Mobile games for
groups and parties
– and families, too
Most mobile games for phones and tablets are designed for the solo player. Multi-player options are usually of the online variety. You can play with others – in the same room or on the other side of the planet – but you’re still ultimately playing solo on your own device.
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But there is a very fun and increasingly popular class of mobile games designed for groups and parties. Tablets in particular can be great for game night at home, and many classic board game classics have been adapted into interesting digital versions. Here are some of the titles that have gone into heavy rotation for game nights at our house.
Timeline ($2.99; iPad)
A great game to play with older kids, Timeline is an educational title that doesn’t feel like an educational title. It’s so much fun to play that you won’t even notice how much smarter you’re getting.
The gist: Each player must place medallions representing historical dates in their proper place on the historical timeline. Did the invention of the light bulb come before or after the invention of the telephone? As more events populate the timeline, it gets trickier to slot your medallions in the proper place.
The game is designed for groups – up to four players can gather around the iPad so there’s no need to pass the tablet around. The game mechanics are very clever, too, with a zero-sum system that encourages risk-taking. Each historical fact comes with a brief explanation and players are encouraged to read up more after the game.
($0.99; Android, iOS)
Developed by the producers of Ellen DeGeneres’ morning show, “Heads Up” is a digital variation on the old “Hedbanz” type game where you hold a card to your forehead and try to guess the word. Only in this case, you hold your smartphone to your head.
“Heads Up” adds some interesting twists with various themed “decks” – movies, songs, celebrities, animals – and an optional mode in which players must mime the clues; no words allowed. The game takes care of the score keeping and the clock, and you flip to the next topic/word just by tilting the phone. One complaint: “Heads Up” automatically takes video as you play, which can be fun, but I wish there were an option to turn the camera off.
A big part of the game’s appeal is its essential simplicity and portability. Break it out when you’re standing in line or otherwise killing time. I understand the game is something of a fad these days for parents (and Ellen fans) waiting to pick up kids at school. Bonus theme packs (video games, sports, Broadway) can be purchased for $.99 each.
Family Feud ($4.99/$6.99; iOS)
There are actually several versions of the popular “Family Feud” game show available for phones and tablets, but the original adaptation from game developer Ludia is the best for party play.
On both the iPhone and the HD iPad versions, the game is designed to look and sound like the TV show. You can play solo or multi-player, and with big groups you can do a kind of collaborative team play, just like on the show, with each person taking a turn at the “podium.” When entering guesses on the survey questions, the game uses spell-check and a predictive text input system to make typing faster and easier.
Newer versions of the game on Android and iOS are free and incorporate a system of one-on-one online play, online ads and thoroughly annoying Facebook integration. In fact, to unlock the full game, you’re required to sign in via Facebook – a disturbing trend in social games of late. Is that company intent on devouring every aspect of online life?
(free; Android, iOS)
Based on the popular board game, Reverse Charades is exactly that: Instead of one person acting out words for a team to guess, the group acts out words for one person to guess.
It seems like a simple idea, but the switcheroo actually delivers a whole new dynamic. The topics and words generated by the game are designed to encourage groups to work as a team – “cow tipping,” for instance. The digital game lets you customize the number of rounds, passes and seconds per turn and can be set to accommodate 2-4 teams.
The game is free to download, but you’ll get only a handful of demo topics – you’ll need to make the usual 99-cent in-app purchase to get new card packs.