Tabletop Day hitting on March 30th I thought it would be cool to share a list of 10 games that are great for play at a public play event. These are games that are can be easy to teach, quick to pick up, look really cool, allow for a lot of players or allow players to drop in and out. Note these are in no particular order.
Shadows Over Camelot - I had this one on my Top Ten Fantasy Games of All Time list and that's mainly due to how well it plays at open gaming events. The theme is cool, the components are awesome looking (especially with the addition of painted Knights from the expansion), and the game is pretty easy to teach. There are two other things that make this game perfect for public events. It plays up to eight players and players can jump in and out. This means that if someone new shows up they can jump right in and not have to wait for a game to finish. It also means people can jump out if they have to leave or if another game opens up they want to play.
2. Ca$h 'n Gun$ - This is a game where the main mechanic is pointing orange foam guns at the other players. Talk about catching the attention of everyone else at the venue! This is a great one to put on in a very visible area where it will catch everyone's eye. Added to the props this game is just a ton of fun and I've yet to see a group play it quietly. It's extremely easy to teach and it's the kind of game you teach once and then just let the table run itself for the rest of the night as people jump in and out. Cash 'n Guns also has the added advantage of being short which is good for public events where you want people to move from game to game and not be tied up in one game all night.
Formula D - This is one of the best racing games out there. It uses a really cool mechanic where you start in park and can shift gears up or down each turn. Each up shift gives you a bigger die to roll for movement. You start off with a D4 and can go up to a D30. The rules include a basic system and advanced and also have rules for street racing as well as Formula 1. What makes this one great for public play events is that you can play up to 10 players. It's rare to find a solid strategic, non-party game that can do that. Use the basic rules and run one only one lap for most events or do a full two laps with the full rules if you want more of an event that lasts all night.
4. Torres - I mentioned Torres in my 2012 Game Retrospective. This is a much heavier game than the other ones listed and does take a bit to explain, even though there are only a limited number of moves in the game it takes a bit to figure it out. Torres is worth learning to play though as it's a great Eurogame and fully deserves is Speil win. So why suggest a heavy game for public play? Well two main reasons. One: at every event you are going to get some players who are into longer more detailed thinking games. Two: the game looks great, the game is about stacking plastic towers and really sticks out. It catches people's attention and has them come over and ask: "What are you playing?"
Settlers of Catan - There are a wide number of reasons for packing this one for almost any public play event. Settlers didn't become the most well known non-traditional game in the world for no reason. It's widely considered one of the best gateway games on the market. It's easy to teach, looks really sharp and includes enough strategy and replayability that even hardcore gamers don't mind coming home to this one now and then. Another good reason to bring Catan is that it's popular. Lots of people know it and love it and it's good to have as a staple for those reasons alone.
6. Pitch Car - Here's one most people haven't even heard of. Pitch Car is an amazing dexterity game that plays up to eight players. What is a dexterity game? Well it's a game you play by physically manipulating the parts in some way. In Pitch Car you flick a little disc representing your car around the track. I've yet to find a player who didn't like this game once trying it. It's quick to set up, incredibly easy to teach and really catches people's attention. This one is perfect for the non-gamers as well.
Telestrations - I've never laughed as hard while playing a games as I have playing Telestrations. This is a codified version of Eat Poop You Cat or The Telephone Game. You get a word, draw it, pass to the next player, they guess what you drew, pass to the next player, they draw the last players guess, etc. If you can find the Family Edition pick it up as it plays up to 12 players.
8. Red Dragon Inn - This one is pretty new to my collection but quickly becoming an event favourite. Red Dragon Inn is a backstabbing Gotcha game based on Fantasy Roleplaying Tropes. It's meant to recreate what happens after the adventure, when the party is sitting around at the inn after the quest is complete and the reward has been collected. Each player grabs a unique character deck and then players party until they are the last character standing. You can be knocked out by passing out when your alcohol level hits your fortitude or you can run out of gold. With the two expansions this great game will play up to 12 players and will get a ton of laughs out of anyone familiar with fantasy gaming.
Race for the Galaxy - This one comes from my Top 10 Sci-Fi Games of All Time list. Race may not be the easiest game to explain to new players, which isn't great for public events but gameplay, replayability and speed more than make up for that in my opinion. This one works best for events once you've added an expansion or two as each adds the ability to play with one more player, so with two expansions you can get a group of six playing. Race is a good one for the gamers who show up and perfect for people who want something more strategic than Catan or more serious than Red Dragon Inn. Make sure you have the rules nailed so you can explain it quickly and offer to play through a few sample hands before the first game and you can reduce the learning curve.
10. Munchkin - I always grab a copy of Munchkin for every event I host. It doesn't matter if it's traditional fantasy Munchkin, Star Munchkin, Munckin Zombies, Super Munchkin pictured here or some other version. I will fully admit I'm not a big fan of this series of games but lots of other people are. Every event I've ever hosted someone has played at least one game of some version of Munchkin. It's quick to teach, easy to learn and people seem to enjoy screwing over friend and strangers alike. Another bonus to Munchkin is that there's usually other people there that already know how to play so it doesn't require someone to be tied up as a game teacher. The one thing I would suggest though is the possibility of adding a time limit rule. Munchkin can be fast furious and quick or it can drag on for more than two hours generally boring most players involved.
So there you have it: ten games I recommend for bringing to public play events. One of the things I find you want to do is try to hit a wide variety of theme and game styles and complexities which I think this list does. Yes, there are plenty more great games out there and this list is no where near complete or totally inclusive. That said: what's your favourite game to bring out to the local board game night?