Like any niche hobby, getting started in board gaming can be a daunting prospect. There are so many differing opinions on what makes a good game, or what makes an appropriate game for someone new to the hobby. I do speak from personal experience here, as it has only been in the last 5 years that I have really started to explore board games and build my collection.
In the coming months, I am going to make a few suggestions for those starting out in the hobby. I will not be telling anyone what to buy but will offer advice on building a starter collection that suits your individual tastes. These suggestions will be organised by category, in which I will make a few suggestions and identify my own personal choice. Previously, we began with Gateway Games and Next Step Games. Today, we’re taking a look at Party Games.
Most of the games we play are built for two to five players, but there are situations where you will have groups of six, eight, twelve, twenty or more eager players. In these situations one can turn to the party games genre, usually consisting of lighter games for a larger number of players:
Werewolf is the classic example of the hidden role party game. It is a game of social deduction that can accommodate a lot of players (up to 75 in the Bézier Games edition). I’m including it as it’s the go-to example of this type of game, but it’s not one I’ve actually played, and so I don’t really have a lot to say on it. To learn more, I’d suggest clicking here to read a rundown of the rules.
The Resistance is the second game of hidden roles and social deduction in this list and is
probably the game I’ve played most out of these suggestions. It takes up to 10 players, and does so very well without feeling overburdened or stretched. Each round sees a resistance leader choosing a team to go on a mission and trying to avoid including the unknown enemy spies who are working to sabotage said missions. The group can debate the makeup of these teams and have a vote of confidence in each one. The key is in working out which players are the spies and excluding them from missions. It’s a modern classic and one which I heartily recommend.
Spyfall is yet another game of social deduction, as players take on the roles of various different people typical to a particular workplace. Among them, there are, once again, spies. The players must have a conversation, asking and answering questions about their workplace as innocuously as possible, answering honestly whilst not allowing the spies to guess the actual place of work. The spies will also have to ask and answer questions so they will have to give answers that they think would fit in with the others are saying. The round ends when either the spy guesses the correct workplace or the players guess who is spying. I’ve included the picture Spyfall 2 rather than the original as it accommodates more players. Both are fantastic games.
Dixit is a game of social empathy. The game is incredibly simple, with the active player choosing a card from his hand with a fantastical image on it and playing it face down whilst uttering a word of phrase that she associates with her card. The other players must then choose a card from their own hands which also matches that word or phrase. The cards are shuffled and laid out and the players must guess which was the original card. The players are rewarded for choosing correctly. The active player is rewarded if some of the players choose her card, but if all or none of the other players guess her card, she gets nothing as she has made her clue too obvious or obscure, respectively. The game is great, straightforward and beautifully produced. It is easily expandable with new decks and works with new gamers and experienced gamers, adults and children. A perennial favourite.
Cards Against Humanity is not for everyone. Essentially, it’s the filthy version of Apples to Apples, where a question card is drawn and players choose an answer from a hand of answer cards and the funniest response wins. The difference between the two games is that Cards Against Humanity is specifically and relentlessly out to offend. My feelings on this game are quite mixed. I think it can, with the right group, foster a good, fun time. When I say the right group, I do think you need people in that group who have not played before or have not played it that much, as it can become stale over time as you are inured to the most provocative cards. Myself, I’m a bit bored of this game, and although I used to play it a lot, I try to avoid it nowadays, unless I do have a group that will amuse me. It’s still very popular and for good reason as, although it is not a technically interesting or “good” game, it can foster a good time, especially when paired with alcohol.
Wits & Wagers is a quiz game. The second word there, ‘game’, is an important one. I don’t really think of Trivial Pursuit and the like as games, as there are no real decisions to be made. They really boil down to you knowing the answer or not knowing the answer. This is a real problem with this genre and one which Wits & Wagers addresses. All answers are number-based and players note down their answers on little whiteboards. Answers are then collated and players are invited to bid on which answer is correct or closest to the correct answer. This opens the game up, allowing players to remain competitive even when they don’t objectively know the answer. Victory is no longer a binary proposition. I love this twist on the quiz genre.
As close as Spyfall has come to unseating it, The Resistance is still my go-to party game. It’s so accessible and elegant. It does what it does incredibly well. So does Spyfall, of course, but Spyfall forces players to think on their feet and even engage in a little bit of roleplay, which is a lot of fun but can be challenging for some people. I’ve never had a game of The Resistance go badly, and it always at least gets people into little debates and arguments, occasionalyl escalating into loud and ardent accusations of underhandedness. It works well and is less reliant on getting the “right group” than most games on this list.
Next time, we’ll take a look at cooperative games.