Thanksgiving is a time to hang out with friends and family and eat turkey and pumpkin pie. It's also a great time to share some laughs over a game or two. To get the gaming started, I've put together a list of seven fun-tastic party games, including recent releases as well as classic favorites.
These games have all proven excellent for both gamers and non-gamers alike. So you should be able to get them to the table or the coffee table without too much trouble. Let the fun and laughter begin!
1. Recto Verso
Recto Verso is a remake of one of my favorite puzzle games of all time, La Boca, featuring all new artwork and a smaller box. Your goal in Recto Verso is to construct a building according to a plan as quickly as possible with the assistance of another player, who sees the same building and plan from the opposite side. Communication is essential because faster you build, the more points you score.
The game box serves as your construction site, with the chunky colorful blocks you'll be using lying within easy reach of the current players. You can communicate as much as you like; you can talk about colors, directions, columns and even point fingers at spots. Nothing is forbidden except turning the box or looking at what your partner sees. You also must use all of the building pieces. So sometimes you'll have to hide some blocks inside the building.
Recto Verso is both cooperative and competitive because each round you'll become temporary building partners with different player. You need to cooperate with your current partner because if either of you makes a mistake and does not complete the building according to the plan, you'll both score nothing. If you and your partner are able to successfully complete the building in less than two minutes you'll both gain the same number of victory point tokens: 1 to 10 according to the time it took you to finish.
One of the players not currently building will track the time. You can either use a stopwatch on your phone or the dedicated app available on Tiki Editions' or Super Meeple's web site. Once everyone has played once with everyone else - or twice in a three-player game - players add up their victory points. The player with the most points wins.
3 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, can play Recto Verso in about 30 minutes. Recto Verso includes two colors of building cards - blue for Normal difficulty and purple for Hard, plus a new cooperative mode for just 2 players. I highly recommend this game at any player count. It's always a blast!
Whenever we play Codenames, anyone not playing is invariably attracted to the laughter and chatter and eventually joins in. At one gathering, we started the game with 4 players and ended with 14! Codenames is played with two teams - red and blue - so it's easy to add players on the fly. We just try to keep the team numbers approximately even.
Your mission is to discover the whereabouts of your fellow agents, by guessing their codenames. One player from each team is the Spymaster, giving clues to the whereabouts of her team’s field agents. It’s up to the rest of her team to guess the correct locations.
The Spymasters sit side by side with an upright card in front of them depicting a 5x5 grid of squares colored red, blue, beige and black. Red and blue squares indicate the locations of each team’s field Agents - the words the Spymasters want their team members to guess. Beige squares represent neutral Bystanders and the black square is the Assassin. Random word cards are placed in a corresponding 5×5 grid on the table where all the players can see them. Each word represents the location of a field Agent, Bystander or the Assassin.
Spymasters take turns giving a one-word clue, followed by a number indicating how many field Agent locations (word cards on the table) that clue applies to. Their teammates discuss possible answers, then when a consensus is reached, one team member touches one card - their first guess. The Spymaster – without saying anything – then places a colored tile on top of the word card to indicate who is at that location: a Red Team Agent, a Blue Team Agent, a beige Bystander, or the black Assassin.
If the team found one of their Agents, they can guess another location. The maximum number of guesses a team is allowed each turn is the number the Spymaster gave after the clue plus one. Of course, a team can choose to pass at any time: they do not have to use all of their guesses. Should the team guess wrong and point to the location of a Bystander or one of their opponent’s Agents, their turn ends immediately. Should they point to the location of the Assassin, the game is over and they lose immediately. The first team to find all of their Agents wins.
It's important that the Spymaster not say anything or give any clue in any way as to whether their team is on the right track at any time – that’s the hardest part about being Spymaster.
Codenames has become so popular, the publisher has released many spin-offs. There are thematic version for Disney, Harry Potter and Marvel fans. One of my favorite is Codenames: Duet.
Codenames: Duet is a cooperative version of Codenames for two players or two teams working together against the game. Your goal is to locate all of your agents before time runs out. Spymasters play opposite each other, viewing different sides of a grid card featuring green (the locations/words you need to guess), beige squares and one black on each side for the Assassin. The squares on each side of the grid card are labled differently. Codenames: Duet is a super fun and addictive challenge! Great option when there’s only the two of you to play.
For those that think a picture is worth a thousand words, there's Codenames: Pictures. As the name implies it features picture cards instead of word cards. But don't be fooled that it's easier: the pictures leave plenty of room for interpretation. You can even combine it with the original Codenames, alternating picture and word cards in the grid.
Whichever flavor of Codenames you choose, you can't go wrong. They're all great games for most ages and any number of players. But you don't have to take my word for it, you can try Codenames, Codenames: Pictures and Codenames: Duet before you buy them for free by renting them at Here Be Books & Games.
Officially, Codenames and Codenames: Pictures support 2 to 8+ players, ages 14 and up, with a playtime of 15 minutes. In my experience, games usually take a little longer than 15 minutes, but we also often play multiple games in a row, letting other players try their hand as spymaster. Codenames: Duet supports 2+ players, ages 11 and up, also with a 15 minute playtime.
3. Just One
Just One is another of our favorite party game. When everyone was in lockdown during the pandemic, we often played it via video conference - Codenames, too!
Just One is a cooperative party game in which you play together to correctly guess as many mystery words as possible. A complete game is played with 13 cards. Your goal is to score as close to 13 as possible.
Players take turns being the Guesser. The Guesser closes their eyes and picks a number between 1 and 5. The other players, the Clue-givers, reveal a card with a numbered list of 5 words on it. They then each secretly write a one-word clue for the Guesser's chosen word. Each Clue-giver wants to come up with a unique clue that their fellow Clue-givers are unlikely to also write down. When all Clue-givers have secretly written down a clue, they reveal their clues to the other Clue-givers and remove any duplicates.
The Guesser can then open their eyes and see the remaining unique clues - hopefully more than one! The Guesser can either make one guess or pass. If they guess correctly, you all score 1 point - remember it's a cooperative game so you're all playing together against the game. If they guess incorrectly, you lose the current card as well as the top card of the deck – thus losing 2 points. If the Guesser chooses to pass, you only lose the current card, and therefore only 1 point.
How close can you get to a perfect score of 13? How much do you all think alike? You'll know a lot more about your fellow players after a game of Just One!
3 to 7 players, ages 8 and up, can play Just One in about 20 minutes. We’ve played with more players by supplementing with paper and pencil. Whether you play in person or virtually, Just One is a fun for any gathering! You can buy or rent Just One at Here Be Books & Games.
4. Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby!
Wits & Wagers is the trivia game you can win, even if you're not a trivia buff! It's not important that you know the correct answer to the question posed each round, just that you put your money on the right answer.
Each round, one player reads a question from her card and everyone writes down a numerical guess to the question. When everyone’s ready, players reveal their answers and place them face-up on the betting mat, then everyone bets on which guess is closest to the correct answer.
Think you know the correct answer? Bet on your own guess. Think you know who the expert is? Bet on their answer instead! It's fun game for everyone - you can win even if you don't know the right answers!
Wits & Wagers is a classic. The latest version, Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby! features all new questions - some of the funniest and most surprising of any of its predecessors. For example, "How many calories does gum-chewing burn per hour?"
The Vegas edition also offers more places to bet. Just like in Vegas, you can make a less risky bet by betting on Red or Black - each covering three different guesses - allowing you to grow your winnings even when you don't know the best answer. The art and components enhance the experience and you're much less likely to run out of chips because they've added a bunch more.
Wits & Wagers: It's Vegas, Baby! supports 5 to 99 players. Yep, that's what the box says! It's appropriate for ages 13 and up and has a playtime of 30 to 40 minutes.
5. Ready Set Bet
While we're on the subject of betting games, here's a new one on the gaming scene: Ready Set Bet. In Ready Set Bet, you and your friends are off to the horse races in a real-time frenetic game of cheering, jeering, and betting on your favorite horses, whose fates hang on every roll of the dice.
Ready Set Bet is played over four rounds/ten-minute races. Each round consists of a race followed by bet resolution. One player acts as the House/announcer, a neutral third party, calling out the race as they roll the dice and move the horses accordingly, all the while cracking jokes and providing other commentary on how the horses' are running. Alternatively, an app is available that can run all of the races, so everyone can compete for the win.
Meanwhile the rest of you place your betting tokens on an oversized board with a variety of betting option boxes for each horse to Show (third), Place (second) or Win (first). When you're out of chips or three horses have crossed the red line closing betting, you're done wagering on the current race, but that doesn't mean you're done cheering and jeering.
Your goal is to win the most money, of course. But even when you're aren't winning, you're sure to enjoy the thrill of the race. BJ from Board Game Gumbo says:
"From start to finish, these are thrilling races, with horses bolting out to the lead, or hard charging from the back in an effort to sneak across the finish line ahead of other horses by a nose. I’ve seen gamers really struggle, holding on to that last betting chip, knowing that each second they wait, the horses get closer to the line on the track that closes out the betting or knowing that another player will snag one of the betting marks before they do. With only place for one marker in most of the betting areas, those crunchy decisions are fun [when] it is you having to process the odds, and just as much fun for spectators to watch you sweat it out".
After each race is called, players win or lose money for each of the bet tokens they placed, then receive a VIP Club Card to help them win more money in the following races. After four rounds, the player with the most money wins!
2 to 9 players, ages 14 and up, can play Ready Set Bet in 45 to 60 minutes. Ready Set Bet also includes House variants that allow the announcer to bet on the race.
6. Fun Facts
Another new release in the party games category is Fun Facts, an enjoyable, uncomplicated, "get to know you" style cooperative party game. The funny and unusual questions are sure to spark some good conversations, laughter and even a bizarre story or two about your friends, family... and yourself!
Fun Facts is played over eight rounds. Each round, read a question card and place it in the middle of the table. For example, "How long is the perfect nap?" or "How many years of your life would you give up to become a billionaire instantly?"
Then everyone secretly writes a numeric answer on their colored arrow and places that arrow face down on the table. Write your name on the other side of the arrow to identify whose arrow it is.
Next, imagining the answers of your teammates, take turns placing your arrows facedown on the table such that the answers will rank in an ascending line. For example, "I know that Jana enjoys her naps, so I should definitely place my arrow before hers." After everyone has placed their answer, the starting player may change the position of her own arrow without touching anyone else's.
Finally, reveal the answers in ascending order, one at a time, removing each arrow that is out of order. Count the remaining arrows, scoring one point for each. After playing eight rounds, you may record your team's score in the provided Record of Legends.
How well do you know your teammates? Think you can achieve a perfect score? Whatever your final score, you're sure to know more about your teammates. You may even learn a few surprising facts, too, in this simple, fun and wholesome cooperative party game.
Fun Facts supports 4 to 8 players, ages 8 and up, with a playtime of 30 minutes.
Speaking of get-to-know-you party games, Dixit is a surprising, exhilarating, and competitive Apples-to-Apples-like game that is certain to give you a peak into your fellow players' psyches.
Each round in Dixit, the active player, aka Storyteller, chooses a picture card from their hand and places it facedown on the table while announcing a title for that picture. The word “picture” doesn’t even begin to describe the breath-taking and sometimes mind-bending illustrations on Dixit cards. The Storyteller's title can be a phrase, a line sung from a song or a single word. The idea is to give a clue that is somewhat opaque, but not so hard that no one guesses it and not so obvious that everyone guesses it.
The other players each choose a card from their hand that also - hopefully - suits the Storyteller's title.
Gathering the submitted cards, the Storyteller mixes them up and then lays each card face up, repeating the title.
After all of the cards have been revealed, players each select a number token to indicate which card they believe is the Storyteller's. Use your intuition and knowledge of the Storyteller to identify the correct picture, while avoiding the other players’ traps (their pictures).
Finally, calculate scores for the round:
- If the Storyteller’s title/picture combination is too obvious and everyone guesses which is the Storyteller’s card - or too enigmatic and no one guesses correctly - the guessers score 2 points and the storyteller scores 0.
- If more than two players, but not all of the players, guess the Storyteller's card, the Storyteller and the players who guessed correctly each score 3 points.
- Players other than the Storyteller also score an additional point for each vote their picture got.
Play continues, with players taking turns as Storyteller, until the deck is empty or a player scores 30 points.
Numerous expansions are available for Dixit with illustrations by a variety of artists, so it's easy to keep this award-winning game fresh and interesting for years to come. The artwork is simply amazing! Some gamers even use Dixit cards in their Mysterium games.
So there you have it: 7 party games for Thanksgiving that are sure to provide loads of laughter and a fun-tastic time!