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Here’s how to host a winning game night

In summer it’s easy to organise a casual get-together. Everyone is feeling fresh, energetic and excited for a friendly braai on Friday night with friends. Not so much in winter; on cold nights you might get a “why?” from even your most party loving friends. Queue Game Night!

Sometimes it’s fun to invite your friends over for a party with a point. Instilling a regular game night will even become a competitive tradition. But, for the game night novice pulling off the first one can seem daunting.

Look like you’ve spent ages planning itParty food

Start by creating a space conducive to some serious board game fun. Re-arrange your living room furniture so that there is a seat for everyone in a circle. Try to have each person sitting next to some surface where they can comfortably put down their drinks and clear the coffee table so that the games can be placed on it.

Your dining room table will most likely be used for food while you will need to allocate some counter space for drinks too.

If your space is small limit the number of guests and throw pillows around the coffee table as seating.

Set the mood

Fresh flowers

You really don’t need much in the sense of décor. It could be a fun idea to hang some old game boards on the wall or use a Twister mat as the table cloth. Even just having a simple fresh flower arrangement will go a long way in showing your guests you’re excited to have them.

Choosing the right music mix is most important. Remember that the music you are playing needs to keep things upbeat but shouldn’t distract from the games. If you have time you can set up a playlist; aim for at least three hours of music to avoid sudden interruption.

The grubMezze platter

Keep it simple, avoid cooking if you can. Finger food or food on a stick works best for game nights. Have enough so your guests can nibble all night.

Consider things such as humus, pita, veggie sticks and mini sosaties. You could also just order some pizzas or ask everyone to bring something to share. It’s also generally accepted that guests will bring their own alcohol, especially in today’s economic climate.

Get down to businessPlaying charades.resize

The most important part of your night will be how you manage the games. There are a few simple guidelines you can follow to make sure your hosting wins the night!

#1 Don’t start games too soon after everyone arrives

People want to greet old friends and meet new ones. Give your guests time to settle, grab a drink and have something to eat. Delaying the games by an hour or so will also give potential latecomers a chance to settle in and get comfortable.

#2 Pick the games beforehand

Aim for three games for the duration of the evening. Games that work well are those that can be played by a large number of people or in teams/groups, which can be understood by someone in minimal time, and doesn’t require divulgence of too much personal information to people who just met each other.

Double dog dare! Leave the games up to your guests. This is probably not for you if you’re a control freak, but asking your friends to bring their favourite along will add an extra thrill to the night for you and keep it fun for your guests.

#3 Consider your guestsPlaying jingle

It’s not a good idea to insist on playing charades if you know that one of your guests is shy, or if your group consist of a wide range of ages or education levels a specific game may not be fun for everybody.

#4 Plan for late-comers and early leavers

The first game should be a game that can accommodate a changing number of players. Some guests may arrive late while other’s will only be able to stay for a short while. At this stage you want a game like Pictionary that won’t disrupt the party but will keep all guests comfortable and feeling included.

#5 Explain the rules before each game

Try and be familiar with the rules of each game and make sure everyone is on the same page before starting (or ask a friend to explain if it’s their game). It is also a good idea to make it clear if some deviation from the official rules will be played.

This includes things like knowing when each game will end. Discuss a clear point of completion with all guests before starting the game.

Winter drinks that will thrill your guests!

#6 Your guest may be drinking, plan for it

If you plan on having alcohol at your party you should plan your order of games accordingly. Think of having knowledge or critical thinking games early on in the night and the ‘silly’ games once everyone has had a few drinks.

Let us know how your night went!


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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