Good Life

Game on!

Looking for a twist on your next soiree? Incorporate some healthy competition with board games

There’s been a board game renaissance in the United States. Cafés and bars focused on gaming are springing up throughout the country, but there’s no need to leave home to have a fun evening.

“Games are the perfect way to get family and friends to ignore their smartphones and interact with one another,” says Susie Fulks, a Dallas-based party planner. “Plus, they get people laughing together – something that can be quite rare, especially for adults.”

Here are three steps to take for hosting the perfect game party.


Choose the Games

Popular word games (think Scrabble and Bananagrams) or board games (think Balderdash and Trivial Pursuit) are ideal for groups of five or less. If you’ve got a bigger crowd, Fulks suggests interactive games like Pictionary or charades. One trendy option for an outdoor event: Try a life-sized board game. Popular games like Jenga, Yahtzee, Chutes & Ladders and Connect Four are now available in larger-than-life versions. “These are real crowd-pleasers, because they get people interacting and laughing,” Fulks says.

Don’t have a giant game board on hand? No worries, you can make your own. Fulks suggests creating your own glow-in-the-dark bowling alley with empty water bottles, glow sticks and a large rubber ball. Blast some music and divide the crew into teams, and see who can get the most strikes.

Another idea: Make your own giant Scrabble game by hand-lettering white tiles with a stencil or Sharpie.


Set the Scene

“Match the music to the tone of the party,” says Fulks. For instance, play lively tunes for boisterous outdoor games, and create a playlist of ambient background music for indoor, thinking games. In addition, pay careful attention to seating. For indoor events, consider throwing cushions on the floor or placing comfortable seats together to help foster collaboration.


Provide Fun Food and Drinks

“Don’t slow down the day or evening by stopping for a meal,” Fulks advises. Instead, set up tables where guests can make their own snacks between games. She suggests a self-serve chip-and-dip bar, an assortment of uniquely spiced nuts or an interesting charcuterie board. (See her recipes for Extra-Fancy French Onion Dip and Chili-Lime Roasted Almonds.) Serve the snacks in small baskets or different-sized bowls for an appetizing-looking spread.

Keep drinks easy as well. Instead of offering a full-bar, which will take guests’ attention away from the games, mix up pitchers of fruit sangria, fruit punch, or another crowd-pleasing concoction. Or, create a signature drink (like “Monopoly martinis”) that plays on the theme of the event.

The upshot: “Don’t worry about getting too fancy,” she says. “Your focus should be on making sure everybody has a blast.”

Make this:

Chili-Lime Roasted Almonds

These tasty snacks are elegant,
irresistible and easy to make:

  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 T. freshly chopped cilantro

Add almonds, oil, chili powder and salt to a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat for five minutes until almonds are toasted. Removed the pan from heat and mix in lime juice and cilantro. Transfer mixture to a shallow pan and cool. Nuts will be ready to serve in 30 minutes.

Make this:

Extra-Fancy French Onion Dip

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups plain low- or full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. salt 

Add the oil, onions and salt to a large sauté pan. Cook over medium heat and stir frequently until onions caramelize into a deep brown color (about 15 minutes). Next, add the minced garlic and stir briskly for about 10 seconds. Turn off the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Let cool.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the onions and the yogurt until blended. Stir in black pepper.

Serve surrounded by your favorite kettle chips.

© hero images, © saibal; zoranm; diana miller