Telephone

What it is: A simple, silly talking game with no winners or losers. Great for kids.

Best for: Group of 6 to 12.

What you need: Just people to play.

How to play: Sit all of your players in a line. The player at one end of the line (we’ll call her Janna) thinks of a phrase or saying. It can be something made-up; in fact, it’s often funnier if it is. Something like, for example, “The cow ate the apple pie.” It can be as silly as Janna wants, about people in the room or about something random.

Once Janna thinks of her phrase, she whispers it quietly in the ear of the player next to her, Robby. Robby listens carefully, and then once Janna finishes whispering her phrase, he leans over and whispers it in the ear of the player next to him. The game continues like this, with the phrase being passed all the way down the line of players.

Now if Robby doesn’t clearly hear the phrase Janna whispers or it doesn’t make much sense to him, he CAN’T ask Janna to repeat it – that’s a rule. Each player is only allowed to say the phrase once. So if Robby didn’t hear right, he just has to guess the best he can at what the phrase might be and whisper it to the next player.

That’s where the fun of the game comes in, because by the time the phrase reaches the end of the line, it’s usually so different from the original as to be silly. Once the last player (we’ll call him Benny) has the phrase whispered in his ear, he repeats it out loud to the other players, and then everyone laughs at the absurd differences in the sentences, perhaps as what started as “The cow ate the apple pie” ends as “Now Nate learns to fly.”

To play another round, have Janna move to the end of the line and let Robby start the next phrase.

Variations: Telephone is a good simple game, but there are some more involved – and fun – variations involving charades and pictionary. Watch for posts on them soon!

Spud

What it is: A fun kid outdoor game (and one that involves pegging, if you like those kind) that actually has nothing to do with potatoes (even though they’re like one of my favorite foods).

Best for: A big group of about 20.

What you need: A big open area. A flat, grassy field is perfect. You’ll also need some sort of ball, which you will be using to peg each other. I’ve played with a kick ball, but you could also do a tennis ball (ouch) if you’re tough or a hacky sack or soccer ball.

How to play: First, assign each player a number, starting at 1 and ending at however many players there are. (Players will need to remember their number, but not anyone else’s.) One person, like Toby, starts out as it. He stands holding the ball and everyone else stands around him in a circle.

To start the game, Toby takes the ball and throws it straight up into the air as high as he can, at the same time shouting out a number that he knows belongs to one of the other players, like “Seven!” And as soon as Toby shouts out a number, all of the players including Toby run away from the ball as fast as they can – all except player number seven, who we’ll call Julia. As soon as Julia hears Toby call her number, she runs to catch the ball (or pick it up as fast as she can, if she doesn’t catch it). And as soon as Julia is holding the ball in her hands, she shouts “SPUD!” as loud as she can, and all players immediately freeze wherever they are.

Julia then gets the chance to peg another player to get him or her out. She must freeze where she’s standing, too, but she can look around and survey who’s closest to her. Say she decides to aim for Robbie because he’s closest. She gets to take three steps towards Robbie and then has one chance to peg him.

If Julia succeeds in pegging Robbie, he gets the letter S. Once a player gets an S-P-U and D, they’re out of the game. If Julia misses or Robbie catches the ball, she gets an S. While he’s being targeted, Robbie can’t movie his feet or he gets an S, and Julia can’t move hers, either, or she gets an S.

Once Julia or Robbie has a letter, Julia picks up the ball again and gets to start a new round by throwing the ball high in the air and shouting out another number.

The game continues until only one player remains, and he or she wins.

Variations: For a shorter version, you can play single elimination, meaning as soon as a player is tagged once, they’re straight out of the game.

Also, depending on the ball you’re using and the ages and strength of your players, you might want to do away with (or modify) the take-three-steps rule.

Caution: As with all throwing-and-pegging games, don’t hurt each other. :) Only allow pegging from the shoulders down, and make sure the size and hardness of the ball is adequately matched to the age of your players.

Corporation

What it is: A big-group indoor memory and guessing game. Entertaining and great for teens or adults.

Best for: A big group of at least 10 people.

What you need: A slip of paper for each person to write on, pens to write with, and a hat or bowl to collect your slips of paper.

How to play: First, pass out the pens and paper and have everyone secretly write a name on their slip. It can be any name – usually a celebrity or famous character, but it could be a made-up name too. Mostly, it should be a name that other players wouldn’t immediately associate with you (this is an important part of the strategy of winning the game).

Players fold up their slips of paper and put them all in a bowl or hat. Then one player (who, to avoid giving him or her an unfair advantage, shouldn’t be particularly good at identifying the others’ handwriting) goes through and reads all the names out loud, probably a couple of times, just to make sure that everyone knows all of the names. Players should listen carefully when the names are read aloud, because that’s the last time they’ll hear them.

Then the game can start. At first, it’s every man for himself, and the object for each player is to form the biggest “corporation” by pulling other players onto their team. Players take turns guessing which name another player wrote. If the guess is correct, the guesser gets that player on his or her corporation. If the guess is incorrect, the guessed player gets a turn to guess somebody else’s name.

So let’s set up a sample game to illustrate. Alyssa, Jared, and Savannah are three players playing with their friends. The players just heard all of the written-down names read aloud, including the names Socrates, Grace Kelly, and Bob.

Alyssa is selected to start. She starts by guessing which name one of the other players wrote on their slip of paper. So she would say something like, “Jared, are you Grace Kelly?” If Jared didn’t write Grace Kelly on his paper, he would say, “nope,” and then it would be Jared’s turn to guess. He might say, “Savannah, are you Bob?” Say Savannah did write down the name Bob on her paper. She says yes, and then she joins Jared’s “corporation,” or becomes part of his team. For the rest of the game, Jared and Savannah will work together  – they can confer and help each other, but ultimately Jared is the boss of the corporation (and the winner of the game if his corporation wins).

So after Savannah joins Jared’s corporation, Jared (and now Savannah) would get another chance to guess. After conferring with Savannah, Jared might say, “Alyssa, are you Socrates?”

Also, if sometime later in the game, Alyssa guessed Jared’s name, that means that Alyssa gets Jared and Savannah on her corporation.

So you can see that memory is a very important skill. First, it’s important for players to remember the names that were read off at the beginning. (There’s usually always one name, something common or nondescript, that manages to slip everyone’s memory until the end. The player who wrote down that name is lucky and has a good shot of winning.) It’s also important for players to remember who guessed what. Also, the bigger a corporation gets, the better they usually get, because there are more people conferring and helping each other guess.

It’s fun to watch the dynamics of the game, and each round will be different: sometimes it might be one giant corporation against another, or other times it might be one pretty big corporation against a lot of mom-and-pop businesses (one- or two-group teams who have managed to avoiding getting guessed out by the larger corporations). In the end, there will be one giant corporation with one player at the head, and that player is the winner.

Strategies: Mind games can play an important role in strategy. For example, if Jared wrote down the name Socrates, he might want to guess, when it’s his turn, “Jeremiah, did you write down Socrates?” Jared would know the answer would be no, of course, but it might confuse the other players. (“His name must not be Socrates because he asked Jeremiah if that was his name.”)

A lot of mind-reading and interpretation will probably happen as players try to guess which name was written down by who. So one of the best things you can do to win is write down a name that no one will associate with you (but not so obviously opposite as to attract attention). The best name I ever used was Hoo Flung Dung – no one suspected a nice, quiet girl like me to write down such a silly name, I guess. 😉 You have my permission to use the name when you play; it’s a winner.

Name that movie

What it is: A casual, often unorganized talking and guessing game.

Best for: 2 players or however many more you want.

What you need: Nothing!

How to play: The basic game is simple: players take turns quoting movies while other players try to guess which movie is being quoted. Example: Cody might say, “That wimpy deer?!” Everyone else would guess, “The Sandlot!”

So the details of how you play are up to you. You can be strict and say that only the person who guessed the movie correctly gets to say the next movie line. You could even keep score. Or, you could just play casually and have players quote movies as they think of them. It’s a great time killer game.

Variations: A fun (and natural) variation for a larger group of players would be for someone to quote a movie, and then if another player guesses the movie, instead of just saying the title, they could name another quote from the same movie to help the remaining players guess. So, if Cody said “That wimpy deer!?” and Gabby figured out the movie, she might add “You’re killing me, Smalls!” (This can actually be a pretty fun game all on its own.)

If you have an iPod or computer and someone with an impressive music library, you could also play name that movie with soundtracks or movie scores. Just have one person play snippets of different songs and see who can name the movie the fastest.

Oh, and bonus if anyone can name the three movies quoted in this post’s picture!

The human chair

What it is: One of those big-group, invade-your-personal-space teambuilding games (the kind my husband actually hates because they can be awkward). But perfect if you have a lot of teenagers and you want to build team spirit and unity…spunity, if you will.

Best for: A big group of at least 20 people.

What you need: Just people to play, and somewhere like a big field where you can all fit in a circle (best played outside).

How to play: This is really more of a teambuilding activity than a game with winners and losers. There are no teams; just gather all of your participants together and have them stand in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder. Then in unison, have everyone turn to the right so everyone is facing the back of the person directly in front of them. If necessary, have everyone scoot in slightly so you’re all standing pretty close. Have everyone hold the shoulders of the person in front of them.

Then on the count of three, have everyone sit (on the lap of the person standing behind them). This needs to be done in unison or part of your circle will fall on the ground (which can be fun, too). Practice until you’ve successfully completed the human chair and everyone is sitting and stable on someone else’s lap.

*Very spunified human chairs will even be able to shuffle forward (kind of walk) all around the circle in unison, while sitting. Yep, something to aim for, for sure.