What it is: A rough-and-tumble, physically active game played in the pool with big groups. Best for teens and older.

Best for: About 10 players to however many you can comfortably fit in a pool.

What you need: A swimming pool, a watermelon, and at least, oh, I’d say ten people to play. (Don’t worry, it will all make sense soon.)

How to play: First, divide your players into two even teams and your pool into two equal sides. Each team gets a side. Then toss the watermelon into the pool (it will float).

The game is basically like football, but in the water, and with a watermelon in place of a football. (Doesn’t this sound hilariously fun already?) The object of the game is for your team to move the watermelon through the pool and place it on the outside edge of the opposing team’s side, all while keeping the opposing team from doing the same to you.

Rules include: no biting, kicking, scratching, drowning, otherwise hurting, or getting out of the pool. But basically, other than that, anything goes. You can push the watermelon, keep it above water or push it under, pass the watermelon to teammates, tackle opposing team members, grab onto the watermelon for dear life – anything to score. As you can imagine, it often turns into a pretty rough physical contact game, but also a pretty funny one (because, come on, how hard/entertaining is it to maneuver/watch other people maneuver a wet watermelon in a pool?).

Variations: I think I’ve heard of covering the watermelon in Crisco, to make it even harder to hold onto. You can also play basically the same game with, instead of a watermelon, a clear 2-liter soda bottle, with the label removed, filled with water. Then it’s a little more challenging and less silly, because it’s a lot harder to locate the non-floating bottle, but a lot easier to maneuver it around the pool.

Capture the flag

What it is: An outdoor, physically active group game (dare I say sport?) for lots of people.

Best for: Big group of at least 10 players.

What you need: First, you’ll need two flags (one for each team). These can be a variety of things; we always used two rags or cloths. You could also use two bandanas, t-shirts, etc., or, if you’re playing at night, two glow sticks.

You’ll also need somewhere to play, which can also be a variety of places, depending on how many people are playing and what type of game you want. I’ve played in front and backyards, big parks, parking lots…just anywhere with lots of space to run around outside, and a way to divide the playing field in two.

Finally, you need people to play, probably at least ten, but up to many more, depending on how big your playing area is. And, depending on how many people are playing, you might want a way to distinguish teams. (If you’re playing with a small group, that probably won’t be a problem because everyone could remember who’s on their team, but if you’re playing with a huge group, different colored t-shirts or bandanas might be a good idea, for instance.)

How to play: First, divide your players into two teams. Then, divide your playing area into two equal sides. (If you’re playing in a park, you can choose trees or other landmarks as dividing lines; if you’re playing in a yard, you could drag a hose across for a divider line; you could lay out shoes or t-shirts in a field; you get the idea.) Within each side, somewhere kinda far away from the dividing line, you’ll also want to designate two areas to be jails (this could be around a tree, in a corner, etc.).

Each team gets a side and a flag, and each team then puts their flag somewhere on their side. You could have a designated flag place picked out beforehand, so both team members know where the flags are, but it’s more fun if teams get to hide their flags, so the opposing team doesn’t know where the flag is. (If you do choose to hide flags, you might want to set some rules, like the flag has to remain visible, or it can’t be placed above players’ shoulders, etc.)

Then you’re ready to start the game. Your team’s goal is to find and bring the opposing team’s flag back to your side, while keeping your flag protected from the other team (because they’re trying to do the same thing). Any players are free to move anywhere in the playing area (on their side or the opposing team’s side) whenever they want, but here’s the catch: when you’re on the opposing team’s side, anyone from their team can tag you and send you to jail.

So that’s basic game play: players run onto the opposing team’s side and try to find and bring back the flag without being tagged and sent to jail. If one of your teammates is caught in jail, you can free them by running onto the opposing team’s side, making it to the jail untagged, and bringing back your teammate.

So while the basic game is simple, play can get very strategic and fun.

Your team could plan a specific attack, for instance, that involves all key players making a mass rush for the flag. Or, you could focus on defense, gather as many players of the opposing team in your jail as possible, and then make a move for the flag. You can have scouts that run and search for the flag, then come back safely and help plan. You can have decoys, trick plays, and kamikaze attacks. The possibilities are endless! It’s a great game for strategy, adrenaline, and teamwork.

It’s also a game that needs some well-defined rules beforehand, because disputes may often arise. Here are some things you might want to agree on with all players before the game starts:

  1. When a player rescues a teammate from jail, do the two players get a free walk back to their side? Or do they have to make a break for it and run the risk of getting tagged again?
  2. If you make a jailbreak, how many players can you bring back with you? One? Two? All?
  3. Is puppy guarding allowed? (Puppy guarding: noun. The act of defensively guarding the flag by standing right on top of or very close to it.) How far from the flag must defenders stand?
  4. What constitutes a tag? One-hand touch? Two-hand touch? Full tackle? (I’ve never played that way, but wouldn’t that be awesome?)
  5. How will players in jail be penalized for breaking free illegally?
  6. If a player finds the opposing team’s flag, grabs it, makes a run back to their side, and gets tagged in the process, what happens to the flag? Does it have to fall where it lands? Do the defenders get to take it back to its hiding spot?
  7. Are challenges allowed? (I never played with challenges growing up, but my husband informed me how they work. Two players from opposing teams stand to face each other, right over the boundary line, both safe on their side. Then they declare a challenge, reach over the boundary line to grasp hands, and try to pull each other to their side. The player who gets pulled to the other side goes to jail.)

Any other rules anyone can think of?

Variations: Like I said, there are many ways you can play capture the flag: outside at night with glow sticks as flags, with big teams or smaller teams, during the day… But one of my favorite and tried-and-true variations is flour bomb capture the flag, perfect if you want to get a little messy.

In the manner of the adverb

What it is: An indoor acting game for big groups, funniest when you’re with a fun group of people comfortable with each other, especially if a few hams are included. Also a kind of fun spin on charades.

Best for: 4 to 12 players.

What you need: Just some creative people to play. Aren’t games like that great?

How to play: Gather all your players in a room and have one player (we’ll say it’s John) leave the room and close his ears. While he’s gone, the rest of the players in the room choose an adverb, one that describes how you might do something. An easy way to think of an adverb for this game is to think of words that end in -ly (for example, dejectedly, chivalrously, or simultaneously). Let’s say the players choose “chivalrously.” Once everyone has agreed on an adverb, call John back into the room.

John’s task is to guess the adverb by having other players act it out. He can call up any number of players in the room, give them any scenario, and then tell them to act it out “in the manner of the adverb,” or in the style of whatever adverb they’ve chosen.

So remember that the adverb is “chivalrously,” but John doesn’t know that. John would walk into the room and say something like this: “Okay, Chloe and Andy, talk to each other on the phone in the manner of the adverb.” Chloe and Andy would then stand up and start acting while John starts guessing and (most likely) everyone else in the room giggles. Players can get creative as to how they act in the manner of the adverb. For example, Andy and Chloe could act out “chivalrously” by being extra courteous on their phone call, or Andy could pretend to pick up the phone and say something like, “Good lady Chloe, what dost thou require? Might there be some dragon that I may slay for thy fair hand?” The main goal should be to act in a way that John can guess the adverb.

John can call up new actors and create a new scenario at any time. If Chloe’s and Andy’s acting just isn’t helping him guess, he can call up new actors and give them a new scenario. It’s also up to John how detailed his scenarios are. He can give players specific roles, like “Chloe, you’re a flight attendant, and Andy, you’re a businessman traveling to Europe. Act out flying on the plane in the manner of the adverb.” Or John could just give the players a general setting, like “Chloe and Andy, act like you’re at a Halloween party in the manner of the adverb.” He can ask everyone to act in the manner of the adverb, or just one specific player. It’s fun to watch different combinations of players act, sometimes even all players at once.

As soon as John guesses the adverb, the round ends and another player leaves the room, then the game starts again. It’s often fun to choose obscure or less well known adverbs that will be harder to guess (for example, instead of something like happily, try enthusiastically or whole-heartedly). We’ve even made up some adverbs before, for fun (Indiana-Jones-ly was a big hit). It’s a fun game, especially if you like charades or acting, and it leads to a lot of laughs, too.

Variations: This game is basically is a more specified and complex version of charades, and it can also be a lot more fun.

Printables: Want some ideas of good adverbs to use for the game? Here’s one you can view or print out. Have fun!

Printable-markerAdverb printable

Game review: Pit

Game: Pit by Hasbro (Wikipedia)

What it is: A loud, fast-paced card game for big groups. The game is based on the commodities exchange, and players trade commodities (like corn, barley, and wheat) by shouting and shoving cards around the table, all at the same time. It makes for some loud, raucous, high-speed fun.

My review: This game is a blast. It really does get loud and noisy, with everyone shouting at once. There’s a bit of strategy involved, but mostly it’s just fast-moving, and kids can play it pretty easily, too. All the times I’ve played and everyone I’ve played it with, it’s been a hit. Perfect if you’re looking for something fun/funny, exciting, and not too mentally stimulating. 😉

(And if you buy the game through the link above, you help support the Game Gal :))

Glow-in-the-dark dodgeball

What it is: An intense, active, get-your-adrenaline-pumping game, one of my all-time favorites. It’s also about a bajillion times more fun than regular dodgeball. I played regularly with a group of friends in high school/early college.

Best for: Group of 6 to 9 players.

What you need: The materials for this game are very specific and might be a little hard to come by, but it’s worth it in the end. First, you need an enclosed space with no or very little furniture or features inside (and for sure nothing breakable), and one that can be made pitch black. Yes, probably rare. We always used the gym at our church building, which was perfect. With everything put away and the doors closed, it was safe, enclosed, and pitch black. It was a half-size gym, which was also perfect; depending on how many people were playing, a full-size gym was sometimes too big.

You also need one or two (depending on your number of players) glow-in-the-dark dodgeballs. I think we got these at a sports store, but it’s just your basic red rubber kickball…except green and glow-in-the-dark. I found one on Amazon that’s not green, but apparently still glows in the dark.

Then, you need players: probably about five or six for one ball, or however many more you want if you have two balls. And tell the players to come in their athletic gear, because this game is intense.

How to play: First, prep the area by making sure there’s nothing in the room to trip over, blocking out any lights you need to, making sure the dodgeballs have soaked up enough light to glow, and telling players to stretch. (Haha, kidding about that last one – mostly…) Then designate one area of the room (we always used the stage) as the place for players to go when they’re out.

Then, when you’re ready to play, divide the players roughly into two groups and have them stand on opposite walls of the room. Place the dodgeballs on a line down the middle. Then turn off the lights. The game starts immediately.

There are no teams; it’s just every man for himself. And unlike regular dodgeball, there is no dividing line. But like regular dodgeball, the object of the game is to peg other players with the ball, getting them out, and at the same time avoid being pegged yourself. The trick is, in the pitch-black room, the only thing you can see are the dodgeballs. It should be dark enough that you can’t even see the other players.

So when the lights go out, players can make a choice: they can fade into the darkness and hide, or be daring and make a grab for one of the balls. Once you’re holding a ball, you try to peg the other players and get them out – which is challenging, admittedly, since you can’t see anything. You can use your hearing, or your luck. Or, if you’re playing with two balls, you can watch the other ball – as soon as it moves, you know someone’s next to it. But if you are playing with two balls, be careful: don’t hold onto yours too long or someone else might get you out! (However, you can use the ball you’re holding to block someone else’s peg; as long as the peg didn’t touch you, you’re still in.)

Players are free to move anywhere around the room, usually trying to stay hidden, but also trying to make a move to grab and throw a ball when they can. It’s largely a game of strategy. There are no teams, but sometimes players form alliances. Anyone is free to grab a dodgeball when one’s available.

If you get pegged, you yell “I’m out!” and make your way to the designated sit-here-once-you’re-out area to visit with your other friends who are out, or provide commentary for the game (pretty creative commentary, since it’s pitch black…). Oh, it’s a good idea to make a lot of noise once you’re out; you don’t want someone mistaking you for a player and pegging you again. And, like regular dodgeball, if someone tries to peg you but you catch the ball, the person who threw it is out. Also, only pegs from the neck down count (no aiming high allowed).

So that’s basically the game. Everyone sneaks around the gym, using his or her own tactics (make daring runs for the ball? Shout out confusing comments? Try to trick the other players into giving their locations away? Hide in the shadows until the end? Whatever you want.) As more people get out, it’s harder for the players still left to find people to peg. Some games can last a good long while. But the game keeps going until one person, the winner, remains.

To play again, turn on the lights, let the balls soak up some more glow, take a break, then start again. My friends and I loved this game: it’s a great adrenaline rush, with lots of stealth and sneakiness involved. And it was always fun to watch for awesome events, like a mid-air collision between two balls, or, the best, when someone would accidentally hit the light switch with the ball and the lights would come on (we’d all cheer at that point).

Disclaimer: This is a pretty hard-core game. In fact, my sister just may have broken her nose while playing…so please be careful. We always started each game with a prayer for safety. It can be dangerous (as you can imagine) with people running, throwing, and dodging in a pitch-black room. Avoid sprinting or fast movements (to avoid running into other players). And I would only recommend this game for teens or older.