Sometimes you want to play a good game, but you have a large group of people (like your extended family or a group of friends) and no game handy that everyone can join in. All of these great, free games can be played right now with a large group, requiring only paper, pencils, and perhaps a single six-sided die or a deck of cards. In some cases, no equipment at all is needed.
1. CategoriesFor 3 or more players, best with 6 to 8. Equipment: paper, pencils.
Categories is an excellent party game that inspired the game of Scattergories. Each player draws a five-by-five grid on his piece of paper, and then writes the five-letter keyword across the top, one letter per column. Five categories -- which can be virtually anything, such as capital cities, professional wrestlers or musical composers -- are selected and written down the side of the grid, one per row. Players then have a set time (generally 5 to 10 minutes) to fill their own grid with words that fit each category and start with the letter at the top. When time expires, answers are compared. One point is scored for each other player who does not have the same word.
2. GhostsFor 2 or more players. Equipment: none.
Ghosts is a word game played entirely verbally. No equipment is needed unless players want to keep score with paper and pencil. It's convenient, but not necessary, to have access to a dictionary. The first player says a letter and then, in turn, each player adds a letter to those already said, either at the start or the end. If a valid word of four or more letters has been formed, the next player starts a new word. On her turn, any player may challenge the previous player to announce a good English word that includes the sequence of letters that has been built. The loser of the challenge is given a letter in the word GHOSTS. When a plaer has accumulated all of the letters in GHOSTS, he is eliminated.
3. PigFor 2 or more players. Equipment: one six-sided die, paper and pencil to keep score.
Although the downtime between your turns grows longer with each additional player, Pig can work with any number. The goal is to be the first player to reach 100 points but that can be adjusted to either shorten or lengthen the game. On a turn, a player rolls the die repeatedly until either a 1 is rolled or the player chooses to hold, or stop rolling. If a 1 is rolled at any time during a player's turn, the turn ends and that player earns no points. If the player chooses to hold, all of the points rolled during that turn are added to her score.
The goal of this game is to score the most points by placing cards into the best possible Poker hands in a five-by-five grid. Players first draw their grids, and then one is chosen to select cards from a shuffled deck. That player draws the top card and announces it. Each player then writes that card's rank and suit into one of the 25 available squares. This is repeated until 25 cards have been drawn and announced. All 25 squares will be filled on every player's grid. Each column and each row are then scored, with, for example, a royal flush being worth 50 points and a straight flush being worth 30.
5. SpoonsFor 3 to 13 players, best with 6 to 13. Equipment: deck of cards, spoons (optional).
Spoons is a clever card game that can be played by children and adults together. It is also known as Pig and Tongue; spoons are not necessary to play those versions of the game. There are two goals: Ideally, you want to be the first player to collect four cards of the same rank. Secondarily, if an opponent beats you to that goal, you want to avoid being the last to realize it. After the cards are shuffled, players continually pass cards (one at a time) to their left. When a player collects four of a kind, he takes a spoon from the center of the table as subtly as possible. Every other player then must do the same. The last player to grab a spoon is eliminated.
Wink Murder is a great parlor / party game for many players. Murder Handshake is another way to play the same game. One player is chosen to be the killer and another to be the detective. All of the players sit in a circle with the detective in the middle. The murderer kills people by winking at them. When a player is killed, he should lay down or leave the circle. (Many players like to make the killing dramatic by, for example, pretending they've been shot.) The detective has three chances to guess who the murderer is.
7. Word SquaresFor 2 or more players. Equipment: paper, pencils.
Word Squares is great for a group of word lovers. Each player draws a five-by-five grid on his piece of paper, and one of the players is chosen to go first. He calls out a letter, and each player writes that letter in one of the 25 available squares. The next player then calls out a letter, which may be the same as or different than any previous letter. Each player writes that letter into one of the remaining squares. This continues until all 25 squares are filled. Words in each column and each row are then scored. A valid five-letter word is worth 10 points, a four-letter word is worth 5, and a three-letter word is worth 1.