Hosting an evening of activities is a great way to spend time with and engage your friends, family, and community. A fun game-night can quickly become a new ritual for your neighborhood family and help you develop and maintain friendships. Whether it’s your first time hosting a game night or your 50th, here are some key steps to making it a success.
Have plenty of options.
The one tricky part about game nights is picking a game that everyone likes. Especially if you don’t know everyone you’ve invited well, it’s hard to select a game ahead of time. Everyone loves something different, some people prefer trivia-based games, while others like role-playing games, still others want to stick to the classics or strategy games. While some board games and electronic games are expensive, there are plenty of ways to collect enough games to have a good variety, without breaking the bank.
- Always have a deck of cards, or two, or three. So many games can be plaid with a simple and inexpensive deck of cards. Having a few decks on-hand immediately opens up your options. Consider looking up a few classics like Gin Rummy, Bridge, Spades, poker (Texas Hold’Em or Five Card Draw) or Cribbage and having the directions on hand.
- Invest in the classics (or the modern version). Scrabble, Dominos, Pictionary or a combination game like Cranium are great games that most people already know how to play, and easy to learn for any inexperienced players.
- Find games you can explain easily. You might love RPG and strategy games, but these might not be the best option for new neighbors you’re just getting to know. Save these for when your game night has become established, and you’ve learned what level of games your group can best play. Start with simple and easy to learn games playable while socializing. Remember, the games are fun, but their value is as a tool to help you engage with your community.
- Invite participation. Invite your guests to bring their own games. Don’t insist on playing something you own, or on selecting a specific game for each night. Invite all your neighbors and friends to bring their favorite games and decide as a group what to play.
- Own some kid-friendly games. Even if you plan to only play games with adults, have options for kids to play as well. Maybe your kids are home, or your neighbor couldn’t get a sitter but would still love to come to game night. Prevent exclusion by providing fun ways to keep the kids and parents entertained. Simple toys for young ones and a selection of appropriate interactive video games can go a long way to making your night.
Plan for flexibility.
A significant reason for having different games on hand is to allow for flexibility in numbers and ability. Not everyone you invite to your game night is going to attend. Don’t ask a specific number of people with a particular game in mind. Invite everyone who you think you’d enjoy playing with or who you want to get to know. Perhaps have an idea in mind of different games you can play with varying numbers of people. Also consider making a backup plan for having multiple game boards going if everyone you invite shows up, or for keeping the game night fun and entertaining if you have a less than stellar turn out the first time.
No last minute invites.
Don’t wait up until the last minute to invite your friends and neighbors. People have their own lives. Between work, kids and activities it’s hard to commit to a last-minute invitation. Give folks a couple of weeks-notice that you’d like to have a game night and give them time to make any necessary arrangements. Once you have a couple of successful nights, you can establish a monthly or biweekly night that people can incorporate into their ongoing planning.
Supply refreshments but ask for help.
You should always provide refreshments and snacks, but a great way to engage your neighbors is to ask for help. Make sure you have enough food to offer, just in case, but invite people to bring a dish or beverage or anything they’d like to share. As much as you enjoy hosting, your neighbors like contributing and showing off their best recipe or introducing you to their favorite new coffee or beer. Invite them to find their own way to engage while using your get together as a platform.
Be a good host.
The group you invite to your game night will be composed of outgoing people, shy people, people who already know each other and total strangers. Be a good host by acting and engaging first. If no one wants to go first at charades, get up there and show them that it’s okay (and even fun!) to succeed or fail, to make a fool of yourself and laugh it off or act out the perfect clues. To start the ball rolling, you want to make the first move. Just getting people over to your house and supplying games isn’t enough, take the stage and open the floor to engagement.