You might think of group games as a time-killer on a long car ride or line at a restaurant, or a way to break the ice with people you don’t know. But the right games—and often the simplest ones—can actually result in a ton of laughs and memories, especially when you’re gathered together for a festive occasion like a holiday party. Whether your guests are sauced up on eggnog and mulled wine, or just in a great mood because they’re wearing something sparkly, no one can resist a silly (and easy!) game when they’re in a great mood and among friends and family.
The nine games below don’t require you to spend any money on fancy board games, boxes, or kits. You’ll only need the bare minimum of supplies, like pens, paper, phones, or stuff you can find around the house. Even skeptics of group activities and games will be surprised by how fun they are—and you might even find yourself wanting to play another round or three.
This game is like telephone, but with pictures. Everyone in the group sit in a circle, and hand everyone as many pieces of paper as you have people, and a pen. On the first piece of paper, have everyone write a word or phrase. Then have each person pass that piece of paper to the person on their right. Once everyone has their neighbor’s piece of paper with the word or phrase on it, they draw that object or person on a blank piece of paper to the best of their ability—within 30 to 60 seconds (you can decide based on the ages of your group). Next, everyone passes the piece of paper with the drawing on it to the person on their right, and that person writes down what they the word or phrase that best describes the drawing on a new piece of paper. They then pass that piece of paper to the person on their right, and the process repeats until the chain has been completed. At the end, reveal what the first words and phrases were and what they ended up as—hilarity ensues.
Take as many index cards or cut-up pieces of paper as you have people, and on each one, write the name of a known person—whether it’s a celebrity, politician, athlete, musician, or even someone in the family or group of friends (as long as you know the attendees will know the person). Have someone else create a card for you. Pin the cards to the back of everyone’s shirts. Throughout the length of the party, everyone will ask other partygoers yes/no questions to figure out their identity (like, “Am I under 30?” “Am I blonde?” or “Am I on TV regularly?”) until they pin down the right name.
React and Act
Pass out paper and pens to each partygoer. Have them write an imaginary event (like “You’re proposing marriage” or “You just found out you won the lottery”), fold the sheet of paper, and put it into a hat. Divide the group into two teams and ask five people (or less, depending on how many are at your event) from each team to pick out one piece of paper each. Give them 30-60 seconds to all react simultaneously to their individual events (they can speak, but they can’t explicitly state what they’re reacting to). The other members of the team try to guess what the event is for each person. (It gets chaotic and hilarious.) Each team gets a point for each correct guess—tally up who’s won once the scenarios run out.
Heads Up! requires a smartphone, which shouldn’t be too difficult to track down at any given party. Download the app, which essentially is a modern, easier, and more fun version of charades. From the home screen, you can opt for “Quick Play,” which pits a single person against a group, or “Versus,” which allows you to keep score between two teams who will take turns with the phone and guessing (the latter is more similar to traditional charades). The app allows you to pick from a variety of categories, like movies, brands, objects, breakfast cereals, and way more. The guesser holds the phone up to his or her forehead, at which point it starts counting down, and the people who can see the screen start shouting hints at what the word is—without, of course, saying the actual word. It’s pretty addictive.
Know Your Family
Put the names of all the partygoers into a hat and have everyone randomly draw a name. At some point throughout the party, each person’s task is to discreetly “interview” the person whose name they drew, and find out a harmless secret or fact that no one else at the party knows about. Towards the end of the party (dessert is a great time for this), gather the group together, give each person the same number of index cards as there are people playing, and have each person share the secret they learned. The rest of the partygoers will write down on an index card the secret and who they think it belongs to. Whoever guesses the most correct pairs wins.
Choose a volunteer to start out as the “guesser,” and have him or her leave the room and be sure he or she can’t hear the rest of the players. The remaining people in the group talk and pick something everyone in the group has—it could be a pet, a passport, a job, a refrigerator, a car, or anything like that. Have the guesser come back into the room and start approaching people one at a time, asking: “How’s yours?” Each person can give one honest clue or descriptor to help the guesser start narrowing their options. Play until the guesser figures it out. Also, the guesser can only guess one object per clue given, and if another player gives a clue that’s too obvious and gives the answer away, they lose and become the next guesser.
Two Truths and a Lie
You might be familiar with this one, but it truly never gets old: Go around the group and have each person say three facts about themselves—two of which are true, one of which is false. (It helps to give people a little time to come up with their three picks, so that it’s more challenging for the other players.) The group can either vote on which one they think is a lie, or everyone can guess individually and keep track to see who gets the most correct guesses.
Likes and Dislikes
Ask everyone to write down five likes on an index card and five dislikes on an index card. Gather everyone together, put the cards into a hat or bag, pass it around, and have people pull out two cards randomly and read the likes and dislikes aloud. Let everyone guess whose card it is—it’s a great way to get to know extended family or new friends even better.
Partners in Pen
Grab some plastic bags (half the number of people you have playing) and gather a bunch of household objects in the bags—cell phones, fruit, cosmetics, and whatever else you can find that will fit. Divide the group into pairs, and have them sit back-to-back. Give one partner in each pair a pen and a pad of paper, and the other partner the bag of random objects. Have the player with the bag take objects out one at a time and describe them to his or her partner without naming them, while the partner tries to draw the object. You’ll wind up with a bunch of random and funny drawings.