Considering that this has been one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent history, we’re all probably going to need some diversion tactics to move your one loud-mouthed uncle off the subject of politics. How can we avoid those awkward conversations (or in some cases shouting matches) about opposing familial political views this Thanksgiving and into December?
The answer: games! Many games! And no not Monopoly, and definitely not Risk—they may exacerbate the problem.
If you’ve grown tired of Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity (but really, how could anyone tire of Cards Against Humanity?) Then how about this twist on the genre of reading the mood of your group of friends or family?
In Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, the aim is to pick cards out of your hand that you think the dealer will find funniest. The person who wins the most rounds at the end of the game wins.
Snake Oil is much like this, except the person trying to win the round has more work to do. All players except one choose several cards, each with a random word on it (like balloon, airplane, or rumor). These are “the inventors” for this round. One person plays “the character”—chosen from a stack of crazy figures, like a baby, a mermaid, etc. The inventors’ job is to pair two of their word cards together to invent a new product, which they can try to sell to the character.
This game is fun because it calls for a bit of creativity, and a lot of ridiculousness. When I played recently I thought I would undoubtedly win my hand by selling a monkey ladder to a ninja—how I didn’t win that round, the world will never know.
Superfight is another card game—one that will be perfect for anyone spoiling for some fake arguments (you know, to draw from the real ones brewing around the holidays).
Also similar to Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples, but here the aim is to fight for your hero or heroine’s dominance over your opponent’s hero or heroine. At the beginning of the game, you’re given a choice among a few different characters, and can choose two different superpowers.
Then in front of your judges, you must explain why and how your specific character with your chosen powers would win the match. Another game that relies on a sense of absurdity—the more absurd the scenario, the more likely you are to win. My favorite hero that I made—George W. Bush, whose superpower was being a super genius, who could summon any item he needed from a hardware store (maybe not the best way to avoid political discussions, but G.W. has remained relatively neutral this election season). If you love a rigorous fake argument with family members, this game is for you.
A fun board game that requires teamwork. In Mysterium, one player is a ghost who cannot talk, but who is trying to the lead the other players (the mediums) to solve the mystery of the ghost’s death. The ghost leads the players to the suspect, the location of the murder, and the murder weapon (much like clue).
Every round, the ghost sends the mediums clues (painting cards that somehow point to first the location, then the murder weapon, then the suspect) that the mediums as a team are expected to work out together.
This game is fun and interesting because it relies (unlike Clue) on teamwork, and relies on the group to make decisions together. If you do not solve the visions the ghost is trying to send after seven rounds, then the ghost disappears and the murder is left unsolved.
It also allows you a chance to show off your Sherlockean skills of deduction.
This game is great because it happens in ten-minute rounds and you’ll want to just keep playing over and over again. In a ten-minute round (you can download a timer online, and a helpful introduction that describes what characters should be doing what when in the game).
In the initial stage of the game, everyone is given a character card. You might be a werewolf, a lowly villager, a trouble-maker, or a seer. Each card has a specific function to perform before the game really begins. This also happens while everyone’s eyes are closed, so in theory not everyone knows who other characters are.
Then the round of lies and elimination begins. Basically, it’s everyone else against the werewolves. The aim of the people with the werewolf cards is not to be discovered, but the villagers (all other players) must decide which characters to execute at the end. If there are two or even three werewolves, they automatically lose if their fellow werewolf is killed. Usually, both or one of the werewolves knows who the other werewolf is.
There are a thousand ways to win this game. I often win by misdirection, and looking as guilty as I possibly can. And every round will be different.
I come from a family of card players, and so a game like this would be a fun substitute for Euchre (if you don’t know Euchre, you should learn it ASAP. You can look cool, and win tournaments).
This game really has nothing to do with poker, except that it is all about bluffing. There are cockroaches, rats, and stink bugs—and the aim of the game is to avoid collecting four of any one set of these critters.
In a round, the main player takes a card from their hand, passes it to another player in the circle and declares it to be any one of the cards, so for example they could say “rat.” The player who is handed the card has two choices:
First, they can either guess whether or not the card is actually a rat or not. If they guess correctly, then the person who laid down the card originally has to keep the card in their collection. If the player guesses incorrectly, they must keep the card.
The second option: the other player can look at the card and then pass it on to another player. And they can either say what the card actually is, or they can lie. The next player has the same options, unless all the other players have seen the card. The game ends either when someone has lost all of their cards, or if someone has collected four or one type of critter. In both cases, the person loses and everyone else wins.
What ultimately happens is that silent alliances will be formed around the table, until someone ends up on the losing end. Another game, I happen to do well in based on my seemingly expressive face—if people always assume you’re lying (and lying poorly at that) they’re bound to be tricked. So, if you wanna avoid awkward small talk, or talk about the fallout of the election, try playing these fun, ridiculous, and wonderfully nerdy games this year.