Zach Armstrong writes:
We’re getting married soon, and for the reception while the wedding party gets photos taken we want to put out some board games for the guests to play to pass the hour or so. What kinds of games and setup would work well to make this a success?
Thanks for the question Zack. I think I have some suggestions that will help you out.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. As an associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no cost to you, we just get a small kickback if you buy something through one of these links. Using links like these helps to keep this blog and our podcast going.
The Short Answer:
First off this is a fantastic idea. Having just attended a wedding that could have been improved with some gaming, I’m totally behind this idea. I would potentially even take it a step farther and not only have games out for the period between the ceremony and reception but also have some available during the reception.
As for what games to choose you need short filler games. You want fun games that are very easy to pick up, games people can either teach themselves or already know how to play. This is the one place where even I would recommend some very common mass market games. Things like Connect Four and Jenga. Toss in some party games like Apples to Apples and Wits & Wagers. Then sprinkle in some solid hobby filler games. Here I’m thinking The Mind, Red 7, and Hey That’s My Fish!
The big thing is that you want to eliminate as much barrier to entry as possible. People are much more likely to play a game they already know or a game that looks quick, simple and easy. The next thing is to air on the side of light and fun over thinky and competitive.
The Long Answer:
This past weekend Deanna and I attended the wedding of Tori and Kat, names you should recognize from our Gloomhaven live streams. While getting ready for the wedding there was one point where I turned to Deanna and asked: “Should we bring some games?”
Tori and Kat are both gamers. I knew that two of the people we would be sitting with were also gamers. From what we knew of the other guests there probably weren’t very many other gamers to be found. I strongly considered it but eventually decided against it. Once there though there were a few points where I wish I had packed something. A simple card game or maybe even Azul. Based on the vibe at this wedding, I don’t think it would have been a problem at all.
Now that isn’t quite what Zack is asking for here, but it’s definitely what inspired me to tackle this question today. I was looking through my list of questions and saw this and thought, “Hey this is perfect. We just did the wedding thing this past weekend.” Part of that wedding was a big gap between ceremony and reception and having games for people to play could have been cool.
Actually, it ended up that some of the other people we were sitting with did go play a game of Fallout during that gap. Personally I was here at home and played some Carcassonne with Sean (which I talked about in this week’s Tabletop Gaming Weekly article).
I honestly think this is a great idea. The thing is figuring out how to make it work. This means not only picking the right games but making it so that people actually want to play them. First off I want to talk about this second part. Ways to make the games inviting and accessible. After that, I will get into some game suggestions.
Getting people to play the games at your event:
In order to get people to actually play the games you’ve picked you need to remove as much of the intimidation factor as possible. We gamers are odd in the fact that we get excited about learning a new game. Not everyone is like this, most people are much more comfortable playing something they already know. Especially in a social situation like a wedding where you are surrounded with a mix of family and strangers. This is why I think some of the best games for this kind of event are the games we all grew up playing and already know how to play.
The next step up for that are games that are very simple to learn. Try to pick games that can have their rules summarised on one page or less. Consider putting those rules on an index card or one two sided playing card sized sheet. Something people can pick up and read in moments and know how to play. No one is going to want to read through a rulebook, not at a wedding. They want to have fun and socialize.
Even better than rules summaries have someone at the event that is good at teaching games. Even better have a few of them. Get some volunteers to help you out here. If you have to take five minutes to teach Uncle John how to play The Mind the week before the wedding, do it. As I mentioned back when we were talking about teaching games, people learn different ways, and learning by reading is one of the least popular ways for people to learn a game. Most people would rather be shown. Plus having someone teach the game keeps up the social aspect of the event. You want people talking and laughing and having fun, not sitting down and reading.
You need to make the games look inviting. Have them set up, have cards out on the table. Have the Jenga tower already built. Have your rule summary sitting in plain view with the game there, inviting people to play it. Have everything needed to play right there. If the game requires players to keep score have a pencil and score sheet ready. If there are cards, have the decks already shuffled. If there are tiles to lay out, lay them out before the event.
Something not to be overlooked is setting expectations early. Let people know there will be games at the event. Put it right on the invitation. In general, people don’t like surprises. You don’t want them to walk out of the ceremony and be lead into a room filled with tables with games on them thinking: What the heck is this? Now, we’re expected to play games? People are going to be more willing to take a chance if they know what to expect. Start selling it early and assure people they don’t need to know the games. Also, don’t force anyone to play.
Despite what we may think, it’s not always a case that everyone is a gamer and they just don’t know it yet. Not everyone likes playing games. I know, I don’t get it either, but it’s true. Plus not everyone is going to be comfortable playing games at an event like a wedding. There’s enough social pressure at such a gathering, forcing people to play games, especially with strangers can just make that worse.
Picking the right games for your event:
As I noted in The Short Answer, you want quick, fun games that people already know or that are very easy to learn. You want people laughing and having a good time. Now is not the time to try to show off to the rest of your family just how good Puerto Rico is. Now is the time when you want to hear someone yell out Yahtzee.
As usual, I’m going to break these recommendations into categories and list a few games in each of them. This list is in no way going to be exh
Mass market games most people already know and love:
A wedding is one of the few events where I’m actually going to suggest you just stick to mass market games. The advantage these games have is that most people already know how to play them and many people have fond memories of them growing up.
Uno – I actually rather like this game. My kids like this game. I’ve got a copy in the glove box in my car, just in case we’re stuck somewhere and need to entertain the kids. There’s something about the “take that” nature of Uno that has appealed to generations of families and gamers.
Connect 4 – I have to admit I’m not a big fan of this game, but when I walk into a coffee shop and it’s just my wife and I and there’s a copy of Connect Four set up, you know we end up playing it. Usually not just once either. There’s something about that blue plastic stand and simplicity of the rules that just draws people in. Set this up and I bet it’s one of the first games to get played.
Boggle – This one can take a bit longer to play, and not everyone knows it, so make sure you have a rule summary around, but I know many people who love Boggle. Be sure to have a pad of paper or index cards and things to write with. Pens are better here as you don’t have to worry about sharpening them.
Blokus – This games looks great and is so easy to learn and/or teach. You each get your set of tiles, start in a corner. Each piece has to touch one of your existing pieces diagonally, and only diagonally. Try to play all your pieces. That’s about it. My kids could teach this one and the bright coloured tiles and gridded game board really catch people’s attention.
Qwirkle – For the Scrabble fans who don’t want to worry about vocabulary and Triple Letter Scores. Another game my kids could teach people to play. Very simple rules but rather rewarding gameplay. This is a family favourite, both with gamers and non.
Party games can work great at a wedding:
What is a wedding if not one big party, so what better games to have than party games? For party games I would be looking for event style games. Games where you don’t worry about the points and just play round after round, sometimes swapping out who is playing in between.
Apples to Apples – Do not underestimate how much fun a group can have with this game. Have the game out on the table with a few of the cards splayed loosely so that people can’t help but pick them up and read them. Have a quick rule summary or have someone stop by and quickly explain the game. Just be sure to stick to the original here and avoid some of the racier variants. Remember Grandma may be playing.
Wits & Wagers – The trivia game that doesn’t really require you to know any trivia. The trick here is that you can bet on your own answer or you can bet on someone else’s answer. If your brother really knows his sports, you know you are betting on his answer when the question is about the 1976 World Series. Stick to the original if you just want one table playing or get the party edition for larger groups.
Telestrations – There is no game that I own that I have laughed more while playing. This is a formalized version of Eat Poop You Cat where players have to draw something, then pass what they have drawn to the next player who has to guess what it is, then they pass that guess to the next player who tries to draw that guess. Very seldom does a Telestration book make it all the way around the table and end up being the same clue.
Easy to learn hobby games great for parties:
Love Letter – I am not a huge fan of this game normally but I have to admit it fits the theme. This one may take a tiny bit of work to teach non-gamers but the fact it’s only 18 cards makes it very approachable. You can even get a special Wedding Edition. This is one I would even consider having on the table as a favour people can take home.
The Mind – Just play your cards in order. How hard could that be? But wait, you aren’t allowed to communicate. Okay, maybe a bit antisocial for a wedding but trust me it’s only while you are playing the cards you can’t talk, there’s plenty of chatter and laughter between rounds.
Fluxx – Draw a card, play a card. That’s right those are the full rules for Fluxx. Once playing you quickly realize there’s more to it than that but all other rules are on the cards. No real teaching required. I’m not a fan of playing this with gamers but at a social event like a wedding, I’m all for the crazy back and forth that can be Fluxx. There are so many versions of this you can probably even find one that matches the theme of your wedding.
Nothing catches people’s attention more than a great dexterity game:
Bellhop fans must have known this category was coming. I love a good dexterity game and these kinds of games are perfect for events like weddings. They are exciting, they tend to gather a crowd and they often get people up and being loud and cheering (or cursing).
Jenga – This is the classic. The game everyone knows and many love. This one is up there with Connect Four for games that people seem to not be able to resist. Set up a few tables with Jenga Towers and just wait. You know someone’s going to pull a piece sooner rather than later.
Hamsterrolle – Now you may need someone to teach this one, just because no one except gamers like us have heard of it. It’s not hard but there are more rules than “take a block from the bottom and put it on top.” I’ve mentioned this game many times and for good reason, it’s my favourite dexterity game.
Pitchcar – This is a race game for up to eight players where your cars are basically crokinole pieces that you flick around the track. I suggest having a basic track already set up on a table that’s small enough that everyone can reach all parts of the track. This is another one people find hard to resist and usually draws a crowd.
Don’t be afraid of having kids games at your party:
Having kids at a wedding is pretty common. So yes, you should probably have some kids games for the kids to play, but honestly, these games are going to be just as appealing to adults. I know these are all games that I’ve found myself playing many times.
Loopin Louie – This game is far more fun that it should be for a silly kids dexterity game that you can usually find for under $20. Use your flipper to keep Louie and his plane away from your chickens. If you have a lot of geeks going to your wedding consider the Star Wars re-theme Loopin Chewie though realize the quality is a bit worse and it only plays three players.
Rhino Hero – Remember when you used to build card houses out of playing cards? Well, this is a bit of that with a silly theme. Each round you build place one or two walls on a growing tower then top it with a roof. The roof you place determines how many walls the next player has to place. There are some special cards that mess with the rules and at some point, someone is going to have to move the Super Rhino meeple up the tower.
Animal Upon Animal – Roll the dice and grab the wooden animal pictured, then stack it on top of the growing tower of animals. Play all your pieces to win. This is one of the first kids’ games I bought my girls and one they still enjoy now. It’s also one of the ones I steal the most often to play with my gamer friends.
So those are my thoughts on what you can do to successfully integrate some tabletop gaming with your wedding. Have you ever attended a wedding that had gaming as part of the event? Let me know in the comments below.