Any dinner party is taken up a few notches with games. Nothing beats a night of friendly competition and bragging rights for those who go home as winners. We put together some of our favorite classic dinner party games as well as some newer ones to refresh your stash — some require a board, some an app, others just a pen and paper, but they all require a group of willing (and competitive) players.
Taboo is a classic dinner party game. It’s a race against the timer as teammates try to give each other the best descriptions and clues possible to guess the main word without using any of the taboo words. If the describer says a taboo word listed on the card while giving the clues, they'll get buzzed with the electronic buzzer and lose a turn. In some variations of the rules, you don’t lose your turn, but instead lose a point for every buzz and for every card you skip. Trying not to say “animals” when the mystery word is “zoo” is the perfect recipe for chaotic fun and laughter.
The quick-draw game is a dinner party — or any party — staple. Not only is it hilarious to watch your friends and family try to draw under pressure, but their variations of what they’re supposed to draw is even funnier. You can buy the board game from any major department store, but you don’t need it to play. You can simply get a whiteboard and dry-erase marker from the craft or dollar store and write down a bunch of words, things and places on slips of paper and make your own.
This game is fairly new to the dinner party scene — it’s only been around since 2015 and casual players tend to detest learning a whole set of new rules. Even so, the word-puzzle game is a hit for wordsmiths, strategy nerds and anyone else who is remotely competitive. There are two teams, blue and red. The “board” is a grid of 25 randomly selected cards in the center, with one word printed on each card. Each team has one “spymaster” — or team captain — and only the two spymasters know which cards on the floor belong to which teams. The spymasters take turns giving just one-word clues so their teammates can identify the right cards on the grid. You really have to take a few minutes to come up with a concise, creative clue that covers as many cards as possible without leading your team too far away, or even worse, into the opposing team’s territory. It’s super easy to clean up and then set up all over again, which you will definitely need to do.
Telestrations is the game of telephone through art (“art” used very loosely). Put simply, you draw what you see and guess what you saw. The game comes with several mini dry-erase pads, markers and word cards, so once you’re in a circle — roll the dice to match the number rolled to the word on your card and write down that word on the front page of your pad. Make sure no one sees it. Within 60 seconds, draw to the best of your artistic ability your depiction of the word. Flip it to the “guess it” page next and pass it over counter-clockwise. The person next to you can quickly turn the page back to your drawing to guess what it is. They write their guess and then pass it onto the next person. This person should be on the “sketch it” page and will now draw the guess. Everyone continues to sketch, pass and guess until each person gets their own book back. The reveal is the best part — everyone goes around the circle and shares what their actual word was, what they drew to start it off and what it became. You end up finding out who the best “artist” is, who is the worst, and who has the strangest thought process.
This old-school party game is perfect for any crowd and requires just a group of willing participants to play. Players select clues from folded-up scraps of paper and then act out their clue for their team to guess, but there’s no talking allowed on the part of the actor. The best versions of charades are with movie titles. Acting out something like “Anchorman” without being able to talk is sure to be hilarious.
Can you think of a country, something you take to the beach and a dessert that starts with the letter R? The point of scattergories is to come up with things no one else does. You score points only when no one else has what you put down for a category. Depending on the time limit your group agrees on, you have seconds to come up with creative answers to some tricky letters.
Scrabble is best for smaller dinner parties as there are a limited number of people who can play. But the excitement is all the same, especially when you realize you just might land a triple-word score with the letter “Z.”
This game can be downloaded on most phones in an instant, so it’s great for an impromptu game night. One player chooses a “deck” of cards or categories such as music, movies or sports trivia and holds up the phone to their forehead. The rest of the players describe the word on the phone so the player holding up the digital card can guess it. If they get it correct, they can tilt the phone forward for the next card or tilt it back to skip. The player who’s guessing has the most fun watching everyone scream and shout to describe the word on their forehead. The app even records the fun so you can watch the madness afterward.
This game is a hoot. Not only is it the best version of James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke because you get to play, too — it’s a game with a point system, a spinning wheel and music of course. You can use your own music app or wherever you stream your tunes and duel the opposing teams with your vocals, dance moves and celebrity know-how.
Any party is made even more fun with an exhilarating game of Jenga. It's the perfect combination of physics, skill and some luck. For a quick refresher on the rules, every player is on their own, taking turns pulling out a block from any level of the tower (except the one below the top level) and placing it on the topmost level. You take turns to see who can stack the sturdy tower against the laws of gravity. And yes, it is as dramatic as it sounds, especially when the blocks suddenly come crashing down. For a fun twist, the person who knocks the tower over has to do a dare.
The rules are simple — there are just two types of cards, things and descriptions, and each player takes turns being the judge and playing the next description card. The other players’ role is to pick a card from their pile that best matches the description card. The only catch is, the judge decides who had the best match.
This one is an ice-breaker favorite — everyone sits around the room and takes turns making three statements. Two of them are truths about themselves and one is a lie. The players guess which one was the fib. It’s equally fun to play with people you’ve known forever and with folks you just met.
Trivial Pursuit is made for people who seem to know everything on any given topic. Though it’s super fun for non-trivia buffs, too — just be strategic in picking the categories you know best. The board game contains 2,400 questions in six categories: Geography, Entertainment, History, Art and Literature, Science and Nature, and Sports and Leisure. When a player lands on a category space, they'll earn the corresponding colored wedge if they answer the question correctly. The first player to collect six different colored wedges and answer a final question correctly, wins. This one requires some thought, but the best games usually do.
Cards Against Humanity is a mix between a highly inappropriate version of Apples to Apples and an X-rated game of Mad Libs. The makers even bill it as “a party game for horrible people.” The topics are a little taboo, so maybe don’t invite your kids to play.
Memes — typically a photo with funny text over it — are all over the internet. The game comes with photo cards from popular memes as well as caption cards. Each player gets seven caption cards and everyone competes to make the funniest combination. Everyone takes turns being the judge and the person who racks the highest number of winning combos wins. It is subjective for sure, so it helps to know what makes each other laugh, a task that will be easy if you've been cultivating the important relationships in your life.
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