I'm a looong time reader of your blog, since before anyone but web nerds even knew what a "blog" was. I've never been much of a gamer, but I just started a programming job back in the summer, working with a group of guys that likes to play games at lunch. We're getting burned out on our current game assortment, and I'd like to donate a game or two to the stash for Christmas. The size of our group varies from day to day, anywhere from 4-10 people. We need to stick to games that we can fit within the lunch hour. The quicker the setup, the better. Complexity isn't a big concern, half of the fun is arguing about the rules.
Now then, do you have any recommendations? They would be much appreciated!
Hiya, Seth. Large-player games (which I would define as game that accommodate 7 or more people at a time) are largely plagued by three problems: (a) excessive downtime (i.e., sitting around and waiting for your turn to roll around), (b) long playing times (i.e., games that go. on. for. ever.), and (c) chaos (i.e., so many other people are doing so many things it becomes nigh impossible to formulate a strategy).
One way that many successful large-player games address all three issues is with simultaneous action: that is, allowing all the players to do things at the same time. Take the classic large-group favorite Pit, for example. Because players are franticly trading cards with one another in real time, everyone remains engaged at all times.
Many such games are mentioned in my Great Two-Minute Card Games list. Specifically, Slide 5 (3-10 players), Incan Gold (3-8), The Great Dalmuti (5-7), and Apples to Apples (3-10) are great with for seven or more.
Here are some others that work well in the large-group setting.
Bohnanza (3-7): A longtime favorite of mine for four and five players, I was totally amazed the first time I played this game with seven and discovered that it not only worked, but worked well. Players are farmers, working to raise and sell 10 types of beans (yes, you heard me). Because trading with opponents is an essential element of gameplay, everyone is involved all the time. And though the playing time creeps up with six or seven people, you should still be able to complete a game in an hour or so.
Formula De (2-10): A car racing game with a very clever gimmick: every time you upshift into a higher gear, you roll a bigger die to determine movement. That’s great for the straightaway, but may cause you grief when you go into the turns and find yourself unable to decelerate enough to handle the curves.
Werewolf, a.k.a. “Mafia” (7+ players): No purchase required for this one–all you need are the rules and something to secretly assign identities to the players (a regular deck of cards works fine). Two players are werewolves; the rest are villagers, and have no idea who the werewolves are. The game is played over alternating night and day phases. At night, the two werewolves conspire to slaughter one of the villagers; in the morning, the villagers awake to find a corpse, and then must decide who to lynch in retaliation. The game ends when both werewolves are killed, or when the population of true villagers drops too low. Short, simple, and amazingly fun, Werewolf is as much psychological experiment as it is game. Works best with really large groups–like, nine or more people.
Bang (4-7 players): Built on the Werewolf template, Bang cast the fighters as gunslingers in the old west. One player is the sheriff, two are outlaws, two are deputies, and no one knows who anyone else is–at least until the bullets start flying. Bang maxes out at seven players, but is best with that number.
Take It Easy (2-8, but any number, really): Like a cross between bingo and jigsaw puzzle, it would take less time for you to go here and play a few games than for me to explain how it works. Currently out of print, I believe, but the game’s sequel, Take It To The Limit, was just released last month.
Ricochet Robot (2-10 or more): Every round is a spatial puzzle, and players race to solve it. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game, so go here and play a few rounds of the java implementation to see which category you fall into. I’m a “love it” guy–at least until the headache kicks in.
Shadows Over Camelot (4-7): It might miss the “quick setup” criterion, but hits every other one: works for seven, typically plays around an hour, and has plenty of rules to quibble over. See me full review here.
Finally, there are no shortage of good party games that were specifically designed with large groups in mind. Wits & Wagers works with seven (read my review), I’ve long been a fan of 25 Words or Less, and Time’s Up might be just about perfect for your group.