Quick Bits: Tips for selecting games that get played at game night

 Author ianoble    Category Board Games, Quick Bits     Tags

This past week my gaming group started up a discussion regarding how we go about selecting the games we will be playing at our bi-weekly game nights. The idea was brought up because it seemed that many of us have new games that haven’t been played yet, combined with the fact that all of us are willing to play just about anything under the sun. Unfortunately we are only able to get together about twice a month, for a 5-6 hour period. This usually means that our group gets through 3, and on the rarest of occasions, 4 games a night. All of us are just happy we can find the time to get together at all, let alone be able to play our favorite games!

This last game night I introduced Earth Reborn (more on that coming soon) and even though the scenario we played was supposed to be the quickest available for 4 players, it still went on for 3+ hours, ending in a draw. Granted the first hour was taken up with me trying to explain the rules and setting up everything required for the scenario. Luckily I setup the board before my guests arrived, because they could have tacked on another 30-40 minutes. But I digress…

This brings up one of the problems we seem to always run into when selecting the next game to play, after finishing the intro game. Since usually our first game is a light filler where everyone knows the rules, or if they don’t, can be taught very quickly. The second game, however, needs to be a good one because we are all “warmed up” now. But most of the time we try and find something based on 2 criteria:

  1. Either everyone knows the rules or the person owning the game knows the rules well enough to be able to teach everyone else.

  2. Has to be playable in less than 2 hours (including rules explanation and setup). Granted this is not a hard-fast rule, but it is usually implied.

This presents an interesting issue. Unless I own the game or have played it at a previous game night, I probably don’t know the rules well enough to play it. Since I’m pretty much the low man on the totem pole, when it comes to my gaming experience, I’m the one they look at to see if anyone needs to be taught the game. So now we are trying to choose between a couple games that we’ve all played before and a few that are new that will require rules explanation. Usually the way this gets resolved is by one person just grabbing a game off the shelf and say “Here, let’s play this one.” Not once has anyone objected to the game that was selected, but the final selection came after sometimes as much as a 5 minute discussion. There has got to be a better way.

One idea that was proposed was for each person to select a game they really want to play, regardless of whether the others have played it before. We can then rotate through the group allowing each of us the chance to break open that game that’s been sitting on the shelf waiting to get to the table. Personally, I think this is a very elegant solution, especially since there are only 4 of us and sometimes even 3. Sure, maybe one of us won’t get our game played that night, but in that case we will just make sure that it’s the first game to the table the next game night. This will allow us to select a game that maybe we don’t have the rules down pat to and spend the time before game night learning the best way to teach it. Or, in my case, testing it out on Lisa. I do much better actually playing the game rather than just reading the rulebook or even watching video reviews online.

Question of the day

How do you go about selecting the games to be played at game night?

Do you leave it up to the host?
Do you follow the Bring-Your-Own-Game (BYOG) method?
Is it completely random and you choose based on what you feel like playing at that moment?
Or do you have another solution to this problem?

Feel free to comment on this article or send me a tweet @ianoble.

5 Comments to “Quick Bits: Tips for selecting games that get played at game night”

  • Shawn March 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Our group usually uses the Board Game Geek guild area and we post a message in the forum called WHAT I AM BRINGING this week.

    That usually gives a heads up to everyone it also allows an area that we can utilize to ask people to maybe bring something they have that we may not have on our stash of games.

    It works well for us.

    • ianoble March 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      That’s a good idea. We organize all the game nights through email, so we’ll probably use a similar method, especially for more complex games. I like reading up on a game that I don’t know much about, because there seems to always be something that is missed in explanation or even a light strategy tip that might not be conveyed by the explainer.

  • Board Game Josh March 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    We normally just each bring whatever we feel like playing that night, and then we collectively decide which of those games to play. Your group may be able to each bring a game that you really want to play, and then you only have to decide between 3-4 games… of course you have to decide before you go which of your games you want to play that week.

  • Rick B March 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Since we play at my house every now and then, I don’t usually bring my games to your house (or Mike’s). So, I’m usually under the impression that the person who hosts generally has mapped out a plan, even if that includes playing games that someone else (Mike or Dan) has brought. Especially since I often get two games of mine played on nights when I host (Arkadia and Fresco last month).

  • ianoble March 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm


    That makes sense. I don’t think I’ve ever brought a game over to your place since I know you have pretty much everything we would want to play. So I’m with you on the host’s choice idea. Maybe I should be more proactive when I host to map out the games to be played that night. As long as everyone lets me know what they’re bringing, I can assemble a plan of action.

    Thanks for the comment!

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