I love planning parties. Unfortunately, I don’t get to throw them often enough, and certainly not many themed parties. So instead, I suppose I’ll channel everything into themed game nights!
There are a lot of ways you could go about a themed game night. Memorial day makes me think of summer. The pools and beaches open, school is very nearly at its end for kids, and yes, the season of big blockbuster hits full swing. But honestly, for this I thought I’d go for classic Americana, like straight out of the 1940s.
You can, of course, play any game you want. But these four I’ve chosen specially because they fit with the Memorial Day theme for various reasons.
Axis & Allies 1942
- Players: 2-5
- Playtime: 2 hours
Axis and Allies is a strategy game set in the midst of 1942. Each player becomes one of 5 Axis or Allied powers: Germany, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, or the Soviet Union. You command the country’s military forces, plan attacks, resolve conflicts, and conquer or liberate the world’s greatest cities.
The Manhattan Project
Timeline 6: American History
- Players: 2-8
- Playtime: 15 Minutes
The Timeline games are really fast and quick. I like them as filler games — the ones you play between longer games, the ones you play while someone is helping with dinner or tending to a small child. In Timeline, each player takes turns adding his or her cards to the ones on the table, placing in the correct chronological order.
It’s worth noting that Timeline comes in several variations based on specific interests, but for the holiday I feel the American History deck is particularly appropriate for the occasion.
King of New York
- Players: 2-6
- Playtime: 30-60 Minutes
Remember how I said that Memorial Day makes me think of summer and summer blockbusters? Well, what could be more fitting than an invasion of monsters in New York City? In King of New York, each player becomes monster bent on claiming New York City for their own. Be the first to gain 20 Victory Points, or be the last monster standing.
Game nights should be fun and easy, and party planning is usually anything but. The average game night, however, is usually a bit smaller than a proper party, too. So let’s keep it simple!
If you really want party decorations, go for it. Get some red, white and blue bunting and some pinwheels and lay out the tablecloths. Whatever makes you happy! I’m going to focus on my recommendations for what to serve.
Depending on the time of your event, who you’re inviting, and everyone’s preferences, you might want to do a full meal, or just serve desserts, snacks, or drinks.
Entree wise, grilling is a great idea. It’s generally quick (unless you’re doing barbecue, which is low and slow and usually won’t require much care anyway) and easy. You could also do a pot luck and ask everyone to bring something. That’ll cut down on your prep work and allow all of you to get to gaming.
Now, if you want a bit of retro inspiration, try adding some Asian-inspired chicken wings (like Alton Brown’s glazed chicken wings) or Korean-style short ribs (try these from Bobby Flay).
Once again, I turned to the 1940s for some dessert inspiration, simple and classic: You’re not going to go wrong with deep dish apple pie and ice cream, or lemon meringue pie. If you haven’t mastered the art of pies, find a good bakery. If you have perfected your tender flaky crusts and sweet fillings, have at it.
This is where I get excited. I love snacks. I love making them, and I especially love sharing them. And all of my suggestions are things you can make in advance or take hardly any prep.
Fireworks are slightly more of a Fourth of July thing, but it’s not uncommon to see kids with sparklers, right? Try some pretzel rods zipped in chocolate. White or regular chocolate, it doesn’t matter — though in my experience, if you use the sugar crystal sprinkles, they’ll only show their colors with white chocolate.
If you don’t care for pretzel rods, you can always dip the twists in red, white, and blue candy melts. Get a bit patriotic and arrange them on a rectangular platter in a flag design, if you like. Or, try some white chocolate-dipped pretzels, strawberries and blueberries.
Find a good pretzel dipping tutorial here. In my experience, you can use vegetable shortening to thin the chocolate out to make the pretzels easier to dip. And almond bark or other candy melts tend to be a bit easier to work with than actual chocolate and it sets easier.
RED, WHITE AND BLUE SKEWERS
Keep with the red, white, and blue theme and try some marshmallows, strawberries, and blueberries loaded onto skewers. It’s definitely a kid-friendly snack, too!
COOKIES AND DIP
This is my recommendation if you go for King of New York as your game of choice: Gingerbread men. For one, it’s a classic 1940s treat, and two, there’s something oddly fitting about eating humanoid cookies while playing as a monster invading New York. If you don’t like gingerbread, you can always do the same with sugar cookies. Just look for a recipe that doesn’t spread much. I like this one from BakedBree.
As for dip, there are a lot of options, from brownie batter to red velvet, or cheesecake dip for gingerbread cookies.
If you’re of age, there’s no reason not break out a few beers. A Manhattan would be perfect for the retro theme ( try this make-ahead recipe here), but if whiskey isn’t your cup of tea. Since it’s the start of summer, crisp, summery drinks like a sangria are a perfect choice.