There’s a lot of different sorts of ways to game at board game conventions. Morning person? Get in there first thing, seize the day and the highly sought after games! Not so much a morning person? Maybe start in the afternoon and go on into the wee hours. I’m sort of in-between. I like to be out there mid-morning and I’ll usually try and game up to midnight or 1am. (Listen, I’m getting on in days, ok?) In those later hours, it’s truly folly for me to try and play anything even remotely complex, even if I’ve played before. So I have a bunch of games that are my go-to for a quick teach, goofy fun and decent group player counts. Add them to your late-night convention gaming rotation!
Folks have long played a public domain parlour game known to many as Celebrity, but Time’s Up took that and refined and formalized it into a boxed card game. Played over three rounds, the group will work their way through a set of cards that feature real or fictional people. (In 1999, R&R Games released this basic version, but followed it up in 2008 with the “Title Recall” version which is all titles of songs, movies, books, etc). The idea is to break up into teams, and then throughout the timed rounds have your team guess as many of the cards correctly as possible when one of your team gives clues. First round you can describe as much as you like. Second round is a little trickier as you’re limited to just one word per card. Then the magic third round hits, and players must act out/hum/interpretive dance their clue with no words spoken. I still recall games of this played many years ago, due to spectacular clues. Needless to say, if you have a fun group of folks late in the day this is a laugh-riot – and the bonus is, it plays up to 18 (yes, eighteen) people.
This is the perfect mix of social deduction and word game packaged in a 20 questions sort of format. Unlike regular 20 questions, there will not only be the person answering but also an “Insider” who’s unknown by anyone and secretly knows what the answer is too. While players are asking “hmm, is it bigger than a bread box?” or “is it alive?” the Insider wants to gently guide them toward more pointed questions without giving themselves away. Once the answer is guessed, the excitement doesn’t end there. Players will then vote on who they think the Insider was this whole time – and depending on how tricky or not you were, you might get away with it! And the feeling of getting away with it as the Insider is even more delicious than guessing the answer correctly! Playing up to 8, this is a super casual, low-energy group game that is just perfect for a wind-down — or back to back games into the night.
One of the newer word games I’ve played of late, Just One is even co-operative! Yes! Co-operative word game, you heard me. What a delight this one is. Your group (of 3 – 7 players) will work your way through 13 word cards. Each turn, one player takes a word card and without looking, places it on their little cardholder for the rest of the table to see and chooses a number from 1-5. Then, each player secretly writes just one word down on their little white-board easel (which doubles as the cardholder) that they believe will help the guesser correctly reach the word next to the number they selected. Great! Fun! Whee! But there’s a next step. All players then (without the guesser seeing) compare their clues – and any duplicates are removed before the clues are revealed to the guesser – there can be just one of each. It’s genius. The amount of weird, vague clues i’ve seen people produce in order to not have anyone write the same thing is amazing; not only that, but folks who wanted to go with their first instinct, only to change their clue and have something the same as someone else in the end. I am never going to say no to a game of Just One later in the day at a con. Or, any time. I waxed lyrical in an episode of The Five By podcast if you want to hear more detail.
[Text Wrapping Break]I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is pushing my luck! Gold Fever is a 2018 release that flew fairly under the radar as far as I’m aware. Which is a crime, because this is some big, dumb fun. Players will take turns pulling pieces blindly from their burlap sacks, hoping for gold but more often than not getting gravel. But you’ve got to keep pushing on for that gold, right? Players can stop when they wish, and bank any gold retrieved, but if they bust their turn is over. Before you say “hey, Nicole, I don’t want to just sit at a table watching someone pull bits from a bag until it’s my turn”, it’s just as well this has some very fun player interaction! If you stop before busting, you may bank any gold and then distribute your gravel to other players’ bags to make it more difficult for them to mine. If you draw the emerald, you’re then forced to push your luck and pull 2 more pieces without stopping – could be good, could be bad! And the ruby will instigate a real-time rush as all players draw pieces as quickly as they can, and the first to get (and shout) gold gets that to keep. Ohhh the hectic fun. Once a player retrives all the gold from their bag, the game ends – and even at its full player count of 5, it’s a quick one and I usually play a few back-to-back. Perfect for that rowdy group who is looking to keep their energy up.
You may have guessed that I enjoy a good little push your luck game. Port Royal takes pushing your luck and adds a dash of strategy to give it a unique feel. (And it’s not a surprise, given famed Euro-game designer Alexander Pfister is behind it!) Throughout the game you will be flipping up cards until you stop, or bust. The latter’s obviously the end of your turn – but the former means you’ll have a choice of “looting” one of the ships turned up (taking the value in gold shown), or hiring one of the varieties of Port folk that pop up. The people you end with can strategically help you fight better, buy cheaply, or even provide help to complete missions that are worth a decent chunk of points. It’s straight-forward, but still has a little something to it – so if you’re not ready to head into the party game mode and would prefer something still light and fun, Port Royal is ideal (and plays up to 5!). My full review is here if you’d like to know more.
Of course, this is the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many games that I love to play late-night that follow this vein – the Mind, Cockroach Poker, Eye My Favourite Things, Illusion, PUSH are definitely honourable mentions here. I know that Werewolf is a massive go-to late-night game but I’m usually not looking for that intensity of social deduction when I’m winding down my day, which is why my picks really veered away from the genre. And, naturally, there will be folks at games of Twilight Imperium, Catan, Scythe and more in the late nights because, well.. Those folks have a much stronger fortitude than I!