Commentary by Marissa DiBartolo

It’s Saturday night (undoubtedly after a long work week). A friend is throwing a huge party for the big game, or a birthday, or just because, you know, it’s Saturday. So you set off on an adventurous evening, teeming with excitement, even braving the seasonal elements if necessary. Your friend welcomes you with a cheery embrace, but as you look around the room, you come to the realization that you don’t know a single soul.

You know the moment. How do you make your way into a conversation without coming across as anything but your cool, confident self? Luckily, there’s a saving grace for these types of scenarios: party games.

Party games are a great device to ease the awkward tension of an unfamiliar crowd. There are a few classic favorites out there, like Cranium, Catch Phrase, and Apples to Apples. But there are also some new games hitting the market that will be great for breaking the ice.

Peaceable Kingdom Whats It with game open_HRThe perfect game to figure out which party goer is the most similar to you, What’s It?, from Peaceable Kingdom, is a guessing game where players try to think alike. Players roll a category die and flip over a doodle card featuring an abstract outline of something. Players have 30 seconds to write down what they think the doodle looks like and score points for matching answers. A cooperative game, players all work together to beat the What’s It? “doodler” and win the game. Also enjoyable? The dry erase boards and markers, which guarantee you’ll never deal with unsharpened mini-pencils ever again.

Celebrity ThrowDownBuffalo Games gives party-goers the chance to shamelessly reveal their celebrity idols (or which celebs they think deserve nothing more than a long life of cleaning toilets). In Celebrity Throw Down! players select who are the best celebrities for a given situation. One player draws a situation card that asks, “Who is the best celebrity to…” with a different situation, such as “read you a bedtime story,” or “be a hostage negotiator,” or “have a pet name for part of their anatomy?.” Each player submits a celebrity card from their hand of four cards, including fictional characters and real-life celebs. Players then take turns eliminating the celebrity least suited for the situation until one remains. The player who submitted the remaining celebrity wins the round. Celebrity Throw Down! includes almost 300 celebrity cards and 162 situations.

PrintAn extremely fast-paced word game, WordARound, from ThinkFun, includes circular cards with three different colored rings, each containing a word with evenly spaced letters. Players must figure out where the word begins and ends and shout out the word on each WordARound card. The first to do so wins the card. A word game that won’t leave players bored and doesn’t require a wide vocabulary, WordARound can get loud, competitive, and exciting.

Open UpOn the more (wonderfully) intrusive side, Open Up, from Wiggity Bang Games, is a conversation game in which players answer awkward questions, reveal embarrassing moments, and tell inappropriate stories (can’t you feel the bonding happening already?). The questions (“Have you ever been the cause of a breakup?,” “Do you pee in the shower?,” “What’s the most heroic thing you’ve ever done?”) are written on long strips and feature three different “reveal” levels. Though some of the answers may leave you embarrassed, you can be sure that everyone will be answering similar (or worse) questions.

Though some of these games are a bit more revealing than others, they all serve the same purpose: to make friends out of strangers. Party games, my friends. Pray the host has some.

Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Toy Insider as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below.