Games that don't need Games

One of the niftiest trends in the contemporary Game Night world is the shift towards noncommercial games, or games that you can just play with pencil and paper (or with nothing at all.) Two super popular examples are Celebrity and Werewolf. Celebrity has been released commercially as Time's Up and The Name Game, and even as Celebrity the Game. But my friends and I know it simply as Celebrity, the game where each person writes down 5 names on slips of paper, you throw them all in a bowl and play three rounds: 1) Describing each celebrity or character as much as you like; 2) Using only ONE descriptive word, but also charades and 3) Using only charades. It's amazing how fun this still is after so many plays - something about the challenge of the lateral thinking needed in a limited time, combined with the inevitable humor of wacky charades.

Werewolf is a variation on the social-interactive game Mafia which originated in the Psych department of Moscow State University in 1986. Andrew Plotkin, an associate of Looney Labs, gave the game a Werewolf theme in 1997; "Are you a Werewolf?" was the first of many such variants.

Some recent commercially released games have introduced concepts that players can re-create on their own. Check out Chain Game by OTB Games, as well as Cineplexity by the same company. These games simply use cards to play with various elements - although Chain Game does include some nifty chain links and a honking horn for the "human timer." Players could re-create games like this on their own. With the right group, they're great fun.

For more paper and pencil noncommercial games, see:

1000 Blank White Cards
Exquisite Corpse
Eat Poop You Cat (aka "Paper Telephone")