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Host a Game Night With Friends

All you need are a few friends, snacks and the board game of your choice (we've got ideas on that score)

Cheerful friends enjoying indoor games at home

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If you're tired of the typical dinner-and-a-movie social plans, why not rally a group for a game night? As a host, the responsibilities are delightfully minimal — drinks, chips and salsa can suffice — though you will need to choose a board game or two and to be able to clearly explain the directions to your guests.

As for the game itself, while you might want a standby like Scrabble or Pictionary on hand, an unfamiliar option may provide a little more diversion for the gathering as a whole. Because there are so many choices on the market now, we played nearly a dozen and asked a few experts to offer you a handful of new standouts (all available at Amazon.com) that may remind you of some of your favorite classics. 

Various board game boxes

From left: Czech Games, Breaking Games, Northstar Games

If you like Cheat (or B.S.) you’ll love ... Skull

Players: 4+

Time: 15+ minutes

Cost: $15.99 

“Skull is the game that killed poker for me,” says Michael James Heron, editor of Meeple Like Us, a game review website. “It gets rid of the card play and replaces it with pure, raw bluffing.” The goal is pretty straightforward: reveal flower cards and avoid skull ones while goading other players to land on skulls. If that sounds confusing, know that it takes about two minutes to get the hang of it and even less time to fall in love with it. There’s faking and mental trickery — prepare to get your game face on — in this this quick, portable game with surprisingly pretty cards.

If you like Trivial Pursuit, you’ll love ... Wits & Wagers

Players: 4+

Time: 20+ minutes

Cost: $34

Wits & Wagers has won dozens of awards and for good reason: As game researcher Joe Wasserman of West Virginia University says, it provides a twist to the trivia game genre. Instead of one player trying to answer a trivia question correctly, all players answer each question and then place bets on whose answer is closest.” Think of it as similar to the bar game Quizzo with some carefree gambling thrown in.

Wits and Wager game box with text that also reads

Northstar Games

If you like Scrabble, you’ll love ... Letter Tycoon

Players: 2-5

Time: 30+ minutes

Cost: $34

Using a seven-card hand, players take turns creating words while scoring “money” and rewards along the way. “Letter Tycoon is a true mashup of Scrabble and Monopoly,” explains Jon Freeman, a clinical psychologist who owns the board-game stores and cafes, the Brooklyn Strategist and Hex & Company. The game even has Mensa’s seal of approval, having won the “Mensa Select” award in 2015.

Letter Tycoon game box

Breaking Games

If you like Taboo, you’ll love ... Codenames Duet

Players: 2 (or 2 teams)

Time: 15+ minutes

Cost: $17.67 

Seated across from each other, two players (or two teams) give each other hints to help reveal who the “assassins” (bad guys) are and who the “agents” (good guys) are in this fun game of word play and sleuthing. It’s a cooperative game — everyone wins or everyone loses. As Wasserman says, it forces you to “open yourself to creativity in your thinking both as the clue-giver and as the deducer.”

Codenames Duet game box

Czech Games

If you like Mah-jongg, you’ll love ... Azul

Players: 2-4

Time: 30+ minutes

Cost: $35.04 

A visually arresting pick, Azul just won the Spiel des Jahres award, which is like the Oscar of gaming. Pretty light on rules, the game is as much about creating a pretty design with Moorish tiles as it is about racking up points, depending on where you place them. Best of all, it’s social, making it a great choice if your guests want to play and chat around the table.

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