Sometimes, I'm sitting in a bar, hanging out with a friend or three, and we run out of things to talk about. I think "this would be a great time to play a game, but I don't have one on me." My local pub has a collection of games in the corner, but they consist of about half a chess set, half a scrabble set with a beat up board, and two thirds of a nice backgammon set.

What games are good for playing in a bar?

Some criteria that can help determine if a game will be appropriate:

  1. Not too many fiddly little components to get lost; or easily replaceable components if they do
  2. Somewhat resilient to spilled beer
  3. Everything is easy to see, as bars can sometimes be a bit dark
  4. Not too complex; after a couple of beers, remembering a lot of rules can be hard
  5. Easily portable, and fits on a small table, or the space between two people at the bar itself

Also, please let me know if you actually have played this game in a bar, and how it went. Some games might seem good for the venue, but turn out not to be.

(note: despite the beer-and-pretzels tag, I'm not interested in solely beer and pretzels games, though those are welcome; games that are a bit deeper can be fine for bars too)

  • 2
    I'm not clear on what value the beer-and-pretzels tag adds here. What other questions would have this tag?
    – lilserf
    Oct 21, 2010 at 19:38
  • 6
    @lilserf "Beer and pretzels" is a very common category of games, for games that are generally considered to be light fillers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_and_pretzels_game The term might be used for games that you would play while drinking beer and eating pretzels, or it may be considered analogous, when compared to a heavier game, as beer and pretzels are to a full meal. It's light, and can fill time, but isn't really substantial. Do a Google search and you'll see that it's a common way of referring to a certain kind of game. google.com/search?q=beer+and+pretzels+game Oct 21, 2010 at 19:50
  • Other question that might have this tag would be "I'm looking for a game to play with my buddies at a superbowl party" or "Are there any beer and pretzel games that have auction mechanics?" Here are some examples from BGG: rss.boardgamegeek.com/thread/499823/… boardgamegeek.com/thread/529521/beer-and-pretzels-horse-racing Oct 21, 2010 at 19:52
  • 7
    Huh, that's not a term I've ever encountered apparently.
    – lilserf
    Oct 21, 2010 at 19:55
  • Beer and pretzels is also the name of a game.
    – gomad
    Apr 21, 2011 at 18:59

34 Answers 34


Bananagrams is an obvious choice. Each person plays scrabble on their own without a board. The goal is to use up all your tiles before the other people do. It's extremely portable, and very quick to play. There's also nothing that can get ruined from a spilled drink. Banangrams


A less well-known choice is Spot It! It looks like a children's game, but it's an all ages game. Just a deck of circular cards. Also extremely portable in its protective tin. Each card has a variety of symbols on it. Every card in the deck has exactly one symbol matching with every other card in the deck. There are a variety of different games you can play with this deck of cards. Our favorite is the bomb mode, and we modified it to make our own mode, two-fisted bomb mode. You don't even need a table to play this game, you can play standing up. Play is also extremely fast. You can get an entire round in while waiting for the bartender to make your drink, depending on the mode you have selected.

Spot It!

Spot It!

  • I've recently create an application match it to generate spot it like cards deck with some extra levels. Jun 19, 2018 at 12:25

Paper Football (Canadian-style): You get three downs to pitch a paper football from one side of a table to the other. Spectators can run a drinking pool; whenever the score includes your number, you must drink.

Zoom Schwartz Figliano: Use specific terms and actions to pass the game from player to player; foulers drink.

One Thousand Blank White Cards: A DIY nomic card game; use the back of business cards, or scraps of paper to play. Include drinking if you want.

Forum Games: For example, "my cookie"


If you wish to interest those around you and provoke interaction, Icehouse Zen is an excellent choice.

It's sufficiently open to new players mid-game that anyone can join in and is nice and easy to explain. We have ended up with several fellow drinkers joining us for a game, which is a lovely pub experience.


I'd highly recommend Zombie Dice, by Steve Jackson Games. It does have custom dice, which if you're not careful can go wandering, but if you've got a table, it's great. It's also good because games are so short, if someone else arrives, they're not stuck watching from the side for too long. Add a little alcohol and "Braaaaaaaains", and you're in for a great game.

SJ Games also make Cthulhu dice, but I've had less success with that: it takes some time to figure out what the symbols on the dice mean, especially if you're not familiar with the Call of Cthulhu rpgs.


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