SOMETIMES, FUN-LOVING groups of people find themselves in places where fun resources are scarce. Especially when traveling–you and your mates might be hankering for some playful competition in places where board games and even card games aren’t an option. Say you’re all in a hot tub, or a hut in the jungle, or a turbulent five hour bus ride, or hiking, or waiting in the coils of a very long line. You’ve all admitted that you tend to get way too into Scrabble, but what can you do? Here are a few games that require absolutely no materials — no table, no boards, no cards, not even a pen and paper.
In this game, a group of people teams up against one guesser to give clues that strike a balance between too easy and too hard. It’s kinda like twenty questions, but the only question the guesser can ask is “how’s yours?”
1. The guesser leaves the room (or just covers her ears and hums if you’re all stuck in a small space together).
2. The rest of the group comes up with something that everyone in the group owns or has. A few examples: an email account, a passport, a refrigerator, or a degree.
3. Once decided, the guesser approaches a person with the question, “how’s yours?” The questioned person gives a truthful clue that will eventually help the guesser figure it out, but nothing too vague or too obvious.
4. The guesser is only allowed one guess per clue given, and the guesser can either go around asking in a fair circle or pick on people indiscriminately for clues.
5. Vague clues like “mine’s made of matter” or “mine’s pretty good” are pointless because the guesser will never get any closer.
6. If your clue is too obvious and the guesser guesses the object on your clue, then you lose and you’re the next guesser. If the item is a passport, for example, you probably don’t want to say, “mine is full of stamps.” Better clues for passport: “mine might be worth something in the black market,” or “mine has an expiration date.”
I Went To Market
This may seem like a pure memory game at first, but there’s actually more to it than that. It’s also about using mental associations and mnemonics to think of things that only you are likely to remember. Optimum group size is 2-5 people.
1. The first person starts, “I went to market and bought a _____.” Say it’s a magazine.
2. The next person lists what has been said before, then adds something. “I went to market and bought a magazine and a pocketknife.”
3. Person three: “I went to market and bought a magazine, a pocketknife, and a margarita.”
4. Whoever equivocates is eliminated until one winner is left.
This is a memory game where you substitute words for numbers. In this game, go for speed – if you break the momentum then you are penalized with annoyed glares from the other players.
1. The group forms a circle and starts counting one person per number.
2. On multiples of 7, the person who says the number also makes a rule where one number becomes a sound or a word. So the person who lands on 7 might say, “from now on, 4 is “shazaam.”
3. Then the counting continues, and the person who lands on 14 might say, “the number 9 is now Bob Ross.”
4. The person on 21 makes a third rule, and then the counting starts over at one, with the new rules in place. The object of the game is to get to where all numbers have been replaced by something else. Whoever forgets to replace a number is out and/or drinks.
Would You Rather
More a rhetorical exercise than a game, this one’s about thinking up scenarios that are equally weighty. Creativity is key. The best part of the game is to see where the subjects and tones wander. It can get heavy and philosophical, but it’s most fun to shoot for levity and laughs. A few to get you started:
1. Would you rather have a leg that has fallen asleep for a week, or a funny bone tingle in your elbow for a week?
2. Would you rather live in a hunter gatherer society or 12,000 years in the future?
3. Would you rather have a permanent boogie hanging from your nose or a permanent piece of parsley stuck in your teeth?
Two Truths and a Lie
A getting-to-know-you game, but still a little spicier than obligatory ice-breakers.
1. Each person comes up three “facts” about themselves, two of which are true and one that is not.
2. Then everyone else guesses which two are true and which is the lie.
3. If you manage to stump everyone, you get a point.
TIP: There can be a lot of lag time between turns since it takes a lot of thinking up. Make the three “facts” similar in format. For example, 1) I have this tic where I rub rub my fingernails underneath each other 2) I have this tic where I bite my lower lip when I’m trying to recall something 3) I have this tic where I smell new food before eating it. Or, “I have this cousin who … / when I was a kid I wanted to be … / I used to have this nickname … / Every morning I … / I once won this contest … etc. If you have at least two truths of a kind, then making up a lie is easier.
This is a storytelling game that works well in bad luck circumstances. It will get you thinking about how much worse (and better) things could possibly be.
1. The first person comes up with the premise. “Once there were two identical twins who could always hear each other’s thoughts.”
2. Person two adds with a turn-for-the-worse plot twist. “Unfortunately, one day, one of them got the Price is Right theme song stuck in his head.”
3. Person three takes the story on a turn for the better. “Fortunately, this gave the other a great idea: a road trip to Los Angeles to be in the live studio audience.” Take the story as far as it will go, and see how badly (or happily) it can end.
This is a sweet and cozy game for two. No winners, no losers, just good tactile fun with language.
1. Person one thinks of a message of several words for person two.
2. Person one then chooses and area of person two’s skin that person two cannot see. The upper back works well, or the forearm as long as person two doesn’t peek.
3. If the message has more than one word, decide together what ‘spacebar’ will be.
4. Letter by letter, person one writes her message on person two’s skin. Person two cannot guess until either a full word or the full message is complete.
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When Cynthia is not on some long-term travel jaunt, she is based in her hometown of Denver, CO. Her favorite topic of writing and research is tourism’s impacts. She also likes to tap into the offbeat and the quirk of a new place. She is a staff writer and editor at The Travel Word and tinkers with her own site, CynthiaOrd.com.