How to Host a Game Night

 [Disclosure: I know the author of this book, contributed some musings at his request, and am mentioned in passing in the text]

Board games are clearly not a fad. Originating in ancient or even prehistoric times, the board game phenomenon spans human history and currently enjoys record interest, continually increasing in growth - with thousands of games published every year and billions of dollars in sales. Thus it is a bit surprising that no written volume existed to serve as a handy manual for an aspiring game event host.  Game expert and enthusiast Erik Arneson has now remedied that situation with How to Host a Game Night, published by Tiller Press on October 27th.

Having organized game events since 2005 and having participated in them since childhood, I am well-acquainted with the pitfalls of Game Night, and Arneson articulates them well here. How can one make use of a smaller space? How to protect games from curious or rampaging pets? What if your players don't all get along? The book does a great job of laying out the challenges and solutions with humor and wisdom. The first chapter describes all the essentials of preparation, including one of the biggest barriers to game night - learning and teaching the game rules. The following chapters methodically explore paths to success for game nights of various sizes, starting with just two players, and proceeding to big gatherings of twenty or more. A helpful list of recommended games by player count - including some of this year's finest - is included at the end of most chapters.

The great hidden truth of game night is that game night is not so much about the games at all. Sure, the games are the impetus for getting together, and they are often brilliantly designed and fun. But the most important component of a game is not the cards, the dice, or the board - it's the players. People are the point. The games are in a sense a means to an end - a way to bring your family or friends together. So, it's critically important to find the right mix of people and games those people will enjoy - it means the different between great memories and lifelong friendships, and a general bummer of an evening. This is laid out well in Chapter 3 - in canvassing a wide array of game experts, Arneson confirmed what he already knew by experience - it pays to be selective and sagacious with your guest list. There are many great ideas shared here, which I will let you discover for yourself in the book. Depending on how the guests and the games shake out, a successful game event organizer - like a successful bartender - may sometimes need the skills of a psychologist, a diplomat, or even King Solomon.

Finally, no book on game gatherings published in 2020 could leave out a chapter on "virtual" online board game possibilities. The COVID-19 health emergency has changed all our lives in many ways - and gamers have often had to migrate to the internet for their regular game get-togethers. Fortunately, the online sites have obliged with an explosion of new platforms and digital versions of hundreds of classic and recent games. Arneson recommends Board Game Arena, a site I endorse as well, among many other possibilities. BGA (as it's known for short) takes the legwork out of gaming by moving pieces, enforcing rules and keeping score for you, unlike some sites which present you with a virtual environment which approximates the experience of playing a board game by giving you a virtual board and pieces to move yourself using your mouse.

At around 170 pages, How to Host a Game Night is not a weighty tome, but an efficient and effective reference for aspiring game event hosts. It will give you the information you need to be successful with organizing your event, and more importantly, with its humor and enthusiasm, it will inspire you to actually DO IT. I highly recommend this book and I strongly recommend you utilize the strategies within - it's a winning move.

- Erik's post about the book on his blog

- Purchase the book at Amazon