We love our game nights with friends, and cancelling those has been a sad part of the quarantine for us. But we’ve found 6 great games you can play over FaceTime or Zoom. It helps make that distance feel not so far at all, and gives you more opportunities to connect with friends, cousins, and grandparents after dinner.
Plus, the laughing. So much laughing!
For each of these, we recommend setting up a group FaceTime call, Google Hangout, or Zoom session if you have a paid account. (Note that free Zoom calls cut off after 40 minutes, which you probably already know by now — but our team has found that a lot of calls get “free gift” notifications with additional free minutes. Thanks, Zoom!).
The trick is to allow one player or family/homebase to mange the board or cards for the rest of the group, then allow everyone else participates remotely — with a few hacks that we suggest here.
It really is fun. In fact, I imagine this is a new tradition we’d be likely to continue even the quarantine is lifted. Hooray for one more silver lining, should you be keeping count. – Kate, with Liz
You can find all these games through our affiliate links here to stores like Target and Amazon which help support our work. Or, support your local independent toy seller and order from them if they’re shipping.
Related: How to play Cards Against Humanity online with your friends
As a huge trivia fan, I have to recommend the classic Trivial Pursuit as a game that you can play over FaceTime or Zoom pretty easily. Do I really need to describe how to play after all these years? We happen to have sets with kids’ questions that we include, so that everyone in our home can play at their own level when it’s their turn. If it becomes a favorite you could switch it up week to week with theme nights, using Stranger Things 80’s questions decks, Friends trivia decks or pretty much any niche you can think of.
Screentime adaptation: As long as each remote household has a die (or use the Alexa skill or a dice-rolling app), you’re all set! Roll the die during your turn, then the player with the actual game in from top them acts as designated host, asking the questions of all the other players (unless more than one of you has questions). If you all have decks, feel free to draw your own cards and just allow one home to keep control of the actual board.
Liz’s tells us her family are big fans of Punderdome — perfect for you wordsmiths and pun-makers — and she says it works terrific remotely. (See top photo.) In each round, a “prompter” will draw two prompt cards from the box — e.g. Star Wars and Gardening — and then each player has to write a pun that incorporates both ideas then go around the circle reading them aloud. To make it easier, think of riddle formats. Like for the previous example, Liz wrote “What did Luke Skywalker sing to his plants each morning? Yoda One That I Want!”
Yes, a groaner, but that’s the whole point.
Screen Time Adaptation: You don’t need the “judge” to draw the cards; just hold the card to the screen and whomever is next up becomes the judge. Instead of the judge reading all the responses, each person reads their own. The judge gets to award the winner each round — or hey, skip the points. it’s just so fun playing even without a winner.
Related: 7 great family board games that take 30 minutes or less to play
It’s In the Bag
Imagine a mix of $64,000 Pyramid and charades, and you’ve got It’s in the Bag. Play is really simple: each card has a word or phrase on it (think, “belly dance” or “figure skater”). In each round you describe the word, then define it, and finally act it out…all while the other players try to guess the word.
Screentime Adaptation: The only adjustment is that the person with the game in hand texts the secret word to remote players when it’s their turn (and then refrains from guessing). Alternately, get one deck for each household playing.
Psych is actually an app-based bluffing game (iOS and Android) and while not a traditional board game, it’s one of the most fun, absolute easiest group games there is and adapts perfectly to video chats. It couldn’t be more simple: Set up one of the games, like “And The Truth Comes Out” (the best for groups with lots of ages) in which you have to type in the answer to questions about the other players that are randomly generated. Like “What is Laura’s dream career?” or “Where would the movie of Grandpa’s life be called?” Everyone types in an answer, then you each select your favorite, not knowing who typed what. Earn a point for every person who picks yours. Liz has also been playing this one with long-distance family — they had four full screens going just last night connecting four cities!
There are additional games better for groups with more homogenous players, like “Movie Bluff!” in which you each describe the plot of a real, but likely unknown movie, then guess which is the real one, which is thrown in with all of your guesses.
Screentime Adaptation: As with regular play, each person playing needs their own tablet or phone with the app installed. The only change is, that if you add in a Zoom conference or Group FaceTime, then you can see each other’s faces as you laugh hysterically at the answers — and realize who the best bluffers in the family are. It’s that much more fun to have the other players “in the room” with you.
Codenames is another family favorite game that’s perfect for tweens, teens and adults, and can definitely be played over Zoom, FaceTime, or any video chat. You just need a few simple adjustments to make it work. It’s a social word game that’s played in two teams, each with a “spymaster” who knows the secret identity of 25 agents. Take turns giving one-word clues to your team, to help them guess the correct 5 five words from a grid of 20 that will help them identify the agent. The rules are so simple, it’s a great one even for beginners (i.e. grandparents) who want to join in.
Screentime Adaptation: You have to agree that everyone covers their eyes while the spymaster with the actual game at their home indicates to the remote captain which cards are their team’s to guess. Then, dedicate one screen to the cards on the table (prop them upright against a wall or use a tripod to angle your camera down over the cards) and you’re all set to play!
Wits and Wagers
If you like trivia, but aren’t great at really obscure questions that you have to get exactly right, you might like Wits & Wagers. It’s a little bit Trivial Pursuit, a little bit Family Feud, with a little bit of Vegas casino thrown in. In each round, you’ll be given questions that always have a number as the answer. Getting it right isn’t as important as betting correctly on which other player will come closest to the right answer. It’s really fun IRL, and we think there will still be a lot of cheering, groaning, and laughing in a remote game.
Screentime Adaptation: Designate one person as the pit boss who places everyone’s bets on the board for them
Related: Clear the table for 11 of the best board games for older kids.
Apples to Apples
Is there a family in this day and age who doesn’t love Apples to Apples? Provided you each have your own deck at home, you can play remotely pretty easily. You take turns being the dealer/judge, in which you lay down a card with a description like “despicable” or “revolutionary.” Then each player, from the cards in their hand, has to lay down the card they think best works with the description card — and be willing to argue their case. The judge picks a winner, and trust us, it may not always be the perfect match, but the funniest argument for why “salad” is “outrageous.”
Screentime Adaptation: In this case, each remote team has to have their own deck of cards. Feel free to mail some of yours if you own the party box with 500+ cards, or grab a new box. Tip: The gouging on Amazon is ridiculous right now; you shouldn’t pay more than $15 for the party box edition.
My family has been obsessed with Color Brain (specifically, Color Brain: Disney edition ) ever since we got it this past Christmas, and it’s especially great if you’re playing with some younger kids. Each player holds a hand of cards, each card with a different solid color on the back. Draw a game card that has an object on it (like, “the Olympic rings,” or “the predominant color of Cinderella’s dress) and your goal is have to lay down the cards with the colors you think match that object.
Screentime Adaptation: To play remotely, other teams can to make up their own color cards to match what comes in the deck, which is easily done with some markers, crayons, or even just by writing the color names on index cards.
Have any other favorite board games you’ve adapted for remote play over video calls? Please let us know!
Top image: © Liz Gumbinner for Cool Mom Picks
Such a good idea Kate, don’t know why we haven’t thought about doing the same, we tried facetime but it just kept cutting off. Thanks for this!
Games we are playing on Zoom. Double Ditto. Family Fued. Just One. Scattergories Categories, and Mister Lister’s Quiz Shootout.
How have you set up a family feud game on zoom?
Listography is really easy to play over Zoom or videochat.
Thank you! Lovely ideas!
One thing people might want to consider is to turn Zoom game playing into a learning experience, especially with older kids. Ask them how they might modify a game for zoom and then let them use their creativity and computer skills to make the game more accessible or easier to play via Zoom. For instance: CodeNames. We created PDF’s to hand out for the clue giver cards and use a CodeNames board we created in PowerPoint to allow everyone to see the playing board on screen. One player shares the PowerPoint file in Zoom and covers the code words as they are guessed. We’ve also used PowerPoint (with some creativity) to create CodeNames Duet, Imaginif board and question files; Phase 10 dice; Sharpshooters; To Court the King, and What’s Your’s Like game boards on Zoom.
Other games we’ve found we can enjoy playing fairly easily via zoom are dice games like 20 Express, Qwingo, Qwixx, Rolling America, Settlers of Catan Dice, and Welcome To, Word games like Facts in Five, Fluster, Overturn, Scattergories, and Stack Spell. And all sorts of trivia, general knowledge and mind challenge question games like 5 Second Rule, Clever Endeavor, Joe Name it, Name 5, One Word, Tribond, Train of Thought, etc. Just pull out the box of question cards and start asking questions – no scoring required.
If your household is a card playing bunch, trickster.com (free to download and play) and Zoom make for an enjoyable evening of card games. Trickster offers Spades, Hearts, Bridge, Euchre, 500, Oh Hell and more.
And finally Jackbox games for TV and Internet can provide a very enjoyable game experience via Zoom. Typically silly, fun, creative thinking games for a very laughable time.
And finally, thanks for your suggestions. Many sound like great fun, I will check them out for sure.
For Code names, the host could be one spymaster and text a photo of the grid card to the other spymaster. Then it’s just a matter of each agent saying out loud which code names they are selecting in answer to the clues the spymaster gives, and the host covers up the cards as appropriate. As for other games, my daughter and her boyfriend play Hangman and also Battleship. Each player must have Battleship in order to play, though. Go to the Head of the Class is another one. Each player rolls his own dice and the host would move the pieces and ask the questions, or if more than one player has a copy of the game, they could take turns asking the questions.
Great ideas! Thanks, Valerie!
We recently tried playing Qwixx online with long-distance family and it was super chill!
We’ll have to try that one, thanks!
So many great games!! We also love playing through boardgamearena.com – they have many board games available digitally that you can play “live”/synchronously with friends. We Facetime while we play, although the site does have built-in video chat functionality.
It requires a little bit of effort to play virtually, but we also love Who, What, Where, which is a drawing game.
PS – Zoom recently announced they are lifting the 40-minute limit on Thanksgiving day!! Woo hoo!
Thanks for the tip, Amanda! And yes, we’re so excited about the Zoom time on Thanksgiving too!
Codenames is available free online now! Here’s the link: https://codenames.game
To adapt for playing virtually with your group, you generate a private room and then share that custom link with your people. Each person sees the board as appropriate on their own screens. We keep Zoom open on a second monitor so we can still see each others’ faces, but it could just as easily work with a phone conference call or any other platform that lets you talk with each other.
Online pictionary at https://skribbl.io is also a blast. Create a private room and share the custom link with your people, and then you can Facetime or Zoom or whatever to chat while the drawing is happening.