Party games are a great way to enjoy time with a larger group of people. Essential to party games is social interaction. In general players participate all the time; most party games do not have distinct turns for each player, or when they do, the turns are quite short and still enjoyable for the other players. Party games usually don’t have a fixed number of players, but accommodate for a larger group of people (4+ people). A good party game resembles the spirit of a party: easy to join for new players, does not take too long, is not overly complicated, and involves a lot of enjoyable social interaction.
We really enjoy party games. Because of the easy-going character and lack of long-term commitment of most party games, they are great ways to spend your time. So here is our list of the six best party games.
6. The Resistance (+ Avalon)
In The Resistance, all players collaborate to perform missions against the Empire. Except, a minority of the players are Imperial spies and want the missions to fail. The Imperial Spies know of each other who they are; the regular Resistance agents don’t know who is a spy and who isn’t.
The Resistance takes the classic social deduction concept of an informed minority vs. an uninformed majority and adds to this that these themes have to engage with each other in missions. This engagement makes the game dynamic and gives the Resistance agents more information about who may be Imperial Spies.
But, the deduction involved in the Resistance is rather simple and in some games can feel more like doing simple numeric calculation than actual social deduction. What I mean with this is that often, simply counting up how many times a mission failed while a player was in it, gives you a good idea about whether that player is a spy or not. Of course, skilled spies know this and can maneuver their way around easy detection by sometimes not sabotaging the missions they are in; but the tools that spies have are limited. Their primary strategy is always to strike a balance between sabotaging enough missions to win the game while not sabotaging so many missions that they can easily be detected. And performing this strategy every game can become a bit stale.
That being said, the Avalon expansion changes this completely. Except for the cool King Arthur theme it also introduces extra character roles that grant players different pieces of information. For example, Merlin gets to know from the start who all the evil players are, and the Assassin can try to assassinate Merlin at the end of the game to win the game for the evil team. These roles mean that there is so much more going on than in the Resistance, because the good team will need to hide Merlin and probably a team member needs to fake that he is Merlin, the evil team will set up traps to discover Merlin, and so forth. The information asymmetry that Avalon adds to the Resistance makes it a bit more complex but so much more dynamic and fun that we strongly recommend purchasing it over Resistance. (And note that although Avalon is officially released as an expansion and can be played in combination with the Resistance, Avalon is also a standalone game.)
In Dixit, all players get a bunch of beautifully designed cards. In his turn, a player plays one of his cards face down and describes the card in a way he sees fit. The other players choose among their own cards a card that, more or less, fits that description, and play that card also face down. The cards get shuffled played face up. The players, with the exception of the initial player, have to guess which card is the intital player’s card. The scoring system is designed in such a way that you want some players to guess correctly, but not all. The trick is to give a description that some players get, but not everyone.
Dixit is a great party game because of the fun associations. The graphic design is beautifully done. Fun about Dixit is that is not a competitive game. Although there is a scoring and you can win, the points in Dixit are not that important. The game is about creative associations and descriptions. It is really fun to see what your fellow players associate with certain cards. In addition, partly because Dixit is not about winning, it is a game also for young kids and non-diehard gamers. Dixit is fun and not that competitive, that’s why we consider it a great part game.
In Decrypto two teams compete against one another to see who the best codemasters are. Each team has four keywords corresponding to four digits. Every member of the team knows the keywords of their team and the corresponding digits. In turn, the teammembers draw a card with a 3-digit code that they have to transmit to their teammembers. They do so by giving clues for each word. For example, suppose the four words are 1. Black , 2. Dragonfly, 3. Cocktail, 4. Sombrero. You draw a card that reads 4 – 2 – 1, and want to signal to your teammates this code. So you say “Mexico, Insect, Horror”. Your teammates now have to guess the code, and because they already know the keywords, they can easily guess the code is 4 – 2 – 1.
But note that your teammates are not the only one listening. The other can hears your clues as well. The first few rounds they won’t be able to make sense of the clues, but after a while they will likely understand a pattern and maybe even correctly guess the code. Each time a team intercepts the message of the other team, they will get an interception token. The team that collects two interception tokens wins the game. Therefore you want to get a little bit creative with your clues, the more creative you get, the harder it is for the other team to make sense of it. But beware, if your team does not succesfully decrypt the code, you get a miscommunication tokens. The team with two miscommunication tokens loses.
Decrypto has an awesome spy theme and super interesting gameplay. In most games similar to Decrypto the team has to guess the keywords. In Decrypto, the keywords are already known, and your attention should be with the other team. This dynamic is really innovative and interesting. The only downside of Decrypto as a party game is that it involves pen and paper. This makes it less easy to play in all settings. Still, it is most certainly worth the trouble.
3. One Night: Ultimate Werewolf
One Night: Ultimate Werewolf is essentially the classic game Werewolf compressed into one night. Players get dealt character roles. The game starts with a night in which all players secretly perform their character actions (the seer sees, the robber robs, the werewolves see look at each other, etc.). When everyone wakes up it is day and at the end of the day the players will vote who gets killed. The player that gets the most votes is killed. If the killed player is a werewolf, the villagers win; if the killed player is a villager, the werewolves win. That’s it.
One Night manages to pack 100% of the fun of Werewolf into a single night. The major upsides are that it takes much shorter (10-15 minutes) and that players can’t die and then have to wait multiple nights for the game to end, because there is only one night. Furthermore, in Werewolf the beginning of the game can be boring if you’re a villager because you have almost no information. In One Night, most villagers have special abilities (such as the seer and the robber). And even if you’re a vanilla Villager that knows nothing, the game is usually extremely exciting, because the vanilla Villager often has the deciding vote. Therefore, all players will try to convince you of their story and you have to judge who is lying to you and who isn’t.
As you get better at One Night you’ll be able to set up more intricate plots and schemes to ensure victory. You’ll recognize situations, tell half-truths to provoke reactions and manipulate your opponents to share more information than they should. If you’re fellow players grow with you there is no ceiling to how skilled you can get at this great game of social manipulation and deduction.
We really love OneNight, it is most certainly our favorite social deduction game. As a party game, it is still super fun, but it takes some commitment to play. Once you start, you cannot leave, which is less the case in Spyfall or Codenames.
In Codenames two rival teams try to guess the right words belonging to their team in a 5 x 5 grid. Both teams have a spymaster that knows which words belong to which team, but is allowed to give only one-word clues to their teammates. The team that first identifies all the words belonging to their team wins.
Codenames is a quite simple party game, nevertheless it is immensely populair. It is the number one party game according to Board Game Geek and winner of the 2016 Spiel des Jahres.
After the grid is layed down, the two spymasters get a key card that shows the color of the words on the grid. Red squares correspond to words that belong to the red team, blue squares to the blue team. White squares are neutral and the black square is the assasin. One of the spymasters starts by asserting a one-word clue and the number of cards that that clue designates. For example, the red spymaster says ‘food, three’, because three of the red words have something to do with food. Now the red team member discuss among themselves which words on the grid have something to do with food. After discussing, they guess one of the words they think are the right ones. After each guess, the word is covered by a red, blue or white card, depending on whether it was a red team word, blue team word, or neutral word. If the red team guesses a red word, they are allowed to make another guess, untill they guess a blue, white or black word. If they guess a blue or white word, the word is covered with the corresponding color, and the other team gets the turn. If the team guesses the black word, it’s game over and the other team wins.
The spymaster wants his team to finish first. He should therefore give clues that are sufficiently clear that his team guesses the correct words, and he wants his clues to apply to as much words as possible. Deciphering the spymaster’s associations ensures a lot of hilarity.
Because of its simplicity, Codenames is the perfect party game. The game is explained in under a minute, setting up the game also takes about a minute. The game itself takes up to ten minutes. Codenames is really fun because it is a game build around associations, which we really enjoy.
There are some expansion of Codenames. Notably Codenames Pictures, which works exactly like Codenames, but with pictures instead of words. We prefer Codenames Pictures over the original games, because you can be more creative with your associations.
In Spyfall everyone is dealt the same location except the spy, who is dealt a blank card. The spy wants to find out the location, the other players want to identify the spy. The players do this by asking other players questions that can verify that they know the location. If a player answers ‘hot’ to the question ‘How are you feeling?’ gives away that he is the spy if we are on the North Pole. At the same time, the questions and answers that players give must be cryptic enough that the spy can’t identify the location. So answering ‘Polar bear’ to the question ‘What’s your favorite animal, here?’ would be an easy giveaway.
The one thing we will say is that Spyfall is quite hard to win for the spy if you play with a small group. It may just be that we are bad spies, but in our games the spy wins ~10% of the games if we play with five players. The game becomes easier for the spy if you play with a larger group though, because there are more suspects, and fewer of the questions will be directed at the spy. This gives the spy more information and less opportunities to accidentally reveal himself. We think that Spyfall is best played with ~7 players.
General places make it hard for the spy to correctly guess where we are. To make guessing easier for the spy, you can play with more famous places. We created an expansion: Spyfall: The Movies. Read the article here.
Spyfall our absolute number one party game. It is so simple and yet so exciting. If you are the spy you might feel your heart beating in your throat while you try to answer ‘When we’re you last here?’ about a location you don’t know. Moreover, Spyfall is a social game that allows you to talk to fellow players and make jokes constantly. It can therefore also be a great ice breaker for when you’re with people you don’t know that well yet.