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The dilemma: You want to have a social life, but you don’t really want to spend a fortune or—gasp—stay out late partying. The solution? Invite your friends over for a night of board games, snacks and a whole lot of laughs. Here’s your game plan for a killer game night.

playing board games with friends
Twenty20

Pick Your Game(s)

You want something that’s a little more advanced than your 6-year-old niece’s favorite, but nothing that requires an hour of reading before you’re allowed to roll the dice. And here’s another thing to keep in mind: Some games can take up to six hours to play (like a certain property-trading board game we all know and love). For a fun-filled evening that will wrap up before midnight, stick to one or two games (it’s always smart to have a backup) with a total playing time of no more than two hours.

Sending game night invite via text
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Send Out Your Invites...

…And make sure everyone RSVPs. This step is key because you don’t want to set up for a particular game only to realize you have one player too many. The invitations should include the time and place, as well as other important details (like whether guests should bring anything). There’s no need to get all fancy—a simple email or text will do.

Sponsored Parmesan snacks and Coca Cola bottles
Photo: Michael Marquand/Styling: Erin McDowell

Prepare the Food and Drinks

Rather than fussing over a three-course meal for your guests, keep things simple and classic. Honestly, who wants to balance a mile-high hero while trying to make moves to take the lead anyway? To allow your guests full range of motion (ahem, celebratory high-fives), opt for this flavor-packed homemade garlic Parmesan party mix. Serve it with chilled bottles of refreshing Coke to complement the salty flavor. 

Living room set up for party
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Make It Cozy

Unlike other parties, you’ll probably be seated for most of this one. So make sure your guests will be nice and comfy. If you’re going to gather around the dining-room table, clear away all the mail, food leftovers and random junk. Or why not keep things casual by plopping a few cushions on the floor around the coffee table? Très bohemian chic. Soft lighting (you can never go wrong with a couple scented candles and some string lights), a few throw blankets and a fun playlist will help set the relaxed vibe.

Friends having food and drinks at a party
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Have a Contingency Plan

Even game nights among the best of friends have been known to get, um, a little out of hand. Have a few other activities or talking points ready to go, just in case your pal Jenny takes a friendly word game a little too seriously (like whipping-out-the-dictionary-every-single-time seriously). Taking regular breaks to load up on snacks and spending some time just catching up with friends will help keep the evening nice and breezy. And when all else fails, just ask Jenny to help you prep the drinks in the kitchen for a much-needed time-out. Let the games begin.

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