7 super-chill games to play in the park
Easy, engaging and mostly all age-ways to pass the time together under the trees
With summer just around the corner, we're getting ready to spend even more time outdoors. It's been a while since I've hung out in a park and I'm eager to get some fresh air.
I've spent most of the pandemic using online solutions to play games with other people that I'd ordinarily play in person. Now that seeing people in person again will be possible, I'm thinking of the kinds of games we could play outside.
If you're socializing outdoors and are drawing a blank on good games to play in the park, this is the list for you. I've recommended games here for people of all ages, so you can play with friends and family.
Portable board games are designed to be played at any given time and place, including at the park. If you want to catch up with a friend, take a seat at a picnic table and bust out one of these old favourites.
I spent many a day in my childhood playing this game outdoors in the garden. The game's folding board and secure pieces make it easy to take with you. It's a simple guessing game — but that didn't make it any less satisfying when I sunk my opponent's fleet.
Originally a pen-and-paper game dating back to World War I, Battleship is a strategy-style guessing game. You position your fleet of five ships on your board and the opposing player does the same. You can't see each other's boards and must attempt to destroy your opponent's fleet by guessing the location of their ships and taking shots there.
Today, Battleship is played with a set of plastic pieces and a textured, compact playing field. Battleship is excellent for playing outside because the pieces are designed to stay put and won't blow away in a sudden gust of wind. The secretive nature of each player's board also means that you're responsible for your own game pieces and don't have to touch your opponent's pieces.
My father and grandfather are both avid chess players and they taught me how to play when I was eight. My grandfather had a table with a chess board painted on it, as well as a built-in compartment for the chess pieces. It would be accurate to say that I'm a lifelong Chess player, but that would suggest that I'm good at it when I actually just play for fun. The only time I was able to beat my grandfather was when he played without his queen once.
One of the most popular games in the world, millions of people play Chess across the globe, whether with a physical board, online, or by correspondence. It's a compelling game of strategy where the objective is to checkmate your opponent's king: force it into a position where it can't move anywhere on the board without being captured by you.
Some parks have tables painted with Chess boards and may even supply the pieces. If your park doesn't, consider bringing a magnetic chess set with you to ensure that you don't lose your pieces to the wind.
I have fond memories of Connect Four. I enjoy the feeling of quietly forming a line of tokens despite the watchful eye of my opponent and sneaking my way to victory. Conversely, I'm always surprised and impressed when my opponent bests me with a line that I really should have seen coming.
Connect Four features a vertical board where each player chooses a colour of token and takes turns dropping them into the board to create lines of four consecutive tokens. The game ends when one player successfully forms a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
You only handle your own tokens and once they're inside the board, nobody touches them again, so you can safely play this game without touching your opponent's tokens.
If you have pen-and-paper
If you're like me and carry a small notebook and a pen everywhere you go, you already have the tools to play a pen-and-paper game at any time.
I love Pictionary because I like to doodle. You don't have to be an expert artist to play — I often find that it's more entertaining if you don't have much artistic talent. There's nothing quite like painstakingly drawing a snow-capped mountain bedecked with forests only to have your friends say that they thought you were drawing a slice of pizza.
This game may be slightly more challenging to execute outside because it requires everyone to have access to their own paper and pen. Either bring enough for everyone or remind your friends to bring their own when you meet up. If you can pull it off, Pictionary is one of the most fun games on the list because of how personalized it can be.
Boxed Pictionary is played in teams and requires you to draw cards to determine what you draw. I find that it's more fun when each person suggests a subject to draw and the suggestions are shuffled and redistributed among the players. Everyone draws at the same time, and then players take turns revealing their drawing with the other players guessing what they drew.
Games to play in a group
If you're gathering in larger numbers and you'd like to get moving while you're outdoors, these games are perfect for your crowd.
I've found that this is a great game for a high-energy group. The wild gestures of the miming player and the shouts from teammates as they try to guess creates nothing short of a jolly good time.
This popular party game involves miming a word or phrase selected by an opposing team and guessing it correctly. Since everyone learns Charades differently, make sure to agree on the approved gestures and their meanings before you begin. Some common ones are: holding up a number of fingers to signal the number of syllables in the word; pointing at or tugging your earlobe indicates that the word you're about to mime "sounds like" the answer; holding your hands close together without touching denotes a conjunction or preposition or other short word that would be difficult to act out by itself.
There's often a time limit allocated to miming and guessing. Every time your team guesses correctly within the set amount of time, your team gains a point. The team with the most points at the end wins.
A classic game of stealth and subtlety, this game can be played almost anywhere but is especially good for the park. Trees can conceal clever hiding places or players could hide under benches. One player takes on the role of the seeker. They must find the other players who hide around the park. The objective is to be the last player that the seeker finds.
You can play Hide-and-seek in the park while abiding by today's safety precautions since the seeker doesn't need to touch you. If you spot someone hiding in an area, you can declare out loud that you've seen them, and they can consider themselves "found."
Just make sure you agree on the areas of the park where players are allowed to hide; most of my Hide-and-seek victories have come from me hiding in areas that I hadn't realized were off-limits.
Even before the pandemic, I didn't like being touched. Shadow Tag is an excellent choice for today's social distancing guidelines, but it's a great game in its own right.
Shadow Tag is a no-contact variation of regular Tag: the player designated as "It" tries to tag other players by stepping on their shadows or by having their shadow contact another player's shadow. If you're very tactful, you can run around in an area where the Sun is right above you and thus your shadow's surface area is small.
The only thing you need for Shadow Tag is a sunny day.
Sebastian Yūe is a Toronto-based writer, model, voice actor and player of many games. They are the author of Lake of Secrets, an adventure for Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition), and CORPUS, an unofficial supplement for Heart: The City Beneath. Sebastian has been playing card games since they were six. Follow them on Twitter here.