Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Throw This Party: Game Night

There sometimes comes a point in life where the bar scene gets tired, or you just get tired of putting on things like makeup and shoes. But if you don't want to rock another solo Saturday night with bootleg Korean DVDs of True Blood and actually want to interact with humans, the perfect low-key and easy party to throw at your house is Game Night. Put on your comfy pants and glasses; add games, booze, and snacks; and you'll soon be a legend among your friends.

FOOD: Don't sweat the food. This is not some dinner party where people are supposed to show up and feed themselves at your expense. (You also don't want food prep and eating to steamroll the games.) Start the party at 8 p.m., so it's just past dinner time but not too late, because your friends will be an hour late anyway. Make a couple cheap 'n' easy dips like hummus, and put out some crackers and cheese and you're good to go. If you're short on time or effort, store-bought hummus is fine, but please for the love of god put it in a real bowl! Yes, you have to wash them at the end of the night, but to not have plastic containers with freshness flaps blowing in the wind makes all the difference. Hummus: whirl chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor, mix in fresh herbs or top with zaatar spice if you want to be fancy, or sub white beans (no tahini) for a twist on hummus. Grab a wheel of brie, goat cheese, gouda, Parmesan, or bleu (whatever you like), stab it with a knife and put it on a wooden board. Set out a plate of crackers/chips/crudite (for your vegan and gluten free friends) and scatter some teacups filled with olives and mixed nuts. Cute huh? Cloth napkins and pretty (clean) dishtowels can decorate your coffee table spread.

DRINK: Make your friends bring the drinks (and they'll always bring too many), but have a little something on hand for when you're cooking/getting dressed/waiting for them to show up/right when they show up. A big bottle of wine, a bottle of liquor of your choice, and a mixer — plus some club soda and juice — make a good base. Game Night feels a little retro, so a fun activity is a Make Your Own Manhattan station. Here's a foolproof poor man's (lazy man's?) homemade Manhattan recipe that I've, um, perfected. No chilled martini glasses or cocktail shakers for this lady. Toss some ice cubes in a glass/tumbler/jar and pour whiskey or bourbon to just cover the ice. Add a dash of sweet vermouth, a dash of dry vermouth, a few shakes of bitters (old fashioned or orange, you crazy cat), a maraschino cherry and a dash of cherry juice if you like it sweet. Stir with a chopstick and sip. Try subbing dark rum for whiskey or bourbon, delish! And if you invest in vermouth and bitters, they'll serve your home cocktail needs for a long, long time. You know, for when you rock a solo, Manhattan-fueled Game Night (not that I would know anything about that).

GAMES: Allow for drink making, snacking, and mingling as your guests arrive, but as soon as it looks like everyone's settled into their cocktail party chitchat, be assertive about starting a game. It doesn't have to be with everyone, just a few can start and others will join in when they see HOW MUCH FUN IT IS, or they'll start their own game. The kinds of games that succeed at Game Night are interactive, team based games. The ones that don't are checkers-type games or card games that don't involve teams and are therefore boring to watch. Games like BS, Go Fish, or Crazy Eights could be fun, but Texas Hold 'Em or Gin Rummy (etc.) are too serious/involved for the fluid and silly nature of Game Night. And no Monopoly unless it's a smaller group (fewer than 6) — you want to be able to pick up and abandon games at will. Games I suggest: Taboo is fun, team based, and easy to set up and execute. I'd start with this, since not everyone has to participate at first but people can join in easily. Apples to Apples is also a great group game, and if you don't have Apples to Apples cards, just play it in your head, which is what my friends and I did one summer, many many times. (One person thinks of something [anything!], the other people name random things, the first person decides which is closest to their thing, and that person goes next. Fun!)

Once everyone is good and warmed up, introduce a little Pictionary onto the scene. Use your kitchen whiteboard (or just a bunch of paper) and divide into teams. For instance, Boys vs. Girls Pictionary is an awesome way to start creative shit-talking and inspire team spirit. And then if you get sick of using the cards, make up your own themes like "Rolling Stones Songs" or "Middle School Slumber-Party Movies." Or just let those creative juices flow! I made up a great game during a tequila fueled happy hour called "Sexual Fetish Game" where everyone writes down one real sexual fetish of theirs and one fake one and puts them in the bowl. Go around the circle picking out fetishes and trying to figure out who wrote it and whether it's a real or fake fetish of theirs. Dirty and enlightening! The Manhattans will help.

EXIT: When the first person falls asleep on your couch, it's time to start cleaning up and sending subtle messages for everyone to get the hell out (12:30, 1 a.m.-ish).Toss the empties, pile the dishes in the sink to do in the morning and off to bed you go, you hostess with the mostess!

Katie Walsh used to live in Brooklyn. Now she lives in St. Croix where she throws and goes to a fair amount of parties.

Photo via Flickr

72 Comments / Post A Comment


Taboo is reallly fun and gets more fun the tipsier you are, like most activities.


YES to game night. A killer NYE Game Night involved sangria (loads of it), finger foods, and Apples to Apples and a new one (or old? New to me?) called PARTY PLAYOFF. It is bizarre and amazing, involves shouting, voting, a finger-spinny-decider-thingy, teams, Dolly Parton and Other Celebrities of Various Importance, and it is amazing. Yes I said that twice.


Also, Spoons is a very thrilling card game that I think would work in a situation like this. Good advice, Katie!


Spoons is basically the funnest game ever, and requires no thought or skills other than arm speed and/or sneakiness. Everyone in my family likes to claim that they have scars from playing Spoons with my grandmother. It's just a joke! We don't really have scars. But seriously, that lady was ruthless.


What, no Settlers? Puerto Rico? Probably just as well if you don't want to shatter friendships at your party.

Patrick M

Settlers gets tough because (unless I'm misremembering) you pretty much have to have exactly four people, plus for the uninitiated it seems pretty daunting. BUT: it is a great game.

Katie Ritter

Ah yes, many a shattered friendship thanks to Catan. And yet, such sweet sweet victories.


Three or four can play, but no more or less. And you can't exactly use teams, since a lot of it involves secretive strategizing. Basically, a great game to play with friends once every few weeks, but a terrible game for a party.


You can play with more if you have the expansion packs! Which are awesome and fun.


I love Settlers, but I had to be FORCED to play it several times before I actually started enjoying it. There are a lot of rules to learn.

Carcassonne is a little like Settlers, but fewer rules and maybe a little more friendly for the casual gamer.


I went to one of these a few weeks ago! I got too drunk off of wine and a new antidepressant, and proceeded to impress the hell out of a huge bearded dude because of my crazy ability to remain utterly calm during the ticking of Catchphrase. Also for one round of Apples to Apples I played "George Lucas" for "Overdone". It's cool guys, you can be my friend.


Catchphrase is a really good party game. My proudest Catchphrase moment was getting my team to guess "semiconductor" correctly.

Patrick M

Can I plug my friend's card game? It's called Anomia and it is super fun: everyone has a stack of cards that look like Zener cards, plus a category. You go around setting down cards until your symbol matches another player's, then you each have to call out something from the other player's category. I probably just made it sound terrible. "It isn't terrible." -Patrick M.
Anyway: this is the website: http://www.anomiapress.com/


I've played that! It's perfect for drunky game night. Good job, Patrick M's friend!

Edith Zimmerman

Celebrity is also a classic.


Yes! Love this game.
Although I'm not really allowed to play anymore due to over competitiveness.


But how do you play Apples to Apples WITHOUT the helen keller trump card?


Helen Keller; Your Mom; My [sex organ] -- the major arcana of Apples to Apples.


Or use cardsagainsthumanity.com.


I like the way you think


Hey, Hellen Keller is my friends' trump card too - is that a real thing, and not just something we made up?


Inside The Sun.
Wins every time.


@flythedelorean Ugh, I love the Helen Keller card. I always use it "inappropriately." Once, people were offended. I'm no longer friends with them, obviously.


Balderdash is good too. Some people (cough cough me) really can't handle the whole intensity of charades and standing up in front of other people, so for them, words is a good deal.

Also for the creatively minded yet poor, Exquisite Corpse is a winner, at least for a round or two. Plus, great name and invented by surrealists! The way it works is that you hand out a blank paper for every person at the table. Then everyone writes a sentence at the top of their paper, and hands it to the next person down the line. Now everyone has to try and draw the sentence. Now fold the first sentence, so all you can see is the picture and pass it on, so now everyone has pictures. Write a sentence describing the picture, etc. Keep going till the papers are full. Unroll and a laugh hilariously. Works best in odd numbered groups or groups of 4 or more. Also remind people not to be twerps- sentences like, "I love cheese fries" or "the bus exploded on top of a kindergarten" are much better than sentences like, "Jack implied Sarah's motives were mixed at best" or "she told her family she wanted to be an accountant" Its very hard to draw implications or assumptions or other non tangibles of emotion, or to draw something a character SAID. Don't be that guy.

I also enjoy all the Rio Grande games- like carcassone and puerto rico. I'm terrible at them, but they are fun and no dice.


OOOOH I played that game over NYE and it was SOOO much fun. Cannot overstate that. Also the cute guy I was next to was a surprisingly good drawer.


100 Blank White Cards!!! This game, played drunkenly at a bar, directly resulted in my friend getting a tattoo of a divorced Afro-ken.


Warning about Apples to Apples: be prepared to either remove all the blank "just make up a noun" cards or listen to a lot of "your mom" jokes.

Katie Ritter

Best Party Game: Salad Bowl
Everyone writes down 5 words/phrases/etc., each on a different notecard, folds in half and puts in center bowl. Sit in circle by mixing teams so Team1member, Team2member, T1, T2 etc. The first person draws a card and gets one minute to go through as many cards as possible. After each person's turn count up the cards they completed and write it down and keep those cards to the side until end of round when all cards are gone. Then put all of them back in the bowl and start the next round.
Round 1: Catchphrase (regular clue giving and guessing)
Round 2 (same words): Charades
Round 3: One Word (Clue giver can only say one word to get their team to guess)
Round 4: Sound effects
Team with most points wins. (Tip: Drink a lot before you get to sound effects)


My girlfriend at the time invited me to a Christmas party with all of her small-New-England-liberal-arts-college friends. I'm usually not intimidated in situations like this, but they were pretty tight-knit and very inside-jokey. Everything was fine, though, once Salad Bowl started. What a delightful game!

Tuna Surprise

The last great dinner party I hosted ended with a 3 hour Uno marathon fueled by a half case of wine. It's an easy game to play while you're drunk, people love it and you can buy it at Duane Reade for under $10.

Jolie Kerr

Oh yes, UNO is a fantastic game - it's also great for weekends away because you can just toss the deck in a tote and be off! I used to throw dinner parties that would turn into UNO and/or Charades showdowns. So much fun. Love me a game night.


Yes, but make sure you choose carefully who you sit next to in UNO. Those are the people you torment the most with the reverses and whatnot.


My friends and I have been throwing game night parties for years now! THEY ARE THE BEST. They came about because we all wanted to hang out, but were really sick of the campus bar scene.

Staples among our game nights have been: Taboo, Catchphrase, and Apples to Apples.

New additions include a game similar to celebrity only more fun. You see it played in Inglourious Basterds and I have no idea what its proper name is. It's like a combo of Celebrity and 20 questions.

Pit is also surprisingly fun in a big group and I would like to tell everyone here to immediately go out and purchase the game Spot It! You can thank me later when all of your friends love you for owning the best party game ever.

You're welcome.


Pit! Dinging the bell only gets more fun after numerous drinks.


Do you mean: http://www.thehouseofcards.com/retail/pit.html
Love this game, spent New Year's holidays four years ago playing this and making cocktails, good times.


@SBGBlogs pit always reminds me of freaks & geeks!


10,000/Dix Mille/Farkle (gross name) is great, especially when you're drinking, because it involves lots and lots of shit talking and risk taking. Get 6 dice, figure out the rules (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/dice-play/Games/TenThousand.htm) before your guests arrive, and then teach them with a practice round. It gets better the bigger the group.

Also, if you're keeping it at around 5 people, Balderdash is great fun. One of my genius friends has also made a "drinking Jenga" set, where each piece has a truth or dare option written on it. As you pull them out, you choose which one you want to do and do the truth/dare. Ideally the choices should be pretty funny, but not agonizing, as the goal is to drunkenly embarrass everyone without taking it overboard. Once I had to lick a stranger's ear. The punishment for knocking down the tower: every other player chooses a piece and then chooses which task on the piece the loser must perform (or which secret they must share, etc).

Katie Walsh

Keep 'em coming people, I'm printing out this comment thread for my next Game Night.

Jolie Kerr

Mamaaaaaa!!! Love the new avatar, you are so cute.

I was recently introduced to Mexican Dominos and LAKSHFLKSFH BEST GAME EVER SO ADDICTING. Also I love game nights. But you knew that, without even having to ask.

Okay so when are we having Hairpin Game Night?

Katie Walsh

I miss yer bewbs. But I like your hat!

WHAHAHAHAT is Mexican Dominos?

Jolie Kerr

I made that hat!!! It's my Kentucky Derby party hat!! I'm going to put together a tutorial on hatmaking for The Lady Edith methinks?

Come back to New York and I'll teach you how to play Mexican Dominos. You will LOVE.

Lily Rowan

While playing dominos with my grandmother, I had to work REALLY HARD to stop saying "pulling a train" and snickering. But it was fun to play.




Heartily seconded, although unlike Taboo and Apples to Apples, this gets harder the more Manhattans you've had...


Wow, the sexual fetish thing. I would not be sure enough of myself to write a real one, and too tempted to write a truly heinous one and stop the game cold while everyone's soul hurts from reading it.

I'm not big into games but I did have fun playing Cranium. It's similar to the other games described here. Of the 4 types of things you do, the most fun is that it gives you a little lump of play-doh that you must form into a thing, to obviously funny results.


So I guess everyone knows which one I always bring to game night.
Cranium. I kick everyone's ass and then do little to assuage their suspicions that I haven't read all the cards in advance.

Also, I once brought this game called Mille Bornes to a party--I used to play it as a kid. It devolved into drunken French accents and crostini being thrown at someone's face.

Katie Walsh

Ok, so funny, ridiculous Cranium anecdote for TooMuchInternet and applestoapples. I generally enjoy Cranium only for the charades part, the little ball of clay can go eff itself ("it's a ball!") but once found myself trying to act out the word "bridge" at 4 in the morning, post-party with 5 incredibly drunk, tired friends, who simply could NOT get what the hell I was doing. It went on for what seemed like hours, but was probably only 20 minutes. When I finally told them, they all shouted "why didn't you just do this?!" cue various hand gestures. That was traumatic.


Well, you haven't played Cranium until someone busts your chops for taking the hard way through a clue.
I, too, hate the clay. Everyone's sculpture ends up looking like either a penis or a sandwich. But perhaps those are my own Freudian reflections.

Lily Rowan

I have found Cranium too hard to be fun to play when drunk. Tipsy, sure. So my tip: Start playing Cranium immediately, not when you're already half-way loaded.

Das Rad

Mille Bornes is a great game! Coup Fourre!


The coup was always my favorite part.


HOT SEAT: each person rotates in the "hot seat" where friends pepper them with embarrassing questions. The room must be dark with bright lamps directly over the hot seat.


Loaded Questions!

Katie Walsh

I also love drunken made up games that make absolutely NO SENSE in the sober light of day:
Dance or Die- One person dances until the rest of the group claps loudly enough for them to stop(WTF)
Jeremy- Everyone holds a playing card to their forehead and points to the person who they think has the lowest card and shouts "Jeremy!!" (thank you Beer Garden)


omg the game of things. it is so fun! one person picks a card (that says like: how you know your house is haunted) and reads it to everyone else and then they write down their answers and the reader collects them and reads them and everyone has to guess who wrote what. it's like a how well do you know your friends/how many penis/your mom/boob jokes do they tell.


Shauna Hargrove

Helen Keller is the universal trump card, with Whoopi Goldberg as an acceptable alternative trump.


Depending on the number of people you have, I'd recommend Pandemic.


Wise and Otherwise! But eventually you'll learn all the cards. Sad.


Blowjobs. Blowjobs is the Apples to Apples trump card. We like to illustrate the blank cards for added flair. Also, you're required to come up with the clever quip that goes along with the card.


This is every night when I get together with my family (two visits a year, maybe). We usually go Trivial Pursuit, split up into teams if there's more than six of us present, which there usually are and then each team gets 3 "ask dad" cards where we can yell the questions to dad on his recliner in the living room. These are best used on old sports/ old cars/ things an ex-civil engineer on disability would know.


This is somewhat cheating and lame, since it's a drinking game, but I really like Landmine because it's a good spectator game. Lots of drama and tense moments. I was all set to say Celebrity, but other folks beat me to it. Cuts and kemps is also a great party game, but better when you're not too too drunk. Does have hard feelings potential, though.

Also I could never look at the cards and pass them fast enough in Spoons, so I just passed cards and kept an I on the spoons until someone grabbed them and then jumped on 'em. The worst, I know.

squid v. whale

Bananagrams. BANANAGRAMS!!! Found here http://www.amazon.com/Bananagrams-BAN001/dp/1932188126 but I've also found it at a Walgreens in the French Quarter so, you know. Good for people who like Scrabble/other word games but racing and drinking MORE.

Favorite moment (said while screeching): "Don, that's not a word! What's a 'co-at?!'" meaning "coat." — my drunken ex-boyfriend's mom.

Edith Zimmerman

HAHAHAHA! My brother once did the same thing when playing a Balderdash-type game called Dictionary. "The word is 'mi-shit.' 'Mi-shit.'"

"Do you mean mis-hit?"


BANANAGRAMS YES. My friends and I used to play this with English professors at our campus pub. Clearly, we always lost. WHO CARES.

Edith Zimmerman

I swear to god Yahtzee is also so fun. I think you kind of HAVE to be drinking, though.


I highly recommend Buzz Word!! Ticket to Ride is fun if you also like Settlers and have no more than 6 people.


Best party game ever: Guesstures. Please, please try it. I swear you will not regret.


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