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.