Good games are the source of a lot of fun and laughs at camp. Pick any games you'd like, but keep in mind this is about unplugging from the electronics and everyday life and connecting with the ones that really matter. So "batteries not included" is not only preferred, it's a downright priority. Here's a look at five games that have been mainstays in a couple of camps that I've been blessed to be a part of for many years now.
If you're not from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or somewhere close, you likely haven't heard of Euchre. It's a difficult game to explain and is best learned by playing practice rounds.
My indoctrination into Euchre came at a young age. Euchre is like a second language in my family. Every gathering entails multiple tables of Euchre and catching up. Where Euchre really set in for me though, was huddled around a table listening to what my dad saw that day in the woods as we called trump and tricks were played. As I got a little older, I began adding my stories of the day's encounters and talking strategies for the next day, complaining about farmers' hands being three-suited, and fighting yawns.
To learn how to play, do some research and watch some videos. When you sit to play, pay attention. The cards and suits change as quickly as the conversations. Watch out for that uncle who's taken too many trips to the cooler and constantly reneges because he's forgotten trump. It's fast-paced and a blast sure to lead to hollering, finger-pointing, and laughs. The best part is, that all you need for this cheap entertainment is a deck of cards and four people.
Tripoley is a game that has evolved with multiple versions. The version I grew up playing with family and friends at gatherings and throughout the fall is more specifically called Michigan Rummy. We still have and play with the original board my parents got back in the late 80s.
Like Euchre, this is a great group game. It’s a fast pace game, but if the conversations and jokes are flowing, it can be stopped and started easily for bathroom breaks, snack refills, and cooler runs.
All you need is the rummy board, deck of cards, and a pile of pennies for your antes and bids. It’s great for all ages; all you have to do is work through your hand playing in order from twos up to aces following suit. Once it gets to hearts, the game is on! You get to collect any pennies in the trays for face card hearts. So keep the deer talk flowing and be on the lookout for those queen-king and 8-9-10 runs.
Rummikub is one of the first games I ever learned as a youngster. Great for all ages and a perfect game if you're catching up with hunting camp friends you don't see very often. You can play as fast or slow as you want with as many breaks as needed.
It's a matching and sequence game, similar to the shape of dominos, and the idea is to string together runs of numbers and sets of numbers all based on color. We'd play this one for hours every fall while using my grandparent's old farmhouse as our weekend deer camp. Leaving the table covered in tiles for days at a time while each person turned their tiles face down so no one else could see what they had.
Watch out for the little peg-legs on the boards, though. If you aren't careful, the leg can come out, the board falls, everyone looks at what you have. And from my experiece, grandpa won't ever discard the tile he's holding that means nothing to him but keeps you from winning.
The game can be stopped and started anytime. So when you see the taillights backing in by the barn out that kitchen window, you can break and head for the barn for some great stories and have all-hands-on-deck to help hang the deer after a successful hunt.
Often dubbed an "old" person's game, cribbage holds a special place in my heart. When I was a kid learning how to bowhunt in the swamps of southern Michigan, I'd stay with my grandparents every weekend to hunt the swamp and woods behind their small farm.
Many evenings we'd either play Rummikub or Cribbage. Once I got the hang of the points system and how to peg points, and properly hold and discard the right cards, I grew to really enjoy the game. It's fun strategizing all the ways to get to fifteen, counting nibs and nobs, and the patience of getting the right cards to make moves. It keeps the mind going while you can still brainstorm what the deer are doing and where the best setup will be for the next day.
Poker fits hunting camp as well as old knit furniture from the seventies and mix-matched dishware. It just works. Whether you’re playing Texas hold 'em or five-card draw, everyone typically has a grasp on how to play or plays it passionately. If they don’t, they’ll catch on pretty quick.
You can play for cash or for fun, in large or small groups. There's a game and a format that works for any camp conditions. I was in a turkey camp in the south where we played hold 'em for the best-looking spots to hunt the following day—you could say it was pretty high stakes.
Regardless of what games you choose for your camp, keep it fun, laugh until you tear up, and soak in the moments. They don't come often enough and are gone far too quickly. When it's all said and done, these memories of light-hearted games with family and friends in hunting camp could be some of the best you ever make.
Feature image via Captured Creative.