Making the Ordinary, Extraordinary
Happy New Year`s everyone! It`s a new day, and time to celebrate some more with friends! Whether this is your big Winter holiday, or just an excuse to stretch out Christmas fun, this is a party full of sparkle and glam. How can it not be when one of the main attractions is purely adult champagne? Though you can always sub in some sparkling cider if you are driving, or the kids are still up.
One thing to remember, as a hostess extraordinaire, is that only you can make guests have a good time. It is your job to pick out Hollywood worthy decor and drool inducing tidbits. But even when the scene is set and the guests are arrived, a dark shadow can descend upon your guests.
It starts with a feeling of general unease
Then it seems as if all of your words are caught on the breeze
And snatched away, all caught up
Now you`ve nothing left to talk
But some common sounds still the poor hostess shall hear:
The grumbles of unhappy guests shall surely meet her ear!
The awkward silence. The dreaded period when you and your friends just don`t know what to say, but really want to say something. The most unwelcome of party guests, this time sucks all the life out of your shindig- and frankly makes all the fun before and after it not really count. Admit it: when you are faced with a super long awkward silence, you remember it. And your guests will remember YOU as the awkward party host who can`t keep things going.
But don`t despair! I have my top ten list of favorite party games:
1. Charades. I know this is overdone and soo your mother`s style, but now it has been ignored long enough that it is retro. You could even say hipster, as retro itself seems to be old fashioned now. To make it even more retro, you could make the suggestions all about the past, like using the Spice Girls or Beach Boys, depending on the best decade for the group! You can also reference shared experiences if your group goes back a ways, like “The time Johnny ate the class gerbil`s pellets” or an inside joke. If you have a bunch of nerd guests, or some other type of obsession, you could have a Dr. Who trivia charades or classic movie theme. Be creative! This game is approved for drama queens and kings of all kinds, and for friends who are so comfortable with each other they aren`t embarrassed of being a little silly. It is also a great game because it`s free!
2. Boggle. I think this may be my favorite party game. Everyone gets so serious and focused! Basically a word search type game, you have to find all the possible words in the grid, and there`s always a fresh set of possibilities each game. It is really popular with wordigans or those that feel scrabble is overdone, of course, but it is also a fun way to help people who do poorly in poker and puzzle games get a chance to get some time in the limelight. I am a little bummed by the childish packaging the current incarnation has, as the one I`m used to looks more adult. I have no clue when mine was made, though, as it was a lucky yard sale find. I`d post a picture, but that will have to wait until my camera is reunited with it`s charger. It`s all well and good to get your areas completely organized, but things are still bound to fall into the bottomless depths of junk in the common areas. :(
3. Taboo. I know this is a popular game that many people already have played, but that is what makes it so fun! Each card has a word that you must make the other members of your team guess, and certain key words that would make the description easy are taboo (hence the name!). This covers the same feeling of charades, but it is very exciting without actually putting you in the spotlight, which is great if you or your guests really aren`t fans of the stage. This is also a great game for those who don`t really care about strategy games, or tend to be impulsive- impulse wins the game here!
4. Rumis. If you happen to have a friend who is obsessed with Aztec and Mayan history, this has a sort of native South American flair. I personally feel it is more exciting that it is like a 3-D version of Tetris. It doesn`t hurt that I usually smoke the competition in this one! This is recommended for fans of puzzles, history, and strategy. It is a flexible game as far as noise level or concentration, and it can be lighthearted if you practice friendly jeering or very serious if you are dead focused. There is a great review and explanation of game play here at Drake`s Flames` blog. (I have deicided that all of my friends were right, and apostrophe use really is difficult!)
5. Apples to Apples is usually reserved for the younger crowd, but I think it is a good lighthearted choice as a icebreaker for a party full of nice people who don`t really know each other. I think that the best way to describe this is as a sort of limited Mad Libs, with the person whose turn it is putting down a word card and the players putting down a word card from their hand which they feel best describes or connects with the card on the table. It is hard to describe it as being fiercely competitive or relaxed, as the players really dictate the atmosphere in this one. I will say that this is a wit based game, and your chosen answers can be really funny! This one wouldn`t really work for those who have poker faces or puzzlers, as this really doesn`t use any of those skills.
6. Rummy. A classic card game. You can be flexible and choose to ignore a few of the more detailed official rules for a more casual game, but with more experienced players I enjoy a full cutthroat version, with no forgiveness of false calls of Rummy or any other slip ups. I think it is even more fun to play when most everyone knows how to, except for one or two ‘victims’. You could be nice and help them after the initial explanation of the rules and a trial game…or you could just feel good when they end with negative points and you have all of ten. After all, I said there were a lot of veteran players of the game at your party- that doesn`t necessarily include you! (I think you are amazing even if you play a mediocre game of Rummy though :D)
7. Clue. The grown up version of “Who took the cookies from the cookie jar?”, this does a great mimic of the classic “who done it”s like Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Obviously a great choice for mystery affectionados, I think that this would work well for fans of logic puzzles and mathigans as well as puzzlers. Again, I have the original version of this, but I think you might be able to handle the updated look of the modern incarnation.
8.Topple! You could always play the popular Uno Attack when you want a high energy style of game, but I think part of the fun of Topple is that most of your party guests won`t have played it yet! There`s always something special about the first time you do anything, whether it be to watch a movie in the theater or your first kiss. I think there is a little something extra magical about a game of Topple, as it gets your heart pumped and a feeling of urgency going even as you get the excitement of someone else losing!
9. Sequence. It`s not really a card game, but you have cards to play. I guess it is more like a grown up game of connect four, except for the fact that cards determine which spot on the board you can place your pieces and Jacks give you the power of removing an enemy`s piece (and preventing them from connecting) or even putting your own piece on any spot on the board.
10. Spoons can be a very cutthroat game. Though I mentioned that in Rummy, this one takes the cake. Players literally fight each other to get the last spoon standing, and the stakes run even higher when you opt to play with forks or even knives instead of the classic spoons.* For a more relaxed version you could replace spoons with some rubber duckies like these, or choose to buy this dolphin themed game. These alterations would also make for a great game to distract the kids while the adults are playing!
To prevent the games from seeming weird and forced, and create another kind of awkward situation, it might be best to leave a game for when things start to get a little slow. Don`t whip them out in the middle of your best friend`s story about that awful episode last week! That`s the good gossip you don`t want to be short changed on.
This is especially important to remember when your guests are just arriving. When Sammy Joe and Susie Q walk in your door, don`t pounce on them with the charades! If you think of it as leaving your cards as your ace in the hole, you`ll be the cool hostess everyone will rave over. And it might even raise your chance of actually receiving a few hostess gifts!
Do you celebrate New Year`s day, or do you only have a party New Year`s Eve? I personally like to do both, as a lot of elder family members and friends can`t stand staying up that late; as well as giving me an excuse to see even more of my friends and family than I got to in December. I can`t see everyone all at once! Feel free to tell me about your New Year`s traditions below in the comments, and I`ll be sure to respond. :)
If any of the links die, feel free to comment and I`ll fix it right up!
*Knives and forks should always be used with caution, and should never be used without proper care and supervision. It is not recommended that they be used to replace spoons in the game of spoons, and should not be used as a game piece. Children should be supervised by responsible adults when using any utensils, and extra caution should be reserved for knives and other sharp objects if children are nearby. I am not liable for the improper use of any cutlery, and do not recommend that anything sharp be used as a playing piece of any variety.