For the times when one game just isn't enough.
You’ve only got so much time on this rock we call Earth to dedicate to board games. A sobering thought -- yet what if we told you there was a way to double or even triple your board game efficiency? It’s a dangerous art, but contained within this article is a secret catalogue of metagames that you can play during other board games. If the hours you’ve got to game are limited, then it’s time to increase your board game productivity with a selection of games that’ll have you gaming while you game.
Metagames you can play during board games
Start Player Express
Before we rustle up the real metagames, we’d be remiss not to mention Ted Alspach’s miniature opener. Recently featured in our list of stylish ways to pick a first player at your game nights, Start Player Express will serve up a delectable appetizer of a game before the main, board-based course.
Just roll the dice included and read the rule on top, then you and your friends are free to spend the next 10 minutes arguing over who fits the description best. Phew, that was much more efficient than picking a first player randomly!
Don’t Get Got
Your friends are bastards. Deep down you’ve always known, but no will game have you saying it to their face quite as often as Don’t Get Got. In this social game, each player is handed a secret selection of six different things they need to trick other players into doing or saying.
These challenges range from the relatively facile, like making someone else say “sugar,” to more involved traps such as hiding the mission card inside a jar before getting someone else to open it for you. Make a ploy too obvious, though, and your target can call you out and make you permanently fail that mission. The first person to pull off three of their tasks successfully is the winner -- and probably the most-hated person in the room.
Naturally, everyone will be on high alert when the game kicks off, but the genius of Don’t Get Got is that it’s designed to be played over a long period. Given enough time, everyone’s guard will slip. And as a true friend, it’s only right that you deliver a swift sucker punch when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Introduce Don’t Get Got to a day or full weekend of games, and even something as innocent as making your friends a cup of tea or coffee becomes a devilish opportunity to call each other out. You did want sugar with that, right?
Found lurking at the same sort of parties as Don’t Get Got but far more likely to break your heart and hang you out to dry is Pretense. Another social-deduction game designed to be played over the course of a game night, it assigns all contenders a secret role card from a pool of 24.
Each role has a specific challenge they need to complete at the expense of another player. Trick them into helping you win yours, and you steal their role, storing your own as a victory point. Whoever’s left standing or has the most cards at the end of the game night claims the crown.
Where Pretense differs is that most of its challenges are centered around board gaming. The Bookworm, for example, scores if another player hands them a rulebook, while the King succeeds if anyone dares to sully their seat with a royalty-free rear.
Pretense is, in many ways, an older, less developed take on Don’t Get Got’s concept. Player eliminations make for a much meaner affair, and the range of difficulty for each role also varies enormously. As such, it might leave some feeling a little hard done when beaten by something as simple as getting a high-five.
Thanks to its wealth of silly challenges and more welcoming rules, we’d recommend Don’t Get Got when given the choice between the two. But if you’re after more of the same or want something with a board-game-specific theme, Pretense will still deliver that malicious dose of satisfaction each time you pull one over on your friends.
Ninja: Silent But Deadly
Slap a game which gives itself the subtitle Silent But Deadly on the table, and you can expect to be met with an immature snigger or two. Thankfully, while Ninja: Silent But Deadly may cause a stink when loosed upon a regular game night, it’ll usually be of the metaphorical kind.
The concept is ridiculously simple: Each player is given a card detailed solely with a ninja figure and the text “You lose!” Over the course of the game, players must discreetly hide their cards in places they reckon others will find them. Anyone unfortunate to come across another player’s card has been slain by a deadly ninja and is knocked out of the game. Uttering “oh for ****’s sake” isn’t mandatory but may prove hard to avoid.
With only one card at your disposal, it pays to think craftily with your placement. Is someone likely to raid the snack cupboard mid-round? Reward their greed with a well-placed shuriken. Playing a drafting game like Sushi Go? Sneak your card into your hand before passing it on. For an especially cruel play, suggest a game you’d like to try next, then surreptitiously place your card inside the box ahead of time.
Ninja: Silent But Deadly might be a basic concept, but there’s a lot of creativity available in how players approach it. The easy rules also make this a great choice for playing with kids, though you might have to pretend to miss their less-than-subtle hiding motions.
Sadly, Ninja: Silent But Deadly appears to be out of print pretty much everywhere we looked, but the concept is so simple that there’s no reason you can’t just make a version of your own. Dish out face cards from a standard 52 deck, and you’ll know exactly who stung you when their calling card shows up.
Know of any other great metagames -- no, not that metagame -- for our game nights? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. For more of our (often nonsensical) board game opinions, head on over to the Going Analog Podcast and have a listen.