Zoom games

This holiday season, the pandemic has forced Americans to think creatively about get-togethers with family or friends.

Many of us are staying in touch with loved ones via the tiny cameras embedded in the fronts of our phones and laptops.

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As the number of reported coronavirus cases continue to rise across the U.S., Americans are forgoing in-person gatherings for these virtual — but not identical — replacements. If you ever want to move beyond just conversations and try to recapture some of the spirit of person-to-person interaction, there are a number of games involving cards, phones and boards that can be played through Zoom or other videoconferencing tools.

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With enough time and resources, almost any board or party game can be played via videoconferencing. But for the purposes of this guide, we’ll be focusing on those that are easy to set up and fun. The games below are ordered from least to most complex, with the last few requiring a bit more planning, resources and/or ingenuity, like screensharing or broadcasting video of a tabletop game.

Chess

The classic two-player game for those who prefer traditional solutions to virtual gaming.

What you need to play?

Zoom and a version of Chess on your computer, tablet or smartphone. (2 players)

Chess is in vogue thanks to Netflix. The coronavirus has forced Americans to dust-off our old hobbies but “The Queens Gambit,” a Netflix original series about an American chess prodigy, has propelled the centuries-old game to a newfound popularity. Chess sets are selling out across the country, according to a report by NPR.

Luckily, there are countless ways to play Chess online. One of the most popular is through chess.com, where you can create an account and then challenge friends or family for a match over Zoom. You can also download the game, as an app, on iOS or the Google Play Store. Both options are free but chess.com does offer a membership program for lessons, training puzzles and tournaments.

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Turn on Zoom during a match to practice your icy stare, as a coldblooded chess champion. Or, just for a friendly chat while mulling over your next move. This is one of the simplest games on the list to recreate virtually.

Heads Up

A quick trivia-guessing game with a slew of categories.

What you need to play: Zoom and phones or tablets with the game. (2-∞ players)

Heads Up! is a fast-paced game of charades in which each player has to guess a person, place or thing with help from the audience.

To play remotely, everyone needs to download the Heads Up! app on their phone. Players then select a deck of cards from a certain category, like movies, celebrities or brand names. At the start of every round, one person holds a phone to their forehead that displays the answer, showing the audience the answer, but leaving the phone-holder in the dark. Zoom allows users to hide their own reflected video display. Otherwise, you’ll be able to see the answer written right above your forehead.

You can play Heads Up! on teams or individually. The fun comes from thinking of witty hints to help the phone-holder say the correct name. When they guess correctly, they flip the phone down and score points. The goal is to correctly guess as many terms as possible in one minute.

A warning from experience: it can get a bit unwieldy trying to hold an iPad on your forehead without flipping it onto the living room carpet. The app is free, but if you’re having fun, you can download more decks with other categories such as Star Wars, Seinfeld or trivia from past decades.

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Battleship

(No, not this Battleship)

What you need to play?

Any video call app and two boards of Battleship; or paper and a writing utensil. (2 players)

The objective of Battleship is to find and sink all the vessels on your opponent’s board before they destroy yours. The catch is, neither of you know where the other has placed their battleships. It’s a guessing game with a bit of strategy in the later rounds.

Battleship is for two players, and both will need a version of the game. If you’re feeling crafty, all you need is a ruler, some paper and some markers. The “battle stations” in the game are laid out on grids, and at the start of each game, players place their five ships in various places on the grid. Every round, the two players guess where their opponents boats may be — like “Go Fish” but with imaginary ships and torpedoes.

The first player to sink all their enemy’s ships wins. All around, it’s a pretty simple war game.

Outburst

Family Feud, but it’s on Zoom instead of ABC.

What you need to play?

Any video call app and at least one copy of the game. (4-10 players)

We asked people on Twitter to share what games they’re playing remotely and found Outburst, a timed party game from Hasbro that requires you to quickly name the top ten terms in a particular category, such as “chores parents ask their kids to do.” There’s a lot of shouting in this game, so you’ll want to take your Zoom off mute.

The game splits players into two teams who switch places every round between judging and guessing the answers. The more terms you correctly name, the more points for your team.

It’s a simple game and if you have one person playing the role of Steve Harvey for the entire time, you only need to buy one set of the game to play.