Campfire bonding games
August 12, 2020 10:51 AM   Subscribe

What are some good discussion-based games for 6 adults to play as a group that don't involve supplies other than pen and paper, and ideally help us learn more about each other rather than just passing the time?

My germ circle and I are going camping this weekend. We had a lot of fun on our last trip playing Four Things (description to follow), but we ran out of steam on it. It was especially fun because it helped us learn more about each other, even though we're all pretty close already. Never Have I Ever was vetoed. Are there other similar games for adults to play together that don't require buying/packing supplies?

Four Things:
-Everyone gets 4 small pieces of paper and writes a different negative/controversial topic on each paper (e.g., "strip malls," "40 splinters in your palm," "man caves")
-All pieces of paper go into a hat
-One person picks 4 pieces of paper, shows them to the group, and mentally ranks them in order of badness
-The other people debate as a group about how the person ranked the things, and decide on an order
-The person reveals their true order to much amusement
posted by quiet coyote to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Two Truths and a Lie.
posted by solotoro at 11:00 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]

I've never done this with a group but I enjoy playing something I call "This or That" one-on-one with people where you just come up with two things and then the other person says which they prefer -- can be something like "Beatles or Stones" or you know, "Gummy bears or Swedish fish", whatever. Sometimes you just get an answer but depending on the question you can have fun discussions and the possibilities are endless.
posted by jabes at 11:10 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]

If you think you may have access to a dictionary (or some other means of looking up the definition of a given word), then "Fictionary" might be LOADS of fun. It's basically the board game Balderdash without the board or the die or anything other than paper and pen (which is how I played it in college).

You do need to have some means of looking for obscure words, and a means to look up their definitions. These days, this can be your phone, fortunately, if you're in a spot where there's wifi.

Another game that my college friends and I invented might also be fun - you'll need a deck of playing cards in addition to pen and paper. But this game, which I've named Surrealist Poker, is ridiculously fun. It's just poker, except you can bet literally anything in the entire world, and gets really silly really fast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on August 12

"Hive Mind" the boxxed game rules are available in PDF - and only required pen and paper. Inside the box are pen and paper and a lousy scoreboard. It's a great game!
posted by bbqturtle at 12:58 PM on August 12

The Reverse Interview*

This is a one-on-one game but as long as you have even numbers you can split up and switch partners. It is very simple but strangely opens you up to a deep connection between people.

One person is the question asker and the other is the answer...but the trick is that asker asks questions in the form of "What was I like in high school?" and the answerer answers in the form of "You were ..."

P1: What was my favorite subject in high school?
P2: Your favorite subject was History?
P1: Why did I really like History?
P2: You liked History because it made you think of story time with your grandmother?
P1: What other things did I like about my grandmother?
P2: You really loved her corn muffins?

There is something about the pronoun switching that allows you to get into a deep, intimate information exchange.

*I don't recall what this is really called. I learned it from some actors from the Impro Theatre.
posted by mmascolino at 1:13 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]

I have this great book called The Games Bible, but it looks to be out of print. Anyhow I found this game that sounds fun:

One, Two, Three:

It's played in pairs. But I think the help on onlookers would be fun if not necessary. You both start with random nouns, say 'One, two three!' and shout them out at the same time. Next, you both have to free associate another noun that relates the two you just said. If they don't match, you keep repeating this process until they do. You 'win' when you both associate the same noun.


First Round:
Player 1: 1, 2, 3, Ants!
Player 2: 1, 2, 3, Communism!

Second Round:
Player 1: 1, 2, 3, Workers!
Player 2: 1, 2, 3, Red!

Second Round:
Player 1: 1, 2, 3, Firefighters!
Player 2: 1, 2, 3, Firefighters!
posted by kitcat at 1:45 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]

Two Truths and Lie. Person tells three things about themselves - two true and one lie. Everyone else tries to guess which is lie. The trick to pick things that are all slightly improbable and not already known. (might need to ask spouses to not guess)

This one, I don't know the name but it is two person game that is surprisingly fun to watch. One person picks a starting word then the two players each give a word association response. Then they simultaneously give word association to the thing they and the other person just said and it continues until they both say the same word. You might want to limit on the number of guess, some pairs really spiral out of control but it surprised me how often people were able to converge.

So Prompt: Animal
person A person B (count 3-2-1 then say their word)
bird dog
hunting bloodhound
tracking sleuth
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes
posted by metahawk at 1:48 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]

What Three Things

What three things can you put on the checkout counter to freak the cashier the most. They can be anything - it isn't limited to grocery or big box store items.


Engagement Ring

English Cucumber
Case of Jello
posted by dancinglamb at 2:23 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]

It might be vetoed like Never Have I Ever, but we play a game called Hot Seat. One person is in the hot seat for a set amount of time (2 minutes is a good time to start) and during that time, everyone else gets to ask them any questions they want. There is no obligation to tell the truth or even to answer, the person can certainly say "Pass" (that's kind of a fun answer in itself!). It does tend to get bawdy, but also vulnerable, thoughtful, insightful, and tender. It moves fast, think a rapid-fire volley between the panel of askers and the hot seat sitter. Just rattling off a bunch of sample Qs...

What are you most afraid of?
What's something you always wanted to try but haven't?
What are you still unhappy with your parents about?
What would you change about your partner?
What would you change about yourself?
posted by amaire at 2:25 PM on August 12

This involve a bit of supplies, but I'll throw it out there anyway since it's just candy. I've really enjoying playing this M&M "game" around the campfire. We assigned each M&M color a different topic/category - like blue is for your favorite memory associated with water, brown is for an embarrassing story, red is something you're good at, etc. You could have these set up ahead of time or all decide together. Then everyone takes an M&M and in order to eat it, tells a little story or answer the question based on the color. You could also of course trade out the M&Ms for something else (skittles?)

I think activity is good for an already-bonded group, since it gives the conversation some structure and brings out new stories/opinions, but is still super loose & casual. How the conversation unfolds will be specific to the people in group and the categories you pick - and then it'll even take on a life of its own more as people get reminded of their own stories or build off of the stage set by someone else.
posted by moogs at 2:43 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

In my family we do "go around questions" around the campfire. Anyone can ask any question. You go around the circle and everyone answers. Questions typically range from absurd "if you could adopt one feature from any animal and have it on your body" to serious like "how old do you want to be when you die" to, well, anything "someone offers to give you one free vehicle but you have to keep it for 20 years, what do you choose."

Anyone can opt out of any answer they feel uncomfortable about- though that rarely happens. We take turns asking questions.

It's surprisingly fun for something so simple.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 2:43 PM on August 12

Metatalktail Hour: Games! Boardgames, phone games, and more | MetaTalk. Psychologist might be fun, Mindfuck borders on intra-group cross-intervention getting almost everything out and would probably be vetoed. Don't know if taking The Purity Test would be fun for you or not, but maybe if everybody just threw their score into a hat so nobody knows who the scores belong to. All three of these were actually quite fund get to know you games of varying degree and probably (except for Psychologist) mostly college dorm room game sort of things.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:56 PM on August 12

Create a story together. The first person begins with a sentence and passes to someone else who adds another sentence or two, and so on.

Bring simple musical instruments like hand drums, finger cymbals, recorders, ocarina, egg shakers, kazoos, etc. and improv music together.
posted by ReginaHart at 7:12 PM on August 12

The improv game 7 Things might be fun.

You go around the circle. First person thinks of a category of thing and says to the second person: “ Give me 7 bad names for a dog” and the second person gives answers. Everyone counts the answers out loud after each answer, e.g.,
2nd person: Rover
Everyone Else: One
2nd person: Stupid
Everyone else:Two
and so on. After 7 answers, Person 2 turns to Person 3 and says “Give me 7 Rejected Ice cream Flavors” and Person 3 answers, etc.

So the idea in improv is to go quickly and just say what comes into your head. But you could do something slower and more profound like 7 things you’ll miss after the apocalypse or 7 books you wish were taught in high school, etc.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:51 PM on August 12

If you really want to get into pen and paper, you could do an Exquisite Corpse writing exercise, starting one with each person so in the end you have six finished pieces each with six sections to the writing.

This involves each person having a pen and paper, and each person writes a sentence or a few sentences on their paper, and then folds it down so only the last line or two can be seen, and passes it to the next person in the circle. The next person continues the thought based on what they can see, and then they also fold down and pass along to the next person. And so on along the circle until each person has added to each thing, responding only to what has been left for them to see. In the end each is unfolded and read and shared and talked about.
posted by hippybear at 8:27 AM on August 15

I recently learned about the game "Lodden thinks," a psychology-of-the-individual type betting game played by poker pros.

You pick a "Lodden" and an arbitrary question with a numerical value-- say, how many miles from Topeka to Omaha?

The group then does an over under for what Lodden THINKS the correct answer is. Google this part for clearer procedural explanation! No phone / internet necessary, because the real answer doesn't matter. You are watching your Lodden for any tells they might give off, plus your prior knowledge of how they think.

As soon as I learned about it, I was like, I cannot WAIT for a social setting to try this out. Live my dream!
posted by athirstforsalt at 3:07 PM on August 16

I have a game that I learned about here on the Green a while back and successfully played for the first time during a similar quarantine camping trip a few weeks ago!

It's a guessing game, so say I have picked "a reindeer" as my object. Someone guesses, like "is it a bicycle?" and then I have to say something my object has in common with the guessed object. So, "No, but like a bicycle, it can get you from place to place." Or you can say "No, it's more like a ___ than anything else you've guessed before." And the blank can be a previous guess that was closer. (This might be slightly bastardized compared to the originally posted game, but it has worked great for us.) It works best if you stick to the formula of those two phrases. Really fun and often pretty hilarious!
posted by switcheroo at 8:44 PM on August 16

My partner and I pass the time playing The Before-and-After-Movie-Titles Game, which my late and beloved uncle taught us. (If you know where he might have learned it, please tell me!)

How to play:
Think of a pair of movie titles that portmanteau somewhat elegantly, then give a hint for those films combining the plots, actors, or notable scenes. The other player(s) guess the portmanteau title.

Example 1:
Player 1: Here's one: Bela Lugosi drags Emma Stone to a jazz club.
Player 2: Oh! Got it! Dracula La Land!
Player 1: Correct!

Example 2:
Player 1: Okay, how about this: a senior cop forces a junior cop into implicating himself in a crime, then has him burnt at the stake as a witch in 17th century Denmark.
Player 2: ...Alright, the first one sounds like Training Day, but you know I'm not going to get the other one.
Player 1: Yes, you're right; my knowledge of mid-century Danish film is greatly superior to yours! The solution is Training Day of Wrath.
Player 2: I loathe you.

It works with two people but shines with more since folks can think of clues at their own pace. (Don't adhere to strict turn order; it's a lot of pressure!)

Optional, fidgety rules to make guessing more feasible:
1. The clue must allude to the titles in order. (In Example 1, I mention Bela Lugosi before Emma Stone.)
2. Books, TV, and games are allowed but you have to let me know you're using them. (Maybe start your clue with "In this classic novel...")
3. The portmanteau is assumed to work by sound, not necessarily by sight. (Galaxy Quest Side Story is easier to guess by sounding out than, say, The One I Loverlord.)

posted by modus_pwns at 7:22 AM on August 17

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