Games for a Dinner Party
March 25, 2005 9:09 AM   Subscribe

We're having a dinner party that should go on to the wee hours. We want games.

We're hosting a dinner party for 8-10 active and fun adults (all 30-somethings) who are pretty much up for anything once they've had a few glasses of wine and what have you. We want some fun games you can play in a big house (ours has 3 floors, two patios, and a big yard). Roll playing, solve the crime, that sort of thing.
posted by squirrel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
One of the most fun and inclusive bored games i've played with large groups is Cranium
it combines aspects of several other board games.
posted by battlecj at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2005

You might try a murder mystery theme night. Sort of like a real life Clue.
posted by orange swan at 9:17 AM on March 25, 2005

For packaged games, Cranium's a lot of fun. The categories are varied so it doesn't get boring, and it definitely doesn't penalize you for being creative. We've played it with as many as 6 couples.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:18 AM on March 25, 2005

Jinx, battlecj.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2005

Werewolf aka Mafia. Not very dynamic, but can get pretty intense.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2005

A while back I lived in a co-op where we would have "the spy party". Everyone would recieve a set of orders/instructions when they would arrive. Every person would have a codename and would know the codenames of their handler and any people they might be handling.

The object of the game was to establish who was on your side and then identify and eliminate the head of the other team.

It takes a little work to setup, but it's worth it.
posted by wezelboy at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2005

We want some fun games you can play in a big house (ours has 3 floors, two patios, and a big yard). Roll playing, solve the crime, that sort of thing.

Well, there's roll football, roll hockey, possibly roll soccer - heck, I can think of a zillion things to do with those dinner rolls once dinner is done...


Liar's dice was a big hit at one dinner party I went to. You could also try a mini casino night sort of thing - different games in each room. You could gamble with low denomination coins, or have some sort of prize for the winner, etc. And the games wouldn't necessarily have to be standard casino games - could be trivia or whatever.
posted by googly at 9:26 AM on March 25, 2005

Response by poster: I've played Cranium many times, and love it. But I'm thinking more along the lines that orange swan is. I want people moving around. When I was a teenager, we used to play "Murder in the Dark" but I was always so stoned that I now no longer recall how it was played. *scratches head* Something about making out with other people's girlfriends?

On preview: yes! What wezelboy is talking about... do you have any more details... like the goal of the game? I'm hoping for more than just a premise; I'm hoping for a whole game. Thanks for your help so far.
posted by squirrel at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2005

as i recall, murder in the dark involved one card for every person, one of which is the ace of spades. everyone draws a card without revealing what it is. you designate someone the light operator. that person turns off the lights. ace of spades taps someone on the shoulder, whispers "bang" in his or her ear. he or she counts ten (to give ace of spades time to get away) and then screams. light operator turns on the lights. then you take turns guessing who did it. if you guess wrong, you "die."

this site has different rules (and other games you might find interesting).
posted by crush-onastick at 9:44 AM on March 25, 2005

We have Who? What? Where? which is a really fun Pictionary-style game. I know it's not an active, adventure game but we've had a lot of fun playing with dinner guests. The premise is you draw three cards, one is a person, one is a place, and one is an activity. You need to draw the person, doing said activity in the place, and the other players need to guess who, what, and where.
posted by knave at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2005

Chez Geek. Everybody loves Chez Geek.
posted by mkultra at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2005

Cranium is good. I think you ought to consider the size of your party carefully. Do you want 1 game that everyone can play? Or can you split into groups? Those are 2 very different situations.

We used to play one back in the day at Davis, called "Drug Dealer." I'm sure you could dress it up any number of ways: "James Bond," or "Jewel Thief" or whatever. Pick something appropriate. But the basic dynamics are:

1) Pass out scraps of paper from a hat. Most of them say "Stoner." One of them says "Dealer." One of them says "Cop."

2) Resume the evening as normal. Eat, drink, talk, be merry.

3) At some point, whoever got the "Dealer" slip should wink at someone else in the party.

4) If that person is the "Cop," they're busted right away.

5) If that person is a "Stoner" then the stoner should wink back, and then, after, annouce "The deal has been made. "

6) At this point the Cop reveals him/her Cop-ness and accuses someone in the room of being the Dealer. If they are correct about it, they win. If not, the Dealer wins. Stoners can play either side against the other along the way, but they don't really know who is who.

It's a simple mechanic, but it's all about subtlety and eye contact. It's fun to resume the evening as if nothing were afoot, all the while keeping an eye on everybody else. Of course, it's best if you're sitting in a circle, not milling around the house.

Vary at will.
posted by scarabic at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2005

We had a fun after dinner party game session by dividing up into teams and playing Scene It. We've also had successful hold 'em style poker tournaments, where people start out with a set amount of chips and can get more by performing (singing or dancing acts).
posted by jasper411 at 10:31 AM on March 25, 2005

IMO, the greatest game ever: DIPLOMACY

"Each player represents a Great European Power prior to World War I, a time when the continent was a complex cauldron of political stratagems and maneuvers. "

For up to seven although people could form teams. No chance (except which power you represent), lots of negotiating and plotting, and then incredible amounts of backstabbing and revenge. Careful though, a childhood friend's parents nearly got a divorce because of this game. It really would become the bulk of your evening so perhaps it's not the right game for the party, but do keep it in mind because it's KICK ASS.

Incidentally, it's the most perfect game to play via the internet because the game's turns depend on orders issued by everyone (in writing) and then executed all at once. The negotiating and posturing is great in person, but via email and online it's also incredibly fun.
posted by brheavy at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2005

Previous discussion here with good advice not quite the same goal, but worth a read.
posted by jessamyn at 11:08 AM on March 25, 2005

Catchprase is always a fun after dinner kind of game if you have say 8 or more people.
posted by jduckles at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2005

One game that has worked well in my experience is "Celebrities". It's much like Charades (another perennial favorite in my crowd), but you write the names of people on slips of paper. Split into two groups, then have everyone write down 2 or 3 names on pieces of paper. The groups swap the papers, then the game begins.

First round, one of the group members has to get his/her group to identify the name based on description of the "celebrity" (e.g., listing movies the celebrity has been in, the name of the book the fictional character is in, etc.).

Second round, the "describer" (a different person than in the first round) is limited to only a two-word phrase.

Third round, the describer (different person again) must pantomime it out, like Charades.

Each round has a time limit of three minutes (or one minute if you're feeling really cutthroat). Points are scored by how many the group gets right in each round. Each group keeps time and scoring for the other.
posted by Janta at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2005

I love playing Fictionary (you could buy the commercial version, Balderdash, but why bother?).

If you have a very diverse group, you could try Botticelli. I've seen different variations, but here's the one I've played by:
IT picks a famous (living or dead) person and reveals the first letter. Let's say that IT has picked Botticelli. IT says, "I'm thinking of a person whose name begins with B". Then each other person asks IT a question, trying to stump IT. This game might play out like this:
PLAYER: Are you thinking of a composer?
IT: No, I'm not thinking of Bach.
PLAYER: Are you thinking of a former secretary general to the UN?
IT: Uhhhh...I don't know.
PLAYER: Boutrous Boutrous Gali, of course. Now that IT has been stumped, player gets to ask a specific yes/no question about the person Are you thinking of a dead person?
IT: Yes
At this point, all questions from players must be answerable with the name of a dead person whose last name begins with B.
This repeats until players have narrowed it down to the answer.
Variation: use a word instead of a name and after being stumped, reveal the next letter.
posted by plinth at 12:17 PM on March 25, 2005

I've played Apples to Apples for several hours at a time on more than one occasion with very different groups. It's a hilariously simple, fun, fast-moving game.
posted by Plutor at 12:29 PM on March 25, 2005

Depending on the crowd, I've always been a big fan of Impossible Pictionary. It's basically like Pictionary/Win Lose or Draw, but each team makes up the other team's clues and the clues vary from "The Doppler Effect" and "The Papal Schism" to "Zoltar, the Machine That Made Tom Hanks Big" and "Fred Savage's Lower Intestine." It's less a game of winning and losing and more a game of obscurity one-upsmanship and creative drawing techniques. The trick, of course, is to watch out for the instant-karma aspect of the game. If you give people dick clues, you're going to end up with "The Extent To Which John Locke's Second Treatise of Government Influenced the American Revolution."
posted by pokeydonut at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2005

A game where the purchased game is very badly designed and entirely detracts from the experience, but is fantastic fun without the purchase, is pictionary.

Sort the people into teams of 2-3 and one umpire/evil overlord. Each team has a pad of paper and pencil.

The Evil Overlord devises a word, shows it to a person on each team, and they have to communicate that word to their teammates using only drawings (no characters or symbols).
The first team to guess the word gets a point, then start another round with the next person in each team doing the drawing this time and the others guessing. Tally the rounds for a winning team.

Note that drawing skills are usually of little importance, it's a mind-game about how to best communicate a concept visually. No-one really believes this until they've been playing for a while, but it's true.

You also get espionage and counter-espionage going on - in a team of 3, one can draw, one can guess, and a third can try to peek at the other team's pad and try to guess from those drawings while the team tries to block the pad.

Once you've played a few rounds, the evil overlord should try to make the words as devilishly hard as possible (eg for starters, be words that describe concepts instead of objects - "automobile" is easy to draw, thus easy to guess, "lonesome" less so.), or the rounds get too quick. You probably also want house rules on whether an exception to the "no symbols" rule can be made for guessing-aid symbols that means "sounds like" or "sylables". Frantic one-handed guestures as you draw are ok :) The Evil Overlord has the final say over all contested results, which innovative new ways of violating the spirit of the rules are acceptable, etc etc.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:39 PM on March 25, 2005

Two enthusiastic seconds for "Celebrities" and "Fictionary" as really fun "sitting-around the living room" games that can get pretty animated.

We actually used to play "Celebrities" a little differently:
- Everyone writes 5 names onto slips, all slips go into one big bowl
- People are paired up into multiple teams
- Teams keep taking one-minute rounds, alternating hinter/guesser roles each round
- Everyone draws from the same bowl
- Teams keep the slips for correct guesses
- Guesser can "pass" on as many slips as they want, "passes" go back in the bowl
- Each round is just hints and guesses--like "$25,000 Pyramid"--the only rule is that you can't mention the celebrities' names
- If you happen to pick one of the guesser's slips, it's basically a bonus (as long as the hinter can get them to realize that)
- Game is over when the bowl is empty
posted by LairBob at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2005

A great group game is "psychiatrist"

One person is selected as the psychiatrist; she has to leave the room while the rules are explained; when she returns, she's told she has to diagnose the problem of all of the other participants.

The "problem" is that each person thinks he is the person to his immediate left (the participants sit in a circle), and will respond to questions as that person.

The psychiatrist must diagnose the problem by asking individuals questions about themselves--any questions. The person must answer as if he is the person to his left.

If the answer to the question is incorrect (e.g. the person pretending to be you says his favorite food is bbq chicken, and you're a vegetarian), the person who's being impersonated yells "psychiatrist," and all of the people stand up, scramble positions, and sit back down in a circle, whereupon questioning resumes. The game is over when the psychiatrist can correctly diagnose the problem (state the rules of the game)
posted by mabelstreet at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2005

A few years ago, Mafia was really popular at NYC parties, and I had some really intense, exciting evenings playing it, despite the description sounding as if not much happens... it doesn't require the sort of moving around you say you'd like, but it really feels like a dynamic game. I'd recommend giving it a go, at least.
posted by mdn at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2005

The Rizla Game, or Skin-heads - everyone writes the name of someone famous/known to the others on a cigarette paper (skin), keeping it hidden, then sticks it to the forehead of the person to their left, so you don't know what is written on your forehead paper. You then each take turns to ask yes/no questions about your secret name. If it's a yes, you get to ask another question. If no, it's the next person's turn. First person to guess who they are, wins. Or, last person to guess who they are, has to roll the next spliff. Er, if you're smoking. If not, they make the drinks/tea/heroin syringe/cucumber sandwiches/etc. It's great fun.
posted by ralphyk at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2005

Sardines is a great game if the house is big enough.

It's easy. Everyone gathers in one big room and turns on some music and talks. One person is selected to leave. They have ten minutes to go find a place to hide. Then everyone else goes to look for them. When you find the hiding person, you hide with them -- generally cramming into the same closet, under the bed, etc. The last person to find everyone else hides the next round.

Trying to remain quiet when you're squashed in the pantry and more and more people keep squeezing in is most of the fun.

Although I like Cranium, they make another game called Hoopla that is similar, but without a board and it's an "everyone wins or everyone loses" game. More fun, less competition, better for a larger group in which some people might wander off for a while...
posted by xz at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2005

There are two games you can play on the fly which I've seen used to keep parties going for hours:

- Truth Chairs: Everyone sits in a chair except for one person. The last person stands in the middle. This person has to ask a yes or no person that they would answer yes to "Eg have you ever cheated on a test?" Everyone who can answer yes to the question has to get up and switch seats. Obviously the last person standing who is unable to get a seat has answered yes to the last question then it's his/her turn to ask. Can get pretty hilarious if you have a candid group willing to ask racey questions. Good for people familiar with each other or all male / all female groups.

- Spoof: Each person in the group has three coins. It's better if everyone has the same size coins - three pennies is best. Before each round, you must choose to conceal 0, 1, 2, or 3 coins in your hand. Then you go around the table and each person has to guess the total number of coins held (ie with a group of 4 you can guess 0 - 12). Each person must guess a different number.

At the end of each round, you count the total and whoever was right can drop out and the others continue until there is just one loser at the end (who must make a forfeit, take a drink, etc). The dynamics of the game get very interesting as the number of people drop away and those who are very cocky may try force themselves into the last round to prove their superiority. In the last round, as what you guess can be a tell for what's in your hand, sometimes you must "guess wrongly" to throw the others off. Requires good bluffing skills.

Very addictive. Can be played over and over again for hours if the people in your group are competitive.
posted by missbossy at 5:56 PM on March 25, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, such a big response! Thanks to all who posted here. It's not my style to mark "best answers," which is a good thing since there are so many great games to choose from. Thanks again! (And keep going!)
posted by squirrel at 6:00 PM on March 25, 2005

Best AskMe ever!!!

I first read about "Murder", or "drug dealer", or what-have-you, in Harpo Marx's biography, and always wanted to play. But I've never had a big enough place for it. But now...

I used to love hosting game nights. (And, now that I'm in the new house, can do so with more regularity. AND take up all the suggestions offered here.) I loved playing Diplomacy, but could never find enough like-minded individuals. The "off the shelf" games I like; Balderdash, Taboo (with a lot of people, it can become bedlam), Cranium, Cranium Conga (same as Cranium, with a slight twist), Outburst (also fun with a crowd). Jenga was always a good "kick-off" game. As were "lateral thinking puzzles" (see Paul Sloan's books - at amazon) - one person would be the "referee" and pose the puzle, everyone else would guess. Great fun, and for more than the big brain crowd. One friend of mine, with no college education, got the answers more often than anyone.

Another one, like "psychiatrist" is "One Up, One Down", where the object of the game is to figure out the rules. Can always count on one person who doesn't know the rules. Love the meta-games!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:03 PM on March 25, 2005

An important rule in Sardines, not made explicit in the description above, is that when you discover where the sardines are packed (and thus have to join them) you must not let anyone else hunting for the sardines learn where they are from your actions. Basically, you have to open the closet, discover a bunch of giggly people rubbing their eyes at the light and trying to remain silent, feign a look of disgust on your face and close the door. Leave the room, double back, squeeze in. (There's always the danger that you're the second last sardine hunter -- in which case by the time you get back you may have lost!)

Conversely, if you see someone open a door, look disgusted, and close it, you must go over, open the same goddamn door, and discover that indeed (like the previous twenty places you checked) there is noone there. It's very, very weird to break the training you've had since childhood to learn things from other people's behavior.

Not many homes are large enough for this game, I would think!
posted by Aknaton at 9:41 PM on March 25, 2005

Settlers of Catan, once you get going, it's wonderful rowdy fun.
posted by ac at 11:58 AM on March 26, 2005

Now I really, really, really want to play werewolf.
posted by Muffpub at 10:23 PM on March 29, 2005

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