What it is: A classic word-guessing game played on paper or a chalkboard.

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

What you need: You’ll need paper and pencil, or something else to write with (chalkboard, wipe-off board, etc.).

How to play: The object of the game is for one player to think of a word or phrase, then for the other players to successfully guess the word before their guesses run out.

Let’s say Eli, Lucy, and Zander are playing. Eli will be the first to think of a word, so he silently thinks of one: apple. Then he sets up the game on a piece of paper by drawing a shape like this:

Then, next to it, he draws blanks to represent each letter in the word (or phrase) the other players are guessing:

Now Lucy and Zander can start guessing which word fills the blanks. They do so by guessing one letter at a time. Say Lucy guesses the letter E.

Eli thinks of his word. If the letter Lucy guesses appears in the word, Eli fills it in every time it appears:

Now Lucy and Zander know one letter of the word. Next, Zander might guess the letter T. But Eli knows the letter T isn’t in his word, apple, so Eli marks it as an incorrect guess by beginning to draw a hanging stick figure. He also writes the incorrect letter down below, so Lucy and Zander can keep track of their incorrect guesses:

Say Lucy guesses the letter P. Eli fills in all of the P’s in the word:

The game continues with Lucy and Zander guessing letters. If Eli completes the drawing of the stick figure, like this:

…that means that Lucy and Zander lose because they didn’t guess the word in time. But if Lucy and Zander correctly guess all the letters in the word or the whole word itself at any time, they win.

Then start another round! We usually played that the person who guessed the word (or last letter) correctly got to choose the next word or phrase.

Ah, this game got me through lots of long hours of high school economics class. 🙂 Some of the hardest words to guess are short words with few vowels, like black. Rare words like myrrh and hymn are great, too.

Hangman is easily adaptable for themes: just have players think of words or phrases to fit a particular area. (History hangman, anyone?) It’s a great time-filler, too, and works well with classes when there’s some time to kill.

Printables: Not that it’s necessary to play the game, but if you’d like a pre-made hangman printout, just click here and enjoy!


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