Top 5 Community Games

Community Games

Playing 2 – 5 player games regularly with the same group is a great way of building friendships. However, it can be rather insular. Even meeting up at my local boardgame cafe (The Dice Cup), it can be all too easy to end up playing with a similar group of people each week.

How do you branch out from your immediate circle of friends? How do you encourage people to play games with people they’ve not met before? Community games!

Essentially, what I mean by this is games that play a lot of people. We were discussing games that play 10 (or more) players the other day. There aren’t many of them! Certainly not many that are highly rated on BoardGameGeek.

These games can be great for bringing people together, making new friends and building a sense of community around your local gaming establishment. So here are my top 5 recommendations for community games…

Freeman Hardy Willis

5. Freeman, Hardy, Willis

This is an old game (named after an old shoe shop!) that I still love playing. People can feel self-conscious though so you will need to warm them up with something else first.

Everyone sits in a circle and every seat represents a name or a number. In order, they should be: Freeman, Hardy, Willis, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …, Tea Boy/Girl. You have as many numbers as required to fill up the number of people, but the last spot is always the Tea Boy/Girl.

You set up a four-beat rhythm that everyone has to follow involving clapping or clicking fingers (eg. clap, clap, click, click). Freeman always starts and says their name followed by someone else’s name/number, but they must be said on the two clicks (the 3rd and 4th beats).

This passes the turn onto the named person who has to continue in the same way. If a player makes a mistake (wrong name or timing), the round ends, they stand up and move to the bottom seat with everyone below them moving up one seat to fill the space.

The objective is to try and get to the top spot (Freeman). Start slowly, but as people get better you can speed up. It’s a lot of fun!

Ultimate Werewolf

4. Werewolf

This has fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years with the advent of much quicker varieties such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf. However, I still really enjoy playing the original Werewolf, and you can potentially play with more people if it’s done well.

I play a slightly different variation of this one from most people. Essentially, everyone is given a secret role: either a werewolf or a villager. The game is split into a night round and a day round. During the night, everyone closes their eyes and the werewolves try to kill someone. During the day, players discuss who looks guilty and try to work out who the werewolves are.

The werewolves are trying to kill all the villagers, but in my variation, they can’t open their eyes at night. The moderator calls out the names of the players one at a time and if all the werewolves raise a hand on the same person, then they succeed in killing someone, otherwise nothing happens.

At the end of each day everyone votes to lynch someone and the villagers are obviously trying to kill all the werewolves this way. However, since the werewolves have to close their eyes at night, they have to communicate with each other (subtly!) during the day, which makes the day rounds much more interesting.

Ten people is a good number to start with and you can increase the number of players with practice, but you really need a moderator who knows what they’re doing!


3. Telestrations

This is more of an activity than a game, but it’s so entertaining. Everyone has a flipboard and they write down something for the next person to draw (eg. a kite, a farmer, or a fire engine).

The boards are passed on and the next person tries to draw the item on the next page and then they pass the boards on again. The person after that has to guess what they’ve drawn just by looking at the drawing.

It keeps alternating, so one person draws, the next person guesses, the next person draws again, etc. until the boards have gone round the whole circle and everyone has their own board back again.

Players then take it in turns to show everyone the progression of their board. Seeing how the drawings and guesses change and the ridiculous guesses people made can be so entertaining. The worse people are at drawing, the more fun it is!

Two Rooms and a Boom

2. Two Rooms and a Boom

I last played this over New Year and we had a great time. You need two adjacent rooms (obviously!), but this can play a lot of people. Secret roles are handed out to all the players and everyone is on one of two teams: red or blue (indicated on the secret roles).

The President is on the blue team and the Bomber is on the red team. If the red team manage to get the bomber in the same room as the president by the end of the game, they win. Otherwise, the president is safe and the blue team wins.

People are randomly split into two rooms at the start and players can show each other their cards (or just the colour of their card) if they choose to. They have to gradually deduce who is on which team and try to work out who the President/Bomber is.

Every few minutes, some of the players exchange rooms (determined by a majority vote in each room), but the number of players that can switch keeps reducing each time until the end of the game when only one person from each room can switch.

It’s great for meeting new people and getting them to talk to each other. There are a bunch of special roles that mix things up as well so most people have got an interesting special ability of some kind. I love it!

Time's Up!

1. Time’s Up

This is hands-down my favourite large-group game. It’s so entertaining. You have a large number of famous people on cards in a hat and everyone is split into two teams.

Teams take it in turns to select one person who gets 30 seconds to convey the name of as many of the famous people to their team as they can. They keep drawing cards and having a go until the time runs out.

The trick is that, in the first round you can say anything (except the name on the card) to describe the famous person. In the second round, you can only say one word. In the third round, you can’t say anything (so you have to use charades).

This might sound impossible except that you re-use the celebrities from round to round. So everyone has already heard the names of all the possibilities during round one, which makes it much easier to guess in the subsequent rounds.

I enjoy playing these kinds of games so much, I’m trying to arrange a regular event to play them. I also love getting to know new people and building a sense of community! Do you enjoy these kinds of games? What would your favourite community game be?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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