Even before the pandemic, adult board game sales were on the rise, many funded through Kickstarter. An entire Jason Bateman movie in 2018 called “Game Night,” shot in Atlanta, focused around this obsession.
On the shelves of Target and Wal-Mart are the tried and true - “Monopoly,” “Jenga,” “Trivial Pursuit” - and more recent hits that tap into people’s more tasteless side such as “Cards Against Humanity” and “Exploding Kittens.” Pop culture games are rife as well, including those focused on “Pac-Man,” “The Office,” “Golden Girls,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Friends,” “Jaws” and “Top Gun,” to name a few.
Ironically, one of the most popular games of recent vintage is “Pandemic,” literally about what the world is going through now.
“Board games are keeping us sane,” said Lars Thorn, a Los Angeles entrepreneur and creator of drinking-themed games such as “Brew Ha Ha!” “Read Between the Wines!” and “Whiskey Business!” “It’s keeping us social and keeping us connected to family.”
Regarding sales since March, Thorn said “it’s like a second Christmas.”
Often times, family and friends will buy multiple copies and play them remotely on Zoom, he added. He said he does it himself with family in Germany.
Here are eight more board games targeting adults that range from ribald to ridiculous.
Premise: Kenny G's cool soft jazz saxaphone playing has made him worldwide famous going back to the 1980s. At the same time, he has always been able to laugh at his own square image and his luscious locks. So this card game plays off all those elements. Your job is to help Kenny G get through his day as smoothly as possible, overcoming hurdles such as charging his dead phone, parking tickets and running out of hair product. There are "Groove Tokens" and a chance to scat. There is even a special Spotify Kenny G songlist to play during the game.
How it came about: Big G Creative noticed in 2018 that Kenny G was trending and there wasn’t a lot of product for his dedicated fan base so they hired a game design company to create this game. “Sales have been better than we expected,” said Shannon Swindle, director of product development.
How did Kenny G take it? I spoke with the musician himself Tuesday. He said his first reaction was, referencing John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”
“They were serious,” he said. “I wasn’t against it. I said, ‘Do you really think people would be interested?”
“They said, ‘Yes. We’ve done our research.’”
‘So I said,’ Okay great, I’ll leave it to you.”
He remained skeptical. But they came back with ideas and he was fine with what they did. He said he made few minor tweaks, including the cover photo, which was originally inverted.
Kenny G was also happy to promote the game on social media, including his 170,000 followers on Instagram. “I was worried there would be a lot of teasing but the reaction was surprisingly positive,” he said. “Everyone thought it was cool.”
He hasn’t actually played “Keepin’ It Saxy” himself. He can’t get himself to do that. He said he wouldn’t necessarily object if someone else brought the game out.
Kenny said this is comparable to not playing his own music at his own party or asking someone else to do so. He said friends will sometimes play his music at dinner parties without asking and he won’t object. Restaurateurs and store owners might notice his presence and start playing “Songbird” or another classic Kenny G tune over the speakers in homage.
“It’s definitely a tip of a hat to me,” he said. “I don’t look at it any other way. It’s not embarrassing.”
As for his status in pop culture, he said he’s well aware people make fun of his hair and the type of jazz he plays. “I’ve grown a thick skin,” he said. “I do the music I want to do and do it the way I want to do it. I don’t pander. I can’t do that. That’s just wrong.”
Reviewer comment: "I really like the components of this game. I like the art. I like everything about it. It fits with the surreal feel this game has... It's silly and funny." - Tom Vasel
“Throw Throw Burrito”
Creator: Exploding Kittens
Retail price: $24.99
Premise: This is a fast-paced blend of card game and dodgeball. Players try to collect matching sets of cards faster than their opponents while dodging or throwing squishy rubbery burritos when the properly matched cards pop up. There are Burrito Brawls, Burrito Duels and Burrito Wars. In other words, don’t play this in the room with the valuable china or your favorite Ming vase.
Customer review: “We tried this game for the first time at a work party, with eight adults spanning four decades in age. Needless to say the ensuing play was hilariously funny and after playing six rounds of the game we were coming up with crazy ideas as to how we could turn it into an all day office game or even take it outside and play across larger distances. Other reviews have called the game "immature as heck", but our group found it to be completely hilarious and appropriate for all ages” - Marcus K. on Amazon
“Donner Dinner Party”
Creator: Chronicle Books
Retail price: $19.95
Premise: It’s winter in 1846 and players are part of the ill-fated Donner Party wagon train, stranded on top of a mountain without any food. You need to collect food - or become food. Yes, there are cannibals in the mix and folks will be eaten if they aren’t rescued in time.
Customer review "I was pretty impressed with this one. It's well made, interesting, tight game play. This is a clever game. I like the tensions and discussions that come into the game play. " - Zee Garcia in a YouTube game review
Creator: Ramy Badie and TeeTurtle
Retail price: $19.99
Premise: You try to get as many unicorns into your stable and seven gets you the win. There are various cards that hinder your opponents’ progress and allow you to destroy their unicorns. There are several “expansion” card packs, such as an “apocalypse” expansion pack that extends the game time and “NSFW” adult-themed cards.
Customer review: “Overall, it's easy to start this game and play is fairly quick, intuitive and fun. It's well balanced between outright sabotage of other players, strategy, goal setting, and luck, and there are a lot of unique upgrades, downgrades and unicorn types that make the game entertaining.” - Austin Tiffany on Amazon
Joey Bland, Lars Thorn (creator of Whiskey Business!), Blaine Swen, and Ross Bryant play a round while shooting the video for the successful Kickstarter campaign!
Premise: You are a distiller trying to produce Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, Kentucky bourbon and Canadian rye. You roll seven dice at a time with ingredients on it to gather what you need to make each particular type of whiskey. The more barrels you make, the merrier. If a pirate ship shows up on the die, you are “three sheets to the wind” and required to sip or take a shot (or not, if you choose to keep it sober.) Too many pirate ships and you lose barrels. You hope to create the most barrels by “Last Call” so you can raise a “Victory Toast.”
Customer review: “Any game that involves drinking whiskey is a good time! The game isn’t an in-depth strategic game, but it is fun with friends. It’s basically luck of the dice. Nothing too fancy, not too complicated, just something to pass the time with friends. I thought the directions left me wanting more details, so we kind of made up some as we went.” - Matthew Womack on Amazon
“Player Ten: The Voting Game”
Creator: Player Ten
Retail price: $24.95
Premise: This is the type of voting that involves no lines, absentee ballots or political thought. Instead, it’s the type of voting that involves both clean and potentially cringe-inducing questions. Among a group of players, people vote on who, say, “would try to talk down the price of Girl Scout Cookies” or “gives the most awkward hugs” or “would be the first picked for a threesome.” You can keep the votes anonymous or for maximum tension, not. The person who gets the most votes six times wins.
Customer review: “Super simple game and you can alter the rules to fit the setting of your night. Playing this game can be a minefield. The best way to play this game is to have no shame with who you vote for. I'd advise to play this game with friends who don't take themselves too seriously as some of the questions can be insulting or embarrassing.” - anonymous on Amazon
Creator: Big G Creative
Retail price: $17.99 at Target
Premise: This game is obviously playing off a pop culture phrase that has become common in recent years as a way to dismiss someone. During each round, players have 30 seconds to come up with as many answers as they can on a random topic, such as "Baseball Players" or "Types of Sauces.” Other players then take turns providing their own answers. When someone has an answer that doesn't match anyone else’s, everyone says, "Bye, Felicia!" The more matches you have, the longer you stay in the round and the more points you get. There are also lightning rounds where people have to quickly provide answers until someone can’t.
Customer Review: “Y’all, this game is so much fun! We have played it with high school-aged kids through grandparents in their 70s! My husband doesn’t really like games, and he was hooked in the first round. It’s so fun to see what different groups select in their choices. It makes the game different every single time! A must have for any social event.” - anonymous on Target.com
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.