BBQ and Games

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and kicks off a dilemma for gamers: How can we play games but also be outside, where pieces are prone to disappear in the grass and boards stained with horseradish mustard!? Instead pick up any of the below games for easy set-up, easy barrier-for-entry and, perhaps best of all, games you can enjoy while only paying partial attention.


Skull from Asmodee
Skull from Asmodee

This is essentially a drinking game—more so than any other other game retrofit to be a drinking game—with far more opportunities to menacingly stare down your opponents. Players set out four coaster-shaped cards in front of them, each emblazoned with a floral pattern. Three of these coasters are flowers, or “safe,” while one has a Dia de los Muertos-style skull on it. In a circle, each player decides whether to put a coaster face down or start the bidding: How many of their friends’ cards can they flip without encountering a skull? Mess up and lose one of your four cards and drink (if you want).

Sure you can play the game on literal coasters and mark one with a pen, or sketch your own scary skull, but the set’s cards are made from higher-quality cardboard, so spills won’t destroy them as readily.


SET from Set Enterprises, Inc
SET from Set Enterprises, Inc.

SET is a bit like Solitaire, in that you win by identifying patterns of cards and you can play it alone. But add a few more people and the game’s intensity ramps up.

Start by laying out 12 cards in a grid, each of which contains its own distinct number of shapes — diamonds, ovals or squiggles, with one, two or three of each appearing on its face. Then each of those is one of three colors and shading gradients. Phew. Long story short: A “set” is composed of three cards related by either sharing one of those four traits (color, quantity, shading, shape) or being completely different from one another. For example, a set would be a single shaded green diamond, a shaded green squiggle and a shaded green oval, respectively.

Once the game gets going, players develop an inherent sense for identifying sets and collect them from the board, scoring points. The game is playable by either sitting and staring or, more importantly for bustling Labor Day BBQs, by passing by and snagging a set out from under everyone before vanishing into a sea of hot dogs. Play for as long, or as short, as you’d like without the requirement to pay much attention.


Cards from Timeline published by Asmodee
Cards in Timeline from Asmodee

Much like SET, this game allows you to pass by and casually wow people with your prowess, this time in the realm of historical knowledge. In the standard version of Timeline, each card possesses a landmark historical event and the year it occurred, initially hidden. Such cards include things like the invention of the phone and the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Place the card in the proper spot on the timeline — previously placed cards — and score! Mess up and you collect the card back up, plus draw a new one. This is a significant burn seeing as the goal is to remove all the cards from your hand.

No worries if you or a friend rage-quits. There are far more cards than you’d need in a single game, so if someone leaves it doesn’t mess the game up. Plus the cards themselves are small enough to avoid stray ketchup.


Spyfall from Cryptozoic
Spyfall from Cryptozoic

If conversation is light, take up this game, which encourages talking and interaction. At the start of each round, everyone receives a card. All but one have a location printed on it—a grocery store, space, etc.—and the singled out card tells that player that they’re a spy. Then people mill about and make conversation as if they’re hanging out in a grocery store, space or wherever else the card says. The catch is that because they spy has no idea where they are, they’re forced to have a conversation in which they’re fishing for details. (“So, this place, it’s good, yes?”)

When the round is over each player wagers a guess as to who the spy is, and if they’re right the spy gets one chance to figure out where they are for a Hail Mary victory.

Two Rooms and a Boom

Two Rooms and a Boom from Tuesday Knight Games
Two Rooms and a Boom from Tuesday Knight Games

The President is in danger, and you must work as a team to stop him. Players divide into two teams, one trying to protect the President and the other trying to take them down with a bomb. (While technically requiring two rooms, as is stated in the title, this game can be played on two sides of a lawn.)

This is a secret roles game, meaning you’ll know if you’re the President, the bomber, or a good/bad guy respectively. There are three rounds, and players on each team swap a few people to the other “room” between rounds. If the President winds up in the same room as the bomber at the end of the game, bad guys win.

Though it helps to actually interact with people to suss out who’s on what side, the minimum barrier for entry is standing and moving when you’re told.

To discover more awesome games like these, head over to to start your board game subscription box today! Let us know if we missed any other great games for BBQs in the comments below!

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