I admit it. I’m that person at a party that brings out the board game. It’s equal parts love of board games and defensive mechanism (after all, nothing puts an end to awkward small talk like a competitive fight to the death over Settlers of Catan or hell, even Monopoly). It’s an easy way to talk to new people, or even people you know, if you’re terrible at being social, like I am.
I class myself as a casual gamer when it comes to tabletop games — I have the standards, as well as a few extras, and I do alright picking up new games. But I have friends who are real gamers, friends who own more board games than I’ve ever played in my life, and who shelve their board games according to number of players, not just in a haphazard stack. But most people I know are happy to play a tabletop game, but aren’t necessarily particularly interested in learning the intricacies of Small World, or in spending hours puzzling over rulebooks. On the other hand, they usually don’t want to play Uno or Go-Fish. No offence to either Uno or Go-Fish.
When I’m hankering to play a tabletop game with those kind of friends, I tend to reach for card games. The reasoning behind this is that they generally have a milder learning curve, so after one round, most people have figured out how to play. They’re also usually faster to play than big board games, which makes it easier for people to join and leave the game. And finally, they’re less cumbersome to set up; there’s no need to move chips and dips and pizzas and plastic cups out of the way of a board.
On that note, here are five tabletop card games to bust out at a party. Note that most of them are best played with more than two players, because y’know, hopefully you have more than two people at your parties.
I’m a huge fan of Sushi Go!. It’s accessible, speedy and most importantly, super adorable. It’s also created by an Australian. It’s a drafting game, in which you pick a card out of your hand and then pass it to the next person. The aim of the game is to amass the most points by building up different combinations of delicious foods on a sushi train. There are also penalties and bonuses at the end of each round and at the end of the game.
This is the most funded, most backed game in Kickstarter history. It’s got everything anyone could ever want: explosions, kittens, and occasionally, goats. It also doesn’t hurt that it was created by a killer team: Elan Lee (Xbox, ARGs), Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), and Shane Small (Xbox, Marvel).
Everyone takes turns drawing a card from the deck, and hopes they don’t draw an exploding kitten, which knocks them out of the game, unless they have a ‘defuse’ card (everyone starts with one). Some cards give you actions, and some are just cute (see: tacocat). Last person standing is the winner. The first time playing is fun; the second time playing is very strategic.
The first time I played Fluxx, we were all pretty drunk and it was a hilarious mess. The next time I played it, we were all relatively sober, and it was still a hilarious mess – but in a good way.
As the name suggests, the game constantly changes. Everyone starts off with three cards and takes turn to draw a card and play a card. But very quickly, the game changes – different cards bring different rules into play, changing just about everything about the game very quickly. You’ve almost got the winning cards? Suddenly the winning combination is changed to something else.
There are heaps of variations, including Zombie Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx and Martian Fluxx, but the original version is my favourite.
This is the perfect party game for anyone over the legal drinking age. Although it’s not so much a game as an add-on: essentially, it turns any turn-based game into a drinking game. Each person draws a card at the beginning of their turn, and whatever it says, goes.
Suddenly Drunk works well when people already know how to play an existing game, because it jazzes it up if it’s getting stale. But it can also make getting into a new game hilarious too. Either way, it’s a drinking game, and that always ends well, unless the absinthe comes out.
Sometimes the simplest games are the most fun. And this one is about as simple as it gets.
Everyone starts off with a shuffled hand of commodities, and the round ends when one person has a complete set. You achieve this by yelling at people. There are no turns and no time limits – everyone calls out the amount of cards (in a same commodity) they want to trade, and the first person who takes that up swaps those cards with you.
Different sets have slightly different values, which add to your score if you get a full set and finish the round. The aim is to become a billionaire, hence the original name of the game. It’s easy, loud and fun.
Okay, I know I said five games. But no list of party card games would be complete without this iconic game.
Chances are, you or someone you know has Cards Against Humanity already, and have played it, probably while drinking. (In fact, it’d probably pair alright with Suddenly Drunk. You take turns drawing a black question card, and everyone submits their best white answer card, and the drawer judges the best answer, who wins the black card and a point.
Ostensibly, the person with the most black cards at the end of the game wins, but the real prize is the horrible things you find out about your friends’ senses of humour.