Imagine you’re walking into a dorm hallway full of other college freshmen on move-in day. You’re all excited and apprehensive about the rest of your lives. You don’t know each other but you want to. What are you going to talk about? What are you going to do?
A great way to solve the problem of awkward first times hanging out is board or card games. They’re structured activities that give you something definitive to do, but you’re still able to talk and get to know each other. It takes away the pressure of filling conversation in and gives you something to talk about.
Bananagrams is a personal favorite of mine. It’s frustrating enough to be really funny and very focused, so you don’t have to worry about awkward pauses in conversation. Plus, it’s super portable so you can carry it around in your backpack. Once you’re done playing, you can read off your words and get little hints into everyone’s personality.
Kwizniac is a trivia game where you have to answer a questions with more and more specific hints. It’s a really fun way to see the things each person is an expert in, and you get to learn lots of random facts.
Cards Against Humanity is probably the most common card game played in dorm rooms. It’s no surprise considering how funny the card combinations are. If you have access to a printer, it can be very inexpensive to make your own set, and it takes less than an hour. There are also lots of really fun, unofficial expansion packs.
In case you’re not ready to show your new friends your dark side in Cards Against Humanity, you can play the old-fashioned, kid-friendly version. Apples to Apples is still a great time, and a great way to figure out someone’s sense of humor and interests.
While Taboo is more about what you don’t say than what you do, it’s even more fun with people you don’t know. You have to describe a word without using that word or a few other related words, so trying to connect ideas with people you don’t know well is a challenge. When I play Taboo with my friends from high school, it’s mostly inside jokes that make the connections, but when I’m playing with new friends, it’s a lot harder to guess.
6. Uno ($6)
Nearly everyone’s played a game of Uno at some point in their lives. So, you’ve got a game most people know how to play, and a great story starter. Maybe someone will bring up their games of Uno during recess or summer camp, and you’ll talk late into the night off of that story.
Catan is more complex than most of the games here, and definitely a niche game, but it can be a lot of fun. Those who like Catan love it, so maybe give it a chance with your new classmates.
Phase 10 is a great midpoint between very simple card games and very involved ones. It has enough rules that it’s more entertaining, but not so many that it’s difficult to explain. Perfect for people walking in and out, but still substantial enough to play for hours.
9. Set ($10)
Set is a visual pattern game that is fast paced and easy to catch on to. It can have up to 20 players, but you can also just play by yourself. It’s a great card deck to have around since you can play it by yourself and it’s a great de-stressor. Since it doesn’t rely on language and the directions are relatively simple, if you’re faced with language barriers, this is a great game to play.
This card game is a mixture between pattern recognition and brainstorming. Once two similar cards are played, you’ll have to shout out the name of something random — like a T.V. Show, song or color. The name of the game is a type of memory loss where a person forgets names of objects, and that’s how you’ll feel playing this game.
Whatever type of person you are socially, board and card games are a great way to start off friendships. You’ll always have something to do if you keep a few of these around.
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