HOW TO HOST THE PERFECT GAME NIGHT
So, you want to host a game night?
It seems like a simple idea on the surface, but there are a lot of factors that go into hosting a successful game night. Sure, you could wing it and hope that your friends will be happy with Monopoly, Doritos, and that six pack of beer that has been in your basement for years. But, we think the key to a perfect game night is good planning. That's why we've compiled a list of 10 key things to consider when planning your game night. From inviting the right guests and choosing the right games, to having the perfect refreshments and music on hand, by planning the night out in advance not only will your guests have a memorable evening, but you will also be free to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Because if you don't have fun hosting game night, what is the point?
TOP 10 TIPS FOR A PERFECT GAME NIGHT
This may seem like a no brainer (I'll just invite everyone I know) but we think the perfect guest list for game night actually doesn't include everyone and their mothers (nothing against mothers – I love playing games with my mom!).
We suggest you fight the urge to invite everyone you know and really think about the type of evening you want the have, the types of games you will play, and which people you know would actually enjoy this type of evening. Humans are unique after all – not everyone gets along and not everyone enjoys the same things. So the last thing you want to do is force your friend Dan the Accountant to spend his Saturday night playing charades for 8 hours (Dan hates charades, just trust us!).
Click here to learn more about crafting a perfect guest list, including how to choose the perfect size game night group.
One commonly asked question is "When should I ask people to arrive and how long should my game night last?".
In general, you will likely want to plan your start time around dinner. If you plan to serve a full meal, asking guests to arrive at 5:00pm or earlier is a good idea. If you aren't planning to serve food, or will only have light snacks, we'd recommend waiting until 7:00pm to start your game night. Doing this will avoid any potential confusion with your guests and their meal plans. No one wants to game on an empty stomach!
As far as the length of game night, you really need to consider how much of your evening will be spent gaming vs. socializing. The pace of the evening is very important. If you have a small group of close friends who really enjoy board games, feel free to plan for 6-8 hours of gaming and not much else. But, if you are inviting a larger group of friends who are new to gaming, your best bet is to keep them wanting more by only playing a few hours' worth of games and leaving lots of time in between for chit chat.
You also need to consider the day of the week and your guests' commitments that evening and the next day. If it is Saturday and all your guests have overnight babysitters, then feel free to game late into the evening. But, if you know some of your guests have to work the next day, or take care of children when they get home, be considerate – start the night early and don't start Gloomhaven at 10:00pm!
Click here to see more ideas for game night start time and length based on the type of guests you are inviting.
The key to successful game night refreshments (and your sanity) is to choose low maintenance options. For food, choose a recipe that can be made in advance and simply thrown into the oven when guests begin to arrive. Crock-pot appetizers are also a great choice. Of course, takeout or delivery food is also an easy, if not more expensive, option. Again, your goal here should be to spend as little time as possible tending to food while your guests are in your home. After all, a game night should revolve around games and having fun. And that should include you!
For drinks, be sure to have plenty of options on hand. We recommend 2 or 3 different choices of soda, water, and a non-carbonated option at a minimum. If you plan to serve alcohol, first off – observe these safety guidelines! And secondly, as great as serving an artisian crafted cocktail sounds, if you can't premix it – ditch it! Making the first few drinks might sound like fun, but you will quickly find yourself spending all evening making drinks and not much else.
Click here to view some of our favorite simple food and drink recipes for your next game night.
Just because the evening is centered around games doesn't mean you can't enjoy some music. While throwing the radio or Pandora on would work just fine, we think customizing a playlist to match the theme of the games you are playing is a great way to create a even better atmosphere and experience for your guests.
Click here to see some of our favorite gaming playlists.
Now that you have a guest list, a time, refreshments, and music it is time to think about the logistics of your home and what room will be most ideal for hosing game night. Of course, the size of the room is important but you should also consider the furniture in each room, proximity to a restroom, and ease of access among other things.
Click here to read more about important features in a game room, including some of our favorite gaming tables.
Now we're getting to the fun part! Not much beats the feeling of matching your guest's tastes with the perfect board game and watching them enjoying the experience. This is especially true for newcomers to the board game hobby. But be careful – just because you love Agricola doesn't mean everyone does (my family reminds me of this constantly). You really need to carefully consider your audience, their interests/hobbies/profession and choose games that have a high probability of being a hit.
Read more about choosing the perfect games, including our favorite types of board games for a variety of game night crowds.
Picking out the perfect game is only half the battle. The success of a game at game night depends largely on how you present it to your guests (no pressure!). Luckily, this is also one of the most fun parts of game night (for us anyways). It gives you an opportunity to really sell the theme of the game, explain the rules in layman's terms, and provide helpful advise along the way to new players.
One of the most important things to do for game night is to play the game yourself before hand. The more you know beforehand, the better. You don't want to be fumbling through the rule book all night while the energy slowly drains from the room.
Click here to read more of our tips and tricks about coaching at game night and teaching board games in general.
If you are like me, you find a lot of fun in playing as many games as possible in a given night. I love pulling my wife around from game to game on a Saturday night. It is not uncommon for us to play 5 different games in one night. I get a lot of enjoyment from this – my wife, like most people, does not.
Don't make this mistake with your gaming group. Make sure you get a good sense of your group's gaming stamina. Some people, especially newcomers to board games, will probably not have the stamina for four different Euro-style games in one night. Be mindful not just of the length of the games you are selecting but also their weight – how much brain power does it take to play this game? A good mix of light and heavy games with a brain break in between is likely to be your best bet.
Click here to read more tips of pacing your game night properly.
We'd love to sit here and tell you that every single game night you ever throw will be perfect. This probably won't be the case. Especially if you host regularly, you are bound to find yourself in the middle of a game night where one or more people simply aren't having a good time. This could be because they didn't enjoy the game you chose, you might have an “abandoner” who leaves the table right before their turn every time, or you might simply just get the feeling that the game night vibe is not quite right.
When this happens, it is important to recognize it and take action. Don't sweep it under the rug, because it is just going to lead to someone having a miserable experience by the end of the night. Sometimes things don't go according to plan, and that's ok. Rather than just giving up, if you spend a little time to think up a Plan B, you will be in a good position to pivot and rescue your night. Your Plan B might include alternative game options in case your first choice doesn't go over well. It might also include some alternatives outside of board games – such as video games or outdoor games.
Click here to read more Plan B ideas, including our guide for how to recognize when someone isn't digging your game night.
Finally, most importantly, make sure you take the time throughout the evening to enjoy your company and relax. This entire website was created to help eliminate the “day-of” stress of hosting a game night, with the goal of helping you be so prepared that you won't be able to help but relax and have a great time with your friends or family. Don't take things too seriously – game nights are supposed to be fun!!
Click here to read more tips on avoiding stress, including out top 5 relaxation techniques for game night hosts.