Is there anything better than a night of raucous competition, family bickering, unsportsmanlike conduct and rubbing victory under the noses of your nearest and dearest? We don’t think so. Let us help you on your way to hosting the game night to end all game nights with our handy guide (though we hope you’ll want to have many more…).
Step one is picking a date. We all know that adult life means this process can actually be the biggest challenge of all, so simplify it by choosing a day that works for you and send out your invitations well in advance to make sure that all your recipients can make it. Then wait for your RSVPs to swiftly flood back in. Will you choose a group of people who will all be familiar with one another? Or will they be meeting for the first time upon arrival? You may want to cater your games to each scenario. More on that later.
Choose the room in which you want to host for the night; the more space, the better. Fill it with lots of plush seating options for your number of guests, and remember that you may be sitting for long periods of time, so you want your chairs to be comfy. Have a table at the ready, whether it’s a green baize card table or an extendable dining table which you can fold out to spread your playing cards far and wide. The surface you choose is of the utmost importance, as games can take up lots of room and you don’t want to run out of space just when you’re getting to the crux of the matter. Worried your table options might not be big enough? How about embracing your inner child and setting up on a soft rug with floor pillows and throws to make the occasion feel extra cozy? This will maximize on space for those extra-large board games or the dominoes whose trail grows and grows. You may also need to consider moving fragile items out of harm’s way, just in case any of your guests get a little too vigorous in their victory celebrations (or commiserations…). This is probably not the occasion to bring out the candles and the crystal—look to fairy lights and chunky glassware as an alternative.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and witnessed someone taking out their phone and shining their flashlight in order to read the writing on the menu? Or have you in fact been that person yourself? Don’t let your lighting spoil your game night. Bad lighting could result in over-the-shoulder cheating as people tilt their cards around in an effort to read the tiny text, or it might slow the game down so much that those with better eyesight will become bored while they wait for others to catch up. A wireless lamp could be your very best friend, as it can be moved around the table as necessary.
You don’t want to be messing around in the kitchen when your guests are playing, or you’ll miss all the fun. It’s best to have all your snacks prepared in bowls and on giant chargers as finger food before anyone arrives, so that you can get involved immediately and guests can help themselves. Consider setting up a separate table for your food and drinks so that nothing takes up precious dice rolling room for Yahtzee or Perudo. On top of nibbles, if you want some more substantial food but don’t want the pressure of cooking, takeout is a time-saving and crowd-pleasing option. Just have some pretty plates ready to present it in style. Everyone will be too busy squabbling to notice whether it’s homecooked or not, plus, a food break may be advantageous if things are getting a little boisterous. Oh, and don’t forget the napkins!
When your friends and family walk through the door, it’s normal to have a little pre-party nerves. That goes for you and for them. Having a champagne flute ready to offer on arrival can take the edge off. You’ll all be ready for the games to begin before you know it. Beyond the arrival, don’t schedule your evening too tightly, as it goes without saying that guests are likely to turn up at different times and may want to spend some time greeting each other before getting into the games. One neat trick is to set up your own home bar, with all the essentials for offering your guests drinks or letting them create their own. Stock it full with glasses, an ice bucket, drinks, bottle openers and corkscrews—and a cocktail set if you fancy.
Collect all your board games, dice games, playing cards and other miscellaneous items that will add to the fun and display them on your allocated game table (or rug if you’ve chosen the floor), so that when guests arrive they can see what’s in store for them. Make sure you have pre-planned some of the games you want to play and get familiar with the rules. There’s nothing worse than sitting around waiting for someone to read through the endless instructions and still not seem to make head nor tail of it. We suggest picking simpler games for your game night, as that way the fun will keep rolling without having to spend too much time working anything out; some people pick up games quicker than others… not naming names. You may choose your games based on people’s interests, or, if your invitees don’t know each other, choose something that will break the ice and have everybody laughing. On the other hand, if your guests are very familiar with one another, a game that calls into question just how well you know each other (such as the Newlywed Game) might also go down well—or not so well, depending on the outcome. You could also send out a request for each guest to bring a game of their own to boost your haul. That way they’ll feel even more involved.
Read your crowd—what gift will your guests want if they are the ultimate winner? Remember it could be you… so make it good and you’ll all be playing at the height of your competitiveness. A gloriously scented candle perhaps? Or an enviable Dominoes Set for the winner who has to host the next occasion? You might even want to get a little consolation prize for the loser. Just try not to let your competitive edge get the better of you… As host, you will need to at least pretend to be gracious, even if you’re sulky.