Saturday, April 5, 2014

Try a Board Game Bonanza at Your Next Party

If you have regular gatherings with a large group of people, you are probably on constant look out for a new, interesting activity. Preferably one that doesn't cost much.

This past weekend was International Table Top Day, where people all over the world gathered together to play board games. Recently we did an event with the students at my church where we played a lot of board games, with a bit of a twist.

Now I have to admit the idea is not originally mine. We heard the idea from one of our student's moms who had done it at another group's event. But all we had to go on was the idea, so the logistics were our own. It went well, but we learned a few things. I'm going to share those lessons with you in case you are wanting to hold your own Bonanza.

The Idea

The concept is simple, though the execution can get hilariously complex. A large group is divided into smaller groups of four in order to play board games. Every ten minutes they switch games, picking up someone else's hand at the next table.

Sound like fun? It is. Everyone had a great time.

What You Need

- A large room. Part of the fun of the evening was having everyone yell at each other across the room when they picked up a terrible hand.

- Tables and chairs.

- Games. Lots of them.

- A timer

- Seat Markers (you make these)

- Turn Markers (you make these, too)

- Rule sheets (yep... you make these as well)

Setting Up

1. Figure out about how many people you expect at your gathering. Divide that number by four.

NOTE: If you don't know how many people are going to be in attendance, arrange for three people who will be okay with playing or not playing as the numbers are needed. You need every subgroup to have four people. 

2. You will want about three games for each subgroup you expect. Have one of these be a more involved game such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, etc. Then have two smaller simpler games. Don't be afraid to throw in childhood classics such as Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, and Candyland. If it can be played by four individuals, it's an option.

NOTE: Games we used that worked well: Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble, Blokus, Phase 10, Clue (believe it or not this was great fun!). We also tried a childhood favorite of mine, Pay Day, but it was too unfamiliar and complicated. Originally we were also playing Memory but the "board" got messed up. If you use a game that people are not familiar with (such as Blokus) make sure the concept is simple and easily grasped, even if the best strategies aren't. 

3. For each game you need the following:

- Simplified rules sheet. Even if it's a game like Monopoly that everyone is a little familiar with, have a rules sheet. Common games frequently get played with "house rules" and you don't want people fighting over the right way to play.  Note: Keep this to one sheet with large, easy to glance at font. If it takes more than that the game might be too complicated for this event. 

- Seat markers. The incoming group will need to know who is sitting where. Mark each seat with an A, B, C, or D and it's color/game piece.

- Turn markers. When a group leaves the table, they place the marker at the seat of whose turn it is. That way the next group knows where to start.

- Anything that is needed to keep track of the game. Do you need a score card? A way to track progress? For example at the Phase 10 table, we simplified it and didn't keep score, but we did give each seat a list of phases that were marked out as play progressed so each person would know which phase they were on.

4. Set up your tables. Place a more involved game at every third table and fill in with the simpler games. Have groups start the evening at the complicated tables. As games are won, those table will start getting skipped, so have enough buffer to keep the teams from running into each other. In our experience a group every three games would have worked well. Lay out the tables and go ahead and deal out money or anything else needed for game play to start.

Playing The Games

Divide your group into subgroups of four. Assign an A, B, C, and D player in each group. Send them to the more complicated games and start the timer.

When the timer goes off, play stops. If someone has rolled but hasn't actually started the process of their turn, they abandon it, placing the Turn Marker in front of their seat. If the turn is in progress, they may finish it (such as paying rent in Monopoly or drawing a card in Go Fish or totaling a score in Scrabble.) Then the turn marker goes to the next person.

All groups rotate one table (skip the table if the game has been completed). Set the timer and go again.

For a bit of additional fun, have a large scoreboard on the wall and keep track of which letter wins each game. This helps keep the group connected even as they play at separate tables. it also provides some incentive to actually try to win.

Thoughts and Suggestions

When selecting games, look for ones that are simple yet will cause a bit of chaos due to the changing of hands.

Games I am pretty positive would work well: Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, Uno, Clue, Yahtzee, Sorry, CandyLand, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, Trouble, Phase 10, Trivial Pursuit, Blokus, Memory - particularly if you can make the board massive with multiple sets of cards (as long as they have similar backs), possibly even Old Maid and Operation.

If you have a group of frequent gamers, games such as Settlers could be considered. You will have to decide if the complexities would intrigue or frustrate your group.

Stay away from games with too many simultaneous threads (such as Pay Day) where there are too many things to keep track of. Also avoid games such as Jenga where there is more of a single loser instead of a single winner.

 

Do you think this would work for your group? Have you done something similar? What board games would you add to the list?

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