For some reason, most of the party advice and how-to’s I’ve come across only suggest games and activities for children’s parties. Spoiler alert: adults like games and activities too! It seems to be a common assumption that all you need to throw a successful party for adults are the basics: food, booze, and music. Sort of a ‘if you build it they will come’ approach – put on some tunes, put out some chips, and everyone will just magically have a great time. If your goal is to host a largely forgettable evening, well, that’s the recipe.
While it’s not always easy to come up with games adults will enjoy (we usually end up having to more-or-less invent them), it is absolutely worth it. The reactions are priceless. When you have thematic, age-appropriate games, it kicks your party into a whole new level, and makes it an event; an occasion that they will still be talking about weeks, months, years later.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to strike a balance between ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ and Beer Pong. Actually… ok, between like, Uno and Beer Pong, because even when you were five, you knew that ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ was stupid bullshit, and you were too old for it.
Your game can’t be too kid-ish, because no one will want to play and they’ll think you’re an idiot. And drinking games exclude all but the alcoholics and the 22 year olds. Not that you should never do drinking games; they can be a fun way to get the crowd warmed up and ready to act a little silly/make a new best friend. Depending on your crowd, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a PowerHour playlist (plays only 60 seconds of each song, 60 songs total; take a sip of your drink every time the music changes) to give your early arrivers something to keep them busy while you finish up the food/put the ice out/other last-minute stuff. But drinking games shouldn’t be the main focus, or your only activity, because it excludes too many people. The ideal of the game is to get people involved, engaged; to get them talking to people they normally wouldn’t. Without an activity, people are generally just going to eat their chips and talk to the people they already know. Forgettable. A game gives them a common goal (or enemy), and a reason to interact with strangers. And one of the coolest things in the world is seeing two of your friends, from completely different spheres of your life, laughing together and just getting along famously.
To give you an example, our Knight of Fright Halloween party (medieval/fantasy theme) had several games going on. The “Royal Proclamation” I sent out to our guests via Facebook about a week beforehand puts it in a nice fat little nutshell:
Your goal on November 8th will be to accumulate the most gold that you can, in order to increase your wealth, influence, and the favor of your house. There are several ways to accumulate gold:
EARN IT: Competing in the lists (playing a game called Battlegrounds, which is basically a tabletop variation of Cornhole meets Angry Birds)
BUY IT: A gold is given for every entry into the 50/50 raffle
WIN IT: You may gamble your gold for a chance to win big by playing Fortune’s Tower (a card game)
STEAL IT: All guests will be issued a satchel for their gold, to be attached to the hip area via the provided clip. You may attempt to take other guests’ satchels, but be careful of being caught by them OR by The Royal Guards, who will put you in the stocks for your trouble.
The Royal Treasurer will keep track of each guest’s wealth and allow you to make deposits and withdrawals from The Royal Treasury. THE ROYAL TREASURY DOES NOT ISSUE CREDIT. At the end of the night, the richest/most influential Houses will receive very fine gifts of hospitality from the Lord and Lady of the Castle, in the hopes of securing an alliance. The peasantry can just get the hell out.
Battlegrounds took place in the garage/catacombs. Besides providing the thieves with an excellent environment in which to attempt to snatch a satchel or two (low lighting and distracted marks), just about everyone tried it at least once, and most kept coming back for match after match.
We bought a set of tabletop cornhole tables and some weird, tentacley balls (…that sounds terrible) at our local craft store, and from those items (totaling about $20), we made Battlegrounds. There were 5-7 people to a team, and the idea was for everyone to throw all the balls simultaneously, to try to either score, or stop the opposing team from scoring. Points were awarded the same as cornhole (1 for on, 2 for in), but you could stop an opponent’s ball in mid-air by hitting it with one of yours.
Fortune’s Tower is actually an Xbox game, it was part of a little side-thing called Pub Games that came as a pre-order bonus to Fable II. We let guests bet their gold on the outcome of the card game, line by line. [Click the screenshot to try it out (Xbox required), but be warned: it’s very addicting. ] This was even more popular than Battlegrounds, and there were even a couple jackpots. For those of you who’ve never experienced such a thing, jackpots are unreasonably exciting, even when it’s fake money that means nothing. The sun shines out of your face anyway and you feel that combination of utter elation and smug, I-completely-deserve-this satisfaction. It’s pretty great.
The stealing part was a lot of fun, too. You really needed a light touch to release the binder clip (on the satchel) from someone’s costume without them noticing. And if a Royal Guard caught you in the act, you would be carted off to the stocks in the garage, where we would boo you and throw lettuce at your head.
We had a few other baskets that I didn’t snap pictures of, but my love affair with themed gift baskets is another post for another day.
Now that’s just the games we did this year, but this post is already too long to be piling any other examples into it. The point is, games bring your theme to life, get your guests invested in your concept, and involved with one another. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.