I woke up this morning and suddenly realised that I had yet another game night scheduled for tonight with my friends. That’s just what our quarantine lives have become: endless game nights, during which we’re always trying to find something new that works well over Zoom / Facebook / Google Meet / you name it.
Having gone through what feels like my 3,000th episode of Quiplash lately, I feel I’m particularly suited to highlight the very best games you can play in a video chat session. However, if I’ve missed anything good, please let me know in the comments. Really, let me know. I’m so tired of playing Fibbage.
All the Jackbox games
It’s only fair that we start with the very best. Honestly, I have yet to see an casual-multiplayer implementation as smooth as the one delivered by any given six-pack of Jackbox games: One person launches the game and shares their screen on a video chat, and everyone else dials into the play session on their phones (or tablets, if you want to use a stylus for the drawing games like a filthy cheater).
As for the games themselves, there’s such a wide and quirky variety of them that it’s almost impossible to describe them all in a few sentences. There is all manner of trivia games ” from reasonably serious trivia and completely silly trivia ” and assorted variations, such as games based around predicting the percentages of respondents who answered a question particular way.
You can play games where you’re trying to get your friends to guess fake answers to real goofy questions; you can eschew trivia entirely and draw t-shirts or “art” for each other; you can even diffuse bombs. Nearly every Jackbox game is weird, and while not every one is an instant hit, they’re all guaranteed to entertain you somehow. And they’re pretty cheap: each “pack“ of games costs anywhere from $20-25, or you can buy standalone games for about $10.
Codenames (via Horsepaste)
I love that people have digitised the classic in-person board game Codenames. There are plenty of different websites you can use to play it, but I particularly enjoy the oddly named “Horsepaste.” Everyone types in a special password to join the same game, and then you split off into teams: red and blue.
You don’t have to share your screen in your video chat to get started. Technically, you don’t even need to see each other, but it certainly helps. One person on each team serves as the “spymaster,” who can see the entire board layout: a grid of words, some of which belong to your team, some of which belong to the other team, some of which belong to nobody. One of them will cause your team to lose.
The goal? Your team has to pick all the words that belong to them before the other team picks the words that belong to them. The spymaster can give a single word as a clue each round. They then have to sit there and watch their team attempt to think their way through the logic of the hint, often gritting their teeth and doing their best to not scream at the screen. There are a few more rules than that, but that’s the basic gist.
Horsepaste is free to play, and I like that you can pick various word lists or languages, or even import your own custom list of words if you’re feeling adventurous. Honestly, I like the implementation so much, I’d almost rather play this version than the physical game. Or maybe I’m just a nerd.
Ugh. I’ve never met a more frustrating game than Fishbowl. It’s not a bad game, I just find myself driven crazy by my fellow players’ submissions.
Here’s what I mean: Everyone uses a code to join the same game, and you all type words and phrases ” whatever you want, really ” onto digital notecards. You’re then split off into teams, and each round forces someone on each team to get their fellow players to try and guess what’s on the cards.
The problem? Each round has rules. In the first round, you can use any words you want to describe what’s on the card except for the words on the card. (Classic Taboo). In the second round, you jump to charades. No talking, but silly gestures are highly encouraged. In the final round, the prompter gets to say one word ” that’s it ” and the guessers have to do their very best to remember everything on the cards.
Hard? You betcha, especially when your friends use such absurd phrases as “The 1997 Denver Broncos” or an outrageous tongue twister. But that’s the fun part of the game, too ” seeing if you can actually make it through everyone’s suggestions. Spoiler: You’ll always find a way.
In this free game for Android, iOS and the web, players are pitted against a spy. Each player knows the location for a particular round, whereas the spy is given nothing. The spy’s goal? Figure out what the location is. The players’ goal? Figure out who the spy is.
There are a few more fun rules you’ll want to know when it comes to questioning others and calling out the spy, and the points differ across the various possible outcomes, but those are the basics. It’s a simple-ish game that’s sure to drive you and your investigative friends crazy.
It’s Cards Against Humanity, but it’s not called that because they don’t want to get sued. If you’ve never played CAH, as it’s known in shorthand, the premise is simple: One person picks a prompt card ” usually something horrific, potentially (if not overtly) racist or shocking ” and the players are tasked with playing their own cards that fill in a blank on the prompt card. The hilarity comes from the equally horrific answers and/or absurd combinations people come up with.
All Bad Cards comes with a ton of different card packs that you can pick from. You can also import custom packs that you or others have created, or opt for a family-friendly version of the game. If you don’t have a ton of friends to play with, you can add AI players into your game. However, the website is correct in noting that you should feel bad if they actually win.
We’ve reached that point. If you’re bummed because you’re not going to back to school to hang out with your buddies this fall, or you miss your friendly local watering hole that’s probably long since dried up (thanks, pandemic), Drink VirtuallyÂ is the next best thing. Pull up a video chat, have everyone get their favourite beverages and pick one of eight different drinking games to play. Yes, you can even play the dreaded Kings Cup ” sans, er, cup, I suppose.
Yes, it’s another “Guess who is good and who is bad” kind of a game. Minus the subject matter ” which might not appeal to everyone ” this physical-to-digital Secret Hitler game is actually pretty fun to play with a group. The rules are a bit involved, so make sure you and everyone else in your party gives them a quick read before you start and especially before you start enjoying any adult beverages on the side. (That, or make sure someone who knows the game pretty well can offer a quick explainer during a casual first game.)
The gist of the thing is that two groups (liberals and fascists) are trying to get their policies enacted across multiple rounds of play. Additionally, one of you is Hitler; if the liberals kill him, they win. If the fascists elect him Chancellor ” one of the players who gets extra powers each round ” they win.
It sounds complicated, and it is, slightly. But once you’ve gotten the hang of the strategy, Secret Hitler is a fun-but-complex little title that’s sure to make everyone in your friend group hate each other at some point. And isn’t that the point of a great party game?
I haven’t tried this one myself, but it sounds like two parts hilarity, one part insanity. The gist of Drawception is simple: One player draws something and another player describes it. That description then goes to another player, and they draw that, and another player describes that and…get the point? Once everyone has had a turn, you’ll see the full, telephone-like path of how your drawings and descriptions evolved.
The only bummer is that every player gets a whopping ten minutes to finish their drawings, so this might not be the best one to play over an active video chat ” unless you’re all doing something else to distract yourselves, like playing another game?
If you’re looking for a much simpler variation of this idea, try cosel.io. It’s all just quick prompts and drawings, and you either draw or you guess what’s being drawn. Easy as that.
Carcassonne (via Concarneau)
I absolutely love Carcassonne ” the fun little game where everyone takes turns placing tiles to create a lovely medieval village. You score points for your creations in all sorts of ways: castles you finish, roads you build, fields you connect, et cetera.
Concarneau is a completely free implementation of Carcassonne that everyone can play via the web ” so long as everyone has first set up a free account with the service. While the UI might take a bit of getting used to, especially if you have a gigantic monitor, you’ll hardly notice as you spent your time strategising a way to take control of all the fields and win out at the last second.
Settlers of Catan (via Colonist)
Everyone knows this one, right? You roll the dice, get resources based on the roll and use those resources to construct things like roads, settlements and cities to score points. This sounds easy ” if not fun! ” but your clever foes will find all sorts of ways to snatch victory from your grasp, just like in Carcassonne. In fact, I dare say that I stopped playing Settlers of Catan for this very reason: everyone I usually play with is very smart, and they lull me into thinking I have a chance of winning before crushing me.
Colonist is a free version of Settlers of Catan that lets you play online with others. It’s easy to use, streamlined and looks gorgeous in your browser. Before you get started building a little island with your buddies, make sure everyone has created a free account on the service. It shouldn’t be too hard to find each other after that.
I love this concept. Assuming someone in your friend group has a smart speaker ” though, really, you could probably do this with the various digital assistants on your phone ” you’ll want to put it near your computer’s speaker and hop in a video chat with your friends. Everyone will then join the same Hey Robot room, and the goal is simple: You’ll all take turns trying to get the smart speaker to say the word that’s on your card. You can only ask the smart speaker questions ” and, no, “Siri, how do you pronounce [word on card]” doesn’t count.
Joking Hazard (at a distance)
I used to be a big Cards Against Humanity player, until the novelty of talking about Bees??!?! flying into buttholes got played out. I then switched to Joking Hazard, which I absolutely love. Basically, two cards of a three-panel comic strip are drawn for you, and you and your fellow players supply the third card.
Joking Hazard is every bit as raunchy as Cards Against Humanity, but it’s less unpleasant ” in that I don’t mind watching a cartoon character’s butt explode, but I do get a little annoyed when we’re all “joking” about race and abortions. That is to say, Joking Hazard tickles my need to express filthy things without making me feel like a horrible person in the process.
This version of the game is free and unofficial, which is to say there’s no guarantee it’ll last. But while it’s around, give it a try; it’s my favourite game to play with friends by far.
I hate Monopoly. However, I will concede that some of you out there actually enjoy it for some reason. So here’s a web-based version of Monopoly that you can play with others. And, look! It’s even themed with geeky companies instead of boring property names.