By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
As a 33-year-old married dude, it sometimes feels impossible to find anyone that can line up schedules to get some games in - especially some of the more complex titles. When we can set something up, it either becomes a larger game night/hang out with several people, or we don’t have much time to work with. A lot of our friends are similar ages with kids and whatnot, and we’re often hit with the “let’s play something kinda light and chill” line. Either situation rules out those 2 - 4 players, “next-level nerd” type games. However, even with larger groups, I prefer delving a bit deeper than just Catch Phrase or Guesstures. If you find yourself in the same boat and are looking for some higher player-count games that go a bit deeper than charades or Pictionary, hopefully, this is where I can help. It’s nowhere near exhaustive, but here’s a list of games I’ve found to be great options for larger game nights and parties.
Welcome To… - Blue Cocker Games
The Welcome To… series seems to be the current golden standard for the roll-and-write genre. The theme is light, it accommodates as many players as can fit around your table, and there are several expansions available to keep things fresh. In the base game, Welcome to Your Perfect Home, each little round flips three cards, each with a house number and corresponding effect. Players simultaneously choose one to write on their sheet and start building out their little housing development. The player who arranges things most efficiently will score the most points at the end and win the game. There’s a slight learning curve for starters, so if you’re playing with a group of folks that haven’t made it past Scrabble, results may vary a bit. It’s not a difficult game by any means, but there are a few ins and outs with rules and scoring that may require the n00bs to play a couple of times before it sinks in. It’s also a fairly cheap option, clocking in at around $25 for the base game, and expansions are typically around $15. Check your local game shop; it’s still easy to find.
Cartographers: A Roll Player’s Tale - Thunderworks Games
From the makers of Roll Player comes Cartographers - another roll-and-write very similar to Welcome To… In this title, each player again has their own sheet, and cards are flipped each round to give everyone options on how to best map out the Kingdom of Nalos and become the greatest cartographer in the land. Rules and scoring seem to be slightly simpler than Welcome To… but the level of strategy is quite comparable. Cartographers also fills in the spot for that fantasy option when it comes to lighter, party-style games. So, if your group appreciates that level of nerd, you all can get your fantasy fix here without limiting players at the table. It’s another fairly easy find that won’t break the bank; Thunderworks Games lists it on their website at $25, and as always, check your local game shop first.
Obscurio - Libellud
Obscurio is an excellent game for those times you don’t have all night to dive into an in-depth session of Cones of Dunshire. It’s also a great title to introduce to family and friends that may not consider themselves gamers. The premise is you’re a group of wizards who discovered a magical Grimoire in a mystical library, looking for a way out before the evil sorcerer catches and traps you there forever. One player takes on the role of the Grimoire that attempts to guide the players through the correct doors to find the exit. Each door in the library has an associated picture, one of which is the correct one. The Grimoire secretly arranges two pointers on their own pictures to provide clues to the players, and if those clues direct the players to the correct door, they advance to the next level. Players beware, though, as there are traps that make matching those clues more difficult, and one player is a traitor trying to mislead the others into picking the wrong door! It’s essentially a matching game with a fantastic theme, low-skill floor, and unique mechanics. It also offers a player count of up to seven (six plus the Grimoire). You should be able to find Obscurio for around $40-$50, though I haven’t seen a way to purchase directly from their website. Your game shop should have it, though, or will almost certainly be willing to order it for you.
Red Dragon Inn - Slugfest Games
Well, crit the bed and steal my sweet roll; I love this game! Red Dragon Inn has been around for a while now and has seen several expansions since its 2007 release, but it certainly stands the test of time. This is a whimsically fun adaptation of what antics your adventurers get up to in between quests. The game hinges on the balance between your fortitude and alcohol content. If the two collide on the numbered track, then your character passes out, and you lose the game! Additionally, if you run out of gold, it’s time for your adventurer to call it a night. Each character has unique abilities and pokes fun at the age-old fantasy tropes, and the numerous expansions provide a wide variety of characters to choose from. The base game allows for 2-4 players, but one expansion can double that player count, and so on. I’ve found that the game does tend to drag along if you add more than six-ish players, but you can always adjust the rules to help keep things moving (i.e., double drink values or the like). You should be able to find Red Dragon Inn at almost any local game shop; I think somewhere around $40.
Dice Throne - Roxley
Dice Throne has been around a few years now with a couple of “seasons,” but it’s a relatively new discovery for me. Think of it as a kind of “battle Yahtzee,” where each box provides two characters to pit against each other. While you can go head-to-head with another player, you can also scale it up to six players in teams of 2v2v2, 3v3, or a free-for-all. Personally, I don’t see why you couldn’t just keep scaling the game up to however many players you want, though it might draw out the game quite a bit. Regardless, the game's basic mechanic is players take turns rolling a set of 5 dice with three chances to get their desired combination, which allows them to use certain abilities to take down their opponents. It’s fairly simple to dive into but does employ a level of strategy and variety in characters to keep you coming back. Each box of two characters, ranging from a gunslinger to a pyromancer, should only cost you around $30 at your local shop.
Sushi Go Party! - Gamewright
The original Sushi Go came out in 2013 and already accommodates five seats at the table. A few years later, though, Sushi Go Party! released and now allows for up to eight players. The premise is the same, where players draft cards depicting different types of sushi and try to get different combinations to score points each round. It’s another great, lightweight game, yet drafting games always come with their own unique strategies of play, often resulting in making selections to screw over other players as much as to help yourself. It’s a fun title with cutesie art that is easy to introduce to others without the casual gamers feeling like they’re delving too far into the realm of us sweaty nerds. Sushi Go Party! is another popular title that is still widely available in-game shops, and you can expect to drop somewhere around $35, give or take.
Gorus Maximus - InsideUp Games
I’m a little biased here; I met Conor McGoey at the Origins Game Fair a few years back, and not only was he the type of person that makes you feel like you’re instantly BFFs, but he also generously donated copies of his games to Stack Up to send out in Supply Crates. Regardless of my great experience with the developer, though, Gorus Maximus is an excellent choice in terms of lightweight, portable party games. The game takes its own gladiatorial spin on the euchre/spades-style card games, where up to eight players take tricks to score points - though the scoring system is based on the cards themselves, not the amount of tricks taken. There are a few other unique mechanics, but it’s still familiar enough to take to the family get-togethers or fit a quick game in on game night. I mentioned it’s portable, and you can fit the four-player version in one little deck box that comes included. You can find Gorus Maximus either at your local shop or on their website for $25. However, I do recommend the premium version, which clocks in at $39, as it comes with PVC cards that are much more durable.
Honorable mention: InsideUp also has a game called The Quick and the Undead for 1-6 players that I haven’t had the opportunity to play yet. It looks great, and InsideUp has a great track record, so it may be worth looking into!
Hues and Cues - The OP
Hues and Cues is practically the definition of a party game. 3-10 players take 1-2 word clues and try to match the exact color with a specific hue from a range of 480 colors on the board. There are a few more extraneous rules, but not many to keep track of. It’s lightweight, fun for a wide range of people and ages, and will probably only run you around $35. It’s definitely a good entry to keep on your game shelves for those more casual game nights.
Secret Hitler - Goat Wolf & Cabbage
Ok, this one just sounds aggressive. It usually ends up being pretty hilarious, though; some players push the fascist agenda and try to elect the one player who is the Secret Hitler, while the liberals try to thwart their efforts and eliminate the Secret Hitler before it’s too late. It’s a social game with a lot of deception and persuasion and requires a larger group of 5-10 players. It’s quick to learn, offers great replayability, and should only cost you around $40.
Honorable mentions: We’re Doomed!, Horrified, Welcome to the Dungeon, Tsuro, Coup.
So that’s my wavetop list of games that I think are great options for your larger game nights/parties and won’t leave you in the same unending cycle of Cards Against Humanity, Catch Phrase, and Scrabble. Of course, I kept some options out for the sake of length here, but if you have any other suggestions to add to the mix, let us know! Happy gaming!