Getting Organized: 6 Tips for Organizing and Running a Regular Game Night | Casual Game Revolution

Getting Organized: 6 Tips for Organizing and Running a Regular Game Night

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Are you a board game fan who would like to have a regular game night? I started mine a few years ago, thinking it would be a fun one-time deal, but after the success of that evening I’ve turned it into an event that has my friends consistently asking when my next game night will be. Here are six tips for organizing and running your own successful game night regularly.

1. Schedule a consistent day and time

Schedule each game night on the same evening and at the same time. I’ve found that Saturday evenings work best for my group — I can start a bit earlier without worrying about conflicting with work, and even busy parents generally don’t have much in the way. That said, I also used to play in a regular poker game on Friday night, which never seemed like too much trouble, either. The point is to make sure that you pick a night that works and stay with it. Holding it on one night during one month and a different night the following month is sure to lead to comments like, “Sorry! I meant to come, but thought it was tomorrow.”

Ideally, try to hold your game night on the exact same evening each month — if people can get used to the idea that the third Saturday of the month is Game Night, they will start planning for it, and even scheduling around it.

2. Figure out the best invitation format for you and your guests

I’m pretty casual with my invites, using my email contact list, some posts on my Facebook wall and word-of-mouth to get the word out. Of course, you can be more formal if you want, using something like or, or an app like GroupMe, to send out notices and track RSVPs. It’s really up to you and your potential guests. If you find a method that works well, keep using it.


3. Prepare adequate play space

Do you have enough space to play what you want? With rare exceptions, most games are likely to max out at 5-6 players, so if you have more people show up, you may need to break out into two or more groups. Do you have a second table that’s big enough to play a game like Settlers of Catan and comfortable enough to sit around for an hour? While the characters in The Big Bang Theory may like playing Ticket to Ride on their low coffee table, I don’t recommend it because it requires players to spend most of the time leaning forward.

On a related note, do you have enough comfortable chairs? Those plastic folding chairs you bring out for guests at Thanksgiving may be OK for sitting at the table for a half hour during dinner, but is someone really going to want to sit in one for 2-3 hours to play some games?

4. Cater to mixed crowds

I always encourage my guests to bring their friends and family. The more, the merrier! However, those friends of friends are less likely to be familiar with board gaming. At my game night, we almost always have two tables going: one for the more experienced players, who are generally trying out something new and perhaps more complex, and another for the newbies or more casual players.

The trick, of course, is that you need an experienced player to volunteer to be at that table to not only explain the rules, but also to help guide the new group through the game. I’m fortunate that my wife and daughter are almost always willing to be in that group — my wife simply prefers those games with which she’s the most familiar, while my daughter delights in teaching new things to new people. This “teacher” doesn’t need to always be the same person, but you should give some thought in advance as to who it will be so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to try to coerce someone. This not only eats up time but may give these new people the impression that their teacher doesn’t really want to be playing with them.

Crowd of people

5. Deal with kids

Smaller kids at game night are tricky. I know plenty of people who would rather their game night be an adults-only affair, and that’s OK. My problem is that most of my friends have smaller kids, and are much more likely to come to game night if they can bring them. It’s not an issue in my house, since my 8-year-old son is happy to have new playmates and to feel included, since he doesn’t generally like the kinds of games we play. However, inviting kids does create some additional hassles.

First, you will need to account for the fact that the parents are going to leave earlier. Starting at 6 or 7 in the evening means that they may not even have time to play a single game, since most games require more time for first-time players, so starting earlier will likely be a good idea. Second, you’ll need age-appropriate games, so Cards Against Humanity is going to need to stay on the shelf, at least until the kids are gone. Third, you’ll need to account for that kid who really, really wants to play what the grown-ups are playing. We often find that letting them be a “partner” with their parent or another willing player works to let them think they’re involved without disrupting the game too much.

6. Ensure everyone feels included

If you have two tables going, and a short game ends while a longer game is far from over, what do you do? If you’re the host and you’re playing the longer game, you’ll need to excuse yourself for a moment to get the other group started playing something else. Players may be willing to wait a bit, as well, if it looks like the other table may finish soon — but keep an eye out for people standing around for too long.

You also need to think about how to handle late arrivals, people who sit out for a game but later change their minds, or situations where most of the players at a particular table leave after a game ends. You don’t want anyone to be bored, but what do you do if you don’t have enough “extra” people to run another game? The most important thing is to make sure those guests don’t feel excluded, since they will probably end up leaving and might not come the next time. Invite them into the room where the other game is going on and include them in the conversation. Or, have some very casual games like Zombie Dice available. To ensure everyone is included, in some circumstances it might also be worth considering stopping a longer game to have everyone regroup and start a new game.

Charles Waterman
Charles Waterman's picture

All good comments and things to think about.  However, in an article like this, I'd have preferred to read more concrete suggestions as to possible solutions to problems.  In a few places, you just wrote "be ready for ~~" without any tips about HOW to be ready or what types of solutions might work.....

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