How to Host a Virtual Game Night
A dozen games to play with far-flung friends.
In the era of "social distancing" and "self isolation," two very necessary steps as we collectively try to curb the spread of COVID-19, it's easy to find yourself idle... very, very idle. The good news: In today's technologically savvy world, there's plenty of things you can do to connect with friends, even when you can't actually get together. This includes having a game night.
Thanks to a variety of video conferencing services like Google Hangouts and Skype, smartphone apps, and interactive websites, it doesn't take much effort to play traditionally in-person classics like Monopoly and Scrabble via the ether. And, if you're looking for something a little different, there are a host of new and interesting virtual games, too. Here, some of the most fun virtual games, so you'll never miss that Friday game night—no matter how long the quarantine lasts.
From the creators of the once wildly popular trivia game called You Don't Know Jack comes a subscription service that gives you and your friends access to a host of party games—trivia, drawing, word games, and more—for as many as eight players at a time. Each player simply needs a phone or other web-enabled device (Mac, Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV) to use as their controller; pricing starts from $12.49.
Read My Lips
While on video chat with two or more people, take turns turning off your microphone and speaking a short phrase or sentence. Whoever can correctly guess what you're saying first gets a point. The first person to 10 wins.
Though you traditionally use a single smartphone for this popular game by Ellen Degeneres, you can play with friends from afar via the Houseparty app, a social video chatting service. The premise is simple: All but one player gets access to a randomly selected word each round. The one player who cannot see the word tries to guess the word via a series of hints from the other players; expansion packs start from 99¢.
Since you don't really need any game pieces, Charades is a great option for video chatting. Simply agree to only act out simple words or phrases, then take turns having one person try to explain that word or phrase to the rest of the group. Remember: The person acting out the word or phrase can only use gestures and facial expressions—no words. Tally up the points to see who gets the most correct.
Similarly, Pictionary is a good option. The rules are nearly the same, but instead of acting out the word or phrase, you draw it and the other players attempt to guess what you're drawing. This one just requires a bit more of a setup, since each player will need to prop their phone or computer up in a way that the other players can see what they're drawing.
The free online gaming services Pogo has a roster of over 100 games from big-name brands like Hasbro and PopCap Games. Choices include puzzles, sports, and word games, including favorites like RISK, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Chess, and Bejeweled; upgraded subscription available start from $6.99 per month.
Never Have I Ever
Another easy game to play through any video chatting service. Each player simply holds up 10 fingers and, one at a time, each person recites something they've never done (i.e. "Never have I ever lied to any of you" or "Never have I ever eaten food off the floor."). If you have done the thing in question, you put a finger down. Once you've put down all of your fingers, you're out of the game. The last person with fingers still up wins.
This free online portal Tabletopia gives you access to over 800 licensed games. Options, which include both board games and strategy games, can be filtered by a variety of factors, including age, number of players, and overall play time; pricing starts from $4.99 for premium features.
Download Catan Universe, a digital version of the celebrity-favorite game Settlers of Catan. The free version, available online or for both iPhone and Android, lets you play the basic board game in multiplayer mode with up to three friends.
Words with Friends
Just like Scrabble, but better, Words with Friends allows you to play in real time via fast-paced "lightening duels" or take turns making moves as time allows.
Play all of your favorite card games, from classic kid-friendly options like Go Fish to spicier options like Cards Against Humanity for more mature audiences—on a virtual table (all players see cards moving in real time) just for you and your friends.