Speed Scrabble

What it is: A variant of the game Scrabble that’s much faster because it’s all about…

speed-scrabble

There is a commercial game called Bananagrams that’s essentially the same thing. I learned this game as Speed Scrabble first, and I’ve also heard it called Take Two.

Best for: A small group of people, maybe 4 to 6 players.

What you need: You’ll need letter tiles from a Scrabble game (but you won’t need the game board).

How to play: To set up your game, have everyone sit around a table or in a circle on the floor. Turn all of your Scrabble tiles face-down in the center of the circle and mix them all up. Then have each player pull out two tiles, keeping them face-down.

Someone starts the game by saying “go.” Then everyone turns over his or her pieces.

Each player will be building their own mini Scrabble grid in front of them. So when you turn over your pieces, start spelling with them as fast as you can. Once someone successfully uses all their tiles (and for this first round, that’s just two tiles), they shout “go.” Then everyone reaches forward and grabs another tile from the pile. Now you have three tiles, and you use all of them to build another Scrabble grid. Then, just like in the last round, whoever uses all three pieces together in one unbroken grid first calls “go,” and everyone takes another tile.

Each round you’ll get one more piece, making the grid larger and more complex. You can add the tiles you draw onto your existing grid, or, at any time, you can rearrange the whole thing. To call “go” you just need to use all of your tiles, and they all need to be connected in one unbroken grid.

This short video demonstrates part of a game and should make it a little clearer:

The goal is to use all your pieces, not leaving any out. The person who completes their whole Scrabble grid first when no more pieces are left wins. So it doesn’t matter if you’re ahead or behind for most of the game – all you need to do is be the first to finish and you win.

As for rules, blank tiles are wilds; you can use them for any letter. But it has to be the same letter for the whole Scrabble board, just like in real Scrabble. (But if you do decide to start over and change everything, you can switch the letter the wild stands for.) Players can challenge others’ words if they don’t think they’re real, and at the end the winner has to go through each of their words, proving that they didn’t cheat. It’s also often fun for everyone to say all their words out loud at the end, too.

Variations: Although I haven’t played with most of them, the Wikipedia page on Scrabble variants lists some other variations of Speed Scrabble that sound like they could be fun.

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Actor/movie loop

actor-movie-loopWhat it is: A version of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game – you’re basically trying to find links between actors via the movies they star in.

Best for: A small group, maybe up to six players. Two players work fine, too. You could even play by yourself.

What you need: Just your brains! If you want/need to cheat, IMDB on your smartphone would be a good resource.

How to play: My siblings and I would play this game on car trips or to kill time. We would start with someone naming an actor or actress. For example, Kate might name Anne Hathaway.

The next player, Michelle, would name another actor that Anne Hathaway appeared in a movie with. For example, Anne Hathaway appeared in Ella Enchanted with Cary Elwes. The next player might say that Cary Elwes appeared in The Princess Bride with Billy Crystal. It can be entertaining to simply name actors and movies and come up with a big long chain. This is also how you could play competitively. If someone on their turn can’t think of an actor and/or movie that hasn’t already been said, they’re eliminated from the game. The last player left wins.

In our version of the game, though, we played cooperatively. Our goal as a group was to get back to where we started (so in this game, Anne Hathaway). The whole loop might look like this:

  • Anne Hathaway appeared in Ella Enchanted with Cary Elwes.
  • Cary Elwes appeared in The Princess Bride with Billy Crystal.
  • Billy Crystal appeared in Monsters, Inc. with John Goodman.
  • John Goodman appeared in The Borrowers with…with that boy who helped the Borrowers…what was his name? [Quick IMDB check] Bradley Pierce.
  • Bradley Pierce appeared in Jumangi with Robin Williams.
  • Robin Williams appeared in Night at the Museum with Dick Van Dyke.
  • Dick Van Dyke appeared in Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.
  • Julie Andrews appeared in The Princess Diaries with…Anne Hathaway!

It can take a while, but that’s all part of the fun. We really didn’t play that seriously. Half the time we didn’t even know the actors’ names: it was “that guy from ___, the villain, you know?” And our loops probably could have been done more efficiently, but we didn’t care if it took a while. (Also, side note, it can take a while/be harder if you’re keeping your blog family-friendly by trying to name only PG or G movies.)

There are some rules you might want to consider. Can you mention a movie or actor if they’ve been said before? (We said no.) Does voice talent in animated movies count? (We said yes.) Does it count if you don’t know the name of the actor? (We said yes, because we weren’t huge movie buffs.) Do multiple movies in a series (for example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) count as the same movie? Do cameos count? Do TV shows count? If so, do guest stars count? Things like that.

Hope it can be an entertaining game for your and your family or friends!

Presidents’ Day games

Presidents-Day-gamePresidents’ Day is coming up! I wanted to post a Presidents’ Day game this year so I did some research into the holiday, and it was a lot more complicated than I thought! Wikipedia has the full story if you’re interested, but basically it’s not really standardized who exactly we celebrate on Presidents’ Day. The holiday is officially George Washington’s birthday (even though the holiday never falls on his actual birthday…). Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is also in February so he is often celebrated on Presidents’ Day, too, but it is sometimes used as a day to celebrate all American presidents in general. The name varies from state to state. I had no idea! Did you? How does your state celebrate Presidents’ Day?

Well, before I did all that research, I made a version of Who am I? for Presidents’ Day (you can head over to that post for instructions). The Presidents’ Day version has cards with names of American presidents on them and, I admit, would be pretty dang challenging for most people. I’d probably be awful at it. But if you’re a U.S. History class or if you and your friends are history buffs, you’d probably be great at it!

Printable-markerPresidents’ Day “Who Am I?” game

But after doing my research on Wikipedia, I felt bad for not keeping with the roots of the holiday and celebrating George Washington (and Abraham Lincoln) in particular. So I made another game, a matching game.

Presidents Day Game

At a recent birthday dinner for two of my friends, a third friend put this game together. She made a list of  little-known facts about each birthday girl and read them all out loud in no particular order. We all had to write down which friend we thought the fact was about. It was a lot of fun when we played that way, all sitting around the table at our restaurant and laughing as we got to know the birthday girls in new ways.

This Presidents’ Day version may not produce as many giggles, but it’ll definitely keep you thinking! I don’t think it will be easy. (It definitely wouldn’t be for me!) To play, print out the printable. Read the facts out loud to your group. An answer sheet is included for players to write their answers on. There’s also a key so you can read the correct answers at the end of the game. The player with the most right answers wins! I think this would be a great game to play in school as you’re learning about the presidents of the United States, especially Washington and Lincoln. There are 32 facts, 16 about each president. If some of them are too hard or if there are too many for your age group, just leave some off and have students make their own answer sheet.

Printable-markerPresidents’ Day game: Name that president

To complete your Presidents’ Day celebrations, don’t forget to check out my Presidents’ Day pictionary list.

Happy Presidents’ Day and happy playing!

Who am I?

who-am-iWhat it is: A talking and guessing game for a large group of people. You’re assigned a character or person and you have to ask questions to other players until you figure out who you are.

Best for: A medium to large group of people, maybe 10 to 20.

What you need: You’ll need names of characters or people written on cards. These can be themed, like all Star Wars names or all Disney princesses. The broader the theme, the more difficult it will be. You can make your own cards (3×5 cards work great) or I provide some free printable cards at the bottom of the post.

How to play: Before you start, tape a different card on each player’s forehead with masking tape. Do it carefully so they can’t see the name. Once all of the players have a card taped to their forehead, announce the start of the game.

Players are free to mingle throughout the room, talking to each other and trying to figure out which character they have taped on their forehead. They’re allowed to ask yes or no questions, but that’s all. Once they guess correctly, they can remove the card and go stand to the side until everyone guesses their card. (Or they can continue to mingle, answering others’ questions to help them guess.)

Encourage players to move around and mingle and talk to more than one person. It can be a good way to get a variety of clues, and it makes the game more of an icebreaker. Also, sometimes some players may not be familiar with all of the names on the cards, so you might have to talk to multiple people to get enough clues to guess who you are.

If you want an example, let’s say you’re playing in a group where everyone has a Disney character taped to their forehead. Here are some of the questions you might ask and the answers you might receive:

Am I a hero? Yes…

Am I American? Not applicable.

Not applicable? Well, you speak Standard American English, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re American (especially in animated movies, right?).

Am I a person? Yes.

Am I from the past or the future? Present…maybe sort of past?

Am I a boy? Yes.

Am I CGI or animated? CGI.

Am I Woody? No.

Buzz Lightyear? No.

Am I the main character? Yes.

Do I have super powers? Um…no, I would say no.

Am I a grown man? Yes.

Do I play sports? No.

Do I save a girl? Yes.

Do I have a co-star? Yes, several.

Do I have a sidekick? Not really.

Do I sing any songs? No.

Thank heavens.

I’m good, right? At heart…

Am I not good on the surface? You could say that.

Do I have a love interest? No.

Um…give me a hint. Maybe you’re bad guy…but that does not mean you are bad guy

Have you guessed it by now? (Side note: it’s one of my favorite Disney movies.) Leave a comment if you have!

Printables: I made a couple printables to get you started if you want to play this game. There’s a list of female and male Disney characters. (I broke it out by gender in case you have an all-girls sleepover party or something, or if you want to match gender to players.) I only used animated Disney movies, I included Pixar, and, though I didn’t include every movie or every character, there are definitely some obscure ones in there. Each card has the name of the character as well as the movie to make identifying the character easier. If there are some that you think are too difficult or that your group won’t be familiar with, just leave them out.

There are six cards to each 8.5×11 page. Just print and cut along the dotted lines. I would recommend printing on cardstock. Or, you could cut out the cards and mount them on 3×5 notecards.

Printable-markerFemale Disney Character Cards

Printable-markerMale Disney Character Cards

If you play, let me know how it goes! Or let me know if you have any requests of character lists you would like to use. Happy playing!

Breakfast combo

breakfast-comboWhat it is: A variation of twenty questions. It’s a little more complicated than twenty questions and involves more thought for both the guesser and the one answering the questions. So if you like twenty questions but it’s getting a little old, this’ll probably be the perfect game for you to try.

Best for: Two players.

What you need: Nothing! Those games are the best.

How to play: Just like twenty questions, this game starts with one player (we’ll call him Josh) thinking of an item to guess. Unlike twenty questions, it’s best if this item is pretty specific. So some good examples might be things like this:

  • Your iPhone
  • A garbage sack
  • The shirt I’m wearing
  • A Garmin GPS

Some not-so-good examples:

  • Clouds
  • Rocks
  • A house

Does that make sense?

So, let’s say Josh is playing and he’s thinking of an item, and he comes up with his iPhone. Then the person he’s playing with, Paige, gets to start guessing, with the goal, of course, of guessing that the item is Josh’s iPhone.

In twenty questions, Paige would ask yes or no questions and try to deduce what the item would be from the provided clues. In breakfast combo, Paige just goes ahead and starts guessing things. They can start out random. It’s also good if these guesses are more specific rather than broad. So…

Paige: Is it a fireplace?

Because this is the first guess, this is what Josh says:

Josh: It’s more like a fireplace than anything you’ve guessed so far.

Then Paige gets to guess something else.

Paige: Is it a turtle?

Now Josh needs to decide if the item, his iPhone, is more similar to a turtle or a fireplace. Say he decides it’s more like a fireplace.

Josh: It’s more like a fireplace than a turtle, but, like a turtle…

And then Josh would fill in a clue, something that his iPhone and a turtle have in common. It could be anything he comes up with, like:

Josh: It’s more like a fireplace than a turtle, but, like a turtle, I’ve seen it.

So then Paige gets to guess something else.

Paige: Is it a campfire?

Josh answers the same way he did before.

Josh: It’s more like a fireplace than a campfire, but, like a campfire, it needs to be started.

Paige guesses again:

Paige: Is it a Sega Genesis game system?

In this case, Josh would probably decide that his iPhone is more like a Sega Genesis than anything else that Paige has guessed. So he says:

Josh: It’s more like a Sega Genesis than anything you’ve guessed so far.

(Here you can add a slight variation. Josh can either say the above sentence and leave it at that, or he could provide a reason, e.g., “It’s more like a Sega Genesis than anything you’ve guessed so far because it’s manmade.” The second option makes it easier for the guesser.)

Play goes on like that, with Paige guessing specific objects and Josh responding. If the item Paige just guessed is closest to the item Josh has in mind, Josh says, “It’s more like [current guess] than anything you’ve said so far.” If the item Paige just guessed isn’t as close to the item as something else she’s previously said, Josh says, “It’s more like [previous guess] than [current guess], but, like [current guess], [something current guess and item have in common].

As you might guess, it’s often just as challenging for Josh to come up with answers as it is for Paige to guess. It’s fun because it does provide some new variety to the classic game of twenty questions. It’s a great game to play in the car (which is where Paige and Josh play it most).

Variations: As stated, breakfast combo is a variation of twenty questions.