Game night has always been a great excuse to get friends together for a night of drinking under the guise of communal entertainment. Pandemic or not, there’s no reason that such traditions have to come to an end. In fact, as many of us are starting to explore the wealth of free online gaming platforms, virtual hangouts, and other creative web-based solutions, we’re gathering socially and playing more games than ever before.
There’s a huge spectrum of games available, from classic board games and card games, to online versions of tried-and-true drinking games we all (vaguely) remember from our college days. One of the best places to start will be platforms set up for just such a purpose. Houseparty, for instance, has a handful of free games built into its video chatting app.
Jackbox Games has a huge collection of games, though these are for purchase, with “party packs” costing from about $10 to $20. There’s a wide range of other platforms, such as Board Game Arena, which touts 175 games, and Tabletopia, with over 900 board games, including a limited free membership and more expansive premium options. Tabletop Simulator is a paid system with rich graphics and animation, taking board games to the online screen. DrinkVirtually.com, meanwhile, is focused on your old-school drinking games, with over half a dozen options ready to go for your next virtual hangout.
Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite online games you can play with your friends.
Top Games to Play Online While Drinking
Few things are more of a bummer than having to admit to your foe, “you sunk my battleship!” It’s a terrible psychological wound from a favorite childhood game, and it can be easily adapted to a drinking game by sipping whenever your opponent has a hit, and chugging or finishing a drink when a ship is sunk. There are simple, stripped-down versions of online Battleship available for free, as well as options available from aforementioned platforms such as Board Game Arena.
Chips and Guac
One staple of the free Houseparty game collection is Chips and Guac. It’s a word association game with one player serving as the judge in each round. The card dealt is the “chip” and answers from the other players are the “guac,” so the judge has to pick the best pairing, get it? To add some tequila to that chips and guac, the judge can also dole out drinks to her least favorite answers.
Sean Hudgins, a spirits publicist at Evins Communications, has been playing CodeNames, which features a word-based game board in which teams are given clues to guess the specific words that would earn them points. Full rules are available here. “As far as the drinking rules, we play so that the other team has to take a sip for every word you get right,” he says. “You take a shot for every one of the other team’s words you guess unintentionally, and if your team guesses the ‘bomb’ you have to finish your drink.”
This 2020 Pandemic version of Bingo features fun, relatable squares, such as “anxiety,” “recorded a podcast,” and “drinking alone.” Play on your virtual hangout with users taking turns as hosts. Drink every time you get a square, or you don’t, or when you get Bingo, or when you don’t. It’s a pandemic, the rules have ceased applying, right? Everyone loves Coronavirus Bingo, just please, please, please, don’t host an in-person game at your local senior center.
Coronavirus Briefing Drinking Game
At TVDrinking.com, you can take part in the Coronavirus Briefing Drinking Game. The drinking prompts and rules are all provided on the screen, so all you need to do is watch live to get in on the fun. The site also keeps some of its “favorite” past briefings up as video clips, so you can go back and watch at anytime
Drunk Pirate is a free online drinking game based around fast and easy prompts. A sample flip of the cards shows prompts such as having anyone with a beard taking a drink, anyone owning an Apple product, or anyone who’s kissed one of the other current players.
Craig Bridger, who works with The Dalmore as its director of malt specialists, West, and head of education, recommends Gloomhaven. “My friends and I, who normally meet regularly in person to play, love a game called Gloomhaven,” he says. “We found it on Tabletop Simulator and have been playing it there.” He’s more of a whisky sipper while playing as opposed to a drinking game participant, though that works for a game that’s more marathon than sprint. “It’s a bit tedious but still fun,” Bridger says. “Also, fair warning: The nerd level is high with that game.”
Heads Up! is the classic game in which you’re holding a card to your forehead, and another player has to help you guess what it says. There’s a free version with four different decks included with Houseparty, and additional premium options available. If there are numerous people or teams playing together, consider the spectators assigning drinks to either the clue giver, or the guesser, of a losing round.
Freelance journalist G. Clay Whittaker recently tried his hand at hosting Hollywood Squares on Zoom. “Zoom grids look a lot like the classic Hollywood Squares board,” he says. “As long as you’ve got enough friends for a full game, all you need to do is add trivia questions and you’ve got a couple hours of fun.” This is a game that requires a fair number of people, ideally 12, including the host. Refresh yourself on the rules of Hollywood Squares, and use something such as Quizlet for the trivia questions.
Kings is the O.G. of drinking games, and several different platforms have web-based versions, including the aforementioned DrinkVirtually.com. The specific rules for each card have been the stuff of Solo Cup-fueled debates for decades, though you’ll remember some of the classics such as: Categories, Rhymes, Rules, Question Master, and so forth.
Never Have I Ever
Never Have I Ever is one of the easiest drinking games to play online, because you don’t need any cards or equipment or anything else. Just load up your virtual hangout and get started. There are numerous lists of questions online, though everyone knows the real fun is embarrassing your friend with a question you know he’ll have to raise his hand and drink for, allowing you to share that one-time secret with the rest of your friends.
Paul Hletko, the founder of FEW Spirits, has been turning to online poker to help pass the days. Even better, he’s putting the game to use. “All of the buy-ins are donated to feed restaurant staff,” he says. Cheers to that. To make it an official drinking game, have each hand’s winner assign a drink; it could be to everyone who folded, or to someone she felt was bluffing, for instance. Use your favorite poker service or a simple web-based platform such as DonkHouse.com.
Who needs a silly thing like a “rule,” or a “game,” or a “reason” to drink? Just play Power Hour, where you have to take one sip of your drink every minute for a full hour. It’s one of the game interfaces available on DrinkVirtually.com, with features such as automatic timers, minute-by-the-minute gongs, and randomly assigned bonus drinks.
Quick Draw is another of the free games available via HouseParty. It’s basically a virtual Pictionary that has you drawing on your phone. Whoever guesses correctly can assign drinks for each round to the other players, or if nobody guesses correctly, the artist can assign drinks instead.
Remote Insensitivity is a free, web-based version of Cards Against Humanity. Though it’s not affiliated with the actual game, the website PlayingCards.io uses a Creative Commons license for its version. To make it a drinking game, the person choosing each round’s winner can also choose one (or several) of her least favorite answers and have those players drink.
Settlers of Catan
Joseph Mintz, the co-founder of Siponey canned honey cocktails, has been playing Settlers of Catan. “We play on Steam, which is an online gaming service for PC and Macs,” he says. An online version of the game can also be loaded on CatanUniverse.com. “We either have a conference call going or just have a group text on the side,” Mintz says. “For those familiar with the game, he suggests a few specific drinking rules. “Anytime the robber is placed on your hex you have to drink,” he says. “Anytime you build a settlement or a city, you have to drink. And anytime you use a development card you have to drink.”
Taboo is another classic group card game, with each card having a word or phrase that must be guessed, and a set of forbidden words that the clue giver can’t use to help. All users can pull up the interface and just take turns as the clue giver. Drinks can be doled out when teams don’t guess correctly, when the clue giver messes up and mentions a taboo word, and when one team has enough points to win the game.
Ticket to Ride
Hletko has also been playing Ticket to Ride, though he warns against its addictive nature and its strong potential to ruin your productivity goals for the day. “I’ve been playing Ticket To Ride online, and drinking every time the stupid commuter stupidly takes the last route available,” he says. “It’s a card strategy game where you try to build railroads connecting various cities, and there are only certain paths you can optimally take. Of course, the computer players always take your last route.”
“My trivia group gets together every Wednesday night on Zoom to play on Jackbox games,” says Christina Mercado, beverage manager at The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Newport, R.I. “You can share the screen on Zoom and everyone can see it on their computer, then your cell phone becomes the controller. So it feels like you’re all in the same room playing together.” There are plenty of free trivia options available, such as the Random Trivia Generator, and one on Houseparty as well.
Words With Friends
When you want a quick online drinking game without logging onto a virtual hangout, just play Words With Friends with your favorite partner. Lowest scoring word for a block of, say, five turns or five minutes has to drink, or a player hitting on a coveted triple word score or another high bonus can make the other player drink.