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how to host a game night

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

So, you just got some new games for Christmas, and now you want to play them? You want to play that new game for 6 but only have a family of four? You’re looking for a New Year’s resolution you can actually stick with (and that’ll be fun)? No problem. All you need to do is host a friendly game night.

S and I do this once a month: we have a bunch of folks over to play games and have a good time. We’ve been doing it for a little over a year, and it’s been, for the most part, a rousing success.

Here’s what we do in a nutshell:

  • We send out an email to about 25 people, telling them when the next game night is and telling them to let us know if they’ll be able to make it. We usually hear back from about half the list: some can make it and some can’t. We assume that anyone who doesn’t respond isn’t coming, but that isn’t always the case.
  • We try to keep it on a regular schedule (the third Friday of every month), but sometimes we have to switch things up a bit.
  • On the appointed day, we clean up the house and set out a reasonable number of chairs.
  • Folks show up around 7:00. If someone shows up late, we try to fit them into a game if that’s possible – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We usually just sit around and chat with folks for the first fifteen minutes or so, since people tend to trickle in, but we usually try to get started in earnest by about 7:20.
  • People leave as their schedules require, so the group tends to get smaller as the night goes on. It’s usually over by midnight, but occasionally it goes until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. We clean up a little and head to bed.

While hosting might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are a few simple rules that make everything a lot easier and at least (relatively) hassle-free. These are, in no particular order:

  1. Since we start at 7:00, folks are expected to have eaten already. We tell everyone to bring a snack or a beverage to share, and it’s a kind of a potluck affair. We usually set out chips or crackers, and we try to have plenty of beer on hand, but that’s about it. Occasionally we make our famous buffalo chicken dip, and that goes over really well. (It is not, however, a low-fat snack.)
  2. We set out a variety of games, and we also tell people to bring any games they might want to play. There’s no agenda, no script, no expectation that everyone is going to want to play Stone Age. We set out everything from Jenga to Scrabble to Blokus to Pit to Trivial Pursuit to Rummikub to Pandemic, and we let folks play what they want. Of course people need to agree to a certain extent, as we only have three tables (and most of these games aren’t very good for solo play), but you know what I mean. Often two tables emerge, one table wanting a lighter game and one table interested in playing something a little heavier. Sometimes we all just play Pit or EPYC.
  3. While we try to set out foods that are relatively grease-free, we don’t get all hung up over whether or not someone might touch one of our games with greasy fingers. They’re games. They can be replaced. They’re meant to be played, not to be looked at, etc. We allow food and drink at the tables, and so far we’ve only had one spilled drink. We reacted fast, got things cleaned up, dried the cards off as best we could, and went on with the game. Today you can hardly even tell they got wet.
  4. No kids. We had wanted to host game night for several years, but we were afraid our friends with kids would be offended if we told them their kids couldn’t come. No one was offended, and most have viewed game night as a great excuse to find a sitter (and a great excuse to spend some kid-free time with adults). Alternatively, of course, you could invite the kids and let them play in the basement or something, but our basement isn’t very kid-friendly. Our house is fairly small, we don’t have a good place for kids to hang out, and we don’t want a bunch of kids running about when we’re trying to save the world from a Pandemic. “No kids” might not work for everyone, but it works for us.
  5. No politics. No religion. Nothing controversial. There used to be a rule, back when we were all a little more civilized (or actually cared about etiquette), to the effect that you could talk about anything you wanted at the dinner table except politics and religion. That goes doubly for game night. Game night is a special time, a time for people to get together and play together and enjoy one another’s company – it is NOT a time to argue over whether or not President Obama needs to be doing more (or less) to curb global warming.
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