The leadup to my move to Warwick was, I imagine, like most people’s – filled with endless shopping days, packing far too much, and a stomach full of knots whenever I thought about how difficult it may be to meet people and make new friends. I admit that one of the things that I was most nervous about was the drinking culture, particularly during freshers’ week. Sure, I like a drink as much as the next person, but was that really how I was going to make friends? Was I going to spend night after night putting my liver through the wringer and spilling all my secrets during games of Ring of Fire with a bunch of strangers?
Thankfully, that was not the case. One night during freshers’, one of our flatmates came into the kitchen with a card game called Coup. I was new to this sort of thing, as were the other two guys in the kitchen with us, but we were all hooked after just one game. We began to play every night, with each game bringing in more people from across the block. Before we knew it, a good portion of the building’s residents were eagerly arriving at the kitchen to play, and games night became almost a daily ritual, completely alcohol free.
There’s nothing quite like getting to know new people by developing crafty strategies to get away with fictional murder, after all.
Social deception games such as Coup were largely the flat’s favourite. Coup requires you to take two role cards without showing the other players. You then claim to have whatever roles you feel would make it easier for you to win, be it a Duke that can pick up coins faster or an Assassin that can swiftly do away with other players. There’s nothing quite like getting to know new people by developing crafty strategies to get away with fictional murder, after all.
Other favourites included the board game Secret Hitler, a sort of physical predecessor to Among Us that assigns players either the Fascist or Liberal role, with the aim of the Fascists being to secretly sabotage the game and help the “Hitler” player avoid getting caught out (I promise it’s very fun and nowhere near as politically dodgy as you or my mother might think!).
Larger groups also thoroughly enjoyed games of Mafia, which essentially ran with the same rules as Secret Hitler but could be played with any pack of cards. In fact, we loved Mafia so much that our resident “Game Master” (who introduced and provided all these games to us) came up with their own roles for the game, including “Fruit Vendor”, whose only job was to acquire a piece of fruit during the night phase of the game – entirely useless, but very funny.
You don’t need to be any sort of tabletop game expert to enjoy any of these alcohol-free options
These weren’t the only sorts of games we played though. When we were tired of murder and plastic money laundering, we turned to other card games such as Exploding Kittens, a game largely based on luck where you keep drawing cards from a pile in the hopes you don’t get the dreaded exploding kitten, and one of my personal favourites, “Whales Destroying the World”. Frankly, I think the name alone should be enough to get you interested in that one, as well as the fact you get to build up your own mini whale army to finally rid the planet of pesky humans.
Speaking of building strange animal armies, Unstable Unicorns was another card game that made a frequent appearance at the kitchen table. In this game, the aim is to build a collection of unicorns with different abilities that can be used to stop your opponents from building their own equally fantastical armies. I always found this one very entertaining, even if I did often stop paying attention to the other players in favour of looking at the ridiculous artwork on the cards.
You don’t need to be any sort of tabletop game expert to enjoy any of these alcohol-free options. I certainly didn’t know what was going on half the time, but I had an absolute blast and I’m proud to say that my games nights in that first year flat has provided me with friends I’ve kept throughout my entire uni experience, and, hopefully, the rest of my life. It just goes to show that if you’re teetotal or not much of a drinker, you don’t need to worry about not having anything to do with your new flatmates during freshers like I initially did – there’s plenty of other fun to be had!