Fun, flat, mail-able, multi-participant game / puzzle-like things?
October 5, 2016 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Imagine you want to send a flat envelope full of random things to a bunch of people. Bonus points if those random things encourage the recipients to interact with each other. What would you fill the envelopes with?

I'm aware of the two previous "Suggest flat things" threads on AskMeFi.

In addition to the flat / mail-able requirement, I'm especially interested in ideas that land on the "people do something collaboratively with the flat stuff after they get it" end of the spectrum. Let's assume that there will be ~100 recipients, and that they will often be in close proximity to each other after receiving the mailing.

Ideas / starting points so far:

- One piece of a 100-piece puzzle
- One card form a standard Deck, with one word of a larger message written on it
- "Assassin" assignments
- Trading card packs (Build the puzzles / assemble a set, etc)
- Sneaky Cards
- Stickers
- Balsa Airplanes
- Slap bracelets?!
- Temporary tattoos
- Deflated balloon message
- Embroidered patches
- Origami instructions
- Field notes / scout books
- Custom Fortune cookie fortunes

I guess the much-more-complicated-than-what-I'm-envisioning "gold standard" for this sort of pursuit would be Cards Against Humanity's epic holiday-themed postal-puzzles. That said, I'm not dealing with anything approaching their budget (I won't be able to buy any islands or Picasso prints to divide up).
posted by adamkempa to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
-Individual pages from the book zoom
-balloons with instructions for making balloon animals
-cootie catchers
-stick on mustaches
-charade cards
-easy recipes for a group potluck
-buy a lot of vintage photographs and give everyone one
-a single joke on a strip of paper
-trivial pursuit cards
posted by umwhat at 8:55 PM on October 5, 2016

Timeline: everybody gets a card with a year on the inside and an event from that year on the outside ("Franz Ferdinand killed" "First email message sent" etc.) Without opening the cards (you can tape them shut), they have to sort themselves into a correct timeline. When they think they've got it they shout their facts and count off. It's a variation on that kinda dumb game where everyone sorts themselves by birthdays but way more fun because of the arguing. You can do 100 years with 100 people, or a decade with ten, or "the 60s" with a bunch of Boomers, or "milestones in computing" with a bunch of programmers. (Ideally you want a few headline milestone events that are easy, to provide anchors, and closer together so it's confusing is more fun.)

Small notebooks with starter phrases for Broken Picture Telephone.

Play money, for like poker with the cards.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:59 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bookmarks. There aren't enough in the world.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:45 AM on October 6, 2016

You could write a book cipher. Basically assembling a code through ISBN / line / word notation. They get a stylized card catalog type hint from you, must research the book in their own time, and then come together to assemble the whole puzzle. To make it more complex you could make the sequencing a puzzle of some sort too - maybe make the notation for it something they have to decode, or make it a visual puzzle on the back of the card.
posted by codacorolla at 6:18 AM on October 6, 2016

Also, the 100 piece puzzle thing sounds really fun. It would involve them having to identify corner pieces, group together based on like colors, talk to one another to organize how to lay the pieces out... if you wanted to spice it up a little bit, then you could put a code on the back of the puzzle. I'm thinking something like binary code. Binary for letters is base 8, which means you could put in twelve letters (with four junk symbols just to take up space... the corner pieces maybe?) - enough for a password to a website you're having them unlock. Or maybe you could buy a locked box and figure out a way to represent its combination in binary. The point being, that the code on the back gives them a higher level goal than putting the puzzle together.
posted by codacorolla at 6:34 AM on October 6, 2016

Be sure to allow for some of the packages to be lost, eaten by a postal machine or misdelivered. I think that the 100 piece puzzle would be pretty disappointing if there were a few pieces missing. Also, if people are matched up 1-1 and someone can't participate, their partner may get left out.
posted by soelo at 7:27 AM on October 6, 2016

These are all great answers so far! Thank you!
posted by adamkempa at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2016

Planning for lost letters is a great point from soelo. If you go with the puzzle idea, then a way to mediate that problem would be to buy two copies of the puzzle, keep an index of the pieces to participants, and have backups assembled thusly. Really having a matching set prepared for anything involving a puzzle might be a good idea.
posted by codacorolla at 11:46 AM on October 6, 2016

How about open-ended instructions that ask participants to invent tasks for each other?

For example: "On the back of this 3x5 index card, write down instructions for a simple task that can be completed in 15 minutes for less than the cost of a sandwich. e.g., "sing a song on public transit" and your email or physical address. Go to a specific public library / coffee-shop / community bulletin board and place your card in specific place. You should find a card there left by a previous participant. Swap it for your card, and then complete the task on the card you've found. Document the task you performed and send it to the address on the card you've drawn."

Or, for a much less demanding and more visually striking option, "On the back of this (brightly colored) card, write down one thing you hope to accomplish this year / the name of someone who influenced you / how you want your remains to be treated after death / your favorite scent from childhood. Hang it from the attached rubber band from a specific tree/statue/gate at a specific location."
posted by eotvos at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was sort of operating under the impression that your participants would be meeting physically at some point. So that might change around the ideas that require a bunch of people to be together all at once. Is that the case, or will the activity be dispersed across time and space? If they are dispersed, then the puzzle idea is harder to implement, but the book cipher could be facilitated by including a link to a private Facebook group that participants could join to coordinate.

I like the idea eotvos mentioned: a Nomic game where players write up cards with their own rules and then you use those to drive interaction could be fun. Amazon sells a box of plain blank playing cards for cheap. Depending on your budget you could include a stamp for them to send the cards back to you, so you could then send them back again (you'd probably want to act as a clearing house, and not give participants addresses directly). That is however 3x your stamp cost, since you'd be sending to the original, including a stamp to send back, and then sending to the second recipient.

You could also consider geocaching. If the participants are all pretty close to each other, then you could pick notable landmarks, get their GPS coordinates, and then lead players on a short scavenger hunt to find some cache with a sign-in sheet. You could divide participants into groups, so that multiple people would be hunting the same location, and might even be able to meet up. Include instructions for installing a GPS app on their phone. Many geocaches already exist, so you could even send them to an extant one to save the trouble of making them yourself.

If you have a rummage shop near you, then one of their common dollar items are vintage postcards. It looks like eBay has similar lots that would net you thousands of cards, allowing you to pick eye catching or interesting ones. In my experience they usually have been filled out on the back, but you could paste whatever you wanted over that. It might be a cool way to do one of the ideas mentioned above, but add a little splash of color to it.
posted by codacorolla at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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