Quarantine game night: Games to play with little to no material

The current pandemic has got many of us confined to our homes, with significantly more down-time than we’re used to. Even if you’re still working from home or doing school work, there’s no doubt that eliminating social outings and errands from your calendar has left a huge gap. To stave off cabin fever, why not organise a game night with your quarantine crew?

Like the idea, but aren’t sure which board games to go for? Check out our recommendations for the best board games to play with your flatmates. If you don’t have any board games at home and don’t want to buy any, that’s not a problem! We’ve compiled a list of fun games that you can play with your flatmates, and that require little to no material.

Pen-and-paper games

Many popular games have pen-and-paper versions, which are just as fun and don’t require you to buy the board game. As indicated in the name, you will only need a pen and paper to prepare these games. If you have access to a printer at home, we have included some handy printables for each of the games, to save yourself some time on the set-up.

Battleship

Battleship is a 2-person naval combat strategy game. It combines strategy, competition and excitement, as you try to sink your opponent’s ship before they sink yours. To play the pen-and-paper version of this game, each player draws two 10×10 grids, with numbers 1 to 10 on the horizontal side, and letters A to J on the vertical side. On one of their grids, each player secretly draws their fleet, which consists of:

  • 1 Aircraft carrier (5 squares),
  • 1 Battleship (4 squares),
  • 1 Cruiser (3 squares),
  • 2 Destroyers (2 squares each), and
  • 2 Submarines (1 square each).

Players then start taking shots at the other’s fleet, calling out a coordinate. The player calls out “hit” if the shot hits a ship, and “miss” if it doesn’t. Once all squares of a ship have been hit, the player lets their opponent know that they have sunk one of their ships. To avoid calling out the same coordinates twice, players can record their shots on their second grid. The first player to sink all of their opponent’s ships wins. Download our handy printable here.

Categories List

Categories List is a fun and easy game that is ideal to play with a group of 3 or more people. To play, each player draws a 5×5 grid, with enough space to write a word in each box. Players then decide on 5 categories, which are to be written vertically to the left side of the grid. Categories can be anything, and can be as easy or difficult as the players want to make them.

The next step is to choose a 5 letter word, which will be written at the top of the grid, with one letter above each column. Once the game set-up is done, players need to agree on a time-limit to fill out the grid. The timer is then started, and players need to fill out as many boxes in their grid – finding a word that starts with the letter at the top of the column, and that fits in each category.

For example, if the first category is “Boys’ first names”, and the 5-letter word is “Brain”, the row could be filled with: Brian, Ryan, Alexander, Ian and Nathan. When the timer goes off, the player with the most correct answers wins. Get your thinking cap on and earn your flatshare’s vocabulary champion title.

Download the printable for Categories List and start playing

Dots and Boxes

Dots and Boxes is a classic pen-and-paper game.  The game starts with an empty grid of dots. Taking turns, each player joins two adjacent dots with a vertical or horizontal line. The goal of the game is to complete the fourth side of as many boxes as possible. When a player completes a square, they indicate their initials in the box and takes another turn. The game ends when there are no more dots to join. At the end of the game, the player who has the most initials wins. Grab your printable and start playing!

Connect Four

Connect Four is usually played with a plastic grid and tokens, but if you don’t have the game at home, you can play with just a pen and paper. To play, start by drawing a grid with 7 horizontal lines and 8 vertical lines. Then, one player is assigned the “X” and the other is assigned the “O”. Start playing by taking turns placing one token at a time. The columns can only be filled from top to bottom, and tokens “slide” down to the next available space in the column. The first player to get 4 tokens in a row – vertically, horizontally, or diagonally – wins the game. Download your printable.

Bulls and Cows

Bulls and Cows is the pen-and-paper version of the code-breaking board game Mastermind. Ready to decipher some secret codes? To play, decide who will start as the code maker, and who will start as the code breaker. The code maker starts by writing down a secret 4-digit number on a piece of paper. The code breaker tries to guess the secret number, and the code maker gives an indication of the number of matches. Matching digits in the right position are “Bulls”, and matching digits in the wrong position are “Cows”.

For example, if the secret code is 6471, and the code breaker suggests 5416, there would be 1 Bull (4) and 2 Cows (6 & 1). The code breaker keeps guessing, with the help of the code maker’s indications, until the secret code is discovered. After the secret number has been guessed, the roles switch. The code maker becomes the code breaker, and vice versa. As a code breaker, your goal is to guess the secret number in as few rounds as possible. After an even number of rounds has been played, the winner is the code breaker who guessed the secret numbers quicker.

Online games

Another alternative to buying board games is playing online games. These are also great in times of quarantine, as they enable you to play with people outside your household. Organise an online board game night to spice up your weekly friend group video call.

Uno

Uno is one of the most iconic shedding-type card games, and always makes for a fun game night. Get ready to get competitive, because this friendly game can quickly spark rivalries. The popular game now offers an online version, so even those of us who don’t own the game can play.

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity is a hilarious party game that is guaranteed to shock and entertain you. Let’s start by saying this – this is not a family-friendly game. The game asks players to combine cards to create the funniest, most appalling statement possible. Each round, a player picks and reads out a black card. The other players then need to choose which of their 10 white cards would make the funniest statement when combined with the black card. The combinations are read out loud, and the most humorous combination wins the round.

For a lively night with family and friends, organise a game of the online version of Cards Against Humanity, Remote Insensitivity. The game is not fully automated, so you’ll have to deal, discard and move cards yourself – as if you were playing with a real deck of cards. Just send the custom link to your friends, connect on a video call, and start playing.

You can play an online version of Cards Against Humanity if you don't have the deck

Pictionary

Pictionary is a charades-inspired game, where users try guessing the word that their teammate is drawing. Think time pressure combined with testing your drawing skills – it’s thrilling, a bit nerve-racking, and undeniably fun. Thanks to Skribbl.io, you can now play this classic game online. The website gives you the option of playing in real-time with randomly selected players, or creating a private room. With the private room alternative, you can set-up the game as you wish, deciding on the number of rounds, time limit, and custom words you’d like to be included. A custom link enables your friends to join the game on their devices.

Games without any material

Don’t have access to the material required for the pen-and-paper or online games? We’ve got you covered with this next section. There are several games that you can play that require no preparation or material at all. Just gather your group and start playing!

Would You Rather

Would You Rather is a conversational game, where players are faced with a dilemma that requires a choice between two equally pleasant – or unpleasant – alternatives. To play, take turns in coming up with scenarios starting with “Would you rather”. The game is incredibly versatile – you can make the scenarios as humorous or thought-provoking as you like depending on who you’re playing with. Out of inspiration? You can find a bunch of Would You Rather Starter Questions online.

The Music Quiz

The Music Quiz is a great way to test your musical knowledge. In this game, each player takes a turn to pick a song and play it for the other players for 20 seconds. The players then try to correctly guess the name and artist of the song, and write it down. The goal of the game is to score as many points as possible, with each correct answer being worth one point. We have to warn you, though – there is a high chance of this game turning into a karaoke dance party.

The Music Quiz is a great way to test your musical knowledge.

Categories

Categories is the no-material-needed alternative to the previously mentioned Categories List game. This game is ideal for a group of at least 3 players. Simply pick a category, and then take turns naming something that belongs to this category. The category can be anything – from cereal brands, to car brands or colours. The first player that is not able to think of a new element to add to the list loses the game.

Now it’s time to start planning your game night. The first step is choosing the games that you and your flatmates will be playing. For the ultimate experience, pick 2 or 3 short games – this will keep things interesting and dynamic. If you can, prepare everything in advance and set up the games. This way, you won’t lose momentum and everything will go smoothly.

We hope these games help brighten up your home confinement and keep you entertained. For more ideas of fun activities that you can do at home during the quarantine period, check out our series and alternative activities recommendations.