Just a Minute

This is based on a BBC Radio game. It seems too complicated for a casual, quick game, but if you get the basic idea, you can play it much more simply – just try to go for a minute and you either make it or you don’t. Or, you can do it as teams – if one team member falters, another takes over.

A ref picks a topic (e.g. “eggs”) and times you while you try to speak about that topic for one minute. You get a point for every second. You’re out if you hesitate, repeat a word (other than small, common words like “the”) or go off topic.

Other players call you on fouls, and if the ref agrees you’ve screwed up, the caller gets to take over your original minutes. After each round, choose a new ref.


Ref: The topic is “grandmothers.” Go.

A: My grandmother died five years ago. She was my favorite relative. Before she died, I…

B: Repetition of “died”!

Ref: I agree. B takes “grandmothers” for 50 seconds.

B: Grandmothers deserve more credit than they get, because … um …

C: Hesitation!

Ref: Right. C takes over for 45 seconds.

C: My grandmother used to bake me chocolate chip cookies. They were really tasty. I used to take them with me to school and give them to all my friends, which made me really popular, and…

A: Deviation! He’s not talking about grandmothers.

Ref. Right. A wins back “grandmothers” for 32 seconds. Go…

Follow the Leader’s Face

Follow the leader, except instead of moving around you make faces  at each other and try to mimic them.

Plus One

This is really simple and surprisingly fun. We played it at the Life is Good Conference and everybody enjoyed it. Sometimes the simplest games are really the best.
This is a two-player game.

Player A says a number between 1 and 10. Player B has to say the number that comes after it, very quickly. (A rhythm of 1/2 to 1/3 second for each response is good, you can clap together to get the feeling of a rhythm.)

Then, Player A has to say another number, keeping the same rhythm. (It can be the same number or a different one, but not the next one.). Player B has to say the number that comes after THAT number.

Back and forth it goes, until someone makes a mistake. At that point, start over with roles reversed.

Mistakes: Player A makes a mistake if he takes too long to think up a new number, or if he mispronounces a number, or just counts up one more. Player B makes a mistake if she takes too long to think of the number she should say, or if she says the wrong number.

Scoring: A mistake counts as a point for the other player. First person to a certain number of points wins. (Scoring is optional, you can just keep playing back and forth indefinitely).

Advanced Play: If you get really good, set a certain number of correct responses which will result in a point for Player B. (15 or 20 correct responses are easy enough to count on your fingers.)

Mystery Word

This is a spelling game – so keep in mind the spelling abilities of the kids. It is REALLY fun for those who have some spelling ability, but if somebody in the group isn’t a good speller, pick another game. If you play with young kids just learning to spell, try to think of simple words to start with.

The object is to spell a spontaneous mystery word, as a group, with each player taking sequential turns adding a letter until the word is complete. The first player unable to add a letter loses.

The first person will think of a word and say the first letter of that word without revealing what they are thinking. The next player will think of a word beginning with the same first letter, (which may or may not be different from the first person’s word) and say the second letter out loud. The third will say a third letter, and so on in a round until there are no more letters that can be added to the word or someone can’t think of a word starting with that combination of letters.

Challenges can be posed if one suspects a player of making up or misspelling a word, but the challenge loser loses the match.

Game Example:

Player 1: ‘E’
Player 2: ‘G’
Player 3: ‘Y’
Player 4: ‘P’
Player 1: ‘T’
Player 2: ‘I’
Player 3: ‘A’
Player 4: ‘N’
Player 1: ‘S’

Wipe Out

This has become my family’s favorite car trip game.

Pick a category, e.g. makes of car, types of fruit, films with Bruce Willis in them, superheroes, etc. Players then bid as to how many things in that category they can name. Bidding must start at 1 and go up 1 at a time (i.e. someone can’t make a first bid of 4 followed by someone bidding 7).

When bidding has ended (not everyone has to bid, but you can bid more than once), the person with the highest bid must try to name that number of items.

“Sequels” are not allowed, so in a “time travel film” category you couldn’t have Terminator AND Terminator 2. What constitutes a “sequel” in other categories is open to debate and decided by group consensus (e.g. if the category was “sports played with balls” you probably wouldn’t allow minor league baseball and major league baseball.

Some people try to heckle the guesser, to distract him. But in my family, we let one person go as far as they can and then, if they falter, we turn it into a cooperative challenge and try to see how many we can name together.

Serial Number Poker Hand

When you have just a few minutes to wait.

Each person gets a dollar bill and finds the best poker hand they have among the card values given by their serial numbers. No flushes are available as there are no suits, but many other hands are there.

What Am I?

Easy game – after you play a time or two, let the kids take their turn at being the describers.

Pick a category (animals, TV show characters, etc.) and start describing something until your child guesses what or who you are. “I’m long and skinny, I have no arms or legs, I live in the earth, I wiggle . . .”

“A worm!”

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