Best Party Games, or How to Party Like a Gamer

So the past few weeks have been pretty stressful for me with work being a bear and the Holidays creeping up. I’m still playing Magic of course and for the most part that has been going well but I thought it might be nice to take this blog in a different direction for a change. (If it’s a different direction… it probably has to be a change.)

Last week I hung out with a couple of friends on Saturday. This happens almost every Saturday but on this occasion there was a slightly different mix of people and one friend in particular was not so big on playing complicated “gamer” type games. We ended up playing several party-ish games that I had lying around and that got me thinking about games that tend to be fun for my non-gamer friends but are still tolerated by my more hardcore friends. And so, as I mentioned above the holidays are coming up and a lot of people will be having parties, throwing parties or seeing family and I thought it might be good to write briefly about the more party-oriented games that I play.

Tangent: I would have to say that no members of my gaming group are particularly hardcore. I am sure that the definition of what makes a hardcore gamer is, at best, relative, but my circle tends to play quite a number of games that are so far from any definition that I feel safe in saying this. So what am I trying to say? Sometimes even I wonder… More or less I am simply (or perhaps not so simply) pointing out that while I have friends that I consider gamers and other friends that game I also have friends that will play games but don’t really game and even the friends that I consider gamers and game a lot are hardly what other people would call hardcore gamers even though in my article I refer to them as “more hardcore”.

My basic requirements for games on this list were that they could support at least six players and could be learned in less than five minutes by a new player that is not a gamer. This is not meant to be a review of these games but it will hopefully give you a good idea about each of them and might send you over to Board Game Geek where you can learn more. Just be warned, a lot of party games are not well received on The Geek.

Apples to Apples

While the games listed here are in no particular order I felt Apples deserved top billing. I have to admit that this game has lost some of its initial shine (get it… apple… shine…) but it is still relatively well received when it comes out. The basics of the game, for those that have managed to somehow avoid it, is that players take turns choosing a green apple and then the other players pass a red apple from their hand that they feel relates well to the green apple that has been chosen. The player who chose the green apple picks which answer they like best. Often funny answers win the day over more accurate choices which can cause some frustration but this tends to give some advantage to the people who know the person that is choosing. Which can be okay. On the other hand I myself have seen too often where people just pick the answer that they think is coolest regardless of what the green apple is.

Positives: Fast moving, variety of optional rules, incredibly easy to learn

Negatives: No real skill, games can go long and become tedious, if a couple players are not into it or become bored the game quickly loses its thrill for the rest of the group

Once Upon a Time

This is a cute little game about using your cards to tell a story. To win the game you get rid of all your cards before another player but the real “goal” is to tell a neat story. It really needs to be played with the right people and by that I mean they have to be willing to be creative and have fun with it and not simply go for the win. I have to admit that we don’t really play this game very often but I keep thinking we should bring it out.

Positives: High amount of creativity

Negatives: The game aspects can get in the way of the creativity, too much emphasis on winning detracts from the fun


The rules of Fluxx start off simply as “Draw a card, Play a card” but playing cards causes these rules to change. Because all the rules are right in front of the players anyone can sit down and play with almost no instruction.

Positives: Fast, good time-filler between other games, cards are nice looking and the Goals (win conditions) are amusing

Negatives: The end tends to come out of nowhere

What Were You Thinking?

This game tends to have a similar feel to Apples to Apples. Each turn a player reads a card which could have anything from a true/false statement on it to a request for you to make a list. Players then put down their answers and compare what they have come up with. Players score based on how many other players wrote down the same answer. Thus the goal isn’t to have the correct answer but rather to have the most common one. For example if the card said “List three oceans” and two players put Canandaigua Lake they would both get two points even though the lake is obviously not an ocean.

Positives: Prevents some of the randomness of answers that occur in Apples to Apples

Negatives I think the basic game comes with six pawns but it can be played with any number of players so you will need to find your own pieces (this does give you something to do with your HeroClix figures that became useless when you’ve stopped playing the game)


Tangent: I primarily neglected games like Taboo and Cranium because I did not want this list to be about those kinds of games but I must also mentioned that I am not a big fan of either of those games. Taboo has an okay concept but its too hard to come back from a bad round and I have a lot of trouble reading the cards quickly (this is mostly a problem with catching people when they screw up) and Cranium seems neat but requires you to be good at too many different things for my taste.

I haven’t included most standard Wal-Mart purchased games (Taboo, Cranium etc) but I felt that Pictionary deserved a mention. The old game that I played back in the 80s would most likely have been skipped over as well but the new version with the crazy die that can sometimes make you draw with your eyes closed or without picking up your pencil makes things a lot more fun and for some reason a bit more gamer friendly (at least in my mind). We do unfortunately have to play our copy backwards because unlike the older version the version we have begins on an All Play and does not end on one and not being able to stop someone from winning the game felt really silly.

Positives: The new die also makes being quick thinking as important as being a good artist, teams can be any size

Negatives: Even with the new die it’s still a game about drawing pictures and some people will balk at that

The Great Dalmuti

Similar to the drinking game Asshole or Feudalism, The Great Dalmuti mixes things up by making one be the most powerful number but then putting only one in the deck (the cards go up to 12, of which there are of course 12). There are also Jester cards that are wild and a few other twists. The game includes ways to keep score that can be good for people that want to make the game more of a competition.

Positives: A good time killer, if you don’t keep score different players get to be “winning” each turn

Negatives: You need to move seats (sounds silly but some people have refused to play for this reason)

The Big Idea

This is a Cheapass Game that I really felt needed to be on the list. The actual game mechanics of it are pretty weak and if you pay attention to the mathematics you can easily see your best move. The real fun of the game is making silly inventions and briefly talking them up to your friends. The other day I made a Bulletproof Urban Pontiff “You’ll never need the pope mobile again when you replace your old dusty captain of Catholicism with this brand new version. Not only is he bulletproof but he is down wit it!” that I was quite proud of.

Positives: Funny combinations lead to laughs

Negatives: The end game is basically just counting up money and people rarely care who won

There are a couple of games that I have not played that I feel deserve mention. I have heard really good things about Wits and Wagers, Present Trap, and Time’s Up. I want to check these three out at some point (especially Wits and Wagers and Present Trap) and will comment on them once I have had the chance.

If you have a favorite party game please sound off about it in the comments, I’m always looking to try something new.

Update: I’ve comments on Wits and Wagers and Gift Trap in a more recent post, now that I own both.


    Wits and Wagers is awesome. Best with 6 or more players and it can be played in 25 minutes or less. No player is ever out of it, and there are no individual player turns, keeping everyone involved throughout the game.

    Best of all, you do not need to know trivia in order to win. This game works for a wide audience, not your traditional trivia buffs. Even kids can beat their parents, making it a great family game.

    It is available nationwide at Target as well.

    Nick Says:

    The main problem with Pictionary is being partnered up with someone who will guess “Flying Winnebago” and not “Lone Star”.

    Also, congratulations, Scott!

    Scott Says:

    Luke – Thanks, Wits & Wagers sounds pretty neat. Reading the description over at The ‘Geek also makes the idea of wagering on other peoples’ answers sound fun. One I’ll have to try.

    Scott Says:

    Gracias Nick! As you can see, I am back, and now I’ve got a [wedding] ring on (okay so that part you can’t see).

    That round of Pictionary with you and Tom is indeed one for the books 🙂

    Also, I think I’ll throw in a suggestion Josh skipped over: Tabloid Teasers. It’s out of print and a bit dated, but great fun.

    Similar to Apples to Apples, but one player reads a tabloid headline with a part omitted and all players write down something to fill in the blank, then guess which is the real headline. Wackiness ensues.