It’s summer — time for get-togethers, picnics, weekend afternoons at the lake, and hey-whatcha-doing-tonight phone calls.
Group gatherings make great times to bring out games. They’re a strong social lubricant, helping people quickly connect and get comfortable with each other. Unfortunately, entertaining groups of six people or more gets challenging at times.
Party games easily handle that many players, but some people don’t enjoy trivia or doing vaguely embarrassing things, which are the central mechanics of many party games. Drat!
Good news — party games aren’t the only party in town when it comes to group entertainment. A number of designer games support eight or more players with easy-to-learn and fast-moving fun. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a peek at my top picks in this category.
We’ll start with what our crew calls “yelling games.” These games play simultaneously. Rather than taking turns, players jump in at the same time in a free-for-all of action and, you guessed it, yelling. Prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price:
* Happy Salmon (3-6 players, $14.99, NorthStar Games)
Although this teeters on the edge of the “doing silly things” concept, Happy Salmon plays so quickly and with so much engagement that almost nobody can resist it. It also plays really well with both kids and adults
Games last about one minute. Players stand in a circle around a table. Each player holds a deck of cards with instructions like Pound It (make a fist bump), Switcheroo (trade places), High Five (self-explanatory), and Happy Salmon (overlap your forearm with another player and flap your hand like a fish tail).
After a countdown, players simultaneously look at their first card and start yelling the name of it. When they find someone else in the circle yelling the same card name, they do the card’s action with the other player, then both players discard the card onto the table. They look at their next card and begin the process again. The first player out of cards wins.
This video from NorthStar gives you a quick walk-through of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQVKY63M2PE.
* Pit (3-8 players, $10-15, Winning Moves Games)
This classic card game dates from 1903, when the real commodity trading “pits” had people yelling offers and acceptances at each other all day.
The Pit deck contains eight suits of commodities with nine cards each, plus a Bull and a Bear card. The older games used commodities like wheat and flax, while the new games have oil, gas, cattle and cocoa. Each commodity has a different value ranging from 50 (gas) to 100 (cocoa).
You set up the game by choosing one commodity per player and shuffling them into a single deck, along with the Bull and Bear cards. The whole deck is dealt out, giving most players a hand of nine cards, plus two players with 10 (because of the Bull and Bear). After giving everyone a moment to organize their cards, players count down and then the market is open!
Players want to collect a full set of nine commodity cards. To do that, they offer matching sets of cards (two gas or three cocoa, for instance) for trade with other players. The twist is that players only say (yell!) the number of cards they’re trading, not which commodity it is. If you ever heard a group of excited people shouting “Three! Three! Three!” at each other, then you bumped into a round of Pit.
The first person to collect a full set of nine cards shouts “Corner!” (because they cornered the market in that commodity). Nicer Pit games come with a hotel desk-style bell that you ring to signal the end of the round (it’s the “closing bell” for the market).
The Bull and Bear wild cards add extra challenge to the game. The Bull doubles your score, because you’re betting on the commodity value “rising” (it’s a bull market) To win with the Bull, you only need eight matching cards, but if you have the Bull in your hand when someone else wins, you lose points for speculating!
The Bear is bad news all the way around. First, you can’t win with the Bear in your hand so you need to trade him away as fast as possible. If the round ends while you still have the Bear, you lose points because the market lost money.
If the noise gets too much, you can also play the game silently, using old trading pit hand signals instead of speech. Hold your palm facing out if you are offering a trade; hold your palm facing in if you want to accept a trade. The number of fingers you hold up is the number of cards you’re either offering or accepting. (This is actually our favorite way to play.)
Next time, we’ll look at a different style of group games without the yelling (except maybe when somebody loses). Have a great week!
Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at email@example.com and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.