ensuring everyone has something different but some players might be working on the same theme.
Whilst drawing your prompt, players must simultaneously guess what others are drawing too, ensuring that even if you’re no Van Gogh you can still earn big points by guessing others correctly. It’s a great blend of creativity and deduction, rewarding those who are best at both but still giving plenty of entertainment to everyone.
When people think word games, their minds often spring to Scrabble, which isn’t known for its party atmosphere. Much more enticing is this banana-shaped brilliant and blisteringly quick game, Bananagrams.
Players are racing to complete a crossword shaped grid of interconnected words using letter tiles. Players start with a significant selection, with all remaining tiles piled up in the centre face-down. As soon as a player uses all of their letters, they can call out to make everyone gain another letter, or if they’re struggling to use a Z or Q, they can cast a letter back and draw three replacements.
It takes a strong lexicon and fast-thinking reflexes to succeed, with the tide turning in a moment when the person in the lead gets stuck with a challenging consonant. Games are rapid to play and replay, great for gathering a crowd and showing off those Wordle skills.
Wish Jenga was more portable and didn’t end with a single loser? Tinderblox is the perfect travel stacking game that captures cosy camping memories when it’s cold outside.
Each game includes various wooden blocks of brown (wood), yellow and red (fire). Players will draw a card, revealing how they must continue to build the fire, using tiny tweezers to add new blocks to the ever-growing campfire stack. Sometimes it will have extra rules, such as using your opposite hand or having to stack blocks before moving them. If a player fails to complete their card, they’re eliminated, with the last player standing being crowned “Best Camper.”
It's wonderful how so much tension can be contained in a tiny tin. Having a group crowding around the dinkiest tumbling tower makes for thrilling gameplay and enjoyable theatre, both being highly valued at any party.
My personal go-to game for when conversation dries up and we want a diversion that will keep our attention, Love Letter is a quick and compelling card game for 2-4 players. Each player has one card in hand, representing how close they are to the princess. On your turn, draw one card then play either card, activating its power. These powers range from manipulating other people’s hands or even eliminating them if you can deduce what they’re holding. It’s a game that has that right balancing of problem solving and action consideration to ensure for rapid rounds of play, keeping everyone engaged until the last token of affection is claimed.
Whilst hard to get a hold of now, there was a limited release of a Christmas version called Letters from Santa, for those who wanted to add as much festive cheer to their seasonal gaming as they can.
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