Time’s Up

The board game industry goes through cycles just like any other entertainment industry. With the recent influx of new gamers thanks to the hobby gaining mainstream appeal, new tastemakers are leading the industry in interesting directions. While not all of those directions are particularly healthy, the recent resurgence of party games is most certainly a tick in the win column.

Why are we seeing a party game boom? I think there are a few different reasons. The first, and probably biggest contributor to this shift, is an increasing crop of casual gamers. That mainstream acceptance I mentioned earlier brings with it new faces who’s entry point might have been simple social and party style games. It also seems to me that we’re coming out of a period of rapid heavy game adoption. Where there are peaks, there must come valleys, and even the most hardened gamer needs a bit of a laugh every once in a while.

None of that would matter if the games on the market were junk. I give a lot of credit to companies like Blue Orange Games and R&R Games for publishing some really great quality party games. The market created demanded, and these casual game stalwarts answered it. Did the people bring the games or the games bring the people? Whatever it is that has given rise to this party game-friendly confluence, it’s a really encouraging change of pace.  Let’s take a look at some of the recent highlights.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

But Wait, There’s More! from Toy Vault, Inc.

But Wait, There’s More! builds on the grand tradition of Snake Oil by asking players to sell increasingly ridiculous products to the other players. It starts innocuous enough with just a thing and a feature, but when additional features are added into the mix pushing players to really stretch their sales pitches, the game gets really fun. It’s easy to talk about a vacuum cleaner that can be used in 18 different ways, but now it cures acne as well?! There are already several minis expansions that add more cards, support for additional players, and even new games modes.

Cards Against Humanity

Love it or hate it, Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favorite among adult party gamers. The game revels in unabashedly off-color humor reaching into the deepest depths of offensiveness, so if your crowd is into that kind of comedy and isn’t easily offended, this Apples to Apples clone might be for you. In Cards Against Humanity, one player is a judge that draws a black card and reads it to the other players, normally with one or two blanks. The players have a hand of white cards with a myriad of soul-scarring phrases that they select from. The judge then shuffles and reads the responses, declaring one the winner and scoring that player a point. The judge’s role then shifts to the next player and on it goes often with alcoholic beverages in tow.

Concept from Asmodee

Concept is a clever deduction game in which one player draws a card with a series of words or phrases ranging in difficulty from easy to hard. That player then selects a word and uses the central board and a variety of tokens to illustrate their word or phrase nonverbally. The board contains a myriad of images and icons representing both concrete and nebulous concepts. By assigned the marker for the primary and secondary concepts, and using cubes to mark additional clues, players can deduce the word or phrase and score points. It’s a great set up for what boils down to board game charades. Will your teammates guess the word before time runs out or your sense of shame gets the better of you?

Monikers

The game at the heart of Monikers is actually pretty old. It’s been published as Celebrities and Time’s Up! most recently, but goes by a variety of names and forms. None of those versions are as attractive and broad as Monikers. Regardless of the edition, two teams of players draw from a pool of cards that all feature people or personas.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

These can range from historical figures to fictional characters to celebrities and more. In the first round, players attempt to describe as many of their cards as possible, in the allotted time, without using the cards’ name. Sounds easy enough. In the second round, that same deck of cards is used again but this time they must be described using just one word. Round three ramps things up even more by requiring that no words are used at all, only gestures. I won’t spoil what happens in rounds four and five, but suffice to say, it’s about as funny as party games get.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games

The classic social deduction game, usually referred to as Werewolf or Mafia, has been streamlined into a shorter experience representing just one night of werewolves hiding among the innocent townfolk. Aided by a tremendous vocal track by the Dice Tower’s own Eric Summerer, players are assigned roles in secret and attempt to use their guile to uncover the werewolves or to throw suspicion on the humans, whatever the case may be. Add to that a whole pile of different roles with unique motivations, ensuring endless replay value.

Spit It Out! from R&R Games

Probably the newest game on the list, Spit It Out! is a deceptively simple game. The box comes with a whole bunch of cards and two regular dice, and all you have to do to win is answer some very basic questions correctly. Huh? Well there’s a twist. Those two dice are rolled to determine which two of the six questions must be answered incorrectly. Those answer not only need to be wrong, but they have to be in the same ballpark as the correct answer. What color is the sky? You can’t say that sky is “firetruck”, you have to answer with another color. It sounds easy, but with a timer ticking down and the conscious effort it takes to trick our own brains away from the correct answers, it’s great fun.

Spyfall from Cryptozoik Entertainment

Spyfall is a social deduction in which players are given secret roles and a secret location. One of those roles is the spy and unlike their fellow payers, the spy doesn’t know the location. Obviously not a very crafty spy. In any case, players take turns asking each other questions.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

The non-spies are trying to determine which one is the spy, and the spy is trying to figure out the location. The fun comes from the ridiculous questions. Knowing there’s a spy, the players will be pretty dodgy not wanting to reveal too much information. All the while, the spy is all-but grasping at straws trying to piece together the subtle clues found in the other questions. Though it rarely happens, if the spy can outwit the other players, it’s a pretty amazing win.

This is just a small slice of the party game pie, and you really can’t go wrong with any of these selections as long as your group is a good fit. Throwing a party game night is a great way to introduce non-gamers to our hobby. It’s also a nice way to break up your regular game events with something a little unexpected. Next time you plan a game night, consider shelving the heavy euros just this once for a night of goofball fun.