HOW TO RESCUE A BAD GAME NIGHT
Sometimes things just don't go your way. Here's how to get your game night back on track.
As we mentioned in our section on game night agendas, you need to plan for things to not always go the way you envision at your game night. Delays and sidetracked minds can and will happen.
But what do you do when something truly unforeseen happens? What if you have a guest who clearly isn't enjoying the night and is having a negative effect on others? What about that one person who had too much adult Meeple Milkshake? Below we are going to give you some tips and tricks for how to have a Plan B for a game night gone wrong.
TOP TIPS FOR RESCUING A GAME NIGHT
KNOW YOUR GUESTS & PLAN AHEAD
No one knows your guests better than you do. As we discussed when talking about who to invite to your game night, you should try to avoid inviting conflicting personalities to the same game night. Sometimes though, that just isn't possible. When you know that some of your guests are likely to not get along, you owe it to everything to try and minimize any issues by planning ahead. Try sitting these guests as far apart as possible at the table. Or if you are running multiple games, split them into different groups. Finally, we recommend taking ample breaks to allow tensions to calm throughout the night.
Other times though, personalities aren't the concern as much as gaming stamina. This is another consideration to make when creating your guest list. If you guests have wildly different gaming stamina, chances are someone is going to leave your game night unsatisfied. Choose games that sit close to the middle of your guest's stamina, in terms of the number of games, length of games, and weight of games. If you have newcomers present, skew the weight and length of your games even lower. In our opinion, it is always better to cater to someone outside of the hobby in the hopes that you might pull them in as opposed to trying to fully scratch the gaming itch of your more experienced guests.
LOOK OUT FOR THE WARNING SIGNS
Whether you are concerned about conflicting personalities or games falling flat with your guests, you must stay alert at all times and watch for warning signs that your night might be headed in the wrong direction.
When it comes to conflicting personalities, it won't be hard to notice the warning signs. The minute you see eye rolling or hear aggression in either party's voice, it's time for a break. Try speaking with both parties separately to gauge whether there is anything that can be done to calm the situation. Usually, frequent breaks is enough to keep a game afloat. Sometimes though, if tensions rise too high, rather than trying to ride it out your best course of action is to let one of the players willingly step away from the game. This is not an ideal situation obviously, but it is much preferred to a full blown shouting match. Your game night will not recover from that.
In terms of game fatigue, seeing the warning signs can be a bit more nuanced, however, if you are focused they shouldn't be too hard to spot. Checking cell phones frequently can be an early sign of boredom, while sighing and puzzled looks between turns can mean you might want to slow things down and explain a particular portion of the game again. One sign you should be happy to see is a player shuffling through their cards or studying the board with interest. this is signs of strategy and engagement with the game, and this is a sign that you've made a good choice for that player.
Sometimes though, quite the opposite can be true. You can wind up with a guest who dislikes a game so much that they are actively voicing their displeasure. If it gets to this point and you have tried to explain the rules differently to no avail, again, rather than let this person ruin the game for everyone, allow them to bow out of the game and give them an alternative activity (watching a game of TV for instance). There is never a good reason to force someone to finish a game they aren't enjoying, as it only causes their opinion of board games in general to suffer. Hopefully though, the only thoughts about your game choices you'll hear are "can we play this again?". That's when you know you've gotten it right!
This may seem obvious but when you see any of the warning signs we discussed above, you must act quickly to turn the situation around. You cannot depend on the situation to resolve itself or for the person to magically start liking a game. It is just not going to happen. If you take action quickly, you increase the chances of salvaging your game night for everyone. So don't delay. Use your intuition to recognize the problem and think creatively to offer up solutions.
As we discussed when talking about creating your game night agenda, flexibility is absolutely critical to being a good game night host. If you are too set in your game picks or your schedule, you are more likely to miss the warning signs and therefore cause someone within your group to have a less than enjoyable time. So don't get lost in your own thoughts and plans for the night. Be present and attentive to your guest's needs and adapt accordingly.
HAVE A PLAN B & PLAN C
Finally, our last tip is to think hard about potential issues that might arise with specific guests and create a Plan B for how you'll handle that situation. Then, create a Plan B for your Plan B - a Plan C if you will. Think of it like a fire evacuation plan. Is there ever only one way to evacuate a room? No, because what if the fire is in your way? The same thought applies here, though obviously in a less important way.
Carefully consider your potential problems and specific guests your worried about. And think through the possible scenarios in your head. And come up with alternative plans for how you'll deal with those situations. This will make it much easier to take quick action during the game night. Have alternative activities in mind, be ready to call a break at a moment's notice, and think of 1-2 back up games for each game you plan to play. This way, you'll have a plethora of options to meet any issues that arise head on.