Spending time with my assemble off stage undoubtedly improves my game. I love these guys, but a friendship is not something that will magically happen. I am lucky to have a huge boardgame cafe right next to our Improv Theatre, and we have spent many hours there! Personally, I find it as one of the easiest ways to bond! And I have so much fun playing games!

Today I want to talk about five of my favorite social games, and why do I think playing them makes us a better team. Hopefully, you will feel inspired and play! I have picked some very well known games this time, I am sure you have already heard about many of them. So, let’s start!

Codenames - Vlaada Chvátil

Game | Rules video

On this game, one player gives a one-word clue to help their team find a number of images. It is very easy to teach and caters both to competitive and cooperative minds. Personally, we play the picture version more often.

I love this way because it really tests if a group is on the same wavelength. You can go for the easy choices, aiming to connect only two cards; but the game gives space to those brilliant plays when a team manages to guess 5 words in a turn!

I think it helps a lot to understand how your ensemble thinks. You can see a visual representation of the connections they are making, and you will be painfully aware of which references fall flat.

Dixit

Game | Rules video

One player selects a picture and uses a word to describe it. Then, the rest select a card from their hand that matches that description. Now it is guessing the time! You have to pick the original one. You win if you manage to make as few people as possible guess your card (but at least one!). The artwork is truly astonishing!

This game is amazing to capitalize on some inside joke, to then realize that someone different guessed your card! It takes some time to understand the type of words you should use so your description can be met with other cards. Dixit can be easily enhanced by adding rules to on how to describe the cards: use only the title of a song, say it in rhyme or it could fit as the first line in a scene. Just be aware: it is a very slow paced game!

Dixit helps a lot to know how your scene partners get inspired. It also helps seeing if someone understand your dark references. The game serves as a way to test many inside jokes, and to understand what does your friend pay attention when looking at a picture!

CAH

Game | Rules video

I know you know about CAH so I will be quick. Someone reads a statement with a blank, and the rest use their cards to fill the blank. It is inappropriate, random and hilarious.

I have so many crazy memories from this game. Groups usually need some rounds to warm up, but soon enough you will have a crowd playing really non-PC cards. No one sees who gives the cards anyway! You can always justify any comment with “I know you would laugh at that. We play with Your shitty jokes expansion so the winner of the game can write the next card we will add. That way, they will be forever remembered!

It is very important to understand your team member’s cup of tea in a show, and what they find hilarious. Even when they are ashamed of their own choice! And CAH helps exactly with that. Being this inappropriate also creates a lot of intimacy between players. Personally, I have felt very inspired many times by some of the phrases… I wanted to see scenes justifying what we just heard!

Secret Hitler

Game | Rules video

This social deduction game splits the group in almost half: the liberals whose duty is to pass liberal laws, and the fascist who must select Hitler as a Chancellor. All players must play their most liberal arguments to convince the rest, without getting caught!

Secret Hitler is, for me, the funniest social deduction game. It has almost no downtime, as no players are killed; and there are ways to keep the ball rolling if the discussion gets too long. It was released as Creative Commons, so there are many publishers making different versions. And if you want to be even cheaper, it can be played with a normal deck of cards! Although I personally love the artwork.

Secret Hitler teaches you how to be more convincing, as well as understanding how believable a scene partner is. There are always status games inside any group, and I find useful to understand who drives them.

Spyfall

Game | Rules video

A hidden identity game where everyone but the spy has a role and knows the location. Time is limited, and you have to decide who is the spy before it runs out. You can also play it using this web app.

I love having to keep the balance on how much information you share, so you don’t look like the spy nor you give the spy too many clues. You have to keep a poker face and make your best empty statements. Who doesn’t dream of talking like a politician for a day?

Spyfall plays like a scene that you are not reading well at all. You do your best to listen as carefully as possible over all the fluff and the jokes, so you can find what does your partner need from you. You also train the art of really committing to an idea that you think the scene is about. Go big or go home!

What about you?

Are you an avid board game player? Do you usually play games with your improv team? Are there any games you would like to recommend to improvisers out there?

There are so many other games we could explore here! I decided to start with the more known ones, but I am sure I will keep exploring this idea on a later post. I’m thinking of games like Aye, Dark Overlord; DnD; 2 Rooms 1 Boom