Hosting a game night can be extremely fun and when done well it leaves your guests feeling satisfied and looking forward to future game nights. After a number of really successful evenings some of your guests will offer to help, participate in ways to defer expenses, and even want to take a turn hosting the whole event. Personally I think this is great outcome because it prevents individual burn-out and allows for people and game nights to become a regular part of your life.
Make it memorable and fun
The main of objective of a successful game night is to make it memorable and fun. This is accomplished by creating excitement, hosting with enthusiasm, and ending the night with an exclamation point. Here are the steps needed to have a great night and set the stage for more fun nights in the future.
Step 1 – Make sure you invite your guests in a way that makes them want to attend
Step 2 – Do a secondary invite and start to get the members actively engaged
Step 3 – Have a theme for the night
Step 4 – Know the games that will be played and have a Plan B set of games too
Step 5 – Make sure you have enough snacks and drinks
Step 6 – Provide either awards/prizes or a swag bag
Step 1: Start with the Invitations
Back in the days of the original Game Night Bros we were invited to our official first game night by word of mouth. It was an announcement made at the beginning of our weekly small group. I mention this because the first thought is “that’s so lame”, but it’s not. We were all gathered together so the message wasn’t diluted by any other distractions. The host was able express his passion and excitement for the upcoming event and how much he wanted us all to attend. This same invitation can be delivered today, perhaps even better. Today we all have phones, Facebook, and e-mail accounts. Simply make a video invitation and send the embedded video to whomever you want to invite or just send them the video over Facebook – make sure you send it directly to who you want to attend or you may have 400 unexpected guests. Send the invitation 2-3 weeks in advance of the event date with an RSVP 1 week prior to the date.
Step 2: Individual Engagement
There are a number of reasons why you want to send the invite out early and with an RSVP. The first reason is obvious. You want the RSVP so that you can prepare appropriately for the game night. This preparation will be valuable to you with some of the upcoming steps.
A second reason for sending out the invitations early is to allow your potential guests an opportunity to change their plans, if necessary, so that they can attend your first ever, and what will surely be a LEGENDARY Game Night.
The third reason is to give you one more opportunity to re-invite anyone who didn’t RSVP and to start some personal engagement with those who did RSVP. On my Home Page I thanked Extreme, Rock, Turtle, and Classic for all of the memorable game nights we had. We don’t actually use any of those nick-names – I guess they never really stuck. But those names were assigned to us during this stage of the of Game Night preparation. It was a great experience because we all had an alter ego that we played off of while we were getting to know each other.
I’m not saying that you have to give everyone a nick-name, but you could just simply make a follow up invite and mention something like, “I can’t wait to see what happens when Jim attacks Carl for the first time this weekend during our RISK game.” Another idea would be to say, “Mike and Jennifer are always so generous – I can’t wait to see how that plays out during our upcoming Settlers of Catan game.”
TIP: Whether you use nick-names or make some personal comments to start engaging your upcoming guests ALWAYS keep it positive. Never insult anyone, even if you aren’t serious and you are just trying to be humorous. This may be okay later as you become better acquainted with everyone, but early on this could kill your Game Night.
Step 3: Theme for the night
Set the night with a theme. This could be as grand as something like 80’s Night. Set your music playlist with 80’s music or break out your tapes and boom box if you still have them. Find some retro t-shirts in some larger sizes – hand them out to your guests when they arrive and they can pull them on over their other clothes. You can probably find some Knight Rider, A-Team, or MacGyver themed plates, cups, and napkins for your food and refreshments. Set the DVR on TV Land and record some shows from that decade in preparation for that night. If you are a Millennial 80’s Night might not be too exciting, but you get the idea.
The theme for the night could also be more understated or not at all. Certainly as the game nights continue the theme isn’t as important as the games. But if this is your first game night and you want to make it memorable and fun then try to go above and beyond. When you give people more than they expect you create an experience and that is what will keep people talking for years to come.
Step 4: Know the Games
Knowing which games you will play is secondary to the invitations and RSVPs. Did you invite 6 couples or just 6 close friends? Depending on how many people you invited will determine how you can approach the games. If you are associated with a larger group of people at work, church, or school and you don’t want to leave anyone out then you may have to play multiple games at the same time. If you have a smaller gathering you all may be able to play the same game. Either way, as the host, you want to be able to direct people as to what games are being played. Perhaps you want to have a game of Settlers of Catan and another game of Ticket to Ride if this is a group of beginner game players. More advanced game night players might prefer to play Settlers of Catan: Cities and Knights or Between Two Cities.
TIP: The true beauty of some of these games is that multiple players get close to winning at the same time. It’s not uncommon for the winning player to win by a very close margin with their nearest opponent. The opponent could unintentionally devalue the winner by explaining how they should have won if… If you are a competitor this is a part of your nature, but it goes a long way to roundly congratulate the winner and everyone should do so.
Step 5: Food, Snacks and Drinks
Planning food and refreshments will also be easier once you know how many guests plan to attend and how long your game night will last. If you are getting together in the evening make sure everyone knows if dinner is provided or if there will only be snacks. If guests show up with empty stomachs and there isn’t enough food your game night will become memorable to them for the wrong reasons. On the other hand if you will be providing dinner make sure everyone is aware of that too otherwise you will have a lot of leftovers.
If you do not have a hard end to your game night then make sure you have enough soda, water, coffee, chips, cookies, or fruits and vegetables to keep everyone nourished. Our original game nights never had a hard end and we often played till 2:00 am or later.
Step 6: Awards and/or Swag Bag
When the night is over it’s always fun to end on a high note. Have something ready to honor who you have determine to be the Big Winner. Perhaps you can give a little speech and hand out a homemade award or a gift wrapped piece of chocolate – a Hershey’s Symphony Bar is always a good choice. If you don’t want to single anyone out then make swag bags for everyone. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be fun and memorable with a message thanking everyone being a part of your game night and playing a role in the overall success. This is a great opportunity to make your guests feel appreciated by you.
This step wouldn’t need to be included for all successive game nights, but this is a great way to send your guests off in a good mood and makes it more likely that they will want to attend future game nights.
I would recommend only using this occasionally in the future just to provide variety to the game night participants. This step should ALWAYS be used as a surprise because you don’t want your guests expecting this gift.
Hosting a memorable and fun game night is a talent that requires some planning and a little work. Many people have this talent and love to serve, but they just don’t know how to put it all together. Follow these steps and not only will you have a great game night experience, but you will also find yourself meeting great people along the way. Some of them may even choose to follow your lead and become an excellent host themselves. It is great experience when you are invited to attend a memorable and fun night hosted by a friend who was inspired by you.