I recently hosted a game night like I’ve never hosted before. Why? More than 1 game at a time! It was very exciting for me that people came early and stayed late, and I’d like to chalk it up as a success. Here’s how it all went down in case you want to host your own!
Before The Party
Invite People – I made a facebook invite with starting time of 7:30pm (anticipating arrivals beginning at 8:30pm) and asking that people bring something (beer wine or snack) but stating that I’d have some snacks and drinks to get it started. A follow-up message was sent to non-replies the day before.
Budget and Shop – I have a habit of being an overboard host (thanks, family tradition) and overbuying food, drink, and decorations. For this, I decided to stick to a strictly $60 budget and only went $3 over! I cut decorations – this wasn’t a party that needed it – and polled friends via facebook on cheap but delicious drink ideas. From the many ideas, I went with a tea-flavored vodka mixed with lemonade. Powdered lemonade mix is inexpensive and goes a long way, and is perfect for a summer party. The Absolut Wild Tea mixed in (sometimes with a splash of seltzer) did the trick. I also bought gin, which was unnecessary, because I didn’t buy tonic and it simply wasn’t a big hit. Oh well. For snacks, baby carrots, pretzels, Sun Chips, and one set of chips-and-salsa more than sufficed. I was fortunate to already have extra plastic cups and napkins; however, I would recommend purchasing some if you don’t have them on hand, as it will make cleanup infinitely easier.
Know your games – I have a large stockpile of board games and had a few select friends bringing some other cool ones. It’s important to think about all ranges people who will be attending, and make sure that you have a few games in mind for each of the styles. Remember, people have varied attention spans and skills, so pick games that balance each other.
During the Party
Get the party started – There were 25 people in attendance throughout the night. Most came within the first half hour (!!!!), and we “warmed up” with two games that anyone can learn by just jumping in and playing. The sooner you start playing, the better (especially when people don’t know each other) because it gets people talking and working together over a shared new experience. A little music is good at a soft volume… too loud and it can detract from the game. Let people dive right in by offering to grab them food and drink while they learn rules and play.
Allow different games and types of players to emerge organically….but catalyze when needed – When people are bored (ha!) of a game and you have a decent selection, they’ll self direct when it’s time to move on to the next. But, if you see certain people not engaging, try to subtly suggest a game, strategy, or explanation that might resonate more strongly with them. It’s also great to connect people who may have similar interests or styles of play, because those commonalities can build a stronger foundation for an enjoyable shared game experience. At my party, some of the more seasoned gamers took to playing more complicated games while the more casual voyeurs took to games with simple rules and low competition level. A few folks went back and forth, but it naturally worked.
Multitask: play host AND games – It’s ok (and necessary!) to sit down and play a game or two or three, but you’re still host. A good tip is to partner up with someone in each game so that you don’t disrupt the flow when, say, more guests arrive and you go to great them, or a watermelon needs cutting, or a spill needs cleaning. Periodically make sure that everyone is set on drinks and snacks, check that there’s enough toilet paper and paper towels, and that any messes are contained. Also, make sure you talk with everybody…. it can be easy to get distracted!
When It’s Over
Cleanup time – If you can enlist a friend’s help, that’s ideal, because you want to take care of as much as you can that night. Any open bottles should be finished or dumped and recycled; trash collected and taken out, and used dishes washed. You’ll also probably have a few lost and found items, which you can take care of through a Facebook message to attendees.
Reflect – What went well and what didn’t? If you ever want to host something similar again, there are always lessons to be learned so that you can do it that little bit better next time. Take a few minutes the next morning and jot some notes wherever is most helpful to you.
Whew!!! I’d love to hear if you are hosting one, and how it goes! (and, if I can come!)