Rules for the Game of Charades
Recently I needed to explain the game of Charades to some people
who had never played it before, so I wrote the following description.
This description is derived partly from the rules that people have
used at various parties I've attended, and partly from
description I found online.
Charades is a game of pantomimes: you have to "act out" a phrase
without speaking, while the other members of your team try to guess
what the phrase is. The objective is for your team to guess the
phrase as quickly as possible.
- a stopwatch or other timing device
- a notepad and pencil for scorekeeping
- blank slips of paper
- two baskets or other containers for the slips
Divide the players into two teams, preferably of equal size.
Divide the slips of paper between the two teams. Select a neutral
timekeeper/scorekeeper, or pick members from each team to take turns.
Agree on how many rounds to play. Review the gestures and hand
signals and invent any others you deem appropriate.
The teams temporarily adjourn to separate rooms, to come up with
phrases to put on their pieces of paper. These phrases may either be
quotations or titles of books, movies, plays, television shows, and
songs. Here are some suggested rules to prevent the phrases from
being too hard to guess:
- no team should write down any phrase unless at least three
people on the team have heard of it;
- no phrase should be longer than seven words;
- no phrase should consist solely of a proper name (i.e., it
should also contain other words);
- no foreign phrases are allowed.
Once they have finished writing their phrases, the teams come back
to the same room.
Each round of the game proceeds as follows:
- A player from Team A draws a phrase slip from Team B's basket.
After he/she has had a short time to review the slip, the
timekeeper for team B notes the time and tells the player to
start. Team A then has three minutes to guess the phrase. If they
figure it out, the timekeeper records how long it took. If they do
not figure it out in three minutes, the timekeeper announces that
the time is up, and records a time of three minutes.
- A player from Team B draws a phrase slip from Team A's basket,
and play proceeds as above.
Normally the game continues until every player has had a chance to
"act out" a phrase. The score for each team is the total time that
the team needed for all of the rounds. The team with the smallest
score wins the game.
To act out a phrase, one usually starts by indicating what
category the phrase is in, and how many words are in the phrase. From
then on, the usual procedure is to act out the words one at a time
(although not necessarily in the order that they appear in the
phrase). In some cases, however, it may make more sense to try to act
out the "entire concept" of the phrase at once.
To Indicate Categories:
- Book title: Unfold your hands as if they were a book.
- Movie title: Pretend to crank an old-fashioned movie
- Play title: Pretend to pull the rope that opens a
- Song title: Pretend to sing.
- TV show: Draw a rectangle to outline the TV screen.
- Quote or Phrase: Make quotation marks in the air with
To Indicate Other Things:
- Number of words in the title: Hold up the number of
- Which word you're working on: Hold up the number of
- Number of syllables in the word: Lay the number of
fingers on your arm.
- Which syllable you're working on: Lay the number of
fingers on your arm again.
- Length of word: Make a "little" or "big" sign as if you
were measuring a fish.
- "The entire concept:" sweep your arms through the air.
- "On the nose" (i.e., someone has made a correct guess):
point at your nose with one hand, while pointing at the person
with your other hand.
- "Sounds like": Cup one hand behind an ear.
- "Longer version of :" Pretend to stretch a piece of
- "Shorter version of:" Do a "karate chop" with your hand
- "Plural": link your little fingers.
- "Past tense": wave your hand over your shoulder toward
- A letter of the alphabet: move your hand in a chopping
motion toward your arm (near the top of your forearm if the letter
is near the beginning of the alphabet, and near the bottom of your
arm if the letter is near the end of the alphabet).
Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created
by Dana S. Nau and included on this page is licensed
under a Creative