How to Host a Game Night

game night with Clue

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

You don’t have to be a professional party planner to host a fabulous game night that everyone will enjoy. It’s all about organizing to make sure you have everything you need to show your guests a good time. Consider whom to invite, the food, entertainment, and more.

Here are some ideas to help you throw an unforgettable game night.

Game Night Guest List

One of the first steps of your game night planning process should be to create a guest list. Consider how much room you have. If you have a big space and plenty of seating—as playing games is often a seated activity—you likely can accommodate a large guest list and even set up multiple game stations. You also can have teams compete in certain games, such as Pictionary, to involve a large number of people.

But if you have a small space, keep your guest list slim. For small gatherings, it can be helpful if the guests already know one another, so the conversation flows freely as you play. However, that's not essential, as playing a game together can be a good way to break the ice among acquaintances.

When to Have a Game Night 

Game nights are great parties to have year-round. You can play on tables outdoors during nice weather; just be careful that the wind doesn't blow away game pieces. And you can have a cozy indoor party during the winter or inclement weather.

In general, it's polite to invite your guests a week or two in advance of your target party date. But game nights are typically casual affairs, so it wouldn't be out of the question to call up your friends for an impromptu gathering either.

Game Night Food

Games usually take at least a few hours to complete, so plan to serve some food and drinks. However, you don't need to make a fancy sit-down meal. Because your dining table might already be in use for the games, consider setting up a buffet on your countertop where guests can grab food whenever they want it.

Finger foods, rather than large plates and bowls, are ideal for guests to manage while playing games. If you're not much of a cook, purchase some pre-made party platters with small sandwiches, veggies and dip, and other snack-type foods. You also can ask guests to bring some small dishes to share. Plus, don't forget about dessert. Items such as cupcakes, cookies, and brownies are excellent sweet treats that are easy to eat around a game board.

Game Night Entertainment

The more games you have on hand the better, so you and your guests will have a choice. If you don't own many games, ask your guests to bring some of their own. But be sure to organize who's bringing what in advance, so they don't show up with multiple copies of the same game.

You also might want to play music softly in the background or have the TV on quietly as you're playing games. Sometimes if it's not your turn in the game, your attention might wander, so some background entertainment can help to make sure your guests continue to have fun.

Party Decor

Because your game night is probably a casual event, you don’t need to use elaborate party decorations. But you can add some simple touches for a festive feel. Consider these decor suggestions:

  • Place vases of flowers around the party area, such as on the buffet table/counter or at the entrance where you’ll greet your guests.
  • Light a scented candle. 
  • Place plenty of comfortable throw pillows and blankets around the room where you’ll be playing games for your guests to use if they want.
  • Bring extra lighting into the game area if necessary, so people can easily see the board and game pieces.

Party Flow

When your guests arrive, encourage conversation before diving into the games. Serve food and drinks for up to an hour before you begin, so your guests have a chance to chat and get comfortable around each other.

Then, start playing games at a leisurely pace; don't stress about hurrying through them to get to as many games as possible. Also, take periodic breaks to stretch and perhaps grab a bite to eat, so your guests don't grow weary with the games. Finally, to prevent people from overstaying their welcome, announce when you’re ready to play your last game or round.