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Top Of The Table – Great Party Games For Your Picnic Table

by Matt Miller on Jun 01, 2018 at 04:45 PM

Summer is upon us, and there’s plenty of reasons to find yourself enjoying the sunshine and a fun evening at the lake, a meal after a long hike, or simply settling in at your favorite camp site. While those settings aren’t ideal for giant strategic board games, they can be a perfect opportunity to break out simple social party games that are compact and easy to transport.

Pull these games out onto the picnic table for short play times, easy-to-learn rules, and laugh-inducing premises, perfect for a quiet afternoon or evening in the great outdoors.

Superfight
Publisher: Skybound Games

If you’re hanging around the right sort of people, they’re probably able to get behind a good argument of “Who would win in a fight?” Superfight takes this concept to its natural conclusion, by tasking its players with absurd match-ups of famous (or at least familiar) figures with weird superpowers, and asking all the other players to vote about who would win. Superfight is simple and without pretense; figures like Abraham Lincoln, a Kindergarten class, or Hermione can get powered up with abilities like giant claws that sprout from their hands, or being armed with ghost pepper spray. It’s fun to imagine the absurd match-ups, and to try and make your case for why your character would win. Superfight easily supports as few as three players, or as many as ten, and numerous expansions are available if it becomes a family favorite.

Codenames Duet
Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Codenames Duet is the cooperative evolution of my personal favorite low-key party game, Codenames. Like in the original, players lay out a grid of cards with words like “igloo” or “radio” printed on them. Players then give one-word clues, along with a number that suggests how many words on the grid might relate to the clue. But watch out! Some of the cards on the grid are assassins – accidentally select one of those, and it’s game over. In the newer Duet version of the game, rather than two competing teams of spies, everyone is working cooperatively to find the correct cards before an assassin is accidentally contacted. It’s a great variation on an already excellent game, in which you’ll learn a lot about the ways that your fellow players understand words and meanings. Codenames Duet has the distinguishing feature of playing great with only two players, but it works well for bigger groups as well.

Chameleon
Publisher: Big Potato Games

Can you blend in with the crowd, even if they all know the subject of the conversation, and you don’t? That’s the intriguing premise behind this great party game, which scales wonderfully for as few as three or as many as eight players. Everyone around the table knows a secret word that is one of many in a particular topic area, like fairy tales, drinks, the zoo, or hobbies. Within a topic, one of the words on a grid is the secret word; in the movies topic, the word might be King Kong, Titanic, or Finding Nemo. Going around the table, every player then offers a single word that could relate to the secret word. The trick is, one player doesn’t know the secret, and they need to blend in by coming up with a word that seems like it fits. At the end of the round, players try to guess the chameleon. But even if the chameleon is identified, he or she still gets a chance to win if they can guess the secret word from the clues that were given. Chameleon is a surprisingly nuanced social game, which can also lead to a lot of laughs – well worth checking out if you’re looking for something new.

You’ve Got Crabs
Publisher: Ad Magic, Exploding Kittens

If you’re willing to overlook the innuendo, You’ve Got Crabs is a surprisingly family-friendly card game. Based on and rebuilt from a classic poker-deck card game commonly called Kemps, You’ve Got Crabs is a game of matching and secret communication between teams of two partners. Partner teams first agree on a secret signal to each other, and then go about drawing cards and trying to get a matching set of four. You then let your partner know that you’ve got a set with your secret signal. If they catch on, your partner points at you and shouts “You’ve Got Crabs!” and you get points (tallied, of course, with crab tokens). But if someone else notices the signal, they can shout the game’s title and steal your points/crabs. The cards you’re collecting are populated with art and names of seafood-themed puns, like “Crabernet Sauvignon,” “Crabridor Retriever,” and “Taxi Crab,” which adds to the silliness. The whole thing plays fast, relatively loose, and with a lot of laughs. You’ve Got Crabs works for four to ten players, but you’ll obviously need an even number of players to make things work.

Sushi Go Party!
Publisher: Gamewright

I’m a big fan of the original Sushi Go, which is my favorite game for teaching the drafting mechanic to new tabletop players. But Sushi Go Party! takes that same formula and blows it out for larger groups of up to eight players. Players earn points by collecting sets and individual cards that add up to a great sushi meal, including tasty options like tempura, maki rolls, and edamame, not to mention tasty dessert like green tea ice cream. Players grab a stack of cards and add one to their hand before passing the remaining cards on to the next player in the sequence. Will you try to collect the most Maki? Or take a risk to try and get three sashimi cards for that big score? Sushi Go Party includes a lot more types of cards than in the original game, leading to lots more customization and variety in how the game plays. Plus, you just can’t beat those little anthropomorphized sushi characters on all the cards.

That’s A Question!
Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Ideal for close friends who enjoy leveraging their knowledge of each other, That’s A Question! comes from the same designer as Codenames (see above). Players have a hand of cards with a variety of potential answers on them. In the center of the table, a small board prompt offers up three questions: (1) Which would you miss more if it ceased to exist?, (2) Which of these would you choose?, and (3) Whom do you consider worse? Players choose from their available cards to lay down two options, and then pose that question to one of the other players. For instance, would you miss Google or comfy underwear more? Everyone else then votes on which answer that person would give. That’s A Question! also includes a cute board and figures for noting score, which tracks a group of squirrels that are climbing a mountain. But the real fun of the game are the surprising questions and answers that emerge, and being surprised what your friends really think. There are even ways to double down on an answer with a special token, if you’re especially confident of the answer that someone is going to give. That’s A Question! plays best with a relatively full group of five or six players.

 

Any of the games above are sure to help add some fun and laughter to your day out in nature, all are physically small enough to transport easily, and they don’t require a large play space to make work – even a big tree stump could work in a pinch. And, of course, the selections I’ve included here are just some of my recent favorites – there are lots of other great options. If nothing there strikes you, hit me up via email or Twitter, and I’ll offer some additional recommendations of good party games for your next get-together, whether that’s to be gathered near a campfire or in the comfy air conditioning at home.

If you’re looking for some more robust tabletop offerings, you should make sure and check out the full Top of the Table hub, where you’ll find a bunch of additional recommendations. And feel free to share some of your favorite party games in the comments below.