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Game On! Game night recommendations for everyone!

November 15, 2019

With 21 different accommodation types from glamping to luxury lodge rooms, and 82 acres to take care of, you can imagine that we stay pretty busy here at Lakedale, especially during our peak season from May to October.  So, what do we do here during the “off season”, after the summer crowds dwindle and the sidewalks in Friday Harbor roll up for the winter?  Many of our guests are curious, and this question pops up quite frequently.  The answer, as it happens, is pretty simple.  Between all the various remodeling, beautification, and property improvement projects that we do every year (we’ve got another post about that coming soon, so stay tuned!), we play copious amounts of board games!

About the only thing we take as seriously as making Lakedale a great place to visit is a solid game night!  In our humble and honest opinion, a good game night is easily, dollar for dollar, the best way to spend an evening with friends and family.  We’ve been known to get together once (or twice!) every week during the off-season, but even if you prefer the once a month route, we’ve got some recommendations that will give you a check mark in the win column for your next game night!

Of course, the size and makeup of your game night group is going to depend a lot on the size of your space, the size of your friend circle, and the types of games that you enjoy playing.  We’ll get to some game recommendations soon, but let’s start with a game night setup guide.

Location, Location, Location:

This might seem obvious, but regardless of the size of your group, or the size of your space, it’s a great idea to rotate the hosting between your group members.  Simply put, take turns hosting among your members, and when you’ve completed a cycle…rinse and repeat.  Adjust the size of the group, and/or the size of the game to fit the space the host has to work with.  This works really well if you have some members that either don’t have the ability to host, or don’t have the ability to attend every game night.  Have the members with bigger spaces host on the nights that everyone can make it, and save the smaller spaces for the nights that half the group is stuck working the night shift.  Rotating the location helps to keep things fresh, and you won’t have to worry about anyone experiencing “host fatigue”.  You can always do what we do, and make the guy that doesn’t have the ability to host bring the beverages.  And for experienced gamers who enjoy the hard/extreme modes of play: make that night’s losers do the dishes!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation:

Every gamer, or group of gamers has their favorite game – we get it.  Our game night group definitely has a few games that get significantly more play time than others.  Mixing up the games rotation that you play is every bit as important to keeping things fresh as mixing up the host location.  Don’t be afraid to spend a whole game night learning a completely new game, even if none of your members have played it before.  You might find a new staple for your game night rotation!  While most games are competitive in nature, pitting individuals against each other, or teams against other teams, don’t forget to mix in cooperative games from time to time.  Cooperative games help to bring the whole group together, which can be incredibly fun, especially in those hyper-competitive groups.  The best part is if you end up losing as a group, the dishwashing will go much faster, and if you win as a group, well, just make the guy that brought the beverages do the dishes too!

Food and Beverage (or, Beverage and Beverage, am I right?):

In our game night group, the host will typically do the cooking, while the rest will bring the beverages and snacks.  We prefer actual meals at our game nights, but if that sounds like too much work or hassle, don’t underestimate the power of the appetizer!  If you have 6 or 8 people in your group, and everyone brings some kind of appetizer, you’ve got a full on meal now, don’t you?  If you have a culturally diverse group, then the appetizer route is the ONLY way to go, because that level of awesome just can’t be beaten!  Remember, playing games together is the focus of the evening, so the quick app route is often better on a functional level as well.  The etiquette here is pretty standard; be nice to your host and leave what you bring.  Oh yeah, in case you forgot, the guy that never hosts brings the beverages, and the losers do all the dishes!

Watch Party – Extreme Mode:

Maybe we’re just projecting here, but we’ve found that gamers and people who love popular TV shows tend to be birds of a feather.  If you’re into watch parties, fitting in a quick game or two before or after the show is a great way to score efficiency points.  Games make fantastic ice-breakers before your show or sporting event starts, and they’re also great for extending the evening after the watching is done.  Yes, we watched Game of Thrones followed by a round of Game of Thrones: the Board Game every Sunday evening.  We’re still recovering from that, by the way.  At least we had plenty of beer and clean plates!

Our Favorite Games:

Now that your game night setup is complete, it’s time to play some games!  With so many games floating around in the universe, choosing the right games for your group can be a daunting proposition, so we’ve put together a little list of our favorites to get you started on a path to victory!

Resource & Worker Management GamesTzolk’in and Teotihuacan: City of Gods.  If you like strategy games but get bored with simple dice rolling and moving armies around a map, either of these games would be a great choice.  Both games come from the same designer, and both can accommodate 2 – 4 players.  These games are based on pre-conquest American civilizations (Mayan and pre-Aztec), and they are complex enough to provide many different paths to victory, while still being reasonably straight forward to play.  Learning these games might take a little longer at first, but successive play-throughs last 60 – 90 minutes.

Party GamesSpaceteam, Bang!, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and games from the Dystopian Universe series: Coup and The Resistance.  We think that the best party games are those that require little to no setup time, and play extremely fast.  Keeping things moving quickly, and keeping attention spans in check, are the keys to this category.  All the games we’ve listed here are perfect for 6 people, but Coup, The Resistance, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf can be played by up to 10 people with their associated expansions!  Spaceteam is a cooperative game that focuses on good communication in the face of absolute chaos (read: everyone is talking over each other at the same time!) to achieve the common goal.  Bang!, One Night Ultimate Werewolf and the Dystopian games are semi-cooperative games based on deduction, deception, and in some cases, just plain old lying to everyone!  All of these games can be played in a range from 5 to 15 minutes per round, and feature a ton of interaction and collaboration between players.  Playing multiple, consecutive rounds of any one of these games can be an easy way to fill the entire night.

Two-Player GamesAzul, Kingdomino, Patchwork, and 7 Wonders: Duel.  If your game night only consists of one other friend, or your significant other, these games are perfect.  Azul and Kingdomino can actually be played with 4 people, but they are still very well balanced for 2 players, while Patchwork and 7 Wonders: Duel can only be played with 2 people.  Azul is similar to Yahtzee, using colored tiles in place of dice.  Kingdomino and Patchwork are tile placement games, each with their own thematic flare.  7 Wonders: Duel is the 2 player version of the fantastic 7 Wonders game, and it has a number of fun mechanics, including engine building with a little bit of historical context.  All of these games have very minimal setup times, are really easy to learn, and they can all be played in less than 30 minutes!  You could play one round of each of these four games in less time than it takes to watch a movie.  Turn your next Netflix and Chill night into a game night, instead!

Cooperative GamesPandemic and Stuffed Fables.  Like we said before, cooperative games can be a great way to mix up your rotation, because most game nights are competitive affairs.  Both of these recommendations are for 2 – 4 players.  In Pandemic you and your group take on different roles, with different special abilities, and you work together to cure various epidemics and outbreaks that pop up all over the map.  Pandemic moves quickly, usually taking less than 45 minutes per game.  Stuffed Fables turns you and your friends into stuffed animals, working together to save the little girl that they love!  This game is unique in that it’s great to play with kids, while making the adults remember what it’s like to be a kid.  Stuffed Fables is a ton of fun, and usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes to play.  We were very close to recommending Mansions of Madness here as well, which we play a lot of.  Unfortunately, in our group, Mansions of Madness can have the tendency to end abruptly in a group loss after 2 – 3 hours of play.  The one positive there is that nobody has to do the dishes if we’ve broken them all in disgust, right?

Adults Only GamesTelestrations: After Dark, Drawing Without Dignity, and Unstable Unicorns.  These games are all for those times when you want to let your, shall we say less than well-mannered, alter-ego run around in the moonlight.  Unstable Unicorns is a card game for people that have played Cards Against Humanity, but want to take off their training wheels.  Yes, it’s about unicorns, and yes, those unicorns are truly unstable.  Now, playing some cards with some dirty words on them is one thing, but Telestrations: After Dark and Drawing Without Dignity both force you to actually draw the depravity yourself, adding a whole new level to this game night with your rowdy friends.  Do you really need or want any extra points for this category?  Ok, invite your grandparents, or better yet, your boss and some co-workers, to a night that you’ll be playing any of these games.  We dare you!

For Experienced GamersTerraforming Mars.  Well, if you’re interested in this category, you don’t need our help at all, and you’re probably already familiar with our recommendation here, so we’ll just spit it out.  We love Terraforming Mars!  Here’s a game that has all of our favorite mechanics: resource management, tile placement, engine building, card collection, and there’s even a little bit of “ruin your buddy’s day” tossed in for giggles.  It may take a full play-through or two for the management of all of those mechanics to sink in, but when it finally sinks in…you’re hooked.  It has a solo mode, so it’s a 1 – 5 player game (we recommend 3 – 4 players).  Setup can take around 5 minutes, and play time will vary depending on the amount of players, with a 4 player game usually lasting 2 – 3 hours.  Yes, Terraforming Mars can be a large time investment, especially while you and your group are first learning to play, so be prepared for your game night to be all about one game when you pull this one off the shelf.  Basically, the dishes aren’t getting done until sometime tomorrow!

Of course, you can always ask us for more game night recommendations the next time you pay a visit to Lakedale.  Because we’re so excited about game nights, we’re running a two-night promotion right now on all of our accommodations from November through the end of January, called Game On!, that gives you 20% off your entire stay, some game night snacks and a bottle of bubbly for you and your friend(s).  You’ll also get the opportunity to try out all of the games we just recommended, and many, many more!  With a deal that awesome, there are no losers.  So you see, when you have your next game night at Lakedale, we’ll bring the beverages AND…well, you get it!  GAME ON!