As much as we’d love to bust out Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride or even old faithfuls like Monopoly, the combination of low-light, open flame and uneven playing surfaces makes the campground less than ideal for games that come with a gazillion small, occasionally flammable, parts.
Even so, there’s something about sitting around a campfire that’s akin to gathering at home for games night. It makes us want to stay up late, smash marshmallows and embrace good old fashioned togetherness.
Who are we kidding? It makes us want to stay up late, smash beers and mercilessly crush our mates with strategic gameplay so we can gloat about it forever (or discreetly sulk if things don’t go our way).
But if losing your hotel empire earnings to a sudden gust of wind sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, there is another way. We’ve rounded up a bunch of ‘minimalist’ games that you can play around the fire with little more than a deck of cards, pen and paper, or a handy dice-rolling app. Check ‘em out!
Cards Against Humanity
It’s marketed as the party game for horrible people but it’s also a great campfire game for horrible people because all you need is the deck, a headlamp (for seeing your cards) and a far-away campsite so neighbouring tenters can’t hear you and your friends being the horrible people that you are. Easy.
Don’t know the drill? (Where have you been?) In each round, a black card is read aloud and each player answers the question/fills the blanks with the best (read: worst) white card in their hand. Answers are provided anonymously and then read aloud by the person in control of the black card, who then chooses their favourite submission. Whoever supplied the winning white card wins the point and gets to read out the submissions and choose a winner during the next round.
Already played it to death? Have a look-see at all the different expansion packs you can get, which introduce around 900 additional cards to your deck altogether.
Hide & Seek
Um what? Yeah we know this is meant to be for grown ups, but if hiding in the pitch black bush and scaring the bejesus out of your mates isn't a good time, we don't know what is. (Bonus points if you make the seeker scream.) Lurking in the dark like a creep probably isn't an awesome idea in a crowded campground, but if you're in a remote location or on a private property where there's no-one around to mistake you for a wanted criminal in hiding, go forth and get your scare on. Spare undies recommended.
If you’ve ever played (or sabotaged) The Resistance then you’ll already have the basic skill set to dominate Werewolf: misdirection, accusation, swearing lies on the lives on your loved ones, etc. Even though The Resistance is the better incarnation of the sabotage concept (because no-one gets killed off and has to sit out – boo!), the game has a board, cards and counters which could potentially get a bit fiddly outside in the dark. That’s why Werewolf is the ultimate campfire game for people who want to kill off their mates and get away with it. FUN!
You can read a comprehensive list of instructions here but here’s the gist: After choosing a moderator to keep things clean, each player in your group takes on an undisclosed role of either werewolf, seer, doctor, villager. You’ll then play in alternating night and day rounds. At night the werewolves secretly kill villagers, the doctor can attempt to heal villagers, and the seer can attempt to reveal werewolves. If you’re a living villager, daytime rounds are for shrewd interrogation and lynching of accused werewolves by way of vote. For werewolves, daytime rounds are for feigning innocence and making false accusations to ensure villagers vote to lynch one of their own. Players who are killed off have to sit out, and whichever side is left standing wins the game.
Scattergories can be a fun, family-friendly pen-and-paper game where you choose sensible categories like animals, countries, fruit and colours. Or it can be a brain-smooshing, argument-spurring not-safe-for-work-game in which you outsmart your friends with your impressive (or perhaps disturbing) knowledge of ‘specialised’ topics. Try Game of Thrones characters, cocktails, Bachelorettes, or if you’re a pro at taking sick days, communicable diseases. In this time of analogue-digital convergence, you don’t even need an alphabet die and miniature sand timer to play it. Grab a free smartphone app like Dice for Scattergories for totally unbiased letter selection.
What’s a campfire without a bit of storytelling? A bunch of pyros staring at their Insta feed, basically. That’s why we never look past a bit of story-building gameplay. You don’t need anything special to play except an active imagination and maybe a little bit of liquid courage to bring your high school drama days back to the surface. And if there are any serial story toppers among your friends, they’ll be in their element. After establishing a playing order, one person kicks it off with a random statement. It can be about anything – the only rule is that if the preceding even was initiated with fortunately, the next one needs to flow on with unfortunately.
The Ground is Lava
This isn’t so much a campfire game as an anywhere game. Spring it on your friends while you’re pitching tents, gathering firewood, or stocking up on ice at the servo – the more random (and public) you make it, the better. The rule is that when someone announces “the ground is lava” you have to find higher ground immediately or you get severely burned and maybe die. The last person to find refuge by leaping into a hedge, diving into a bin or clinging onto the back of a complete stranger like a baby chimpanzee loses. We should warn you that tents may be flattened if you’re a particularly competitive (or tipsy) group. But if you're half as competitive as us, you'll take irreversible damage to your stuff over losing any day.
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