February is the worst.
OK, that’s a lie — it’s not as bad as March, but even those of us who love winter can agree that the latter part of the season is the pits. By mid-February, the festive holidays are a distant memory, my expensive sweaters are all pilled and the bleak weather is made even more depressing by lingering snow piles sporting a thick layer of soot. No matter how hard I hygge, I always feel guilty for willing global warming to bring an early spring.
But there’s one thing to look forward to in February (and no, it’s not Valentine’s Day!): My annual game night.
A few years ago, after spending the entire month of January cooped up and obsessively cleaning the house, my husband and I decided to host a game night on a February Friday. We invited four other couples, dusted off our favorite games and got a little too excited about themed food. We made a Mouse Trap cheese board, Candy Land cookies (which were pretty much Momofuku Milk Bar’s Compost cookies with extra candy thrown in), and Battleship stuffed potato skins.
At the time, it was all just an excuse to show off our squeaky-clean house before we messed it up again, but in retrospect, it was the best idea ever.
Whether you’re snowed in, or just dread going out, a game night is a great way to spend a cold February evening. And board games, it turns out, are pretty much a party in a box — just add bodies, booze and snacks. You don’t have to worry about what people will do (they’ll play games, of course) or whether they’ll interact (they’ll be forced to). In fact, when we host game nights we try to invite a mix of people who don’t know one another, because playing a game together is kind of like friendship speed dating. You know a few minutes into it whether or not you want to see this person again.
If you’re hosting a small crowd of four to six, tried-and-true board games are perfect. I prefer word-nerdery in the form of Scrabble, Scattergories and Bananagrams, while others favor more strategic endeavors such as Risk, The Settlers of Catan or Dungeons and Dragons (which, to be honest, I didn’t even realize was an actual board game until I googled it for this piece).
For a bigger crowd, Celebrity is our go-to activity. Played in three rounds, Celebrity is a guessing game that requires only pens, paper, a bowl and a timer, which everyone already has on their phone. It brings hours (or at least tens of minutes) of entertainment, depending on the number of players and clues.
To play Celebrity, you divide into two teams, then give everyone five to 10 slips of paper on which they write the names of a celebrity or fictional character. All the slips go into the bowl, and the first player from the first team draws a slip and has to describe the celebrity until their team correctly guesses. The player goes through as many slips as possible in 60 seconds before it’s the other team’s turn. Once all the slips have been used, it’s time for round two: Charades with the same names from round one. (though you could substitute or incorporate Pictionary here, too).
By the time you reach the third round, which is just one-word clues (for example “Scientology” = Tom Cruise, “Freckles” = Meghan Markle, “Cheeto” = You Know Who), everyone is very familiar with the names in the bowl, and hilarity often ensues. Whichever team gets the most correct answers wins, but in the end, everyone will have had so much fun the score won’t really matter.
And that’s the whole point of game night: It’s all fun and games so everyone wins — well, except at Bananagrams, because nobody can beat me at that.
For more hosting tips, as well as warming winter cocktails, follow Emily on Instagram @theboozybungalow or visit her blog, theboozybungalow.com.