5 Great Games to Play at the Pub

Ah, the pub. Sanctuary. Watering hole. Meeting ground.

With apologies to any international readers for whom the following passage may be incomprehensible, for a Brit it becomes your third space pretty much from birth. Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent running around The Plough in Warrington as my parents and their friends knocked a few back while watching the football or catching up (I daren’t google it in case it’s been a casualty of the cruel economy!).

You enter your teens and you try and convince yourself you can get into Spoons unnoticed, then as a student you convince yourself that one more pint can’t possibly be a bad idea before that 9am lecture.

And then into adulthood. To this day, even amongst chain pubs and cool-hip modern decor that has gone for the industrial more than the cosy, the smell of beer and the sight of a regimental row of gleaming taps is an immense comfort. And I don’t even like beer.

As the weather begins to turn (he says, desperately trying to manifest this into reality), pubs and beer gardens will soon be rife with chatter and good times, and who can think of a better idea of a good time than sitting around the table and playing a little game? Here are some that make great candidates for just that.

Trio

A good pub game is simple and inexpensive, and this ticks both of those criteria marvellously.

Sort of a blend of the classic card games Pairs and Go Fish, you’re dealt cards that are numbered from 1 to 12. Going around the table, you’re trying to find and collect all three of the cards bearing a specific number.

Cards are laid face down on the table or dealt between each player. In turn, you’ll turn over three cards. You can ask a player to reveal their highest or lowest card; you can turn over one of the cards on the table; and you can reveal your own highest or lowest card.. If you find all three, you collect them. The first player to get three sets of three wins.

Unless everything aligns for you to happen to find all three of the Sevens, in which case you win the game immediately.

It’s incredibly simple but gets incredibly competitive with both your opponents and yourself as you try to remember who had which card and where on the table you saw that errant 5. Add to this the fact that it’s inexpensive and requires only minimal table space, and you’ve got a pub classic.

Coup

Another channel favourite card game, this one built on bluffing and deduction.

There are five cards in the game – Ambassador, Contessa, Assassin, Duke and Captain. Each type of card has a different ability that allows you to gather money, remove other players’ cards from the game and block various moves.

Players have two cards placed in front of them face down. Those are your active characters, and you can use their abilities on your turn. However, because those cards are face down, you can really play as whichever character you like. It’s up to the rest of the players to challenge you on your plays, using their knowledge of their own cards and what they can figure out from other players’ actions around the table.

I tend to start off taking it quite seriously, and then I start giggling at the inevitable, repeated use of the phrase “Duke Money”. And keeping track of how many tokens your opponents have, and which cards have been revealed, with a healthy dose of Dutch courage, leads to a ton of laughs as your plays get bolder and accusations wilder.

Odin’s Ravens

This one’s perfect for a date night at your local boozer, or a quick catch up with one of your mates after work, as it’s a 2-player game that is very easily played while being simple and low-stakes enough that you can pause gameplay to natter for a bit, or when it’s your turn to get the round in.

You lay your course out in front of you, playing cards that will help your ravens traverse the varied terrains of Midgard. Loki cards can serve to give you an extra helping hand or cause mischief to make your opponent’s life trickier.

Again, a nice compact little game, making it perfect to slip in your bag on the way out of the door, it’s one that you can happily hole yourself up in a little corner and get to playing while enjoying the sights and sounds around you.

Smart10

 

 

A pub, I’ve heard, is a fantastic place for a quiz. But selfishly, pub quizmasters don’t run them every single night always perennially until the end of time, so sometimes you have to make your own fun.

Enter Smart10, which is a really entertaining spin on the trivia game in and of itself, but whose very form makes it absolutely perfect for the pub purpose.

Coming in the form of a compact little square, each question card is laid out in a dial. The question at the centre is surrounded by various answers or prompts. You go around the circle and you can choose to take a stab at an answer. If you get it right, you get an answer marker. Get it wrong, you lose them.

But rather than a straight-up trivia game, the questions rely on a slightly looser knowledge base. If the category is Shakespeare, for example, and the question is “Name the comedies”, you can choose to take a punt on one you vaguely know, which helps make the game feel far more accessible. It’s honestly a cracker.

Kluster

Taking us away from cards for a moment, Kluster is a dexterity game that is light on component parts and incredibly easy to learn.

There’s a circle of rope on the table and each player has a few magnets. They place said magnets inside the rope. If your magnet happens to attach itself to one of the magnets already on the table, you keep both magnets in your hand. The first player to get rid of all their magnets wins. Easy as a steak and ale pie with thick-cut chips and a side salad that nobody wants and is purely for show.

Playing a game like this while slowly getting a little more tipsy is always a good time, although anyone who has played Jenga over drinks knows the absolute peril of a tumbling tower near glassware and liquids. To this day, mine still smells faintly of Baileys from that time we played it at my 24th birthday. Fortunately, the nature of Kluster is such that this particular type of peril is extremely rare.

Also, it’s incredibly satisfying, and oddly tense, to watch the little magnets do a dance as you go to lay your magnet among them, and there are few things in life as simply delightful as hearing them clack together. Even though it does signify your failure and shame.

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.