I don’t know a single gamer who dislikes Cards Against Humanity. There’s something addicting about creating the dirtiest combination between Hitler, Harry Potter Erotica and an Oedipus complex. My friends and I even created personalized white-answer cards with our own inside jokes, which almost always win.
But what exactly is a party game? It’s a game that can be played quickly and easily during a social gathering. Party games usually have a quick setup, simple components and easy-to-learn rules.
There is a whole wide world of party games beyond Cards Against Humanity. Here are a few of my favorites:
I played this game over the weekend for the first time, and it’s a blast! Codenames is a team-based party game with a spy theme. It is recommended for two to eight players but can be played with many more.
To set up, pull out 25 cards each with a different noun and place them in a 5×5 grid. Split players into two teams: red and blue. One player from each team is designated a spymaster, and everyone else is a field operative.
Both spymasters can see a map that indicates which of the 25 word cards are red secret agents, blue secret agents, innocent bystanders or the assassin. Spymasters take turns giving clues to field operatives to help them find the “secret agents” on their team. A clue must be one word, which is associated with some of the cards on the grid, and one number, which indicates how many cards on the grid correspond to the hint. Field operatives interpret the clues and select the words they believe correlate with the clue.
For example, when I was a red spymaster this weekend, I said the word “Bed-2” to indicate that of the 25 word cards on grid, there were two cards for my red team that could be associated with a “bed” (which were bug and pajamas). Whatever the field operatives guessed, I had to place the correct tiles indicated by the spymaster map, either a red tile for my team, a blue tile for the other team, a gray tile for a neutral bystander, or the assassin tile which meant that my team automatically lost the game.
If field operatives guess correctly, they have the option to guess again or pass the turn to the other team. If field operatives guess wrong, the turn automatically goes to the other team. The team that finds all the cards associated with their color wins.
The biggest challenge of Codenames is to create a hint that encompasses several cards on the grid without misleading field operatives to choose the assassin, bystanders or the other team’s cards. This gets tricky, especially when several cards match with one description.
In this game, players channel their inner Billy Mays. Individuals or teams of two compete to see who can create the best sales pitch for a given product by adding “feature” cards that are divvied out at the beginning of the game.
For example, say the product is a chair. In your hand, you have the feature card “Recharges in Just Eight Hours.” You have to come up with a sales pitch using that feature card. Maybe it’s something like: “Right here, I’ve got a wonderful electric chair that provides full body massages. In addition, it can recharge in just eight hours!” Then you say, “But wait, there’s more!”
Here comes the fun part. If you’re on you own, you pick up a random feature card and connect it to the first half of the sales pitch. If you’re on a team, the second person has to connect their feature card to the first one that you played. Note that you and your teammate cannot reveal your feature cards.
So, to continue the above example, say the second feature card was “Seal those pesky leaks immediately.” You or your partner could say, “Even if you lack bladder control, this chair is right for you. It seals up those pesky leaks immediately so you don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself yet again.” The entire pitch is timed and should be 30 seconds or less.
Once each individual or team has had their turn to sell the item, everyone votes for his or her favorite, and the next product is drawn. After three products, tally up scores and whoever has the most, wins.
If social deduction games (like Mafia, The Resistance or One Night Ultimate Werewolf) are your thing or if you’ve always wanted to be one of the most evil human beings known to mankind, then you should try Secret Hitler.
In a group of five to 10 people, everyone randomly receives a secret identity and is either on the side of the liberals or the fascists. One player is the Secret Hitler. The fascists know who is Hitler, Hitler doesn’t know who his fellow fascists are, and the liberals don’t know any identities—but there will always be more liberals than fascists.
Every round, a different player becomes the president who then selects a chancellor. The chancellor’s position must be voted on by the group. Players vote with “Ja!” or “Nein!” cards to show their vote for the potential chancellor. If the vote fails, the presidency is passed to the next person and another chancellor is chosen and voted on. If the vote fails three times, the policy on the top of the policy deck is enacted.
Once the president and chancellor positions are settled, the president draws three policy cards (labeled as a liberal or fascist policy) from the policy deck, discards one and passes the remaining two cards to the chancellor who then chooses which policy to enact and which to discard. With each fascist policy passed, the president gains a new power, such as the ability to look at another player’s card, examine the top three policy cards, or even kill a player. Liberal policies have no powers — they only bring the liberals closer to winning.
If you are a liberal, you win by passing five liberal policies or assassinating Secret Hitler. Meanwhile, the fascist team wins by either passing six fascist policies or electing Secret Hitler as chancellor after three fascist polities have been enacted.
The game makes it difficult to tell who is a fascist and who is a liberal because even liberals can be tempted by the powers given by the fascist cards. All of the fascists want the liberals’ trust, but the liberals want to weed the fascists out.
However, if you feel that Hitler and Nazis are in bad taste, there are stickers available to turn Hitler into Donald Trump or Santa Claus.
Secret Hitler officially hits stores in April, but a free print-and-play version is available on its website.
These are just my favorite party games — there tons more. Here are a few others that come to mind:
- Two Rooms and a Boom, 6-30 players
- Ultimate Werewolf, 4-75 players
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf, 4-8 players
- One Night Revolution, 4-8 players
- The Resistance, 4-8 players
- Ca$h ‘n Gun$, 4-8 players
- The Game of Things, 4+ players
Did I forget one of your favorite party games? Tell me about it in the comments below!