It’s the start of 2019 and I was in the mood for making a bit of a list, but I find ranking things really hard. I think it’s very situation dependant what game I want to play, drawing in many factors, one of which is the number of players that are around. Given a situation where number of players is the only consideration and everyone is happy to play whatever I suggested, here are the games I would pick for each player count, from ten to one. You might notice they err toward the heavier side of things, after all, it is my choice!
10 – Ladies and Gentlemen
If you haven’t heard of Ladies and Gentleman before, let me introduce you: it is a unique party game where players form teams of two (a Lady and Gentleman). The Gentlemen play a stock market set collection/dexterity game to earn money, whilst simultaneously (preferably at another table) the Ladies play a drafting and bluffing game to select outfits and accessories for the endgame ball. At the end of each round teams may liaise in a polite manner regarding desired purchases, building up a high scoring outfit for the ball at the end of the game.
I really like this game because of the interesting team system whereby each half of the team is almost playing a separate game. My favourite thing about Ladies and Gentlemen though is the way its satirised look at the ‘polite society’ of the early 1900s creates a hilarious atmosphere for role playing and social banter, and especially at 10 players, there is so much going on and so many opportunities for entertaining moments.
9 – Secret Hitler
Once upon a time The Resistance was our king of social deduction party games, being pulled out at every larger gaming gathering for at least a few rounds, sometimes for hours and hours of lying, bluffing, accusation, and betrayal. I can say though, that at least for my friends, Secret Hitler has wholly replaced The Resistance as our hidden traitor game of choice. I can’t even positively say that I’ve played The Resistance since my first game of Secret Hitler.
In my opinion, Secret Hitler took what The Resistance was trying to do, and streamlined and simplified it to make it more accessible and simply more fun. I hear a lot of people comment that The Resistance is still a better game mechanically, and while I probably agree with that, I think that the mechanics you might point to in Secret Hitler as being less fair or well done actually make the game better, as in more entertaining and social.
Secret Hitler creates absolutely hilarious situations – it forces you to lie, sometimes even when there are people who know for absolutely sure you are, and it makes you have arguments, and best of all it makes you laugh. Really I could have put this game anywhere from 7-10 but it’s here at 9 as I feel that’s quite a good size for a round of it.
To add to the fun of the game, we use a Nerf gun any time someone needs to be executed (which can be very tense!) and make sure the President and Chancellor elect explain to us all their running platform and proposed policies (i.e schools for the ultra rich) before voting.
8 – Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
When this game was first explained to me, I was like ‘eh? that sounds boring. You only get to do one thing all game?’. But no, it’s actually an amazing game and a tense and exciting experience!
I think I need to admit here that when we play Deception we play with a somewhat bastardised version of the rules. Removing the formalised ’rounds’ and steps from the game, we simply let the forensic investigator play out clues as they see fit, and once they have marked all 6 they are free to swap out 3 clues as they like.
Of course, the best part of this game is that when submitting your guess, you are required to run through the full scenario surrounding the murder, making up a little story to go along with your guess. I think that the game is great with about 8 people. Many more and there are too many cards in play, many less and there’s not enough ‘guessing potential’ and it seems like the murderer wins too often.
7 – Scythe
I really quite like Scythe for a lot of reasons. I won’t go into it all here (you can read my full review if you are interested) but I will quickly discuss why I like playing Scythe so much with 7 players.
Scythe is very much my kind of game. Resource production, area control, upgrading stuff and building things. A little bit of combat. It gives a bit of an epic, yet still euro experience and what I’m drawn to with a 7 player game is this grand arena feeling that is done and dusted in just 3 hours.
I really love games like TWILIGHT IMPERIUM and Eclipse, but they are much longer games. Having 7 players pottering around on the map in Scythe gives some very interesting situations and great struggles for power, resources and territory, and it does so relatively quickly!
6 – Keyflower
Keyflower does a lot of things well. It has one of the best auction mechanics, and I think that the auctions are best at 6 players. It has one of the best worker placement systems and I think that it works best at 6 players. There are so many options available but based on people’s play styles and strategies the game doesn’t really drag or slow down that much, at least for us.
Of course the obvious reason you have to play Keyflower with 6 players is that it’s specifically designed for it! any less and you aren’t using all 6 sides of the hexagons when bidding!
5 – Xia: Legends of a Drift System
Xia is one of my favourite games, and I find it the most fun to play at its max player count, 5. There are so many moving parts in this game and with 5 players there is more opportunity, more narrative, more discovery, and … just more stuff happening.
I know people complain about downtime when you play games like this with lots of players but I figure they might be playing for different reasons to me. I’m not playing because I want to win (thus just waiting for my next turn so I can get more points). I’m playing to experience my friends and I pulling off hilarious daring strategies, risky moves, to see the bad dice rolls and listen to the stories (we require a tale of how each point was earned).
4 – A Feast For Odin
This one is my all time favourite game (at the moment at least), and of course I think it’s best with 4 players. Being a worker placement game, having more players means there is more competition, but I think it’s a good thing. When someone specialises their strategy is much more sensitive to other players encroaching on it and thus you need to be more careful and make sure to stay a bit diverse while playing though the game.
With 4 players, the worker placement phase of the game is a lot more tense, and you are always worried someone is going to take all the good islands before you get to them. I’m not exactly sure why but I’ve also found I get higher scores when playing with more people.
3 – Lisboa
As the number of players decreases the weight of the game I want to play goes up. I think this is largely to do with the reduced time it takes to play long and heavy games with less players. While Lisboa can play up to 4 people I’ve never managed to play it with that many players. This one is a bit daunting, probably the game I still find the most complex even after 5 plays. It’s not really that complicated, but there are a lot of steps involved in each action and I can never remember them and need to refer to the (8 page!) player reference booklet almost each turn.
Similarly to Secret Hitler, Lisboa could have fit into either the 2, 3 or 4 slot and it’s mostly just here because I have other preferred games for 2 and 4 players.
2 – Leaving Earth
If you haven’t heard of Leaving Earth before I’ll give a quick run down, since it’s a bit lesser known. Leaving Earth is almost not a game. It’s a gamified simulation of government agencies running space programs, with the goal of planning missions into space, and then building and launching them to, for example, send a man to the Moon and back. The game’s mechanics for flying spacecraft is very maths heavy, with players needing to calculate weights and thrusts in order to determine if their rockets will be able to make certain journeys, and planning many turns ahead is a big factor of the game.
Needless to say, I love this game. I am more than happy to play it with it’s up to 5 supported players, but the best experience I had was an epic two player game with a friend that went for something like 8 hours. During the course of the game we launched several ridiculous missions, including a manned mission to Saturn and back (tens of years of planning and development), and a now famous mission where I launched a 7 stage rocket to take a science probe to Ganymede, but miscalculated and ended up in Jupiter orbit short of one tiny rocket booster. This meant I essentially had to launch an identical mission again just to transport that one missing booster so the probe could fulfil it’s mission.
Turns can be long in Leaving Earth and I think I would never play the Outer Planets expansion (which significantly lengthens the game) with more than two players. But it’s superbly fun with two. Can’t wait to play it again.
1 – Nothing
I’ve tried a few times but I just can’t get into solo gaming. I think for me, (apart from the obvious social reason that I play games), I have a lot of trouble maintaining tempo on my own. Playing a game without any other players I feel a bit lost and uncomfortable with the flow of the game.
If I’m on my own, I’m much more likely to read a book (I love sci fi and fantasy!), watch a TV show, or play a computer game.
I’d be more than happy to see you list in the comments. Don’t worry, you don’t need to put in as much detail as I did for each entry. Thanks for reading!