When I read lists on the internet (an activity I spend more time doing than I care to admit) I often wonder what the criteria was. Maybe it's the teacher in me. (The eagle eyed among you have already spotted the 'what went well/ even better if' feedback model that I used on my feedback forms!). You can't reward anything without having a clear criteria that you have shared. If there's a top spot to be awarded, we all want to know how the winner got there.
Which brings me to my criteria for the top 5 pub games. And as with all good success criteria, I may have made some of the words up.
2. Low threshold high ceiling (easy to learn but endless levels of possible challenge)
4. Quality of components
The upshot of this, of course is (aside from the portability measure) you can apply this to any games, for any event and rate them accordingly. If you wanted you could also give numerical scores and make graphs....
Mancala is a game I stumbled on by accident. I bought a copy of it solely because I liked the box - I took it to the counter, said 'Is this a game?' She said 'Yes, I think so' and that was it. Sold. A few weeks of showing it to people and asking 'What's this?' and I had discovered Mancala. (Think Fran in Episode 1 of Black Books.
Mancala is so simple; very easy to learn. And packed into it's own case it is super portable. For the stores at the ends you can use two glasses or you can buy a version with built in stores. (Just make sure the components are still big enough to use.)
As a game for two it is less sociable than some of the others but it is definitely a fun and addictive game. And the fact only two people are playing doesn't stop people having an opinion on what you're doing wrong! I left my copy in the pub at past midnight last games night because people couldn't tear themselves away from it. It's a permanent fixture for our Abbey games nights.
The components are satisfyingly tactile. In fact they are so appealing that at a recent wedding fayre, despite the fact they look and feel like antique olives, someone tried to eat one which was an awkward moment, as he dried and replaced it!
Skull is a straightforward game of Bluff. It is easy to play but because if relies on bluff and trying to second guess opponents actions, it feels as though it has endless possibilities. It is fun to play with people you know well, or complete strangers so scores high on sociability.
The cards in the game are well made and beautifully illustrated.
Fun levels can be accurately measured by the spontaneous noise all players make when a Skull is revealed. You can of course win by not bidding, but as a fellow player said on Wednesday - 'That's the coward's way out. The worst sort of winning!'
That depends really - winning is, after all, winning!
3. Exploding Kittens
Exploding Kittens is a very entertaining card game in which you try to avoid being exploded whilst trying to get someone else blown up in your place.
The cards are entertainingly illustrated by the oatmeal and of course - as it's a card game it is designed to be portable.
It can be learnt in about 15 minutes and while it isn't the most challenging game in the world, there is enough variation to keep you entertained for many happy hours. It is probably my most played game as it appeals to people of all ages, all gaming aptitudes and preferences. I have endlessly bought it as a gift for others and it is probably the game I have taught most so far.
And, you can always add the Imploding Kittens for more challenge and confusion. Just don't end up wearing the cone of shame!
4. Obama Llama
Last time I got this out at games night, we had a spontaneous moment while we missed Obama. That in itself was a sociable activity, if somewhat tinged with sadness. Then we got on with the ridiculous task of working out what celebrities rhyme with. You roll the dice to determine whether you have to act out your rhyme, give clues or simply describe your allocated celebrity and their rhyme.
It is very entertaining and certainly easy to learn. It doesn't score highly on having many possible levels to it: there really isn't any difficulty at all. But, the components are of a decent quality and it is extremely sociable.
5. Travel Downfall or just Downfall
An MB classic. Both sizes of Downfall are a popular choice. It is easy to learn: simply get your counters through in numerical order. If you want to add challenge you can specify that all of one colour must be first or put your counters in, in a random order but still have them come through in numerical order. There is plenty of challenge available. As for quality of components? Considering the game is about 35 years old I'd say we can confidently score that highly. Fun and socialising is often about banter and lively interactions with friends. Downfall is perfect for this. We spent many happy minutes shouting at each other and reading the same paragraph of the rules to each other whilst emphasising different words. It all ended happily. Well, I went home so I'm assuming it did. Yet another game I had to abandon at the pub.
On reflection, I should add that to my criteria: leavability?
Anyway - just for you. I done a graph.