Monopoly sucks. We're just gonna say it. The pieces are too small and too many, it takes a flogging fortnight to complete a single match, and the ONLY possible outcome is one annoying winner dancing the cancan on the tabletop while everyone else in the room pelts her with tiny hotels.
Board games are fine, but so limiting! Consider ditching the stifling cardboard gulags of Mouse Trap and Candyland for the unlimited creativity of your own beautiful, nerdy brains.
Here are 4 proven party diversions for word nerds who need no stinkin' boards or dice.
"Hey, Bil-bro Baggins—wanna play questions?"
"Uh…how do you play questions?"
"Did you really just ask how to play questions?"
"Did I stutter, doofus?"
"So you're saying you've never played the game where you can only ask questions?"
"Is that really a game, or just a way to piss off your friends?"
"Can't it be both?"
YES, IT CAN! If you've ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, this frustrating little improv gem may well have alienated several loved ones in your life already. The rules are simple: Only ask questions. The challenge is keeping them relevant to the conversation; optional rules include "no non-sequitur," "no repetition," and "no rhetoric," so basically no answering every question with "who would win in a fight, Voldemort or a pack of those people-dogs from Hunger Games?" See how long you can keep it up.
2. Four Fourths of A Ghost
Here's a Specktor family tradition, passed down from generations of bored word nerds on Hebrew School Buses.
Four Fourths of A Ghost is a spelling game where players in a circle take turns adding letters to the end of a word. The aim of the game is to not be the person who completes a word. For example:
Player 1 says "P"
Player 2 says "O"
Player 3 must be careful. If she adds another "O," as her filthy mind desires, she will have successfully competed the word "POO," making her the loser of the round, earning her One Fourth of A Ghost, or one strike. (Four Fourths of a Ghost and you're OUT.)
So, seeing her fate before her, Player 3 says "N," hoping this gesture will screw over Player 4, who must now think of an alternative to "PONG" or "POND" or "PONY" in an attempt to not finish the word, and make life all the more annoying for Player 5.
Get it? Just don't finish the word!
But be careful about making stuff up, too. A player may attempt to bluff her way through a word at any point, but if another player calls her out and finds that the proposed word is not in the dictionary, the bluffer earns One Fourth of a Ghost. For example, let's say Player 4 adds "C" to the existing "PON." Player 5 says in turn "You're full of crap—what word are you spelling?" Player 4 thus answers "PONCRAPULOUS." The players looks up the word in the dictionary. It is not real. Player 4 Earns One Fourth of a Ghost.
If, however, Player 4 had said "PONCEY," which is a real word, and the dictionary check confirms this, Player 5 earns a Ghost for making a false challenge. Get it?
Other Optional-But-Highly-Suggested rules:
- No proper nouns
- No 2-letter words (or else things would end way too soon)
- No using phones or Internet while playing
That's it! A deceptive mind can play this word game like chess and endeavor to screw over specific players across the circle, but whether or not your comrades will have the same word in mind is a risk you'll just have to take. You might be amazed what your friends come up with. And you might hate them by the end of it, too. (See a pattern with these games?)
Here's another spoken word game, this one more reliant on telepathy than ghosts.
One player thinks of a word. There are no restrictions here—it can be a proper noun with 82,000 letters in it, so long as it's real and common enough to be guessed by your peers eventually.
The Thinker announces the first letter of his word. "B," he says.
Now, the rest of the players—the guessers—take turns asking leading questions about the word's definition.
"Is it a game you play with old people?"
"No," the Thinker says. "It is not BINGO."
"Is it a nubile Canadian pop idol?"
"No," the Thinker says. "It is not BIEBER."
Natch, this can go on for eons. So the Guessers have a neat trick they can pull. If one guesser makes a guess and another player thinks she knows what word they're thinking of, that player can shout "Contact!"
After Contact is announced, the two guessers count down from 3 before both saying the word simultaneously. If the Thinker says the word first, nothing happens. But if the two guessers both shout the same word before the Thinker can respond, then the Thinker must reveal the next letter of his word.
"BO," the Thinker says.
Guessing then resumes.
"Is it a type of drum?"
"No, it is not BONGO."
And so on until the word is guessed.
The trick to this game is phrasing your guesses in a way that will stump the Thinker, but connect with one of the other players guessing. Think of inside jokes and shared experiences to make Contact with another guesser before the Thinker can save his butt. So really, this game is just as much about empathy as it is good vocabulary. When the Thinker loses, the whole team of guessers wins. Become an unstoppable hive mind. Make Contact.
4. The Book Game
If you've ever picked a copy of Francesca And The Sloppiest Werewolf Makeout off a bookstore shelf and announced to the world, "I could write a better story than this"—NOW'S YOUR CHANCE TO PROVE IT! The Book Game asks you and your friends to write a convincing (or hilariously bad) first sentence to the random books sitting around your house, and is actually an awesome exercise in fiction writing.
All you need are pens, paper, and a buttload of books that nobody in your group is familiar with. Each round, one person is appointed the Reader. The Reader picks a book from the pile, reads the title and bookjacket description, then shows off the cover. Everyone else, The Writers, are tasked to come up with what they think could well be the first sentence of that story based on the Reader's description. The Reader collects and reads everyone's answers along with the actual first sentence, then the group votes on their favorite. One point for guessing the real sentence; two points if someone guesses yours.
This game often starts serious, but quickly degenerates into shenanigans when the the hardcore genre stuff comes out. In my experience, smarmy romance produces the best first sentences. So go hit up that Paranormal Romance bookshelf stat.
What other board-free word games do you know?