Rules for the Game of Charades

Dana S. Nau

March 12, 2000

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 a tongue-in-cheek 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.



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:

Once they have finished writing their phrases, the teams come back to the same room.

To Play

Each round of the game proceeds as follows:

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:

To Indicate Other Things:

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