“Hey, Joe, we’re thinking of having some people over to play games,” your friend says. Sounds great, you think. You work up the courage to go, stretching outside of that awkward personal bubble you’ve fortified. You even work up the nerve to use some mouthwash. You might even shower. Hey, no one is here to judge. Live large; it's game night.
And then you get there and see that ‘game night’ consists of that plain-ass black box of Cards Against Humanity. Maybe they have the expansion packs. Hooray, but there’s only so many times “BILLY MAYS HERE FOR 50,000 volts straight to the nipples” can elicit a laugh.
There might be hope for you yet if you stick to this list for your next session. Here’s a list of essential party games to get that Cards Against Humanity taste out of your mouth.
One Night: Ultimate Werewolf
Cost: $25, usually cheaper online.
Recommended: Best with six or seven people, but can be enjoyed with at least four players.
Time: 10-minute rounds
One Night is part “Heads Up, Seven Up” and part “boldly lie to friends and family to convince them you’re not a werewolf when you really are.” Sounds easy enough.
Players are dealt cards with roles defined to them while a few extra cards remain in the middle, so no one knows if a werewolf is actually in play or not. The role cards consist of Villagers, Masons, the Troublemaker, the Seer, the Drunk, among others, and of course the Werewolf. The cards are kept face down and placed in circle, and everyone closes their eyes while the ‘Night’ phase begins. Here, people take turns fulfilling the roles of their cards.
By the end of the ‘Night’ phase, a person who drew the werewolf card might not know their card has been switched with the person next to them, and that’s when the fun begins.
For the ‘Day’ portion, everyone opens there eyes and has a set time to debate, come clean, and manipulate in order to determine who the werewolf is. At the end, every player votes who to ‘kill.’ If the villagers sniff out the werewolf, they win. But if the werewolf escapes, they win.
This game is enjoyed in multiple, short rounds, leaving untrustworthy players scrutinized early and often. Lying bold faced about knowing who the werewolf is might work out in the first game, but everyone will know you’re a lying piece of shit for the rest of the night. Which is why it’s so fun!
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Cost: $15 download, plus laptop/home computer, 23 sheets of paper (and optional controller).
Recommended: Four players or more, many more for harder difficulties.
Time: 5-minute rounds
This one might seem a bit daunting, what with the ‘computer and/or Oculus Rift VR required’ stipulation, but don’t be deterred. All you need is a laptop and some paper to print out a manual.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is about communication, collaboration, puzzle solving, attention to detail, and screaming over each other. Essentially, it’s all the ingredients for a good time.
One player sits at the computer and is tasked with defusing a bomb in five minutes while everyone else parses through the 23-page manual looking for serial numbers, casing identifications, symbols and color coded wires. Three strikes and everybody explodes for the easiest level, but the harder difficulties leave no room for error.
Sometimes defusing the bomb is as simple as cutting the fourth wire in a sequence, sometimes it’s playing a game of Simon Says, and sometimes it’s deducing a phrase in morse code and translating it through a corresponding frequency. Sounds easy enough.
The Resistance and Coup
Cost: $20 and $15 respectively, cheaper online.
Recommended: 5-10 players for the Resistance; 2-6 players for Coup.
Time: 30-minute rounds; 15-minute rounds.
These games deserve to be grouped together not only because they’re from the same company and set in the same continuity, but also because they share a common theme: deception.
To begin a game of the Resistance, players draw cards that determine if they’re a member of the freedom fighters or if they’re spies meant to sabotage their teamwork. Resistance members generally outnumber spies two to one. Games last five rounds, and each round consists of two parts: selecting a team and doing the mission.
Players take turns as the Leader, electing a number of players to fulfill the mission. Spies try to get on the team to sabotage their success, but before any team can move on the entire group most vote to approve them. Majority rules, and then the mission phase begins. Each team member is given the choice to give Success or Failure cards, which are then shuffled and revealed to the group. Which ever group is victorious after five rounds wins the game.
In Coup, players assume the roles of government officials in the regime the Resistance is attempting to overthrow. In the chaos of the war, players attempt to eliminate each other and remain the last one standing.
Everyone draws two cards face down that represent characters the player influences. Each “influence” has a special ability that players can enact during their turns. But the twist here is that players can lie about what cards they have and use other character’s abilities. Another player can challenge another’s actions before play is over, and the challenged must reveal if they have the card’s ability or not. Whoever loses the challenge is eliminated from the game.
Cost: $40 for physical copies, cheaper online. $7 on Google Play and the App Store
Recommended: Four players
Time: 45-minute games
A newer classic among hardcore gamers, Pandemic is for a smaller group of four players and takes a bit more time, but is rewarding for it’s cooperative team building aspects.
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Players take on a unique role with special abilities to start the game, and disease cubes are spread in 9 different cities. Some cities have three cubes, some have two, some have one.
Every player starts out in Atlanta and can take four actions per term. Actions consist of moving from city to connected city, removing one cube from a city you’re in, or using your character’s special action. When a player’s turn is done they draw two player cards that can benefit or hurt the team, as well as another infection card which causes another city to get a disease cube.
With four different diseases and a scaling difficulty, players must quickly work together to prevent infections from spreading and ultimately combining to form a—you guessed it—pandemic.
A classic board game with a cooperative twist, it’s not hard to see why Pandemic has spread like an infectious disea—No. NoNoNo NO. Sorry, but this post will not end on a pun about epidemics. What are we, sick?