There are only three things you need for a successful game night: a gracious host, a fun game to play, and friends to play with. Once you have that in the bag, you don't really need anything else.
But why stop there? Why settle for a fun game night when you can have an AMAZING game night?
I don't like spending money on useless things, so I promise the items below are far from useless. They'll level up your game nights and you'll wonder how you survived game nights without them.
Here are some practical accessories you should really consider. Of course, you don't need all of these. Even just one or two upgrades can make a huge difference for board game sessions.
10. Card Holders
Card holders are situationally useful, so you might end up skipping this one. However, if you often host card games and players tend to BEND your cards absentmindedly, then these can be really great to have.
Pass out a card holder for each player to use—or maybe just for the problem players—and the likelihood of bent or damaged cards will be drastically reduced. It may seem elementary, but sometimes you have to resort to elementary solutions.
They're also great if your group likes to eat while playing, as the card holders can handle the cards and leave you free to munch away.
Is your group the type to just toss everything back into the box after a game and call it a day? That may be the quickest way to clean up, but it always ends up being a headache the next time you play.
Not to mention the risk of pieces getting lost, broken, or even just dirty as they get knocked around the box.
That's why I always have a stash of assorted resealable bags to use with board games. Group pieces together, label the bag with a permanent marker, and boom! Effortless organization.
8. Card Sleeves
Tired of your cards getting bent, creased, wet, stained, damaged? Especially in shuffle-heavy games like Dominion? Or in social deduction games like The Resistance, where marked cards can give away crucial information and ruin the entire game?
Grab some card sleeves and never worry about that again. Soft card sleeves are cheap and will last you a long, long time. If they happen to get dirty or damaged, you can just slip the card out into another one.
Be aware that most card sleeves will only fit traditionally sized cards! For board games with unusually large cards, you'll need to find bigger card sleeves that fit them properly.
Some board games come with dry erase lapboards to use as part of gameplay, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
Dry erase lapboards are great for any board game as a supplementary accessory. Hand out a lapboard, a dry erase marker, and an eraser to every player and you'll be surprised by how useful they can be.
Don't believe me? Dry erase lapboards allow players to take stray notes, make quick calculations, doodle during downtime, write secret messages to each other, and so much more!
Picture this: you're playing a large game with a lot of game pieces, with a lot of players, on a large table. (Think Scythe or Arkham Horror.) These sessions can be annoying as players constantly reach across for this or that, or one player is a designated "banker" of sorts.
A Lazy Susan turntable comes in handy for these games. Put all the game pieces on it and anyone can spin it around as they need it, conveniently grabbing whatever they need without disruption.
The Lazy Susan is infinitely better when paired with the mini glass bowls mentioned below! Together, they offer the ultimate solution.
Some board games have SO MANY pieces that gameplay chaos is inevitable. That's why I prefer to organize game pieces into these mini glass bowls, placed within easy reach of everyone.
They keep everything contained and prevent accidental scatters. Plus, they're transparent so you can see everything inside without having to dig around (which is often the case with using box inserts).
4. Amazon Echo
This one is certainly a luxury item, but I highly recommend getting an Amazon Echo smart speaker. I admittedly thought Echos were stupid, but once I got one as a gift, I was won over.
The Amazon Echo is quite useful for game nights, more so than you might think. For starters, you can use it to stream music playlists and keep the session lively. Players can speak their requests and Alexa will play them on demand.
You can also ask Alexa questions to settle debates, flip a coin, roll dice, set timers and reminders, order Ubers and Lyfts for players, and more. Again, it's a luxury, but one worth considering!
For card games and board games that involve currency or points-tracking of some kind, you can seriously class-up your game nights with clay poker chips. Don't miss the keyword: clay!
Clay poker chips are weighty, textured, and feel good to touch. They stack easily and they look fancy—plus, they make such a satisfying sound when they clack together.
Why settle for flimsy fake bills (Acquire) or cardboard tokens (Coup, Modern Art) when you can use clay poker chips instead? And if you're tracking points over rounds (Sushi Go), it's a lot more engaging when you can see everyone's points stacked up in front of them.
Clay poker chips are expensive, but they're worth it. If you want to spend less, you can opt for clay composite poker chips instead. Not as classy, but still classy enough.
With a proper dice rolling tray, you'll never have to scramble around for stray dice that fall to the ground, and you'll never have to hear the clackety-clack of dice on hard surfaces.
Dice rolling trays come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. You can spend a lot on a premium one, but I prefer the less expensive ones so I can pass one out to each player for game night.
Some aspects of board gaming can be grating to the senses: the clatter of dice on a hard wooden table; the clawing as you try to pick up cards on a smooth surface; the icy cold surface sapping heat from your wrists, especially in the dead of winter.
If there's only one upgrade you can make for game night, my vote goes to this: a felt tabletop, preferably one that folds.
Board games are infinitely better when you play on a felt tabletop, which dampens dice noises, makes cards easier to pick up, and insulates your arms during the winter. Plus, it can help set the mood—when the felt is out, it's game time.
Make sure it folds so you can easily put it away once game night is over. And if it has built-in drink holders, all the better!