Saturday, June 11, 2016

Large Group Games

The Dork Spouse and I haven't had a board game night at our house in several months now (with the exception of that dinner party the Dork Spouse hosted some weeks ago as a thank you to some people who helped her out at a big event). There are many reasons for this; we're super busy with other things; we're currently on Smart Hours for the summer which makes timing difficult, many of the people we invited often don't show up, etc). But one thing that always bothered me about Board Game Night when it did happen was that, on those few occasions in which more than a couple of people showed up, there are not very many games that accommodate a large number of players.

In our current inventory, the following games are the only ones that permit more than six players:
  • Bananagrams (2 or more)
  • Cards Against Humanity (2 or more)
  • Citadels (2 to 8)
  • Gloom (2 to 7, if you don't mind slow game play)
  • Tsuro (2 to 8)
  • Uno (2 to 10)
  • Pictionary (3 to 16)
  • Slap .45 (3 to 7)
  • Superfight! (3 to 10)
  • Winter Tales (3 to 7)
  • Apples to Apples (4 to 10)
  • The Resistance (and Avalon) (5 to 10)
  • Guesstures (4 or more)
  • Werewolves of Miller's Hollow (8 to 18)
That seems like a fairly lengthy list, but when you stop to consider that some of them are games that people aren't likely to want to play (like Uno; who still plays that game?), or are joke games that are fun for a few minutes but then are cast aside for more interesting games (like Slap .45). Some of these games are vastly overplayed (I, for one, despise Apples to Apples, but other people can't seem to get enough of it; Cards Against Humanity is fun on occasion with the right group of people but I wish other games were as highly prized as this one), and others get played little, if at all (I've still not played Winter Tales).

The vast majority of games are for two to four players, or possibly two to six, with a sizeable portion of that being for two players (especially the 'classic' games like chess, checkers, backgammon, hnefetafl, go, mancala, etc).

Part of the problem is that, with a large number of players, games can take a really long time. Multiply the average length of a single turn by the number of players, then by the average number of turns in a game, and you'll have an idea of the total length of a game. Obviously, the larger the number of players, the greater that total will be.

Some games have innovate ways of combating this problem. Some games have turns work in phases, so players aren't waiting as long between actions (such as 51st State, where all players participate in the Draft phase, then all players get a simultaneous Production phase, then players take turns taking actions in the Actions phase, followed by a simultaneous Cleanup phase). Other games have elements of a player's turn that involves other players (like Settlers of Catan, in which the production phase can produce resources for any player, not just the current player, and the main player can trade with any player). Other games dispense with turns altogether (like The Resistance and The Resistance: Avalon, where everyone is involved in the action at pretty much all times). There are even some games that have been modified for massive groups (like Giant Magic: The Gathering groups of 50 or so people, in which ten people are taking turns at the same time, with four people between them and the next person in the group taking a turn at that moment, and players being allowed only to target the player on either side of him).

I think we need more game like this. Games are, after all, supposed to be social activities. How can we say that they are truly social if it's hard to involve more than six people at a time?

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about. I'm always on the lookout for more games that can accommodate larger groups. There are a few I've heard about and am looking into trying, like Two Rooms and a Boom, One Night Revolution, and Codenames. But for now...

That's all for this week. Join me again next week! And remember to

Game on!

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