Six Party Games That Kick A**, Take Names

How the Atari family stay entertained during the holidays

By The Editors
November 24, 2015 9:00 am

T-minus two days till you find yourself visiting family, hosting family or (heaven forbid) stuck with family in an airport.

Either way, nothing lightens the mood like … whiskey a good old-fashioned party game.

And no one knows ‘em better than America’s de facto crown prince of fun: Brent Bushnell. His father, Nolan, invented The Atari. Brother Tyler is currently pimping the “retro arcade of the future” on Kickstarter.

And Brent is the ringleader of Two Bit Circus, the LA-based “engineering entertainment” company behind STEAM Carnival, Story Room and the Arcade Road Show. Here are the six games he thinks you should be teaching your family over the holidays.

Requirements: A board, 10 pins and a wrecking ball

Skittles dates back to Ancient Egypt, and was later adopted by traveling carnivals in mid-century America. The Bushnell’s play a home-spun version of the carny classic. You need a ball with a string and 10 pins to knock down (build it yourself or order a set).

You’ll need to take some measurements and affix a ball to a cord or chain. Then assemble 10 pins in a triangle. Gameplay is similar to bowling.

“We have a life-sized one at Two Bit Circus,” says Brent. “But you can scale yours to your appetite.”


Requirements: The ability to gesticulate

Yes, the classic parlor game of pop-culture references and amateurish pantomiming. “We break into two groups (odds vs. evens by birth order),” says Brent. “Then we let each group come up with their own phrases. Only movies and TV are allowed, no foreign languages (that gets ugly).”

Requirements: A deck of cards

Play begins with the moderator dealing a single standard playing card to each player. Each card represents a role in the game. Black numbered cards are mafia/werewolves, a red king is the doctor, a red queen is the detective and all else are townspeople.

At the start, the moderator will ask everyone to close their eyes. Then he tells the mafia to open theirs so they know who’s who. Then the killing begins. The game was recently modified into a board game/smartphone app called One Night that uses some of the same mechanics but doesn’t require a moderator. “It’s good,” says Brent. “But we still like the old school game.”


Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Requirements: A VR headset or computer with printer

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes can be played with the help of a Virtual-Reality headset or computer. The person looking at the screen sees a ticking time bomb covered in a series of puzzles. The other players have the manual. The defuser relays details about the bomb’s puzzles to the players with the manual; they try to figure out how to solve them by asking questions. “My mom and I played five times and died every time,” says Brent. “But it’s still a ton of fun.”

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes5:40

Just Dance
Requirements: Gaming console and smartphones

Just Dance is like karaoke for dancing,” says Brent. “Your grandmother can play it.” Like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, it’s available on PS3 and Wii, and you move with the songs while a camera in the device records your movements via your smartphone. After you’re done, watch a sped-up version of your boogie on the screen.

Requirements: One deck of cards for every player

Pounce is solitaire for a group. Everyone has their own deck, but no two decks should look the same — makes it easier to distinguish who’s who. Every player can build on any other player’s aces. Once the game reaches a stalemate, each player tallies the cards he played on the aces. Highest number of played cards wins. “This game moves super fast,” says Brent. “And somehow women are almost always better than men. Maybe it has something to do multi-tasking?”

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