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15 Fun & Cheap Family Game Night Ideas & Board Games

By Casey Slide

family game nightRestaurants are great places to gather with all your friends and family, but they can get really expensive rather quickly!

That’s why I love hosting  a good old-fashioned game night. It’s so much fun to get together with family or friends and laugh the night away – without spending a dime. Sure there are board games that cost $30 or more, but you don’t have to buy a new game every time you have people over. There are plenty of ways to keep the cost of game night low while keeping the laughs abundant.

Here are 15 free or cheap ideas for your next game night.

Card Games

1. Egyptian War
This is probably my all-time favorite card game, and I don’t think that I have ever won even once. It is similar to regular war in that the object of the game is to take possession of all the cards in the deck. This game could last 5 minutes or 5 hours depending on the course of the game and the aggressiveness of the players. Read the rules for the game, also known as Egyptian Ratscrew.

2. Spades
If you want to play a card game and you have exactly four players, I highly recommend the game of Spades. I like this game because you can play with a partner which often adds even more excitement to game night. Check out the Spades rules to learn how to play.

3. Spoons
This game is played by sitting in a circle with one less spoon in the middle than there are participants (kind of like musical chairs). Each player starts with 4 cards in their hands. The goal is to get 4 of the same rank. As a deck of cards is passed around the circle one card at a time, your goal is to find a desired card and then discreetly exchange it for one you want to discard from your hand. Once you get 4 cards of the same rank, discreetly get a spoon from the middle. When other players notice that a spoon is missing from the the middle, they all must attempt to grab a spoon as quickly as possible in order to not be the only one left without one.

Classic Games

4. Pictionary
Not an artist? No worries. This game is actually more fun if you can’t draw. Get ready for loads of laughter when your team can’t decipher if what you’re drawing is a banana or an airplane! You can create your own game set with a white board and some fun words to draw written on small pieces of paper, or you can buy the actual Pictionary game (made by Hasbro) for around $30.

5. Charades
You can never go wrong with a classic game like charades. Simply split into teams and then have one person from each team act out a movie, book, or TV show to see who can guess the answer. This is a great game for introverts who want to be less shy.

6. Telephone
One person starts the game by whispering a sentence into the ear of the person sitting next to them. They whisper what they think they heard to the person on the other side of them. This continues until the sentence gets to the last person. At that time, the person says out loud what they think they heard. This is a great game for kids, particularly for kid’s birthday parties, but adults can have fun with it too!

Cheap Games

7. Dominoes
Like a deck of cards, dominoes are versatile and can be played many ways. I enjoy Mexican Train and Chickenfoot. You can buy a set of dominoes for as little as $15.

8. Uno or Other Special Card Game
A game does not need to be complex to be fun. There are several fun and cheap card games that I have played, such as Uno, Phase 10, and Skip-Bo. A deck of Uno cards starts at around $7.

9. Apples to Apples Expansion
One of the most popular games for game nights right now is Apples to Apples. In this game, you match up adjectives and nouns for a night of hilarious comparisons. To save money, buy just the expansion set or the travel version.

Free Games

10. Never Have I Ever
This is one of my absolute favorite games, but it must be played with at least a dozen people, preferably more. The concept is similar to musical chairs in that there is one less chair than there are people. Arrange the chairs in a circle looking inward. One person stands in the middle and announces one thing that they have never done. For instance, the person in the middle might announce, “Never have I ever ridden in a hot air balloon.” Anyone who has ridden in a hot air balloon would then get up, leaving their chair unoccupied, and find a new chair. The person in the middle would also find a chair. Whoever is left without a chair is the new person in the middle and will take a turn announcing what they have never done.

11. Would You Rather
The more creative you are, the more fun this game can be. For this game, the players move to one side of the room or another depending on what they prefer given two options. For example, the first set of options might be wearing shoes or going barefoot. The person who is “it” would announce, “Would you rather wear shoes or go barefoot?” If your answer is you prefer to wear shoes, you would go to the left, but if you would rather be barefoot, you would go to the right. Keep track of the answers to see who has the most in common with each other.

12. Things
If you have ever played The Game of Things, you’ll be able to play my version of the game. Instead of paying full price for the actual game, just make up the questions yourself. If you have never played The Game of Things, get ready for some side-splitting laughs. One person is “it” and will say a statement that will have a thing as the answer, such as “Things you shouldn’t do while at work.” Everyone then writes on a piece of paper something that shouldn’t be done at work, such as sleep. The person who is “it” then collects all the answers and reads them out loud. Then, go around the room letting people guess a match up of a person and an answer. If they are correct, that person gets a point, and the person whose answer was guessed is out. Continue going around the room until one person is left. That person gets three points.

Other Tips

13. Game Night Rotation
Instead of a book club, start a game club. If you have six participants and meet once a month, you will only have to buy a game every six months. And hopefully you will like the game so much that you can play it for multiple rotations of game club.

14. Try It Before You Buy It
If you are not sure if you want to invest money in a game, check out Hasbro Games Demo site where you can try out some of their popular games, including Cranium, Funglish, and The Game of Things. You could also try all these demos at game night and have a “smorgasbord” of games!

15. Puzzles
An alternative to playing a game is to do a puzzle. This will give you a good opportunity to talk and catch up with family and friends instead of only discussing what is going on in the game. Puzzles come in a wide range of prices, but you can find some pretty good ones at your local dollar store.

Final Word

Games are a priceless way to interact with friends and family while creating lasting memories. Choose from the above or make up your own for an budget-friendly night of entertainment.

What are your favorite games for game night that won’t break the bank?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • http://www.growingrichkids.com Suzanne@GrowingRichKids

    We have several favorites:

    * Sequence for Kids – good for the 3 – 9 year old set as it has pictures for non-readers

    * Sum Swamp – great for teaching early math addition/subtraction to kids age 3 – 8

    * Blokus – interesting for both adults and kids; great for strategic thinking

    * Charades – we actually have bought two sets: Guesstures for adults (huge favorite on weekends away with other families) and Charades for Kids (has pictures for those just learning to read and has three options on each card so each child can choose what they want to act out).

    For us, it was well worth the cost of buying these games as we’ve used them over and over again for years.

    Suzanne

  • Casey Slide

    Cool, Suzanne! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.spontuneous.com/ Stan Hai

    Spontuneous is pretty great-it’s a family board game that lets you sing!

  • Casey Slide

    I have never heard of Spontuneous. I’ll have to check that out! Thanks!

  • guest

    We play a game called Movie Mash Up – great for car trips as you don’t need anything to play – just your brains and mouths. You combine two movie titles where the last word of one in is the first word of the other. Kind of like the Wheel of Fortune category “Before and After”. Then you give clues to the movies and see if people can guess them. It is addicting and can be played with groups small and large – helps to have similar tastes or ages to some extent so you are familiar with same general movies.

    Examples –

    Clue is: Jane Eyre sees dead people. Answer is: The 6th Sense and Sensibility
    Clue is: Darth Vader invades a frozen planet in his Delorean Answer is: Empire Strike Back to the Future
    Clue is: Russian spy in the Pentagon loves Robert Redford and lions Answer is: No Way Out of Africa
    Clue is: Mother/daughter mix up kills at summer camp Answer is: Freaky Friday the 13th
    Clue is: This is another adventure for the dolls that is “all for one” Answer is: Toy Story 3 Musketeers

    • Casey Slide

      That sounds like a lot of fun! I’ll have to play that in the car on my way to visit family for Christmas. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristen-Kuchar/100002941222787 Kristen Kuchar

    I love that you included free games as well. Great tips!

    • Casey Slide

      Thanks, Kristen! I am all about free. Let us know if you have any good free games to share.

  • Julia_haskins

    Great Ideas!! Thanks, here is one our family LOVES to play when we get together.

    Our family enjoys a game we call get the gift.

    You need dice and a bag/box of candy or treat that can be wrapped up and not get smashed.

    This can be played with many or few people.
    First, wrap up the “treat” with duct tape grocery bags and pretty much anything else.

    Second, everyone playing sits around in a circle and the gift is placed in the middle.
    As a group, choose which number(or two munbers according to how many people are playing) will be the pick up the gift number.
    That number that was choosen will be the recieve number. Each person rolls the dice and if they roll a 5… per-say that person would get the gift and try hard to open it untill someone else rolls a 5 also.
    Whom ever is the one to open the gift all the way while its their turn wins the gift.

    It is soo much fun and we have been playing for decades in our family!

    • Casey Slide

      Ha! That sounds like fun! And so creative! Thanks for sharing, Julia!

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