I put together some resources for playing games online via Zoom or whatever face-to-face app you like. Enjoy!
Minimal Gear Needed
Pen, paper, maybe some dice…
100 Game Cupcakes
In 2010 I did a cupcake project to celebrate the 100th birthday of my house at the time. You can play solo, or turn it into a quiz with friends. If you go the quiz route, just be sure you don’t reveal the answers too soon! Here’s the webpage: 100 cupcakes.
Assorted Games (including Joking Hazard)…
- Crazy Eights
- Flash Cards
- Go Fish
- Joking Hazard
- Match Up
- Trial by Trolley
- Zap: Space Mutiny
All of these are available at playingcards.io. No download required! One person will create a “room” and share the url/code with the other players. If you’re using a computer/laptop to Zoom, you can probably also use it for the game. Or you might want to use two devices.
You will need to know how to play whatever game you’ve chosen – instructions are also on the site. The interface allows you move cards around but doesn’t do anything for you automatically. A few of us tested out Joking Hazard and it was great!
This one has been around since World War I. It is generally a two person game, but I think a some multiplayer options could be interesting…
Stuff: Pen and paper, or this worksheet (clicking will download a Google sheet).
Goal: Sink all of your opponent’s ships before your ships are sunk.
How to: Here is a thorough video for how to set up from scratch and play. The video is indexed in the description if you want to jump ahead to a particular bit.
DIY Mad Libs
Mad Libs is an easy and silly game. All you need is a very short story that’s missing a bunch of nouns, plural nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Players offer up words to fit these roles without knowing the story. Then the storyteller reads the story with the words filled in. Here are a few to get started.
Dungeons & Dragons
This translates pretty well to online play. If you are willing to wrestle with a little tech, Fantasy Grounds and D&D Beyond have a lot to offer. Or keep it old school and use a separate device to show your analog maps. Grab your dice, or use this online dice roller.
Hey Robot was created by Frank Lantz and funded on Kickstarter. It’s a little bit like Taboo or Password where you try to get someone to say a word, but in this case, that someone is your smart speaker (Hey, Alexa…Hey, Siri…)
I found a handy PDF version of the game here. It was designed for the game backers, but it’s still out there on the internet. Check it out.
If you want to be casual about it, you could just use the PDF for the list of words. Take turns asking your smart device questions to get it to say your word. Here’s Jimmy Fallon and John Mulaney showing us how it’s done:
This is an easy and fun mashup of Pictionary and Apples to Apples that I made up.
Stuff: Pen and paper or other drawing device. Felt-tipped pens are great for best visibility.
Goal: Write the best description of a drawing in the hope that the Drawer picks your answer.
- Choose someone to draw first. They get a word from a random word generator like this one. I highly recommend setting the category to Really Hard for maximum entertainment value. Set a timer for one minute and draw your word!
- When the Drawer’s time is up, they hold their drawing up to their camera for the other players to see.
- Guessers then write down what they think the word is. They can try to be literal, or just throw their hands up in the air and make something up. Answers can be one word, or lots of words. Remember: the goal is to be picked by the Drawer. There is no time limit on Guessing.
- Wait until all Guessers have written something down, then they all put their answers up to their cameras at the same time.
- After reading all of the guesses, the Drawer picks their favorite one. Important: it doesn’t have to be a right answer! They pick their favorite.
- Take turns Drawing and Guessing and laughing. Keep score if you want to. Or don’t.
Probe is a word guessing game from Parker Brothers introduced in the 1960s. It uses cards and trays to set up the words, and other cards to mix up the game play. This is one of my dad’s favorites to play, so for his birthday, I created this online adaptation. The only thing you need is stuff to write with, and these instructions/worksheet (good for up to 5 players).
Stuff: Pen and paper.
Goal: Confuse and confound your friends.
- Choose a famous person or character.
- Jumble their name – scramble first and last names to together.
- Change your screen name to the scrambled name, using the same number of letters in each name. For example: CHADWICK BOSEMAN might look like ASKHAWIE BCDCOMN (8 letter first name, 7 letter last name in both solved and scrambled versions). Using all caps will make it easier to read onscreen.
- Be careful! Jumbling can be a little tricky. Be sure you use all of the letters. This is where the pen and paper come in handy.
- In the style of 20 questions, ask each other yes or no questions to try and guess each other’s person/character. Example: Are you famous for your movies? Are you known for sports? Are you still alive?
- Competitive play: take turns in order and keep score. A round is complete when all names have been guessed.
- Casual play: anyone can ask anyone else at any time. Scoring? Meh. If players guessed yours feel free to scramble up another name while they keep going.
I grew up playing this with my family (Categories) before it was ever packaged and sold (Scattergories). That said, the packaged version is quite nice! Anyway, here’s how to do it with just pen and paper:
Stuff: Here’s a handy worksheet. Feel free to print, or just be inspired.
I recommend 12 categories and a 3-minute timer. It works well to take turns suggesting categories.
Here is a random letter generator. You can also use Scrabble or Bananagram tiles if you have them handy.
Goal: Score the most points by having unique answers for each category.
- Fill in your categories down the left hand side. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Pick a letter and write it at the top of the column where you will fill in your answers.
- Start a 3-minute timer. Everyone works on their own sheet to come up with an answer for each category that starts with the chosen letter.
- When the time is up, one person starts by reading their list. After each answer, wait for others to say if they have that same answer or not. Score one point if nobody else has the same answer. If you share your answer with anyone, you both cross them out – no points for either of you.
- Take turns reading your whole lists, then tally up your scores.
- Generate a new letter and repeat! Since this is DIY, you can swap out categories any time you want. Just be sure everyone is on board.
- FYI: There is a sample, filled-out game on the second tab of the worksheet.
Shut the Box
This is a simple dice strategy game. You can play online here (note: this is set up to play against a computer – you can ignore that part when playing with other humans.)
How to: Or watch this video, and make your own pen, paper, and dice version. Boxes either go up to 9 or 12.
An easy, dice rolling game that came out in the 40s.
Stuff: 5 dice, score sheet
Here is a pretty cool online dice roller if you need it.
How To: Here is a video with how to play.
Game or Download Required
More things required! Pretty worth it, though.
How to: This is a pretty good video for the basic game rules.
- One person needs to have the game. They get to shake the letter cubes.
- Once the cubes are in place, take a picture of them.
- Screen share the picture while on Zoom. I use my phone to take the pic, then AirDrop it to my laptop for sharing, since that’s the bigger screen for Zooming.
There are online versions of Boggle, but I prefer having a nod towards the physical game. Plus the physical letter cubes will all be oriented differently – better for flexing your brain! But if you really want to play and don’t have the game, here are a couple of options:
(good visuals, but ya gotta click a couple of buttons to make the hand go away…)
Jackbox is a fun collection of games, using a main computer and devices for everyone else. They are all easy to learn to and lots of fun.
Stuff: One person needs to own the game and be willing to screen share.
Everybody else will need one device for Zoom, and one for the game, i.e. a laptop and phone/tablet. No download required!
How to: Visit this site for the basics!
Magic: The Gathering
A webcam or second device can be helpful, but isn’t completely necessary. Also, pen and paper for keeping track of other players’ stuff is helpful as you can’t always see the details.
Handy links for playing on Zoom:
YouTube of setup
More setup info + lighting
Settlers of Catan
The beloved board game is playable online – and it’s pretty good! Available for a variety of platforms and free up to 3 players. The paid version can do up to 4 players. More info here, or search your app store. You will need to install it and create an account to find other players. It’s fun to play in conjunction with Zoom or FaceTime so you can hear each other bitch about the robber.
Small World ($)
Manage the rise and fall of different civilizations, all with different skills and powers that change every game. This is a great board game with lots of little parts that are all managed for you when you play online. Available for Apple, Google, and Steam. More info here. Costs $4.99 and plays up to 5 people. I don’t recommend playing on a phone. I’ve tried it, and it’s too much info for a little screen!
Tabletopia (1500+ games!)
I don’t have personal experience with this platform, but a friend recommends it. I believe you need to create a log in, but it’s otherwise free. So many games to choose from! Check it out if you want to poke around a bit.
Ticket to Ride ($)
From the same makers as Small World. I have only played the board game, not the online one. But maybe you’ll check it out and let me know! Available for Apple, Google, and Steam. More info here. Costs $6.99 and plays up to 5 people.
Forbidden Island ($)
A cooperative game of strategy and courage as you and up to three other adventurers attempt to capture the four ancient treasures hidden on a sinking island. It’s a thrilling adventure based on the best-selling Gamewright board game. Only available for the iPad and costs $4.99.