Want to learn how to host a game night and set up an evening full of fun, laughter, and friendly competition? You’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about successfully hosting a board game night.
Everyone loves game nights with friends and/or family. The spirit of competition is in the air, and banter flies back and forth across the table as you and the gang enjoy each other's company - the games themselves are just part of the fun!
In theory, game night set up sounds simple - you just need to invite your friends over and double-check that you still have that box of board games, right? As you’ll soon discover, though, it’s not quite that simple. At least, not if you want to truly impress your guests and ensure everyone has a great time.
Careful planning goes a long way. It can be the difference between a scattered, disorganized, and frustrating night where players walk out irritated and an evening that everyone eagerly anticipates recreating next weekend. Worry not - in this guide, we’re going to unpack everything you need to know to make your game night vision a reality.
Why Careful Planning Is Essential For Those Hosting A Board Game Night
If you’ve never hosted a game night before, you might be thinking to yourself - what’s the big deal? It doesn’t have to be all that complex. Can’t you just invite a few friends over and bust out some of your personal favorite games? Maybe grab a bottle of wine, bourbon, or a case of beer and some pretzels?
Sure - it can be as simple as you want it to be, in fact. But, we built this complete guide to hosting a board game night for those who go above and beyond in all they do. Because if you actually dedicate yourself to putting on a fun, memorable game night - it can be a really rewarding experience. Just as you’d need to learn all about setting up a D&D table to put on a fun, productive night as Dungeon Master, you need to learn all about hosting a board game night to accomplish the same. Let’s dive in!
How To Host A Game Night: 5 Steps For Success
Ready to learn how to host a game night? It is actually really simple once you start breaking down each of the five steps. Get started planning out the evening in advance so you don’t have to scramble the day of.
And before we get into the 5 steps for success, we want to stress one more point. Don’t be afraid to ask guests for help. Just because you’re hosting board game night doesn’t mean you have to be responsible for buying all the food and drinks and providing all the games. Maybe one of the guests has an impressive collection of board games - see if they’re willing to bring a few options over! You can also see if one or two guests are willing to come by and help you clean up and set up the table, and if a few guests are willing to stay 30 minutes after to help with clean up. It doesn’t have to be a one-man show - delegate!
With all that said, let’s get into the first step - nailing down your guest list.
Step 1) Invite The Right Number Of Guests
First things first - who is coming to play? There are two things to take into consideration when it comes to your guest list: The specific individuals you’re inviting and the number of players. Both are important if you want to host a fun, friendly game night.
When it comes to the number of guests you should invite, there is a fine line between not enough players and too many players. Not enough people and you’ll be limited to just certain games and things can get a bit quiet and dull at times. Too many people and things will get overwhelming and chaos - people will lose focus as they wait long periods between turns. So, how many people should you invite? Generally speaking, anywhere between 4-8 people is a great number of guests. When in doubt, consider how many seats you have available - that should be your guest list number.
Now, in terms of who you should invite - this is entirely up to you. Maybe you have some really great friends - but they aren’t the board game type. If you think someone will be detrimental to your game night, don’t feel obligated to invite them. This means people who are rude, unfocused, or don’t enjoy board games should probably not get a spot on the guest list. Remember - your goal is to provide a great experience for the majority - don’t let one person potentially ruin things. Even if they’re part of the group.
The final thing to consider in terms of the invitations is when you’re going to play. There is really never a bad time to schedule your game night if it fits everyone’s schedule. With that said, we always prefer Friday or Saturday nights. You won’t have to worry about people thinking about work the next day when they should be relaxing and having fun.
Step 2) What Game(s) Are You Going To Play?
The most important part of any game night set up is the games you’re going to play - this should go without saying. There are tons of board games you can choose from. But, the art in planning a fun game night is knowing your audience and selecting games accordingly.
It’s important that you choose games that fit your unique audience’s personalities. If they have a collectively short attention span, you might not want to play something like Monopoly - find something a bit faster paced with shorter timeframes instead. And, if your crew prefers party games - a high-end war simulation strategy game is probably not the right choice, either.
If you have played games with this group of people before you will already have an idea of which games you should play. If not, consider asking everyone what their favorite games are. Taking polls is a great way to ensure you satisfy everyone’s preferences. As the host of game night, you’ll want to pick a few games and set time frames for them so that you keep things fresh.
Now, while this guide is explaining how to host a board game night, you don’t have to stick just to board games - maybe there are fun card games your group likes. The possibilities are endless - but here are some of our personal favorite selections for game night with our friends. They range from intense strategy games to silly party games:
Top 25 Games For Game Night
- Head’s Up
- Sleeping Queens
- Hot Seat
- Apple to Apples
- Ticket to Ride
- Just One
- Cards Against Humanities
- Phase 10
- We’re Not Really Strangers
- Exploding Kittens
- 5 Second Rule
- Catch Phrase
- Telestrations and Telestrations After Dark
- What Do You Meme?
When in doubt? Keep it simple - simple games are far less risky than complicated games. The last thing you want is to waste time trying to explain a game nobody understands and have things get derailed. For more inspiration, check out our article on the best party board games of the year.
Step 3) Prepare The Playing Space & Create The Ambiance
The hard part of learning how to host a game night is over - getting your guests invited and the itinerary for the night is most of the work you’ll have when hosting a board game night. At this point, it’s just about bringing it all together. This entails cleaning up your home - or at the very least, the space where you’ll be playing games and lounging about. Trust us - there is no worse way to set the tone for your gaming night than with a dirty, cluttered space.
We like to play games at a large kitchen table - or better yet, a gaming-specific table. Don’t have a great table for gaming yet? Don’t worry - at the very end of this article, we’ll share our personal favorite. Upgrading your table is worth considering if yours is too small. This ensures everyone has ample elbow room, space for their drink/snack, and of course, to actually play the game. So, get the table wiped down and cleared, and clean up the surrounding area. Some other things to factor in include:
Step 4) Don’t Forget The Food & Drinks
Depending on how long you schedule your game night to go for, people are going to get hungry. You should plan ahead and get snacks lined up. You don’t need to provide dinner unless you’re feeling up to it - but lay out some chips and dip, pretzels, or other finger snacks that people can munch on without having to pause the game.
Drinks are a must, too. This is where knowing your audience comes in once again. If you know everyone likes IPAs, stock the fridge with something new and exciting - or go with an old favorite. Maybe they’re more of a bourbon crowd - get a small batch bottle to impress them. Maybe you have a recovering alcoholic in the group - if so, make sure they’re comfortable around alcohol and if not, the party should remain alcohol-free. All of this can be summarized by saying that when it comes to food and drink, know your crowd!
Oh - and just because you’re hosting board game night doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy everything (unless you rotate hosts and that’s the duty of the host). You can ask others to stop by and grab things on their way over.
Step 5) Moderate and Keep Things Light & Fun!
As the host, you’re responsible for keeping everything fun, fair, and flowing. Your goal is for everyone to talk about how much fun they had for days to come - and look forward to the next game night. This includes the little things like showing everyone where everything is - snacks, drinks, the bathroom, etc. It also includes getting things underway once everyone is in your home, introducing the first game, explaining the rules, and initiating the first turn.
While actually planning a board game night can be overwhelming, moderating in itself can be tough too. People will get distracted, forget rules, and undoubtedly experience some form of conflict throughout the games. Your job as a board game night host is to moderate and come to a ruling. You’ll also be tasked with keeping the game moving and encouraging a good pace so things don’t get dull. If people are losing focus, read the room and move on to a new game if need be.
But remember - board game night is only partly about playing games. Don’t take it too seriously if it seems that your guests are more focused on enjoying each other’s company and catching up. After all, the goal is to have fun!
Parting Thoughts On Hosting A Board Game Night
There you have it - now that you know how to host a game night you’re ready to start planning yours. It can be as serious or laidback as you want - and your guest list and game choices will dictate the flow of the evening.
One of the biggest concerns that those hosting a board game night report experiencing is where they’re going to play the games. This is one of the most important aspects of game night set up - the playing space. If you don’t feel that yours is adequate, or you’re due for an upgrade - the Dresden is a no-brainer choice. This board game table is as good as it gets. Doubling as both a dining table and professional gaming set up, you can get the best of both worlds with this table and impress your guests. Making space has never been this easy!