Game night has changed the game (see what I did there?) when hosting family-friendly get-togethers.
When we were kids, it was so easy to make friends, wasn’t it? You show up on the playground, introduce yourself, and voila! Instant buddies. It’s not so easy as an adult. And by not-so-easy, I mean it’s harder than getting a diaper on a wiggly toddler. When you add on to that, being a parent with a busy schedule, finding a friend, and keeping that friend, seems like a downright miracle. Like splitting the Red Sea kind of miracle.
And it’s even more difficult for men to find their tribe. Not finding a small group was wearing us down.
The Beginning of Game Nights
Mr. B and I have spent a number of years looking for a small group through our church, hoping for a group we could connect with. We were just looking for a way to come together. The schedules never seemed to match up with ours – between Bubba playing baseball during the week and Mr. B playing with the worship team on the weekends, our schedules just didn’t line up with many of them and our hearts weren’t connecting with the rest.
This is one of the scenarios that are just so difficult as a large family. When you have teenagers who long for independence and littles who aren’t ready for it, they all have different tastes too. Trying to get together with teens and littles and do things that everyone loves feels downright impossible.
Every season, we still looked for another group. Last fall, we went through the list of small groups and filtered them out one by one according to distance, meeting days and times, and finally the study. Nothing.
I used to always think “when we get a bigger house.” And the Lord said, “Use what you’ve got.”
I admit I didn’t follow through in using what I already had because I had this idea that my home had to look like everyone else’s home. The ones that look like Joanna Gaines sprinkled her magical home-improvement dust all over it. Ours is definitely not that.
That little voice of “use what you’ve got” came back again.
I looked at Mr. B and said, “well, why don’t we create our own community with the people we are already doing life with?”
And that’s how Game Nights came about.
Hosting a Family-Friendly Game Night
Can I just be clear about something? I do not have the gift of hospitality. I’m an introvert. My cooking is decent, at best. If I can host a game night gathering at my house, anyone can.
What we noticed was amazing! We had kids in the house from toddler-aged up through college-aged kids and their parents all hanging out together. When we used to have gatherings, all the little kids would play together in the backyard and any other kid with a cell phone would sit around the patio table with their heads in their phones. The adults sat inside eating and chatting, watching the littles through the kitchen window.
Everyone had fun but not everyone was having fun together.
Gathering around the table to play games brings the kids and adults together and the phone usage dropped dramatically! It is the single greatest victory. I have gotten to grow closer to my favorite people and their kiddos.
So what’s the secret? Not much really. Just make sure you have three main things for a successful game night.
Okay, I know I said my cooking is decent at best but I do have some pretty tasty recipes I’ve pulled out on Game Night. Let me qualify that statement also with the fact that Mr. B and I are foodies. We don’t just love food. We love good food. When the new season of Chef’s Table premieres on Netflix, we binge watch it. And Mr. B follows chefs on Instagram the way some people follow the Kardashians. But I digress.
Don’t feel like you have to provide all the food either. We typically provide the main dish oand drinks. Go for stuff that is easy for the Crockpot or Instapot, like shredded pork or chicken. Nachos were super easy and in the fall/winter go for some great soups!
Here are a few Fall favorites:
Mr. B’s Chili (or my slightly less spicy version)
Have everyone else bring sides, desserts, fixin’s and whatever adult beverage they want. (Another thing I’ve always loved about our group of people is they are such a great example to the kids of what it means to “Enjoy Responsibly.”)
If taking care of the main dish is a little outside of your budget, have everyone bring meat to grill for their own family plus another dish to share.
Aside from great food, you need to have great people. Playing games can really bring out the worst in people so you’ve got that to contend with.
We decided to invite the people we were already doing life with and some people we weren’t as close with but expressed an interest in playing games. We have had the big kids invite friends (or boy/girlfriends) as well. It gives us a chance to get to know them and let’s them get to know us and our craziness. We haven’t seen cell phones among the kids nearly as often. In fact, it’s all but non-existent.
If you decide it’s a problem though, set out a basket with a sign by your door asking for guests to put their phone in the basket for the night. You may get some pushback on this but you will find that the kids will wind up enjoying it.
These aren’t just people that we have game nights with. They are friends and dare I say, even framily (you know, people who are such close friends they feel like family). And every family, every marriage, needs those kinds of people to speak into their lives.
Recommended Reading: The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married
Most important, of course, are the games. I’m not talking Monopoly and Connect 4 here. Choose games that are fairly quick 20 minutes or so per round and for all ages.
Here are some of the favorites that have come through our house.
Time: 10 minutes per round
# of Players: 3 – 10 players
Age Recommendation: 8+
Players are either on the Villager or Werewolf team. Each person is instructed about their role and what action they must take. Then it’s up to the Villagers to find out who the Werewolves are and eliminate one by the end of the 5-minute time limit. Players will use their deductive reasoning and logic to discern between truth and lies.
Time: 20 minutes per round
# of Players: 5 to 10 players
Age Recommendation: 13+
Players are separated into two groups (Liberals, who are trying to save the government, and Fascists, who are trying to take over the government and bring the secret Hitler in as the Chancellor) and you have to discover who Hitler is and eliminate him (or her). Requires deductive skills and strategy for discerning between truth and lies. Wil Wheaton gives a great explanation in the video on Amazon.
Time: 15 minutes per round
# of Players: 2 – 8 players (I recommend a minimum of 4)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Two teams have their own set of secret words they must get their teammates to guess. You can only use one word to try to get them to guess as many of your secret words (or codenames) as you can. Be careful though. You may give away the words for the other team if you don’t pay close attention to your clues.
Time: 10 – 15 minutes per round
# of Players: 2 – 5 players
Age Recommendation: 8+
Twelve queens are “asleep” and you need to wake them up to win. In this card game, you use kings to wake up queens but be careful! Your opponents can steal a queen with a knight or use a potion to put her back to sleep. But wait! If you have a dragon or a wand, you can protect your queen and keep her by your side. The age recommendation here says 8-years-old but Munchkin, who is 5 1/2, can play all by herself (minus one rule).
Use Game Night to Find Your Family’s Tribe
Once a month, we have something we look forward to and Bug & Bubba always ask when the next one is. Even some of the other big kids anxiously await the next game night). It’s a place for the kids to gather and enjoy with adults. What is important too is that the kids see their parents having fun, letting loose, and doing it responsibly. For us, it’s a way to bond with other adults and their families.
Game Night has turned out to be more than what I anticipated. I love sharing these nights with my friends. Getting to bond with their kids and having my kids bond with my friends, just warms my heart. My children have family close by but I don’t have my family close at all. Over the last ten months, I feel more like a family and I absolutely love it!
We have built a tribe of people to do life with and have become closer. There’s just one thing I should have done differently…
Listened to that small voice saying “use what you have” a long time ago.
What games should we try out for our next Game Night?