How to play: The point of the game is to get your team members to guess the target word by explaining the word to them out loud. The trick is, you can’t say the word (or any variant of the word) or you lose the round.
So to start, prepare a bunch of words or phrases on slips of paper (see below for some pre-made printable word lists, or use my online word generator). You could divide these into categories (famous people, foods, sports, household items, animals) or just mix them all together.
Put your papers into a bowl or hat and then situate all your players. Divide everyone up into two teams and have everyone sit in a circle, alternating members from each team (if you can find a way to divide teams like boys versus girls, then it’s good because it’s very easy to remember who’s on your team).
Choose one player, like Marty, to start. Marty takes the bowl of words, draws one, and immediately starts to describe it while at the same time someone starts the timer (for as much time as you all choose). As soon as Marty starts describing, his team members can start shouting out guesses (while the opposing team stays silent/watches the timer). Marty can say anything as long as it’s not the word written on the paper or any variant of the word. (The opposing team members sitting next to Marty can look over his shoulder and make sure he doesn’t say any words he’s not allowed to.)
Say Marty’s first word is baseball bat.
He could say:
“A long wooden thing you use to play a sport!”
However, he could not say:
“A long wooden thing you use to play baseball!”
“A long wooden thing you use to hit a ball!”
Because he can’t say any variant of anything written on the slip of paper. Marty could get creative, though, and say something like:
“The mammal that has wings and is black and flies around at night eating insects!”
And when his team members shout, “bat!” he could say:
“Okay, that same word, but used to describe something long and wooden you use in a sport!”
As Marty’s team members guess, he can provide feedback and keep talking, as long as he doesn’t say any word on the paper.
Speed is definitely the key, because Marty’s goal is to get through as many words as he can before the timer runs out. Each word his team guesses correctly gets them a point. When the timer runs out, pass the bowl to the next person in the circle, and they get a turn to draw words and describe them while their team guesses. Play moves like this around the circle, with lots of describing and shouting out answers involved. It’s a lot of fun. 🙂
The team with the most points in the end wins. You can have players just save their papers until the end to count points, or have someone write down the score after each round, for those players who like to know they’re winning (or not).
Rules: Rhyming words are not allowed as clues. So, for example, if the word were plum and someone tried to use the word chum to get a teammate to guess it, that would be against the rules, because plum and chum have no clear relation except for the fact that they rhyme. The same goes for using clue words simply because they have the same first letter as the word. (So if the word were plum, saying, “Princess! Poultry! Pumpkin!” and accentuating the “p” sound would be against the rules.)
Strategies: Since speed is so important in this game, the faster you can give hints that will help your team members guess, the better. Well-known phrases or song lyrics are great, for instance. For example, if the word were snowman, instead of saying: “Something kids build in the winter that’s in the shape of a human…” you could just shout: “Frosty the…” and everyone would (hopefully) immediately shout “Snowman!”
Variations: You can choose to allow or prohibit skipping words (say if you draw one that’s just way too hard to describe or a word you don’t know the definition of). If you’re playing with younger players, maybe allowing passing is a good idea. But if you’re hardcore, maybe it’s not.
Also, you could play with a shorter time limit (maybe 10 seconds or so) and let each player describe only one word per turn. If they guess it, great; the turn ends, the team gets a point, and it’s the next player’s turn. If they don’t, too bad; no points for them that round. Just experiment to find out the best time limit for your group.
One fun rule to make it more challenging is to try to get people to guess the word by saying as few words as possible, like one or two. You could get more points the fewer words you used, if you really wanted to keep score.
Oh, and once I was playing catchphrase with my family and it was getting a little easy, so my sister suggested that each person had to use a random pre-selected word in each clue. The word we chose was “banana.” So, for example, if the word was baseball bat, we’d say something like, “This is kind of shaped like a banana in that it’s long and skinny…” Or if the word were tiptoe, we’d say something like “If you’re in a room with a lot of banana peels all over the floor, you might walk like this.” It was a kind of fun way to keep the game interesting, creative, challenging, and a little silly.
The game password is also a four-person variation of the game.
Printables: For your catchprase-playing pleasure, here are some ready-to-go word lists for you! Just click a list to open it, print it out, and then cut along the lines to create pre-made paper word slips. Or, for an even bigger list of words, check out my online game word generator, perfect if you’re playing with a laptop, iPod, or iPad handy.