How to Host a Winning Game Night

How to Host a Winning Game Night

Misty Adair
Jun 10, 2010

Beer, corn chips and saggy lawn chairs make great summer parties, but sometimes it's fun to throw a party with a point. We're not talking about a big exclamation "point" party; just an event that centers around an activity to mix and mingle the crowd more than usual. So, let the games begin!

We already mentioned our love of theme parties and backyard games, because nothing gets a crowd going like costumes and friendly competition (wink, wink). As a less active alternative, sit your butt down to variety of board games and playful snacks. No costumes required . . . unless you want to dress like the little man from Monopoly.

Invitations
Copy miniature game boards and print party details on the back. For Scrabble board invites, paste letter cubes or use alphabet stickers to spell out a party announcement. Cheap bingo cards or playing cards could also be made into invitation postcards. Score extra points by creating your own board game stamps on Zazzle, or take the easy way out by choosing a game night E-vite.

Decorations
Make a banner out of Monopoly money, bingo cards or playing cards. Hang vintage board games on the wall or use a Twister mat as a tablecloth. Game tokens can be clustered to adorn the serving table. For an extra challenge, build a house of cards (glue it together) for an impressive centerpiece. Decorations could also be based on one game only. We found an unbelievably detailed theme paper on hosting a Monopoly party.

Food
Easy to eat finger foods or "food on a stick" is the best way to go for game night. The Kitchn has great ideas for party nibbles, including our favorite pizza on a stick. Because games can be considered juvenile, why not offer some goodies to appeal to the child at heart? A cereal (no bran, all sugar) buffet or a "candy bar" would delight more than a few. The bar would feature glass bowls filled with an array of old-school candies, scoops and colorful candy bags so that guests can create their own party mix. Don't hesitate to play with food presentation, almost literally, by using playing cards to label treats and by baking domino cookies.

Games
Some people rule at Scrabble and others dominate Uno. Give everyone a chance to enjoy the winners circle by including a combination of card games, skill games, luck games, board games, team games, and interactive games. Better yet, encourage guests to bring their favorite games. These are some of the best party games that we found: Cranium, Taboo, Pictionary, Mexican Bingo, Clue, Balderdash, Apples to Apples, Scategories, Guesstures, Scene It and Catchphrase. For hosts who don't want to spend a penny, check out Cheap Ass Games or make your own game board. P.S. After to collect all these board games, here's how to store them.

The Set-up
Depending on the number of guests, consider setting up zones so multiple games can be played at once. Maybe a card game takes place at the patio table, Monopoly occurs at the dining table, and charades happens in a corner of the living room with floor pillows. Card tables and TV trays will come in handy for game stations or food service. Food and drinks stations can be placed around the space for gamers or can be contained to one snack area for breaks between raging rounds of Trouble. Don't forget mood music. We're thinking game night deserves it's own party mix which must include the Rocky theme song and "Eye of the Tiger". Other suggestions?

The Bonus Round
Send guests home with party favors like travel sized games, inexpensive card decks, or some of those domino cookies. To really play for a purpose, ask guests to chip in a few bucks to the "treasury" and let the winners choose the recipient charity.

Have you hosted a game night and was it a hit or miss? What games and party planning strategies work best?

(Images: Cranium Board Game Piece by rockmixer on flickr licensed under Creative Commons, Country Living, board game display from AT post)

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