Best for: Group of about 12, or bigger, depending on how many people you can fit in a room.
What you need: Enough people to play (probably at least twelve), slips of paper for everyone to write on, pens to write with, and enough seats in a room for everyone (e.g., chairs or couches or benches). Each seat should be clearly distinguishable, so the floor probably wouldn’t be the best, and it’s best if they’re arranged in a circle. Oh, and you need one couch that seats exactly four people (or a bench or set of chairs will do).
How to play: First, designate one four-seater couch (or bench or set of chairs) as the Couch. The point of the game is to have all four seats on the Couch occupied by your team members. Next, divide into two teams. The easiest way to play is boys versus girls, because everyone always needs to remember who’s on their team, and things might get a little confusing later. Boys versus girls is easy. If you can’t do boys versus girls, though, maybe you could divide family versus family, or teens versus adults—any division that the players will be able to remember easily.
So you have your teams? Good. Let’s say you’re playing boys versus girls. So next, have everyone sit in the circle in the order boy-girl-boy-girl. (This means that each team will have two players on the Couch.) Also, it’s important that one seat stays empty, so you need one more seat than there are people.
Next, hand out the slips of paper and pens and have everyone write their first name down (if you have two players with the same name, have them use their last initial, too). Then gather up the slips of paper, toss them in a hat, and hand them out to everyone again. Each player will get someone else’s name. Someone might get his or her own name, but that’s fine. It’s just important that everyone keep the name a secret.
Okay, so you’re with me so far? Good. Now you’re ready to play. Let’s say Keith, Liz, Ben, and Ann are playing. Keith is one of the lucky ones sitting on the couch. Liz and Ben are sitting in random seats in the circle. And Ann is sitting in the seat to the right of the empty seat: because of this, she gets to start.
Remember the objective: each team wants to get four of their players on the Couch. Here’s how it works: Ann calls out the name of anyone in the room, like “Ben.” Then whoever is holding the slip of paper with Ben’s name on it (say it’s Liz) would get up and move to sit in the empty chair next to Ann. Then Liz and Ann would trade papers, so now Ann is Ben, and Liz is whoever was on Ann’s paper (nobody but Ann and Liz know).
Then the person to the right of Liz’s old chair gets to call out a name. So that’s basic game play: the player to the right of the empty chair calls out a name, and the player holding the piece of paper with that name moves to the empty chair, and then the players switch names.
Now remember that Keith started on the Couch? Let’s pretend he’s holding a slip of paper with Donna’s name on it. Eventually, someone will say “Donna,” and Keith will have to get up and move. That means one of the Couch spaces is now open. Then Kelly (the person sitting to the right of where Keith was sitting) is lucky: she gets the chance to fill the open seat on the Couch with one of her team members, as long as she can remember one of the names one of her team members is currently holding.
So memory is an important part of this game. The girls in the room are trying to figure out the boys’ names on the couch so they can call them off, and vice versa. And the people who are sitting to the right of a Couch seat are trying to keep track of the names of their teammates so that, when a Couch seat opens up, they can fill the seat with their team members. But people shuffle around all the time, and you never know if you’ll be called to a Couch seat or off the Couch or what. So you try to keep track of everything, but with all the seat-switching and name-switching, you can imagine that it gets pretty complicated!
As far as rules go, team members aren’t allowed to help each other, especially when it’s the team member whose turn it is to call someone to an empty chair. (People may talk and whisper when it’s not their turn, but try to keep it to a minimum.) There’s lots of memory and thinking involved, but it’s great fun, and a big moment of triumph for the winning team when they win.