- The best simple yard and lawn games for adults at outdoor parties and for just hanging around.
- Each game played and tested by me at various parties.
- The lawn and yard games on this list are easy to play, transport and put away, and don’t require much equipment or space. Hence, I did not review outdoor games like volleyball or paintball.
Bocce is the classic outdoor game. Developed in Rome, and popularized in modern Italy, this famous lawn game was brought to America by Italian immigrants. It is quite possibly the simplest, yet challenging yard game, making it the perfect game for sport among friends and family.
All you need is a lawn and a good set of bocce balls. You can have a flat lawn, or a hilly lawn because bocce ball can be played in any grassy yard environment. In fact, the more terrain and obstacles on the lawn, the more exciting the game! However, traditionalists will prefer a flat, rectangle lawn with no obstacles. Still, I favor traps and hills (much like a golf course) to make every game different and more challenging. I don’t like when it is a short shot every turn on a wide-open yard; I would rather long and narrow paths to show off my skills.
You might consider buying a new bocce ball set every year because the bocce balls become dented and slightly deformed when they hit other balls or random obstacles like rocks on your lawn. Thankfully, bocce balls are relatively inexpensive so buying a new set every year is not going to break the bank. I recommend a high-quality brand name bocce set to ensure the balls don’t chip away too quickly.
Simple Bocce Rules:
There are eight bocce balls. There are two colors of bocce balls. For pairs, each team gets four bocce balls with the same color. For singles, each player gets two bocce balls with the same color. There is one pallina ball. The game starts by one team throwing the pallina ball. The goal of the game is to roll bocce balls closest to the pallina ball. Each turn, one by one, each player throws their bocce balls underhanded in an attempt to get closest to the pallina ball.
At the end of each turn, points are awarded for each bocce ball that is closer to the pallina than the closest ball of the opponent. If opposing bocce balls are the same distance, there is no point awarded. At the end of the turn, the winning team throws the pallina again, and another turn begins. In my family, the first to 11 points wins the game.
Just like bocce, we get our second-best outdoor game for adults from Europe. Hailing from Sweden, and created by the Vikings, kubb is a game of skill for teams of two to four with the combined mechanics of cornhole, horseshoes, and bowling.
Kubb is a game of ability, decision making and risk-taking. A player needs to be good at aiming batons at stuff, but also pretty good at setting up their opponent for failure. Winning a game of kubb brings true bragging rights, making it an ideal game for a bachelor party or a massive cottage party.
You will need a flat lawn with a square area with no obstacles. Next, you will need a kubb set that you can make homemade (if you are good at woodworking) or buy from a retailer. A kubb set includes:
- 10 kubbs, or wooden blocks; and
- 1 king, or larger wooden piece; and
- 6 wooden batons; and
- 4 field marking pins, four to designate the corners of the field.
Simple Kubb Rules:
The rules of Kubb are relatively complicated at first, but once learned, seem extremely simple. Most kubb sets will come with several pages of rules. But here I will try and explain the rules in five simple steps. To begin, the kubb set is placed like this:
- The first team throws six batons from their baseline at the second team’s kubbs (the cubes on the baseline).
- Kubbs that are successfully knocked down by the first team are thrown from their baseline by the second team into the first team’s half of the field, and stood up (these newly thrown kubbs are now field kubbs).
- Play changes hands, and the second team throws the batons at the first teams kubbs, but must first knock down any standing field kubbs. Repeat. All kubbs that are knocked down are thrown back over onto the opposite half of the field and then stood up.
- If a team does not knock down all field kubbs before the end of their turn, the kubb closest to the centerline is now the opponent’s baseline, and teams may use that new line to throw at their opponent’s kubbs.
- Play continues until a team knocks down all kubbs on one side. If that team still has batons left to throw, they attempt to knock over the king. If a team successfully knocks over the king, game over.
Giant Beer Pong
Giant, big, mega, outdoor Beer Pong (or whatever you want to call it – it is a new a game) is quickly becoming the sport of choice for college kids and boomers alike in the backyard. Giant beer pong is a supersized version of the original beer pong we all know and love, except for one tiny detail: you don’t fill the cups with any beer. That would be impossible (or lead to certain death). Instead, you just play beer pong for the sport and the skill. But, you can drink casually on the side out of an actual normal-sized dixie cup.
Big beer pong is actually a lot of fun to play. Probably more fun than regular beer pong because each shot is more nuanced. You really have to aim and use skill to toss the ball in the cup and it brings back reflexes from actual sports like basketball or football. Indeed, I can compare mega beer pong to those basketball or football shot games at the theme parks. One thing that is a little different in outdoor beer pong is that most people seem to get their first short or two in the cup, so that adds some drama and pace to the game. The last shot is always the hardest.
There are two kinds of giant beer pong kits sold in store: rubber cups or fold up nylon cups. Both kinds of mega beer pong come with an inflatable ping pong ball. My one issue is that for the nylon brands I tried, you have to buy two sets if you want two balls and six cups on each side. Otherwise, if you just buy one beer pong set you only have three cups on each side, which isn’t true beer pong, and some people wouldn’t know to buy two sets. One other good thing to note: if you lose a ball or your dog bites one (as mine did), you can just use a slightly deflated basketball or volleyball, etc.
Nonetheless, I personally would never buy the rubber cups because you cant stow them away neatly, and they are pretty big. It might be kind of embarrassing to have twelve giant dixie cups that look like red garbage cans on your lawn full time (unless of course, you are into that kind of thing). Rather, I prefer the nylon cups that you can fold away into a small bag and stow in the closest. I like the Wicked Big brand nylon big beer pong cups – they lasted me all summer and didn’t break down.
Simple Giant Beer Pong Rules:
Set up a diamond of six cups on each side. Each team gets two shots to throw the ball in a cup. If they hit two cups in one turn, they get to go again. Otherwise, the next teams take its two shots. Each hit cup is taken off the field. Re-rack the cups at three cups down. You cant block a shot unless it bounced once on the ground. Drink a beer out of a bottle after you lose.
A staple of tailgates, cornhole is a challenging game of skill that everyone loves and knows how to play. It seems that throwing a bean bag at a wooden box actually has some nuance to it. But the best part of cornhole, in my opinion, is that you can really personalize the boards. If you go to a Buffalo Bills tailgate, you will certainly see Bills boards, probably some Labatt Blue and Bud Light boards and other joke boards like this classic:
I just looked it up and there is even a pro cornhole league with an official governing body. The regulations prescribe that all cornhole boards must be 2 x 4 feet, made of high-quality hardwood with a centered hole that is 6” in diameter and located 9” from the top of the board, and that the cornhole should be 12 inches from each side. To that end, if you follow the above-noted instructions, you can make your own ‘official’ cornhole board and add your own interesting twist to it, as these Aggies did (pictured below left). Alternatively, you can buy your own cornhole board from an online retailer for around $25 bucks for a plastic or cheap particle board cornhole board set or spend up to $250 for a solid hardwood product with a nice finish. We would advise going somewhere in the middle, but just make sure you pick a kit that comes with the beanbags, and that it is a hardwood cornhole board, otherwise, your cornhole board won’t meet the regulations of the cornhole governing body, the American Cornhole Organization.
Simple Cornhole Rules:
Throw the bean bags at the cornhole board one by one. At the end of the round, a bag remaining on the board is worth 1 point and a bag that went in the hole is worth 3 points. A game is won when a team gets 21 points.
Kan Jam is a team sport that requires frisbee skill. Its a great disc game for a backyard because it doesn’t require a massive field like for example frisbee golf or ultimate frisbee. Not to mention, Kan Jam is a simple enough game such that anyone can play and be good at it with just a little bit of practice.
Kan Jam is a new game that is a little less known, so if you’re looking to mix it up a bit, Kam Jam is sure to both surprise and impress your friends at your next outdoor party. I understand that there is a grassroots effort to promote the game in elementary schools, so if you want to get ahead of the curve on your (future) kids, start now and catch the Kan Jam craze.
The other nice thing about Kan Jam is that it is easy to pack and put away, meaning you can just leave it in your car to bring to tailgates or friends’ houses or the beach.
Simple Kan Jam Rules:
The object of Kan Jam is to score points by throwing and then deflecting the frisbee into the kan (3 points) or just hitting the kan (1 point). A “deuce”, which is a direct hit of the kan without help from the deflector, is worth 2 points. The game ends when a team scores exactly 21 points or “chogs” the disc through the hole in the front of the kan for an instant win.
The kans are spaced approximately 50 feet apart. One player throws the frisbee, while the other acts as the “deflector” on the other side, who can deflect the frisbee in one strike but cannot catch, carry, or double strike the frisbee.
For true backyard bragging rights, a perfect game occurs when one team reaches exactly 21 points in only 7 shots (i.e. 7 shots into the kan in a row).
You can make your own Kan Jam game by cutting a frisbee sized hole (the chogg) near the top of a garbage can, or you can buy the original Kan Jam and in doing so support an American-made product proudly made in Westen New York.
Giant Jenga isn’t a fast-paced game, it’s slow and simple as it sits in the background of a backyard party or reception. Giant Jenga just kind of sits on the lawn at our parties and people sort of mosey on over for a quick turn without disrupting the scene. That’s why Giant Jenga is so popular at weddings, it’s not offensive and it doesn’t take away from the schmoozing. Not to mention, it attracts players (like older people) who wouldn’t normally play an outdoor game, like for example, a more fast-paced game such as the above-mentioned Kan Jam. Moreover, Giant Jenga is the kind of game that can be played all day, whereas the other outdoor games for adults on this list usually just last an hour or less before people give up and do something else or just relax and socialize.
Mix up your Giant Jenga rules by assigning a rule to a number on a whiteboard (i.e. go again, drink, take a shot) and when a numbered block is pulled, the player must follow the rule associated with that number. Note: Giant Jenga does not have numbered blocks, only Toppling Towers brand has numbers on the blocks. Or, play this large block outdoor game with a giant dice which represents how many blocks must be removed each turn.
In regard to the various twists you can add to Gaint Jenga, I actually do not recommend you buy Giant Jenga. Giant Jenga does not have numbers on the blocks nor does it come with a giant dice. Rather, you should buy Toppling Towers, which comes with a whiteboard (for adding adult rules) and numbered blocks (but no giant dice). Both Giant Jenga and Topping Towers stack to 5 feet high, so they are similar to that effect. You should buy your own giant dice set, and as an added bonus, use them for other outdoor games like Yardzee or Yardkle. I recommend Sport Beat Giant Wooden Yard Dice because their dice are made of solid pine, and have hand-sanded edges & corners.
Horseshoes is the OG outdoor game. Horseshoes is easily the classiest game on this list, and I think everyone can agree it deserves a spot in the top 7. There is something special in feeling and seeing iron in a world of cheap plastic and particleboard. Not to mention, throwing a horseshoe is a unique reflex and a great shot feels cool, kind of like throwing a strike in baseball or bowling.
All you need to play horseshoes are a set of four horseshoes and two stakes. If you live on a farm, you probably already have the ingredients (then again, you probably already have a horsehoes field). Otherwise, you can make your own horseshoes set homemade with some antique horseshoes and metal pegs, or you can buy a set on Amazon for around $50. I do not recommend you buy a cheap horseshoes set, you should spend the money and buy something that is made of solid, high-quality steel, otherwise, the horseshoes will break easily.
If you want to go all the way, invest in some sand and brick or wood siding for each pit. The sand provides a classy and traditional landing area for thrown horseshoes. Mulch works too. If you play at night (which you will), even consider adding lighting to the pits.
Simple Horseshoes Rules:
- The closest shoe to the stake gets 1 point (a shoe must be within one horseshoe-width of the stake to be a point).
- If you get two shoes closer than any of your opponent’s, you get 2 points.
- Ringers (a horseshoe around the stake, with the bottom of the ‘U’ touching the stake) are worth 3 points each.
- If your opponent throws a ringer on top of yours, they cancel each other out.
I don’t like Spike Ball. I think the game is too easy to score a point if you go second. I just huck the spike ball as a hard as I can making it impossible for my opponent to respond to every single time. I think kids might like Spike Ball, but this is a list of the best outdoor games for adults. I also don’t like Outdoor Chess. I think outdoor chess sets look classy if they are well made within the landscaping, but I don’t have the patience for the actual game of chess, and I think at parties, most people won’t bother playing for the same reason. In addition, I am not a big fan of Croquet. I found the mechanics boring. The first hit is kind of fun, but aiming at the nets when you are close is annoying, and I found that every game we played, everyone just gave up and left quite bored. Contrariwise, nobody ever left a Bocce or Kube game midway through. Everyone wanted to keep playing those games all night. That said, I do recommend these three other yard games that didn’t quite make this top-7 list of the best outdoor games adults in 2020:
- Molkky; and
Hi, I’m JD (Big Daddy). After I became a lawyer and ran a successful law practise for a while, I became more interested in other things in life like developing new technology, playing in the outdoors and taking lots of vacations. I spend less time being a lawyer now, and instead, I’m trying to pursue my real passions, so I have some extra time to document all my fun in various blogs. I hope to continue blogging for the rest of my life and retire from the law by age 50.
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