The Daily Worker Placement

Monday, November 30, 2020

Six Free Websites for Playing Party Games with Friends while Social Distancing

by | published Wednesday, April 1, 2020

If you’re reading this, you’ve almost certainly spent a lot more time at home than you usually do during the beginning of spring. It’s also probably the case that, unless you’re in tight with frontliners (thank you!) or the haphazardly ignorant (stay home!), most of your regular playgroup is similarly housebound. Tabletop gamers are, by nature, communal; tempting as it may be to succumb to the stir-crazy and pop over to a friend’s for banter over boards, it’s imperative for everyone who can to practice social distancing. Yet, practicing social distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t socialize. Interacting with friends is extremely beneficial to mental health. Boot up your chat program of choice, get dressed (this part’s optional), and ping your fellow players, because here are six sites that’ll let you play lighter fare in larger groups, completely free.

Codenames

Word Association

https://codewords.tv/home

Designer: Vlaada Chvátil

Programmer: joshporter1

Players: 4+

Registration Required: No

Play Length: 5-30 minutes

In-Game Chat: No

Mobile-Friendly: Yes

Codenames is the breakout game of the 2010s, for good reason. Many a time has a playgroup decided to kick off an evening of gaming with a couple of rounds, only to find themselves still hunting agents hours later. Codenames’ combination of team play, quick duration, and clever word association makes for an excellent party game to play over chat. Above and beyond the physical version, the implementation on Codewords.tv is supported in nearly a dozen languages and allows for three-team games, as well as integrated banks of Pop Culture- and Cards Against Humanity-inspired words. For those preferring an even more minimalist implementation, Codenames and Codenames Duet (the fully cooperative version) are available to play at https://horsepaste.com and https://codenamesgreen.com, respectively; note that these two versions require a little more trust on all players’ ends, as each game’s answer key is one errant click away.  

Skribbl.io

Illustration

https://skribbli.io

Designer: anon

Programmer: anon

Players: 3-8

Registration Required: No

Play Length: 15-45 minutes

In-Game Chat: Yes

Mobile-Friendly: Yes

Skribbl.io is an incredibly cute implementation of the draw-and-guess game that most people know as Pictionary, except with significantly simplified scoring (the faster a player guesses the correct answer, the more points both they and the illustrator receive). The intuitivity and quick playtime makes it perfect for larger parties looking for an easy game. While the game features native word banks in over twenty languages, it’s also straightforward for a room creator to load their own custom clue array. It’s advisable to stick to private games; the public rooms are rife with bots and spammers.

Avalon

Social Deduction

https://avalon.fun

Designer: Don Eskridge

Programmers: Alex Nomia & Lasha Kitia

Players: 5-10

Registration Required: Yes

Play Length: 25-45 minutes

In-Game Chat: Yes

Mobile-Friendly: Yes

Avalon is the same type of game as the classic camp favourites Werewolf and Mafia: a small group of in-the-know players are attempting to appear innocuous and trustworthy to the rest of the playgroup, so that they may anonymously sabotage them. Almost all other players begin uncertain of any identities besides their own, and must work together to identify who the in-the-know players are if they wish to succeed. Unlike the aforementioned games, Avalon does not need a person to serve as the gamemaster. Avalon is nearly the same game as Eskridge’s other game The Resistance, except with an Arthurian theme in lieu of The Resistance’s future-dystopian skin, and the addition of optional player powers that create additional opportunities for deduction and bluffing. While it requires prospective players to register, the implementation on avalon.fun has a pleasant interface that makes use of the official game art.

Broken Picturephone

Illustration

https://www.brokenpicturephone.com/

Designer: Public Domain

Programmer: stochaztic

Players: 4-12

Registration Required: No

Play Length: 10-20 minutes

In-Game Chat: No

Mobile-Friendly: Yes

Better known by board gamers as Telestrations and by parlour game aficionados as Eat Poop You Cat, Broken Picturephone is a hilarious cross between Pictionary and Broken Telephone. Players begin each round by writing a secret drawing prompt: after doing so, they give that prompt to the player on their left, while simultaneously receiving a drawing prompt from the player to their right. Each player will then illustrate the prompt they received, to the best of their ability. After doing so, they will pass their illustration to the player on their left and receive one from the player on their right; they will then write their best guess as to what their current illustration is depicting. This continues until all players have seen every set once: the game runner is then able to show everyone the progression and digressions that each prompt has taken. Unlike Telestrations, there is no predetermined set of words to play with, and as such the prompts tend to get extremely bizarre, extremely fast. This is the rare title where points and winning are an afterthought; its casual nature and quick playtime make it an ideal cooldown game. 

A Fake Artist Goes to New York

Illustration/Social Deduction

https://kc-fakeartistonline.herokuapp.com/

Designer: Jun Sasaki

Programmer: kcgidw

Players: 5-10

Registration Required: No

Play Length: 10-25 minutes

In-Game Chat: No

Mobile-Friendly: Yes

Japan’s Oink Games have built a reputation on releasing quick, intuitive games in small, minimalist boxes; one of their first and still one of their best releases is A Fake Artist Goes to New York. All but one player begin each round by privately receiving the same drawing prompt; the one player who does not is secretly the Fake Artist. Everyone then has the opportunity to draw a single line onto a collaborative illustration; once all players have done so, the table discusses and votes on who the Fake Artist may be based on each player’s contribution. However, even if the Fake Artist is identified, it is still possible for them to win the round by correctly guessing the secret word, so the players must avoid making the illustration too obvious. A Fake Artist Goes to New York remains one of the few games to implement both bluffing and illustration, and is quick and easy fun to boot. Similar to the other games on this list, Fake Artist Online is aesthetically minimalist, and with the help of an external chat program, an experience very faithful to the physical game.

Uno

Classic Card Game

https://play.unofreak.com/

Designer: Merle Robbins

Programmer: Unofreak

Players: 2-15

Registration Required: No

Play Length: 25-45 minutes

In-Game Chat: Yes

Mobile-Friendly: No

There’s not really much to write that hasn’t already been written about Uno, but occasionally familiarity is an asset; sometimes a game’s purpose is to be just engaging enough to serve as the backdrop for a conversation. A classic card game like Uno is an especially agreeable platform for catching up with less game-savvy friends and family; while it may require a little bit of virtual hand-holding to get them set up, the in-game client is easy to parse and uses the original art. For some reason, websites like this one are like catnip to older generations, perhaps because the interface and novelty reminds them of the heyday of sites like Yahoo! Games. The more time people spend on their computer playing cards, the less time they will spend gamboling haphazardly outside. Unofreak, however, does have one, arguably egregious, flaw; it isn’t possible to verbally yell UNO on other players’ last cards.

By no means is this a comprehensive list. Free online adaptations of everything from Risk to Spyfall to Joking Hazard exist, and are easily found via Google. Naturally, there are also many games-for-sale that work well for larger player counts; chief among them in quality, popularity, and breadth of offering is the Jackbox Party Pack series. Most games are playable over the Internet as long as the host player can broadcast their screen. Should your playgroup lack the means to play said titles, or simply be in search of a change of pace, then any one of the games on this list should serve well in keeping your group gaming together, despite the circumstances keeping the world apart.

In the future, I hope to take a look at free online implementations of strategy games of varying length and complexity, including a look at some of the more popular portals like BrettSpielWelt and BoardGameArena. Until then, remember to mind both your physical and your mental stats; we’re all in this together! 

Special thanks to Terence (mo0man) for spearheading the creation of a list of free online games, from which I gleaned liberally for this article. Said list can be read and contributed to here.


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