Game Nightmare: How to Host a Successful Game Night

Imagine this situation: you are in a 100 degree room, there’s no food or water, it reeks of body odor, and there are way too many unhappy people sharing this prison with you. Time passes by like a snail making its way through a tar pit. It’s so loud, your ears ache for release, but it never comes. Sounds like the perfect game night, right?

 I’ve participated in an event that was disturbingly similar to this situation and I have vowed to never make the same mistake again (although now that I think about it, every concert I’ve been to sounds like the madness above). I have learned from harsh experience about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hosting a game night for friends, family, and coworkers. I am by no means an expert, but I hope to at least give you one thing you didn’t think about before. It may just save your night.


Do you know what RSVP stands for? Me neither. You can never know for certain how many people are going to show up, when they get there, or how long they stay, so be careful about telling everyone you know about the event and seeing what sticks. If you don’t do this kind of thing often, make sure your guests know it’s special, maybe by celebrating with a upcoming holiday.

 Also keep in mind what kinds of people are coming, whether they be new to the hobby, veterans, or would rather just sit, talk, and watch. Have a variety of things to do, just in case someone isn’t a huge board gamer, like a video game corner on the couch where it’s tough play tabletop games.


Gigazaur approves of this folding table.

Depending on the size and composition or your group, you may need more table space than you normally live with, especially if you want to have more than one game going at once. I am a huge fan of folding tables, both the long ones used for potlucks and the classic round card table. Just pull them out, grab a bunch of chairs, and you’re ready to go. Tablecloths usually make the playing area too busy and can prevent smooth game play, so no need to worry about those.

 Make sure you have circulation in the room. Bodies can heat up a room quickly, so fans and open windows are lifesavers in close quarters. Everyone is going to have a much better time if they are comfortable. I’ve never heard anyone complain from being too comfortable. If you do hear that, kick them out immediately because they are a crazy person. Straight up insane.


Warning: Not candy. Do not eat.
Warning: Not candy. Do not eat.

I’ve seen two different approaches to food that have worked pretty well, each for different reasons. First, you can have snacks and drinks at the tables that games are being played on, but it is a good idea to have finger food that won’t grease up anyone’s fingers. The last thing you want are oily, cheesy , smudged up cards. Peanut M&M’s work wonders, with bottled water keeping spills at bay.

 Or you could go a different route, with a food table located its own table where people can come and grab a bite whenever they want. You can have a little more freedom with this spread, since this food normally won’t be taken back to the games. Keep napkins handy so that players don’t have to worry about messy hands.


What to play, what to play….

For the main event, being the host usually means that you will be teaching most of the games played. Brush up on the rules of your games so you can answer questions even if you aren’t playing. See if you can enlist someone’s help in teaching so that no group of gamers is abandoned with a game that nobody has played before. Decide whether you want to play a lot of shorter games or fewer long games and arrange player groups accordingly.

 Don’t be afraid to break up into smaller groups. There doesn’t have to be one big game, and small, satellite games can be a blast. Games are a great icebreaker between people that have never met, so don’t worry about how people will behave around others. You invited them, so they must be pretty good people.

 Wrap it up

Rather than just ending the night by clapping your hands together and saying, “Well…’s getting late….”, staring at your watch while you talk, you can have a closing ceremonies to wrap up festivities. Give out prizes to those who won (or lost) the most games, or give a quick recap of game that were played to those that got there late. Make sure to thank everyone and be open to suggestions for future parties.

 Game nights are full of laughs, memorable moments, and are a great way to grow friendships. They take some work, but are worth the effort. After it’s all over, you can have sweet dreams instead of living nightmares. Good luck!

Rob Cramer
Board games, board games, board games, board games. Board games? Board games. And Star Wars.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. This kid knows how to write and play games. I hope someone is paying him for all his hard work and talent. The suspicion is high that he is not going it alone. He must be married to a pretty, great lady. As far as the chocolate chip cookies perfect has to be not only the end product, but how is the dough. Uncooked Salmonella be darned.

    1. This is the best comment ever. Wives are aweome. I never realized how much my wife liked board games until I hosted a board game night and she’s ACTUALLY EXCITED about participating! Hooray for wives everywhere!

      And yes, great article.

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