So you have the games, you have the people, you have your cool little room with the Kallax shelves stacked to the sky, but there’s more to running a perfect games night than just having ‘the stuff’. You’ve got to have the intangible, something that nobody else has. That thing is the X factor, which is why (for my sins) I’ve brought along my good friend Simon Drowell to talk through some top tips for hosting the perfect games night, and getting that said ‘X-factor’. Isn’t that right Simon?
Simon: Exactly Chris, I was told when I was younger that to be the perfect host you had to only do one thing right. That thing is to not be awful. Basically, if you’ve got it you’ve got it, and if you havn’t, well you might as well quit.
Chris: Harsh but sure… I guess. We’re trying to give tips here though Simon, we can’t just tell people ‘sorry but if you don’t know then you should give up.’
Simon: Well that’s wrong but fine.
1. Variety is the spice of life
Chris: As everyone with the aforementioned full Kallax setup knows, you have to play lots of different games to have a good games night, but choosing the games is one thing, and planning out your night is something entirely different.
Simon: Exactly, basically Chris, just don’t choose terrible games, and you’ll be absolutely fine. Next tip.
Chris: Alright, well not quite Simon, you should be organising these in a way where you don’t end up playing back to back heavy euro games. Make sure you have at least one small, short or light game to put inbetween the longer games. Then another thing I like to do is to make sure you start off with something more socially orientated, so as everyone gets fully involved in the vocal part of tabletop, and everyone gets to a place where they are more comfortable interacting with everyone else at the table. This is especially important if you have new people at the table.
2. Dem snackz
Simon: Just get snack food surely, done.
Chris: Well, sure I guess, just get snacks and you’ll be fine.
Simon: Exactly, just make sure you get snacks that are not extraordinary. Extraordinarily bad that is.
Chris: Right, very confusing. I mean, you can look at it from a slightly different angle and that is this. If you have card games to be played, or anything involving paper pieces, or things that pick up dirt, just DON’T get crisps with fancy coatings. Oh, and if you get dip, just make sure you keep it away from the game at all costs. No drippy doritos over the game please!
Simon: If you seriously know people who would eat a ‘drippy dorito’ over your copy of mechs vs. minions then you 100 percent need new friends, I’m sorry but that’s just a fact.
3. Move along now dear
Chris: Unlike this friendly guy in a blue onesie in this comic you have to remember one key thing as a host. If your players get stuck, move it along! Getting stuck on one scenario or encounter (in D&D) that takes FOREVER can suck the fun out of the night. Getting stuck on a game where everyone is suffereing from AP again, sucks the fun out of the night, so move it along!
Simon: Basically Chris just don’t choose a game that’s going to get people stuck, I would have thought that would be pretty obvious at this point.
Chris: Well, exactly. Not too harsh this time Simon, are you feeling alright? I agree though, which makes a change for once. New players don’t want to sit and play through Diplomacy for hours on end, and likewise eurogamers don’t want to sit there and play Cards against Humanity for hours (on a games night that is, the pub is a completely different matter).
Simon: If people get stuck then you are just a terrible host, and maybe just think about using your time more effectively on things you’re better at, like not hosting for example.
4. Pace yourselves
Simon: We all know the tortoise wins the race, so just stop being the hare already.
Chris: Err, yep sure. Well, not quite, what I mean by pace yourself is that you can’t just go from game to game to game forever without a break or anything. Break away from the table for a bit, go and grab a drink, cook some food, have a chat about whatever, anybody doing anything for a long time gets a bit tedious after a while so keep the evening paced!
Simon: I take it back immediately in that case. How do you expect to have the X factor if you can’t get through every single game back to back without stopping to have a ‘break’.
Chris: Well, the X factor in a games night is about the whole night, not just the games Simon. You have to get past this very aggressive tone you’re taking and just have fun instead of worrying about it being ‘the best’ night. Just have fun.
Simon: When you’re the best you don’t have time for fun, this is a competition not some little kiddies board game group.
Chris: Right, well I’ll just go and have fun with the kiddies group then. Sounds way more fun to me…
5. Embrace the RP
Simon: Basically if you’re not actor level proficiency here, you don’t have a spot on this D&D table ok? This is the X factor of tabletop nights not the local theatre groups production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ alright.
Chris: Glad to see I’m back to disagreeing with you then… This is exactly the opposite advice I would give for a tabletop night. The point of getting on board with role playing in a group playing tabletop is to include everybody, NO MATTER their proficiency. In fact, when everyone feels comfortable role playing, it’s usually MORE fun the worse everyone is at it.
Simon: I don’t understand, why wouldn’t you want people to be incredible at everything.
Chris: Well, you wouldn’t Simon, but to everyone else, just remember, RP isn’t about being GOOD at RP, it’s about everyone getting together and getting involved in the story and getting everyone engaged with the game! That’s the most fun you can have, break down the barriers and embrace RP! If you have people in the group who are more comfortable, get them to lead by example, and don’t laugh AT the people who aren’t good, laugh with them, make them feel good about role playing, and get everyone to a point where they’re ok with making a bit of an idiot of themselves! It’ll be a better night trust me.
Simon: I need a drink…
Chris: To be honest alcohol is a great way to get the RP started, so for once you’re talking my language!
Tabletop Night X-factor = Ignore the X-factor
Simon: SO why am I even here again, if the end result is that the X-factor doesn’t even matter?
Chris: Well, just think of it as a way to prove to people reading this that making something perfect and the best thing ever, usually doesn’t lead to it ACTUALLY being the best thing ever. Your favourite TV program should prove that enough anyway Simon…
Simon: Well in that case I’m leaving.
Finally, he’s gone. That’s it though really, my advice for any tabletop or baord game night, don’t worry about it too much and follow these simple steps. Get a good variety of long/short and light/heavy games, get snacks, move people on in a nice way when they get stuck, and embrace being silly and role playing a little bit (if it fits the game!). That’s it really! Simple.
Oh, and take a break every now and then.