Over the years I’ve invented or adapted a few games, mainly sociable pub/workshop games or games to play when you’ve got a few friends round. I’ve described some of them below in case anyone else would like to try them. They’re all quite easy to riff off. They’re not particularly competitive games, and don’t tend to have winners or losers as such, although they could be adapted to include that.
I created this for a workshop session where there were about 30 attendees – it was a getting-to-know-you game which also provoked some good discussions about what people had in common with each other and what they didn’t, and what labels people were happy to give themselves.
You will need:
- one pen per attendee, plus spares
- five stickers per person
- some large pieces of paper, either stuck up around the place or laid on tables
- a reasonable number of people: I’d say at least ten ideally, although fewer might work perfectly well.
Everyone takes a pen and five stickers, and on each sticker writes one thing that forms part of their identity. Could be anything, although I encourage people to stick to 3-4 words max for simplicity. Examples from games I’ve run: goth, geek, Friends fan, socialist, Catholic, folk singer, pagan, programmer, disability activist, lipstick lesbian, father, SF writer, Northerner. If people need ideas you could write up or list some categories for them to pick from, e.g. religion, politics, fandom, work, family, hobbies, gender.
When someone’s finished writing on their stickers, they stick them on themselves, anywhere they like. When everyone’s finished, they wander round looking at other people’s labels and seeing if they can find a match to one of theirs. When they find a match, both people take off those stickers and stick them next to each other on one of the large pieces of paper around the room. Once that’s happened, people can add their own stickers to the existing groups.
(For example: someone who has ‘singer’ as a sticker finds someone else who has ‘singer’. They remove their stickers while chatting gaily about their singing experiences, and start a ‘singer’ cloud of stickers on a piece of paper. Later, someone else who also has ‘singer’ sees the cloud and adds their own sticker to it.)
After a while you will find that two things are happening: firstly, there are a lot of discussions going on about ‘what counts’. Does ‘lapsed Catholic’ match ‘Catholic’? Does ‘IT geek’ match ‘computer programmer’? Part of the point of the game is to get people talking about exactly this kind of thing, so I suggest leaving them to get on with it. Usually it’s resolved by people starting overlapping or spin-off clouds of labels.
Secondly, there will be people with labels that haven’t matched anyone else’s labels. This is fine. You can have a pieces of paper dedicated to unique labels, or people can just leave them on. Either way, the end of the game is when you sit everyone down after fifteen minutes, or however long you leave it, and discuss what you’ve got. What’s the biggest cloud of labels? What were the most hotly contested matches or near-matches? Who had unique labels? It’s one of the big advantages of this game that it doesn’t have winners and losers: if you’ve matched all your labels, great, you have lots to talk to people about. If you have five labels that nobody else has – great, you have lots to talk to people about!
Again, a good getting-to-know you game, based on several existing games such as I’ve Never. It requires no props and works with any number of people – I’ve played it with 5 and with 50. The aim is to find something about yourself that is only true of one other person.
Everyone sits in a circle. One person stands or sits in the middle and says one thing about themselves – “I like football’ or ‘I have every film starring Humphrey Bogart on DVD’ or ‘My mother is a maths teacher’.
Anyone who matches puts their hands up. If nobody puts their hands up, or if more than one person does, you have to stay in the middle. If exactly one person matches you, you win and get to leave the middle.
The way I run it is that people have three chances to find their match. What they tend to do is pick something vague for their first go and then narrow it down. For example, if ‘I love David Bowie’ gets you six matches, ‘I love the Aladdin Sane album’ might get you three, and ‘I love the song Lady Grinning Soul’ might get you one. Or someone could start with something very specific and widen it.
If someone has had three chances and you’re still in the middle, pick someone else to replace them – ask for a volunteer, or pick the person who was nearest to providing a match – and the game continues.
You could give prizes for e.g. the person who gets out the most times, but I just play for a specified length of time and then stop (like Labels, I use this as a workshop game). Also like Labels, it’s great for giving people something to talk about, particularly if you’re at a convention or conference.
I adapted this from an American board game called The Poll Game.
You will need:
- a box of yes/no questions (optional)
- sweets or other prizes (optional)
- counters with Yes on one side and No on the other (optional)
In its simplest form, this game goes as follows:
Establish a group of people, let’s say five including you. Think of a question whose answer is yes or no (or choose one if you have a box of pre-written questions). Before you ask it, predict aloud how many people will answer Yes. Then ask the question and count the number of Yes responses. If you got the right number, you win (and you get a sweet if you have sweets, or maybe someone buys you a drink).
The person asking the question gets to define its terms.
This is best played in a relaxed pub or party environment in a not-very-competitive manner – it’s a good conversational game, and excellent for finding out things you didn’t know about people. (I didn’t know that my partner of 17 years had been on TV as a teenager until I played this game with him two months ago.)
If you’d like to have some questions provided, here’s my list – just print out, cut up and put in a box or bag to be drawn out.
I also recommend taking all your board/card games, putting them together and creating game mash-ups. I still have fond memories of an evening spent playing Trivial Truth and Kerplunk. (You can purchase the lovely Boardgame Remix Kit to help with breathing new life into old board games.)