Party games

I received an interesting party game in the mail this week called Chaos Cards. I am not sure it’s the right fit for me, or if I will ever get it played in earnest. I gave them fair warning about this. They did know they were talking to a board game blogger, right?

That’s not to say I don’t go to parties, or host parties. It’s just that at half the parties I go to that have more than eight people, at least three of them are already spending hours roleplaying an angry armored dwarf or looking very seriously at a map of Central Europe. At the other half of parties I go to, people are shouting at stone of granite from behind a pane of glass. I am just not sure where this party game fits in.

But I did want to discuss party games generally, and this does present a great opportunity to do that. You see, party games have a very different demographic than a lot of the games I have written about. When people sit down to play a traditional board game, they know what they are signing up for. Whether it’s a half hour or seven, everyone is in it to win it, and folks learn the rules as best they can to be effective at the game.

With a party games, the goal is very rarely to win. Heck, with the game I just received there aren’t even points to keep track of. Everyone is in a party game to have fun, and the fundamental goal of such a game is to be fun enough to get people on board.

It’s REALLY hard to find family friendly pictures of Cards Against Humanity

But I suppose all of these kinds of games require a different level of investment, and, quite possibly, a different level of tipsiness in order to succeed. At the bottom of this investment gradient is the classic party game Cards Against Humanity. This game is essentially madlibs with the most offensive fill in the blank cards possible. It is low investment because players can join or leave the game at will, and just about any card in the right situation will be hilarious. Players don’t have to ham it up, act any differently or think on their feet. It is the “just add water” of party games, and that is the secret to its success.

On the other end of the spectrum are games that require acting, improvisation and quick witted thinking at every turn. These games require a different level of participation, and if the drinks aren’t flowing or the guests don’t know each other as well, they may fall flat or dissolve rather quickly. Classics such as charades or Pictionary have a lot more risk. Risk in this case being that you have to put yourself out there and put your possibly terrible drawing or acting skills on public display.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it…

So where does Chaos Cards fit on this spectrum? Somewhere towards the more risky end I would say. The game consists of fifty cards, each with a “mission” printed on it, the player’s goal to accomplish during that party. Some of these are quite benign, like using the word “Noble” excessively in your sentences all evening, or constantly steering the conversation towards talk of parallel dimensions. Some seem a bit more risky like finding a party goer you don’t know as well and somehow referring to them as “vulture” once every half hour, or finding a fellow party goer to exchange clothes with.

The name of the game seems accurate enough as there is no doubt that the game would introduce chaos to your party… but I have to wonder, if you handed the cards out to guests as they arrive, how many missions would be completed? It would really depend on the crowd at the party, and perhaps just how much alcohol was circulating. But if it did take hold it also seems like the party itself would become a Chaos Cards party.  That is to say, it would become the focus of the evening. Still I am curious to try it out someday, if the opportunity does present itself.

One more note on party games generally though. While Cards Against Humanity has the distinct advantage of making the hilarity for you, I find that the games that require more investment have a bit of a longer shelf life. A game where the players create the fun, through acting, thinking on their feet etc is a lot more like a blank page, and what fills that page will be very different from group to group. With Cards Against Humanity it seems as though an injection of new cards is required whenever the old cards have been seen enough times, much like a trivia game might need new cards when folks already know the answers. Still, the way Cards Against Humanity makes the humor seem effortless is hard to argue with, and is the source of its extreme popularity.

What are some of your favorite party games?

Full Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Chaos Cards in exchange for my honest thoughts on the game.

Full Discolsure Part 2: If you host parties where Chaos Cards would be a good fit feel free to contact me. I can play a decent dwarf paladin.

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