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Dinner party games or conversation starters

I was wondering if people had some good suggestions for icebreakers or even full-on games for a small dinner party (1-2 other couples).

My husband and I just moved to a new area so we're still getting to know people but enjoy having people over for dinner. I guess I should add that we're part of a transitional community abroad and most of the people we meet are getting to know other people, too.

I don't want anything too contrived but something that will help us all get to know each other and put people at ease.

I was looking at Tabletopics, a conversation card game, but I don't know how that would go. I'd love to hear other suggestions.

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  1. If I'm in unfamiliar territory with new people, my first inclination is to see, by listening, if there is any common ground., e.g., *what made you decide to......shop, play or move and etc.*. Otherwise, asking about a lighthearted story about a current event gets it rolling for conversation and every can jump in.

    I don't like participation games myself.

    1. I would avoid games - just my personal preference. When we moved here we would start conversations with - where are you from? what brings you here? do you like it? where is good food shopping, etc. There are tons of very "safe" conversation starters with new people.

      1. Finger puppets. They'll love it.

        1. We do what we call a Lighting Round. Ask a question and go around the room and see how people answer. For example;
          what was the first poster you had on your bedroom wall as a kid
          First car
          invent a new ice cream flavor....

          1. I was at a dinner party recently with new people. The host had each person at the table give a few minutes of a "biography" starting with " I was born....". Each guest got to choose how much and what to share with the group. Some were funny, some sweet, some long, some short. There were 8 of us, so it took awhile, but there was so much information shared, that the next few hours flew by in conversation. It went really well.

            Questions and games are risky IMO. I hate them, personally....so you never know. I would let the guests share as to their comfort level.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sedimental

              I agree w/sedimental. Games are for couples who already know each other and have agreed to play them before arriving.

            2. OK. Agreed on the no games. I think I was just wondering if there are some creative, fun ways to keep things fun just in case it gets slow, but I probably shouldn't be worried about it.

              We typically have good friends over and spend hours lingering over the table and wine. But those are good friends. And I really am not much of a small talker. But I'll do it!

              1. Not knowing the age of your guests or the formality of the evening makes it slightly more difficult to comment.
                I personally love games, but I know that is not the case across the board. Some people despise them.
                Because of that, if the environment allows, I tend to just leave out a few conversation pieces that can be turned to if conversation is slow to start. This can include things like a Magic 8 Ball, unique art books, interesting collectibles, international souvenirs, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                  I was just about to post the same thing. Conversation pieces seem to work well when I host an event that brings together different circles of friends. I have a friend who sets out paper and colored pencils at casual gatherings, and there are also a few artistic individuals who just start playing around, and conversation goes from there.

                2. Left to my own devices, I'm not much into the idea of being strong-armed into playing a game (but I'm typically willing to go with the flow for fun and curiosity). However, we quite by accident developed a little conversation starting game a few years back that has proved to be surprisingly popular, at least with those who have circled through this house. We took the stacking (or I guess, UNstacking) game "Jenga", and wrote questions for discussion on all of the game pieces. As a player removes the piece from the stack, the question is put out for conversation. Now, we don't make this a centerpiece of the entertainment in any way, but rather have the Jenga stack out on the library table or some such for those who want to mingle that way. I'm a bit surprised that it's worked so well - we've even branched out and made a few different sets - for example, one for kids (they seem to love it). The appeal of it, for me, is that it's a "game" but it's really all about the conversation-sparking ideas, rather than the game itself.

                  We've enjoyed it! Some who enjoy games may as well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cayjohan

                    Thanks, that's a good idea to keep in mind.

                  2. Game night is fun! A great way to get the crowd going! We used to have Taboo (a game) night. I'd have all sorts of people over, I'd make dinner and then we'd all play Taboo. Everyone would get loud and be laughing, it was fun.
                    We lived in a new neighborhood which was great because most people were trying to get to know others. One neighbor had a pizza tasting night which I thought was a good idea. They got pizza take out from 4 local pizza places and everyone judged the best one.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Alica

                      Taboo could possibly be the best party game ever created....it will certainly get people talking and laughing.
                      I have a friend who likes to ask the following ice breaker question.." What is your most embarrassing moment?". The funny think is..she had great success with this strategy with the exception of a couple of us who finally convinced her to stop asking this question as an icebreaker.

                    2. I have to agree with the Tabletopics. Normally, I am one of those people that despises games at the dinner table, and prefer to let the conversation flow. But, I recently had dinner with my friend's whole entire family, with me being the only outsider (and American). The mother whipped out Tabletopics, and we actually ended up having an amazing time, and learning a myriad of things about each other that we never would have. Even the grandparents joined in with re-enactments of the "olden" days. It was incredibly enjoyable, and applied to everyone.

                      1. I'm one of those who really does hate "organized party games" and dread baby showers and the like. They always seem to happen at conferences also.

                        The "ice breakers" I don't mind as much are those where people in a group introduce themselves - if necessary - and say what their favorite xxx is, such as cookie, color, vacation destination, etc. This leads to follow-up conversation that can be interesting.

                        1. I agree with those who felt that games can feel contrived and awkward . . . and not everyone even enjoys games with those they do know. If I was having a new group over and I was worried about getting things rolling, I might try to cook something where people have to do part of it themselves (e.g., fondue). That way people have something to keep them busy and aren't just awkwardly sitting there. I wish I could think of more examples, but everything else that comes to mind is on the casual side (make your own burrito/mini pizza, etc.).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: LabLady

                            Coming from a "game night" lover. We'd invite a fun group of friends over, I'd made dinner, we'd have cocktails and after whip out the Taboo game. One thing was for sure though, we did not take it all that seriously. We just wanted to have a few laughs and of course win! I would NEVER have a Monopoly night or something like that, too boring. We also have High Low Jack (Pitch) nights. All good fun! I know not everyone likes games but for the right crowd it is great.

                          2. I enjoy games, but am married to someone who does not :( In a previous life, I have really liked playing such things as Cranium and Play It By Ear, and also Adverteasers. But PIBE and Advt., both are best when played with people of similar vintage. My favorite games of all time are Pictionary, when played in a large-ish group, using whiteboards, and Trivial Pursuit.
                            Perhaps, at the dinner party... instead of using the proscribed format for Tabletopics, you could place baskets/glasses of the cards in strategic locations throughout the room, or on the table?

                            1. You say that you are "part of a transitional community abroad", do you mean military? I grew up a Navy kid myself. Maybe if you let us know what kind of community we could help better.