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Waiting Games
January 15, 2008 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Give me your best games to play while waiting in line, going on long car trips, or on airplanes. Requirements: 2 or preferably more players, minimal, self-made or no equipment necessary (deck of cards is OK), and fun! So far I have: rock/scissors/paper tournament, Mafia/Werewolf, 20 questions. I need more!

No video games, no kids' games.
posted by agent99 to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
I used to play the question game from Tom Stoppard's Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It's fun in a linguistic kind of way.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:15 AM on January 15, 2008

We used to play Egyptian ratscrew with several decks of cards, which made it last for a long time. Lots of rule variations listed at wikipedia that I didn't know about.
posted by sharkfu at 11:18 AM on January 15, 2008

The alphabet-memorization game. Especially fun with themes (bands, anatomy, foods, things from Futurama, movies, etc.). It's the one where you start out "I went to a picnic and brough an Apple." Then your opponent says "I brought and Apple and a Banana." Then you say "I brought an Apple, a Banana, and a Currant." Etc.
posted by hjo3 at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2008

When in doubt, Euchre. After the first game, someone will want revenge, and the cycle will continue approximately forever. In a way, I suppose, Euchre leads to anger, anger vengeance, and vengeance leads to the Dark Side, so really everyone wins.
posted by Rallon at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another alphabet game is to pick a letter and a category and take turns naming something in the category that starts with the letter. When someone can't name something, they are out, and you keep going until nobody can think of anything.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2008

Along hjo3's lines.. GHOST
posted by jozxyqk at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2008

Fluxx or Set are both very fun games that are played with (custom) decks of cards.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2008

Ghost is a lot of fun. I'm also a BIG fan of Botticelli. It's my absolute favorite, although it can last a very long time.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2008

The name game. The one where you say Bob Hope and I say Horace Silver and the next person says Sally Strothers, and then it goes the other way around the circle because that's what happens when the first and last name start with the same letter. Single names (Sting) reverse the order too.

We play so that it can be real or fictional (Mickey Mouse, etc). The only criteria be that someone else can vouch.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2008

Breakfast Combo! (as explained in a previous
posted by that girl at 11:45 AM on January 15, 2008

We play a Car Alphabet game. You have to "get" every letter in the alphabet, in order, by finding the letters in billboards and signs along the route.

You CANNOT use license plates.

We always say the letter and then the word where we saw it, because you are not allowed to use the same word as someone else; For example, "E, exit 19!"

Some letters--A, E, T, R, S--are easy, but J and Q are surprisingly hard to find. Also Z, unless you go by a pizza place.

The winner, of course, is the first to reach the letter Z.
posted by misha at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dollar bill serial number poker. Each person takes out a dollar bill and finds the best poker hand they have among the card values given by their serial numbers. No flushes are available as there are no suits, but many other hands are there.
posted by jasper411 at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2008

Team Spelling Bee: Pick a dictionary word. Go around the group (or back and forth if you only have two people) and try to spell the word with each person saying one letter. Then use the word in a sentence, with each player making one word in the sentence. It's important to go quickly, no delays allowed, and just keep going if you mess up, it's part of the fun.

Player 1 picks the word, states it, then says the first letter. The next player says the next letter as quickly as possible. When the word is spelled, player 1 restates the word, then starts a sentence using the word. The next player says the next word in the sentence as quickly as possible. Restate the word when the sentence is over.

A three player game using the word "Yelp".
Player 1: "Yelp! Y."
Player 2: "E."
Player 3:" L."
Player 1: "P. Yelp. .... My."
Player 2: "Mother."
Player 3: "Wouldn't."
Player 1: "Yelp."
Player 2: "At."
Player 3: "Anyone. Yelp!"
posted by agropyron at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Okay, it sounds really stupid, but it works. This is a game created (to the best of my knowledge) by my S.O. many years ago. It works mostly on long car rides.

The game is My Cows.

If, on the journey, you see some cows, you say "My cows!" Whoever says it first has the cows. That gives them one unit of cow (it doesn't matter how many cows were in the group, they count as one. One cow is worth as much as a whole cow ranch).

If, at some point on the journey, you see a cemetery, you say "All your cows are dead!" and the other person loses all of their cows.

The point is to have more cows than anyone else by the end of the journey (according to my SO, the game ends every time you get out of the car and begins again every time you get back in the car, but I prefer longer versions of the game).
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:06 PM on January 15, 2008 [26 favorites]

Previously (games for two players, no pieces, no board).
posted by kidsleepy at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2008

Two games that keep my Ultimate team amused on long minibus journeys and during downtime at tournaments:

Pick a category, e.g. makes of car, types of fruit, films with Bruce Willis in, etc. Players then bid as to how many things in that category they can name. Bidding must start at 1 and go up 1 at a time (i.e. someone can't make a first bid of 4 followed by someone bidding 7). When bidding has ended (not everyone has to bid, but you can bid more than once), the person with the highest bid must name that number of items - if they succeed they stay in the game but the lower bidder(s) is/are out. If they can't name the requisite number in a reasonable time limit (we never time it strictly but give roughly 30 seconds per item) they're out and the lowest bidder(s) is still in. Then a new round starts, with whoever went out in the last round choosing the new category. Final rule: "sequels" are not allowed, so in a "time travel film" category you couldn't have Terminator AND Terminator 2. What constitutes a "sequel" in other categories are open to debate and decided by group consensus (e.g. if the category was "sports played with balls" you probably wouldn't allow Rugby Union AND Rugby League as separate items). Note that heckling to distract the person trying to name enough items in the time limit is an important part of the game :)

Group Therapy
Choose a person and ask them a question: e.g. who in the group would they eat first were they trapped in the mountains and had to resort to cannibalism; who in the group would be most likely to get in trouble with the police; who in the group do you think is the most sexually deviant; it can be as obscene or as bizarre as you like. The person thinks of the answer but doesn't tell anyone. Everyone else then guesses what their answer is going to be (giving reasons if they can) and when everyone has guessed the person who was asked originally reveals the answer.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:11 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've always played the spelling game while waiting in line at amusement parks. The object is to spell a spontaneous mystery word as a group with each player taking sequential turns adding a letter until the word is complete. The first player unable to add a letter loses.

The first person will think of a word and say the first letter of that word without revealing what they are thinking. The next player will think of a word beginning with the same first letter, (which may or may not be different from the first person's word) and say the second letter out loud. The third will say a third letter, and so on in a round until there are no more letters that can be added to the word or someone can't think of a word starting with that combination of letters.

Challenges can be posed if one suspects a player of making up or misspelling a word, but the challenge loser loses the match. We usually play it with 'H-O-R-S-E' rules and each person gets a letter when they lose a game.

Game Examples:

Player 1: 'E'
Player 2: 'G'
Player 3: 'Y'
Player 4: 'P'
Player 1: 'T'
Player 2: 'I'
Player 3: 'A'
Player 4: 'N'
Player 1: 'S'
Player 2: Dammit!

Player 1: 'P'
Player 2: 'H'
Player 3: 'A'
Player 4: 'L'
Player 1: Um...Challenge!
Player 4: Phalanx!
Player 1: Dammit!

I suggest playing with non-linguists and non-editors because game play can get pretty bloody.
posted by Alison at 12:12 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another alphabet game: Pick a category, and go through the alphabet. For each letter, each player thinks of a word in that category. Played solo, this is a good one for putting yourself to sleep at night. (I found it in an AskMe thread about putting yourself to sleep and adapted it for multiplayer situations.) In a multiplayer game, you can either vote on whose choice was the best/coolest/funniest/most original/most letters, or just enjoy each others' choices.

Good categories: Things that you'd find in the water. Things you'd find in the sky. Authors. Composers. Band names/musicians. Movie titles. Nonsense words. I also like broad categories like "Unusual words", or "Words I've heard but I'm not sure what they mean", or "The first word that happened to pop into my mind."

A game for road trips: Look at the license plates of each car you see. Each person makes up a zany acronym using the three letters on the license plate. Given license plate "986 VRO" I might come up with "Virulent Rampaging Organisms", or "Villains Readily Overthrow".
posted by agropyron at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Then when you're totally bored and you want your head to spin....Play the Question game (mentioned above) with the trip through the alphabet (also mentioned above.)
posted by filmgeek at 12:16 PM on January 15, 2008

If you have pencil and paper, Jotto is essentially Mastermind with words.

What's Mafia/Werewolf?
posted by futility closet at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2008

This game is really stupid sounding, but it's fun. I think I made it up, but someone may have made it up before me without my knowledge.

Plus One:

Gameplay: Plus One is a two-player game. Player A says a number between 1 and 10. Player B has to say the number that comes after it, very quickly. (A rhythm of 1/2 to 1/3 second for each response is good.) Then, Player A has to say another number, keeping the same rhythm. (It can be the same number or a different one). Player B has to say the number that comes after THAT number. Back and forth it goes, until someone makes a mistake. At that point, start over with roles reversed.

Mistakes: Player A makes a mistake if he takes too long to think up a new number, or if he mispronounces a number. Player B makes a mistake if she takes too long to think of the number she should say, or if she says the wrong number.

Scoring: A mistake counts as a point for the other player. First person to a certain number of points wins. (Scoring is optional, you can just keep playing back and forth indefinitely).

Advanced Play: If you get really good, set a certain number of correct responses which will result in a point for Player B. (15 or 20 correct responses are easy enough to count on your fingers.)
posted by 23skidoo at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I Spy
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:31 PM on January 15, 2008

Six degrees is my favorite car game. Take turns naming a couple of actors and let the other players find their connection in six degrees or less.
posted by deepscene at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2008

Car bingo. Free game boards here and here or make up your own. Second link has a bunch of other travel games, but if anyone in your party is prone to motion sickness, the games which encourages people to look outside the windows are best.
posted by jamaro at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2008

1000 Blank White Cards gets more fun every time we play it.
posted by Area Control at 1:05 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine taught me a number game called FizzBuzz. We played with just the two of us, but I think a small group could work as well. It's essentially a counting game where numbers containing 3 or multiples of 3 are replaced by the word "fizz" and numbers containing 5 or multiples of 5 are replaced with "buzz".

Player One: "1"
Player Two: "2"
Player One: "fizz"
Player Two: "4"
Player One: "buzz"

and so on: fizz, seven, eight, fizz, buzz, 11... On numbers like 30, which is both a multiple of 3 and 5, you get to say fizzbuzz!

It's surprisingly fun, and takes work to keep track of the current number after a long string of fizzes or buzzes, which is good if you're trying to take your mind off of the rollar coaster you're about to go on.
posted by andeles at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seriously? This many comments and no one's brought up Uno?.
posted by pdb at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2008

Follow the leader, except instead of moving around you make faces and such at each other and try and mimic them.
posted by anaelith at 1:28 PM on January 15, 2008

ctrl+f "fuck marry kill" not found.
I care less about its lamentable association with Howard Stern than I do about the intellectual thrill of theoretical analysis.

Rules when I play with friends:

You select a trio of people for someone else, or the group at large.
Ex: The Skipper/Gilligan /The Professor, or Tina Fey/Mary Louise Parker/Mariska Hargitay

Each person must decide which they would fuck, which they would marry, and which they would kill, with each action mutually exclusive -- i.e. the marriage is platonic, you have no relationship beyond shagging with your fuck, and your kill is dead for good - no zombie resurrections.
posted by dorothy humbird at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

pdb: because the OP specified "fun." (heh. sorry)

In an online forum years back we developed something referred to as the Cultural Reference game.

The It person mentally lists several two-word phrases/ideas which each contain a common word. Then the other word from each phrase is presented in turn as a clue, with the other people trying to guess the common word. Obviously he who guesses becomes the next It. Helps to have some paper to keep your train of clues straight.

Sample gameplay:
It: "Public."
Guessers: "Notary. Eye. Transportation. C'mon, give us another clue."
It: "House"
(Guessers try to find a common word linking House and Public until needing another clue)
It: "Note"
(Guessers continue trying to find common word until someone hits on "Key"--public key, house key, keynote. Obviously It might need at least 5 or 6 words stockpiled for use as clues. The fun lies in lambasting each other's clues as obscure and/or completely not viable, hence the name of the game. Fun also in trying to get the longest chain of viable words before someone can guess.
posted by artifarce at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

We always play "Inky Pinky." You think of a two-word rhyming combo which generally is an adjective-noun combination, but can be any variation. Then you define the combo, not using either word, to the group. They have to guess the rhyming combination.

Q: A small, red, hirsute piece of fruit
A: Hairy cherry

Q: A discovered canine
A: Found hound

Q: Former major league pitcher Dwight carved out of a tree
A: Wooden Gooden

Gets fun when people start throwing out more x-rated inky pinkies.
posted by DarkoBeta at 1:51 PM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

You can make a simple reusable Battleship-style game you can print out. In MS Paint, size your page 8"x5". Make a 10x10 square grid and label one axis 1-10 and the other A-J. This is your attack grid. Copy the grid and paste in a second one in the bottom. This is your home grid.

In between the grids, put: "Battleship is 5 squares, Cruiser is 4 squares, Destroyer is 3 squares, Submarine is 3 squares, Patrol Boat is 2 Squares."

Save the picture.

Open a new page in MS Paint and recreate a simple Yatzhee grid.

Print both pictures side by side in Landscape mode on your printer, fold in half and laminate. Use dry erase markers to mark the laminated card and bring five dice for the yatzhee game.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like playing "Just A Minute," based on the BBC Radio game.

A ref picks a topic (e.g. "eggs") and times you while you try to speak about that topic for one minute. You get a point for every second. You're out if you hesitate, repeat a word (other than small, common words like "the") or go off topic.

Other players call you on fouls, and if the ref agrees you've screwed up, the caller gets to take over your original minutes. After each round, choose a new ref.


Ref: The topic is "grandmothers." Go.

A: My grandmother died five years ago. She was my favorite relative. Before she died, I...

B: Repetition of "died"!

Ref: I agree. B takes "grandmothers" for 50 seconds.

B: Grandmothers deserve more credit than they get, because ... um ...

C: Hesitation!

Ref: Right. C takes over for 45 seconds.

C: My grandmother used to bake me chocolate chip cookies. They were really tasty. I used to take them with me to school and give them to all my friends, which made me really popular, and...

A: Deviation! He's not talking about grandmothers.

Ref. Right. A wins back "grandmothers" for 32 seconds. Go...
posted by grumblebee at 2:06 PM on January 15, 2008 [7 favorites]

exquisite corpses, both verbal and drawn, are fine ways to pass the time.

also, here's wikipedia's entry on parlour games.
posted by Hat Maui at 4:52 PM on January 15, 2008

We play contact, usually with groups of 4 or more. One person is It. It thinks of a word and tells the guessers the first letter. One of the guessers must think of a word that also begins with that letter and give clues so that their fellow guessers can figure out what word it is, but It cannot. When one of the other guessers figures out the word is, they say contact. It then has 10 seconds to guess the word. If It doesn't guess correctly (but the original person who says contact does) then it has to reveal the next letter in their word. If It does guess correctly, then the guessers have to keep making up clues until they stump It. Then the guessers have to make clues for each other for words that start with the two revealed letters. And so on until either someone says the original word or It is forced to reveal all the letters.

P.S. Ms. Saint, that game must also have developed independently in New Brunswick, Canada! Although we use to play with all animals and whenever you passed a graveyard you said "Bury all your animals" and everyone but you lost all their animals. We used to play that for hours as kids!
posted by carolr at 5:17 PM on January 15, 2008

I'm totally fascinated by the xkcd thread on Ghost, so I'll stick it here for y'all. Via Wikipedia, via jozxyqk, whose username is really hard to type.
posted by eritain at 7:17 PM on January 15, 2008

The LoML and I spent long busrides in SE Asia making Jumbles. Pen and paper is all you need.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 7:19 PM on January 15, 2008

Similar to at least one suggestion above: Pick an actor, then go around the group in order, with each member listing a movie that actor has been in. The round ends when someone is stumped. Play indefinitely or pick a maximum number times each person can get stumped before elimination.
posted by speedo at 7:38 PM on January 15, 2008

I half-remember a game that would be good for this. At a bare minimum, you need three players, and it would probably be better with four.

The It player thinks of a famous figure. You can decide for yourself what's fair game for "famous figures." This person tells the other players the first letter of the figure's name. The other players then ask questions that would reveal the figure's identity. You can be very creative with the questions if you want.

If the It player recognizes who the question alludes to, they have to answer it: "Yes/no, it is/is not so-and-so." If they don't recognize the allusion, but another player does, the It player has to provide another clue about who the figure is. If someone asks a question and none of the other players get it, nothing happens: the It player doesn't reveal anything.

Here's an example:

It player: I'm thinking of a famous figure whose name begins with B.
Player 1: Is it a TV cowboy?
It player: No, it is not Brett Maverick.
Player 2: Did he hide the princess in another castle?
It player: Uhh...
Player 3: He's referring to Bowser.
It player: Oh, right. No, it isn't Bowser. No, this person once wrestled a velociraptor.
Player 3: Did they dance the funky chicken under the pale moonlight?
Everyone else: ...
Player 3: ... nevermind.
Player 1: It's Bea Arthur.
It player: Right!

The player who figures out who it is gets a "point" (if you want to keep score) and gets to be the next It player.
posted by brett at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I was a little younger, a popular game to play at camp or on church retreats or what have you was a rhythmic/chanting/clapping game called "Big Booty". The basic rules are here, and you can see it played here. It's simple but fun, and gets challenging as you speed up - the goal is not to screw up the rhythm.

Man. Now I really wanna play it, actually.
posted by Quidam at 10:07 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Chain Link Music can be fun. The first person names the title of a song (you can set rules in advance, such as they must have hit the Top 40 or whatever), and the next person has to name another song title with one of the words from the first person's title. For example, Person A starts out with "Baby Got Back," so Person B says "I Got You, Babe" and Person C says "Oh, Babe, What Would You Say", etc.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:57 AM on January 16, 2008

The Movie Game (not sure if it has a real name, but that's what we always called it) is great, assuming everyone is passingly familiar with popular movies. It goes Actor, film they were in, another actor from that film, another film that second person was in, etc. Works best if you do it rapid-fire, and in a group, so that when someone fumbles or is wrong, they're out.

A: "Jeff Bridges"
B: "Big Lebowski"
C: "Steve Buscemi"
A: "Ghost World"
B: "Scarlett Johansson"
posted by GriffX at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2008

Stick and a Staff
Here comes an old man with a stick and a staff,
And you must neither smile nor laugh,
But answer right out, "I will."
So goes the opening incantation of a game my sibs and I have played on many a road trip. As you might suspect, one person is It and asks the other players (individually or en masse), "Will you ...?"—concocting a ridiculous situation with funny words. "Will you stand on your head in Pioneer Square till the pigeons sip rain from your nostrils?" "Will you bury me out on the lone prairie ... in an eleven-foot pile of yams?" "Will you gargle every flavor of Slurpie before ten o'clock tonight?" The players must keep a straight face long enough to intelligibly say, "I will," or else become It. This is harder than it sounds because you have to (a) listen well enough to know when to answer, and (b) articulate an answer instead of simply clamping your mouth down. "It" can become a figure of short-term legend by delivering the opening rhyme in such a voice as to crack up a player even before asking anything.

Of course, in my family it didn't take very long before we developed a running gag that could be tacked onto the end of anything ("... with a cucumber in your ear!") and we eventually had to make a rule prohibiting gratuitous vegetables, but then that's us weirdos.


For this game you need to be where you can all see each other. If Big Booty were adopted and raised by Signs, this is the game it would grow up to be.

Every player selects some sort of gesture that indicates an animal: Making a circle with your hands and wiggling it for an amoeba, inching a finger along for a caterpillar, gnawing an imaginary tree for a beaver, hand antlers for a moose, scratching awkwardly for a monkey, etc. If you want to do 'butterfly' with a curling/uncurling proboscis finger, go ahead. You can even have a human who, I don't know, assumes the Rodin Thinker pose or something. If the environment at all permits, each one should also have a sound effect.

Decide on a notional evolutionary order for all the animals (more humanlike orders later and/or rank by size) and have everyone take their place accordingly. Make sure everyone knows all the gestures/sounds, and set up a nice "We Will Rock You" rhythm: stomp stomp clap pause, stomp stomp clap pause. The player at the top of the evolutionary sequence starts out by replacing a clap with their gesture and sound, then the next clap with someone else's. That person has to receive the turn by making their own gesture and sound on the next clap, then pass it to someone else.

Like I said, Big Booty as raised by Signs. But here's the catch: If you slip up, miss your turn, go out of turn, botch the rhythm, make a gesture that doesn't exist—you're bumped to amoeba, and everyone who was below you moves up a place. They love to see the mighty fall, but they also all have to learn a new signal now, and someone's gonna forget. This means you may have some company in the lower strata before too long. Oh, those lower strata—always churning, when they're not orchestrating concerted attacks on the elephant (or the dolphin or the Small Gray or whatever).
posted by eritain at 10:08 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's Word Ladder, or whatever you might call it. Two players each choose a four-letter word in their minds, say them out loud, and the race is on. The goal is to get from one word to the other by changing only one letter at a time, with each word along the way an actual word. Say player one chooses BUST and player 2 chooses WENT:


Two ways to score: one is the quickest person to do it, regardless of steps. The other is who can do it in the fewest steps.

Then, there's "That's not cholera!" invented by a high school buddy of mine. It's very simple, very stupid, and ver hilarious. One person is the moderator, and basically says "cholera" over and over until he says a word that isn't cholera. The first person to yell "THAT'S NOT CHOLERA!" wins and becomes the moderator. Tip: as moderator, spice it up with words like "collar" and "killer" and "coloration" that might throw people off.
posted by ORthey at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

We used to play this game in the car. It's called Numbers.

Pick three, single digit numbers. e.g. 2, 5, 9. The goal is to generate as many other numbers as possible from these three numbers, using each number only once. For example,

Player A: 2*5 -9 = 1.
Player B: (9-5)/2 = 2.
Player C: 9+5 =14, 14 decomposes as 1 and 4. 1 + 4 = 5. Now 5-2 = 3.
Player D: 2*5 = 10. 9 decomposes as 3*3. 3+3 = 6. Now 10-6 = 4.

Thus, we've generated the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Can you keep going all the way up to 20? It may or not be possible, depending on which operations are allowed. Coming up with crazy operations, like in parts C and D above, may be fun for some people, others might prefer to stick with just addition and multiplication. That's up to you. The one firm rule is: once you use one of the original numbers, it is used up. For example, 2*2 + 5 -9 = 0 is not allowed because it uses 2 twice. But, I did, 9-5 = 4 = 2*2, and 2+2+2 = 6, IS allowed. You get the idea.
posted by proj08 at 3:41 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

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