Speed Scrabble

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


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!

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.

Walk on the ceiling

walk-on-the-ceilingWhat it is: A game, or really more of an activity, to play around the house. It’s ideal for one to two players, really entertaining for little children, a new favorite of my four-year-old, and the reason my handheld mirror is broken.

Best for: One, two, or three children in a house.

What you need: You’ll need a handheld mirror, not huge, but big enough to see your whole face in. If you have more than one person, you can have more than one mirror (more fun). Or you can take turns (less fun).

How to play: This is a simple one. You take a handheld mirror and use it to pretend to walk on the ceiling. To do this, just hold the mirror parallel to the floor, pressed against your face right underneath your nose. Then look down into the mirror, which will be displaying a reflection of the ceiling.

If you walk around and use your suspension of disbelief, it kind of feels like you’re actually walking on the ceiling, especially if the mirror is large enough to cover up the view of your feet and the ground beneath you.

So then the fun part comes in the novelty of walking on the ceiling. There are light fixtures to avoid, door frames to step over, and sometimes giant pits (aka, vaulted ceilings) that you could fall into. The ceiling is a dangerous place. It can be fun to play with two people, so you can plan and explore together. You can definitely add more imaginative play too, like a mission to complete or ceiling goblins chasing after you or the spacetime continuum to restore to balance. Something like that.

Just be sure that when you’re playing you’re not totally unaware of the ground you’re actually walking on. Me and my sisters loved to play this when we were little, and I remember getting banged shins from coffee tables in the process. Make sure the rooms are tidy, without too many toys or objects to trip over or step on. (Like Legos. Legos are the worst.)

It’s funny, I recently taught my son Carson to play this. He loved it from the get-go. And asks to play every time I’m doing my hair and makeup and he sees my little mirror. Did I mention he broke one already? Now I know why my mom was always reluctant to let us play when I was a kid. She was worried not only about the safety of her mirrors, but us, too.

I never got it before. I couldn’t understand why she wanted to take away all our fun like that.

I understand now, Mom. I understand.

This or that

this-or-that-gameWhat it is: This or that is a simple talking game where players choose which of two items they prefer.

Best for: A small group, maybe even two players only.

What you need: You don’t need anything! You can use a pre-made list of items, like the one I provide below, but it’s not necessary.

How to play: Basically players take turns asking and answering questions in the form of “this or that?” Examples:

  • Mountains or beach?
  • Sandals or tennis shoes?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • Digital watch or analog?

Players ask these short questions, and then indicate their preference. It’s easy, simple, and a great way for players to get to know each other. It’s fun to compare likes and dislikes, too. “What?? Cats? Ew! I’m totally a dog person.”

Variations: This game is kind of similar to would you rather, but instead of choosing between two usually undesirable things, this game is more about choosing between two good things.

Printables: And here’s the free printable! It’s a list of “this or that” scenarios to get you started. You don’t need a list like this to play, though; half the fun is players thinking up their own questions.

Printable-markerThis or That

Fun fact: Way back when my husband and I were freshmen in college, we played an extensive round of this game on our second date. What a great way for us to get to know each other! So not only am I promising you a great game here with This or That, I’m promising you relationship success, as well!*

*Kidding. Please don’t hate me if this game hasn’t led you to marriage or a significant other.