On how to escalate a game night.

It’s the start of a new week and first thing I have to do is apologize. I wanted to prepare a couple posts to be automatically uploaded during my Easter break, but the season 2 of Daredevil trumped that project and my leave was imminent. It’s been almost ten days since I’ve been away from my keyboard, but that doesn’t mean it was an unproductive time. I have so many new ideas I want to share here that I don’t even know where to begin, so I made a list and I’ll use Sheldon’s old D&D trick of rolling the dice and let myself loose of any decision.

Today I rolled a 10, so I’m going to start on how to escalate a good game night. This is of course a decision you have to make with the players, but it doesn’t hurt to have a first proposal when they walk through the door, it shows preparedness and, after all, that you care. The list of games to be played varies according to certain points, like the number of players or the amount of time you want to spend playing. Now, I’m gonna assume that you are all grownups without a curfew, but I recommend not to overdo it, since you can ruin a good game just by playing it when you are tired. Also, keep in mind that a rest between games to chat or have a snack is something the Nintendo Wii always warned us about, and you know Nintendo only wants what’s best for you.

First things first. Usually the attendance to a game night is progressive, meaning that not all your guests will show at the same time. That gives an opportunity to take an interest in their lives while you wait for the others. After all, they are your friends and you care about their lives, they are not just tools to play tabletop games, are they? (note: that’s for you to decide, I won’t judge). Something I usually do when my friends come over is setup some spare comic books, you know, those that you bought cheap or got for free and are not part of your main collection. It’s always a conversation opener and it gives a geek touch to the place. Secondly, you can set on the table the games you plan on proposing to play  (still on their boxes). It helps your friends narrow their options when you have a substantial tabletop collection and saves you from spending half an hour just deciding on what you are going to play. And third, offer snacks and beverages. You are not their butler, but you are a host and a gentlegeek after all, and that means you care that they have a great time. Nobody has a great time while hungry or thirsty. Nobody.

Okay, so your friends are all here and it’s time to play a game. I usually recommend starting with a quick card game that allows for interaction between players. Nobody will tell you this, but if you are playing more than one game, the next game you play will always be determined by the previous on the way you treat your fellow players, especially regarding alliances or favors. Trust me, those bastards never forget. So I usually begin with a game like Samurai Sword or Smash Up, both fast paced combat-like card game. If you want a longer game, you can play with the expansions.

Now we are all warmed up, we’ve seen some backstabbing actions and the thirst for blood is gone (for the moment) and it’s time to play on the major league. This is the time for that blockbuster you’ve been saving for months to buy or that big game you’ve always enjoyed playing together. We’ve got quite a selection of those. At first we were hardcore Game of Thrones (tabletop edition) gamers, then we switched onto Lords of Waterdeep, later on we cached up with Arkham Horror and now are enjoying the sweet and peaceful Blood Rage (I mean, it has it on the title, c’mon!). If by the time you are done trying to dismember your fellow gamers (with love) there’s still time to keep playing, I’ll go with a small break. Consider bladder checking, and those of your friends who smoke might appreciate an ashtray and indications towards the nearest smoking area. It’s also convenient to get a refill and some light snacks to proceed with the evening. Now, this is a delicate moment. Usually you are a bit tired from all the tension from the previous games and you can feel that another hardcore game might not do for you. I do not recommend continuing playing in those cases because it usually means that you confront the next game with a bit of rejection, and that’s dangerous. I’ve seen many games ruined because they were played at the wrong moment and you just remember feeling uneasy when you last played it, and subsequently don’t want to try it again. That’s perfectly normal and it happens to the best of us geeks. That’s why I’m telling you this. If you, or any of your friends, feel a bit tired try some chatting, read comic books or, if you still want to play but on a lower intensity, try some slow-paced-yet-fast-to-play fillers. I could recommend dozens, but I’m going to lead with three that you will surely find anywhere: Love Letter, Coup and The Resistance (or any of its variants). This kind of games with a deception mechanic usually helps the night to stay on track, rather than decay. After that, it’s your choice. It always depends on how the players feel about the next game.

If you are an RPG group, I always recommend the following play: campaign themed filler, then the campaign (with some breaks once in a while) and then recap and preparation for the next campaign. When trying to select a filler, always go for good mechanics rather than the right theme, although if you can find one that combines both, you struck gold my dear geek. And take into account that the great thing about RPGs is that you build your own speed, and a good GM always knows how to set the right pace for his players.

Always remember that a sign of a good game night is when the players leave planning when the next one is going to be.  Stay sharp, stay geek. 


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