Games are always a must when it comes to a tailgate in the parking lot or watch party at home. And we find that many of the games we enjoy on game day are the same ones we enjoy during summertime, when we're kicking it at the beach, camping, or otherwise hanging out outside. One of the things we like about having a variety of fun games on hand is that some are best for two players, while others can be enjoyed in groups. We here at Hungry Fan like to have all our bases covered (pun intended), whether it's just us or when the gang's all here.
We've compiled a list of our favorite game-day-slash-summertime games to liven up your outdoor hangs.
Best for 4 players
For a while there, so often we saw four people huddled around a weird low net thing that looked like one of those little kid's trampolines. And they were spiking a ball (sometimes quite awkwardly) to or at each other off this net. After the eighth or ninth time seeing this in a fairly short timespan, the joke seemed to be on us. Did everybody but us play this weird net game? Enough was enough. We bought Spikeball™. And now we get it. It's fun. It's competitive. You can play it on any surface. And it's actually kind of challenging (depending on the skill level of your competition—and arguably the quickness of your reflexes). Is it the most recent game fad? Maybe. Is it here to stay? Probably. Should you try it? The answer is a resounding yes. We got this one.
Nerdy point of order: According to the folks who make Spikeball™, their sport is officially named "roundnet." So although the game's name is Spikeball™, the sport is roundnet. (Think of it like Kleenex and tissues, Xerox and copy machines, Rollerblades and inline skating).
Second (experience-based) nerdy heads up: Don't try to play this game with two people. It's pretty impossible, and you'll look really silly to passersby (trying to) do it.
2. Ladderball (or Ladder Toss)
Best for 2 players
When explaining ladderball, we often say it's like if the game of horseshoes had a baby with a track & field hurdle—and to win that baby's game, you'd have to have the precision of a decent darts player. To play, you throw these cords called bolas at a three-runged ladder. Each rung has a different point value. If you can successfully wrap your bola around a rung, you get that rung's designated number of points. The goal is to get to 21 and not go over. Simple enough, especially if you're sober. Much like beer pong or cornhole, precision becomes more difficult with alcoholic consumption, but perhaps that's also part of the fun. But for the coordination-challenged folks, like some of us here at Hungry Fan, we don't need alcohol to impair the hand-eye sync. It was simply never there to begin with. And that's OK because when anyone is playing ladderball, hilarity usually ensues, which is enough to make this game fun and worthwhile for anyone.
There are many different game companies that make ladderball sets. We like this one.
Best for 2–4 players
Maybe you're like us and didn't realize cornhole had gotten as big as it has until you saw it on ESPN? (And no, we don't mean "The Ocho.") Real, live ESPN! It was kind of a mindblow for us too, we assure you. But apparently, tailgaters aren't the only people playing cornhole anymore. And that makes sense because it can be a very fun and highly competitive game. The basic goal is simple: toss as many of your four bean bags through the hole in the wooden face of the cornhole board as you can. And if you can't get them all in, keep the rest on the board. The game is played to 21 points; a bag through the hole will fetch you 3 points, and bags that remain on the board are valued at a point apiece. That said, cornhole uses what is called cancellation scoring, which can get a bit tricky (because, well, math). But it's really not that tough once you learn it, and then it's a piece of cake after that, even if you aren't a math whiz. At any one time, the game is played one on one. But you can play in teams of two and take turns, frame by frame. (Each person tosses four bags against a member of the other team, who also tosses four. You score it, then switch teammates and toss again). However, be sure to consult your opponent before tossing your first bag, as there are varying "rules" out there.
The only downside we see to investing in cornhole is that the board is somewhat large, and they come in sets of two, so you'll need some space in the garage or closet to store it. But the boards are made out of wood, are fairly sturdy, and should hold up for a long time. And the bean bags, should you break one or lose one, are easily replaceable. And since cornhole is pretty much the game-day party staple, to us, it's a sound investment.
We're a bit partial to these team-themed cornhole boards, but the sky's the limit!
4. Beer pong
Best for 2–4 (adult) players
Beer pong has become a go-to standard for parties, tailgates, outdoor celebrations, indoor celebrations, you name it. If you didn't play it in college, that's cool but also somewhat surprising. If you're still unsure what game we're referencing (where have you been?!), maybe you've seen people crowded around an 8-foot long table with 20 or less beer-filled SOLO® cups arranged in a pyramid shape on it? And maybe you saw one or more people trying to throw a ping pong ball (or a table tennis ball if we're being grammatically correct) into one of those cups? That's beer pong. Game play is simple: each team (usually composed of 2 people, taking turns playing) does their best to throw a ball into their opponents' cups. When a ball is sunk, the other team must remove the cup from the table, drink the beer in it, and set the cup aside. The first team to eliminate all their opponents' cups wins. As you can imagine, the more rounds played, the more inebriated people get, which is part of the fun. And clearly that is why this game is only for the grown folks. Tispy, innocent fun, indoors or out. We're here for that.
We like playing on this set.
5. Bocce ball
Best for 2-4 players
We first saw this game being played in small city parks in France and Italy years ago. In France, it's called Pétanque, and the balls are a bit smaller. In Italy, it's Bocce, and that's the name we use here in the US. The game is played by trying to get your ball as close to the jack (or the boccino) as possible. The jack is a much smaller ball that you toss first. And from there, you take turns tossing or rolling your own balls toward the jack. Each team gets four balls, so you can play one-on-one or in teams of two, with each getting to toss two balls each. The beauty of Bocce is that you can play this game just about anywhere—there are dedicated courts around the country, but it's also great on grass, at the beach, or on just about any surface. And the surface need not be flat. We love Bocce here at Hungry Fan, and it's a staple for whenever we're at the beach or at a grassy park.
We're fans of this set that includes 4 colors, so 4 people can play at once.
6. Giant Jenga®
Great for groups
You've probably already played regular Jenga® at someone's house once, perhaps growing up. It's been around for years. It's that maddening but fun game in which you have to remove a wooden tile from an often unstable tower of tiles and place it atop the tower without making it fall.
So here's a fun fact: Those quirky folks over at Jenga® supersized it. Now you can play just about anywhere, and it's extra fun because the tiles are much larger. The game claims that towers can now reach as high as 4 feet tall! We've played giant Jenga® at beer halls over a pint, at tailgates, and at backyard barbecues. It's a great multiplayer party game. And if you wish to make it a drinking game, you certainly can! You could buy a ready-made set, or you could just as easily grab some markers and do it yourself. (Easiest DIY you've ever done). Here's the biggest and best list of drunk Jenga® tile names/instructions we've found to date.
We got our giant Jenga® (or as it's properly called Jenga® GIANT) here. It's a little on the pricey side, but if this game is your thing, bigger is definitely better and worth the splurge.
Best for 2 players
Horseshoes is a classic. It's been played for what feels like forever. Indeed, sports historians believe that it was invented by the Romans about 2,000 years ago, shortly after the invention of horseshoes themselves (for use on horses). It's been around so long and is so popular that it's actually given rise to the creation of the National Horseshoe Pitchers' Association (NHPA), based in Munroe Falls, Ohio. According to them, 30 million Americans play horseshoes. And why not? The game is easily portable, can be played anywhere, is relatively inexpensive, and probably most importantly, it requires little to no athletic ability. It can be played by the young and old. This is probably why you've seen it played just about everywhere, from picnics to tailgates, churchyards to summer camps, or even in retirement communities. As we said, it's a classic and therefore a staple to have on hand, especially if you've got a diverse crowd.
Personally, we like this set.
Well, there you have it! With any one (or three) of these games in your back pocket, your backyard party is sure to be a winner (pun intended yet again). Have fun!