game night is an assembly of people who gather to play some games: poker, mah jongg, trivial pursuit, what have you. we also like to play the following games of our own invention:

five and dime (poker variant)

developed by brent emerson

[Note: the following rules are for 5 players, the maximum for this game. The numbers can be tweaked when playing with fewer players.]

Each player is dealt 7 cards, and may then trade up to 2 cards. After trade, the discards are gathered by the dealer and shuffled/re-inserted into the deck. Each player is then dealt 3 additional cards, for a total of 10 cards each. The two remaining cards in the deck are placed face-down in the center of the table.

Each player now has 10 cards, from which they will construct two distinct hands, a "primary" hand and a "secondary" hand. There is a betting round. At the close of betting, the two cards in the center of the table are turned face-up. These cards ("the five" and "the dime", named by rank, except when one is wild, in which case the wild is then the dime) are common cards that can be used by every player. Each common card can be used at most once in each 10-card double-hand, and will replace one individually-held card (no six-card hands, etc.).

Now that the five and dime are revealed, there is time for hand reorganization. Each player constructs the two distinct 5-card hands and physically separates them (face-down) on the table, designating one primary and one secondary. There is a final betting round. At the close of betting, the "primary" hands are revealed. The highest ranking hand and runner-up reduce the playing field to two. These final players then reveal their secondary hands, and the highest secondary hand wins the pot.

Five-and-dime works well with one wild card (i.e., four wild cards). Two wilds are really too much, since all eight will be played among five players.


developed at hogan house by margot wallston, susanna hines and brent emerson

Scrapula is a hybrid of scrabble, trivial pursuit and hoopla. It infuses the quick excitement of hoopla into scrabble and trivial pursuit (games often marred by too-long waits) while injecting the word-rigor and fact-rigor of the serious games into hoopla. It's the best of all possible worlds!

To play, you'll need a scrabble board & tiles, and a set of trivial pursuit cards and a hoopla set. Play begins as in normal scrabble - the first player places a scrabble-authorized word in the center of the board and scores it, using standard scrabble scoring conventions.

The player now has a chance to defend/multiply their score for that word by answering trivial pursuit questions. The asker picks one card, selects a question, and asks it of the player. The player answers, gets the question right or wrong, and the asker moves on to another question. After all six questions have been asked, the player's turn is complete. If at any point a question seems too daunting to the player, they can call for a hoopla.

In a hoopla, the player asks a third participant to perform one of the hoopla tasks. The player rolls the hoopla die to select a hoopla task (described below). The hoopla clue is the answer to the trivial pursuit question; the hoopler is charged with getting the player to guess the correct answer. After a hoopla (successful or no) the player's turn is complete.

At the conclusion of a hoopla, or after all six questions have been asked, the player multiplies their scrabble word score by the number of questions they answered correctly and records the total; this is their score for the turn (this means their score may be zero, if they answered no questions correctly, or a very high number, if they answered many questions correctly.) Play moves to the left.

The game ends, as in scrabble, when the supply of tiles are exhausted. The winner is the player with the highest total score.

Hoopla Tasks

SoundStage: Act out what's on your card using gestures and outrageous sound effects, but don't use any words (Charades)

Cloodle: Grab the pad and pencil--it's time to draw! Without talking or using letters or numbers, try to get the other players to guess what you're drawing. (Pictionary)

Tongue-Tied: Guide the other players to the answer by saying single words that all start with the same letter. You can pick any letter you want, but don't say any of the words on the card. (Taboo)

Tweener: Craft clever clues by filling in the blanks: "It's bigger than __________ but smaller than __________." Make sure you don't way any of the words on the card!


developed by fay ferency and brent emerson

asaurus (so called because the game involves near-synonyms substituting for each other, like a thesaurus, but with "a" instead of "the") is a simple word game that is difficult to explain.

Like some other word games, it contains the basic construct of a chain of words, connected together because the last letter of one word is the same as the first letter of the next:

dog -- garden -- night -- time -- empty -- yellow -- waylaid -- dreaming

In asaurus, this is called the "invisible chain", and none of the words it contains is ever spoken aloud. Instead, the players create a "visible chain" of near-synonyms to the invisible chain:

dog -- garden -- night -- time -- empty -- yellow -- waylaid -- dreaming
|      |         |        |       |        |         |          |
wolf   park      evening  moments vacant   beige     ambushed   asleep

and these are the words that are spoken back and forth. For instance, if the first player says "wolf", the second player thinks 'what might be on the invisible chain: fox? eat? dog?'. (This is a critical moment--if the second player doesn't guess the right word, the game will fall apart after a few turns--so it's helpful to pick an easy first synonym relationship.) If she guesses dog, then she knows she needs to pick a next word for the invisible chain that starts with g: 'garden'. But she doesn't say this word--she thinks of a synonym or near-synonym and says it instead: "park". Now the first player needs to guess what the second word on the invisible chain is. He knows that it should start with "g" and is a near-synonym for park: 'garden'. The next invisible word should start with n; he picks 'night'. And he picks a near-synonym: "evening". If the second player can connect this back to 'night', she knows that the first player guessed 'garden', so the two players are building the same invisible chain. It may be helpful and amusing for players to keep a written record of the invisible chain to compare at the end of the game.

If regular asaurus gets too easy, you might want to try the advanced version, where words in both chains must have the last letter -> first letter relationship:

hard  -- direct -- tell     -- learned  -- disrespect -- tyrant
|        |         |           |           |             |
tough -- herd   -- describe -- educated -- disparage  -- emperor