Rules for Drinking and Gaming

stormcrow2Writer: Ryan Brunton

Last month I received a somewhat unusual request. My brother’s bachelor party was on the horizon, and the best man asked me to select board games to be played before, and after, a planned night of drinking and retrospection. While board game bachelor parties are probably not that common, board games at adult parties are becoming increasingly normal, and the two often share at least one characteristic: alcohol. So, here are some general guidelines I’ve come up with based on my experience to have an enjoyable board gaming experience while also enjoying your adult beverages.

  1. Know your audience.

Rule number one is simple, and it applies to your choice of game at both wet and dry parties. If you’re hanging out with all gamers, feel free to choose any game with which you’re all familiar. Watching a couple of friends drunkenly argue over the timing of card effects in Magic or the scoring rules for farms in Carcassonne can be hilarious, but not for the non-gamer who fell asleep while you were in the middle of explaining the rules. Tailor your games to keep the interest of everyone at the table. Remember, the goal is for everyone to have fun.

     2. Keep it short and sweet.

Long games have their place, but attention spans tend to wane when alcohol in involved. Sipping a beer slowly while contemplating your next moves in Twilight Imperium or enjoying a nice Merlot while trying to dry the Nazis out of France in Axis and Allies may work for you, but as the rate of consumption goes up, the length and complexity of the games should go down. Games like The Resistance, Bang! The Dice Game, Fluxx, The Grizzled, or Sushi Go! play quickly, are easy to learn, and don’t require any complex math for scoring. Pretty much every genre of games has something that will meet this criterion, but one genre tends to stand out, which leads us to our next rule.

     3. Social games can get better with alcohol…or much, much worse.

My definition here of a social game is any game where social interaction is either the key mechanic or at the very least integral to the game. A game of chess can be played between two people who never make eye contact, much less speak, while a game like The Resistance or Sheriff of Nottingham, which rely on bluffing and negotiation require folks to exercise a variety of social skills. Alcohol is an excellent social lubricant, so take advantage of it…but beware the dark side. There are some games, especially those where the social component involves betrayal, which can turn sour very quickly with the addition of alcohol. Diplomacy is infamous for ending friendships when played sober. I leave it to the reader to infer what intoxication can add to the equation.

    4. Drinking games can be fun; alcohol poisoning is not.

This is not just the mandatory closing warning to drink responsibly (though of course you always should). There are some board games that lend themselves almost too easily to becoming drinking games. You can drink when a piece is captured, or when you lose a territory, or when you lose a round of cards. Some games, like The Red Dragon Inn, actually have a core game mechanic that revolves around drinking. Resist the urge to overlay drinking rules on to your board game. No one wants to turn a fun evening with friends into a trip to the toilet, or the hospital, because someone rolled poorly a few too many times.

Until next time, remember that friends don’t let friends drive drunk…or play Diplomacy.

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