Freeze-Dried Games Pack: Games for More than Two Players
This is an ongoing project to collect rules for interesting games that can be
explained in no more than 100 words, and which (mostly) require no more than
a deck of cards, six dice and a pen and paper. Any ambiguities can be rehydrated through common sense (eg. if a game uses
points but specifies no winner, the most points win).
Pick a ten letter word. Each player writes it vertically on a sheet of paper, then privately fills in ten words that can be assembled from the letters of the original word, one starting with each letter. For duplicate initials, different words must be chosen. When one player has finished, they call "stop" and the game ends: score 1 point per letter for each word.
by Gyles Brandreth
Draw an 11x11 grid (or 13x13 for three players, 15x15 for four), and next to it a complete alphabet for each player. Take turns to add any word to the grid (connecting to at least one existing word, and forming no non-words) and cross out any letters in your alphabet which you added to the grid that turn. The first to use up their entire alphabet wins; if the game reaches a stalemate, the player who has used most letters wins. For scoring across games, the winner scores the number of letters the second-place player has not used.
Deal five cards to each player, and one face-up to a discard pile. Take turns to either play an eligible card to the discard pile (one that shares a suit or value with the top card), or draw a card. Jokers can be played as any card. If a player breaks a rule, they draw a penalty card. When a player has one card left, they must say "Bartok". When they have no cards left, they win and openly invent an additional, unbiased rule for all future rounds, typically affecting eligible plays or adding effects for certain cards.
Draw an 8x8 grid of squares. Take turns to claim a square by marking a personal symbol in it. When the grid is full, whoever has the largest orthogonally-connected group of squares is the winner.
Generate a 4x4 grid of random letters (by, say, picking a random sentence and writing the first eight letters in a checkerboard pattern, and the next eight in the gaps). Each player privately lists words that can be made from a path of sequentially adjacent letters (including diagonals). A single word cannot use the same grid square twice. The game ends after three minutes; players reveal their words, strike out any which more than one player found, then score by word length (3/4 letters=1 point, 5=2, 6=3, 7=5, 8+=11). For a sharper game, disallow 3-letter words and S-plurals.
by Allan Turoff
The Thinker thinks of a person and says the first letter of their surname. Others take turns to ask a yes/no question where the asker has a person in mind for "yes" (who fits all confirmed information about the mystery person); the Thinker either says "No, I am not [name]", naming someone who fits but is not the mystery person, or concedes. If conceding, the asker reveals who they had in mind and may ask direct yes/no questions to the Thinker until they answer "no" to one. If the Thinker answers yes to "Are you [name]?", the guesser wins.
The Server thinks of an object. Another player makes a guess as to what this object might be, and this automatically becomes the best guess so far. Other players then make guesses. For each guess: if it is closer than the current best guess, the Server announces that this is the new best guess; otherwise, the Server declines it but names something that the guess has in common with the object. (eg. "A wasp?" "No, a calculator is still the best guess, but like a wasp, my object has a sharp point.") A correct guess wins.
Deal out the deck equally; set aside leftovers face-down, to add to the final trick after it's won. Players either select a suit as their "bug" suit, or play "misère", announcing this simultaneously. Starting with the dealer, everyone plays a card, following suit if possible. Highest card of the starting suit wins the trick; winner takes the cards and leads the next trick. Score 10 per won trick, divided by the total number of "bug" cards you took, doubled if taking no bugs. Winning every trick scores a flat 100. Losing every trick scores 30, or 100 if playing misère.
by David Parlett
Each player draws five different tetrominoes (the shapes that can be made out of four squares, as in Tetris) and simultaneously writes the numbers 1 to 4 in each tetromino's squares, in any order. Take turns to cross out one of your tetrominos and copy it into the playing area; after the first move, added tetrominos must join onto existing ones. You may rotate tetrominoes but not mirror them. For each number in the added tetromino which is adjacent to the same number in another, score 1 point. The first two tetronimoes played score nothing.
by Walter Joris
Draw a grid of eleven columns numbered 2-12, with a row for each player. Take turns to roll two dice and enter the total into any column on your row. When a column is full, the player with the highest score in that column (if any) scores the number of the column. Tally the scores as you go. The game ends when the grid is full.
by Reiner Knizia
Deal 24 cards between players, and four cards face-up to the table. On your turn, play one card to the table. If it captures a face-up card (if their values sum to 10, or if they are both the same value above 9), claim both cards face-down in front of you. Then, deal a new card face-up and claim a capture with it if possible. When the deck's empty, score claimed red cards only: 1-8 at face, 9+ at 10 and aces at 20. (With 3+ players, ace of spades is 30; with 4, ace of clubs is 40.)
Take six dice, one of them a different colour as the "hi/lo" dice (1-3 = low, 4-6 = high). Roll any number of unbanked dice, then "bank" one or more. Repeat up to five times. If your hi/lo dice was low, score 14 minus the total of the other dice (minimum 1), multiplied by the hi/lo die. If it was high, score the total of the other dice minus 21 (minimum 1), multiplied by three less than the hi/lo die. A straight and five-of-a-kind always score 10 before being multiplied. First to 100 wins.
by Mark Sargent (adapted)
Draw a 21x21 grid. Take turns to draw a personal symbol (a "seed") in any square, and optionally draw a "crystal", scoring 1 point for every square in that crystal. A crystal is an outline of a number of orthogonally connected squares which must: contain four or more seeds of your symbol, and no other seeds; be symmetrical about all four horizontal, vertical and diagonal axes; have no jigsaw-style boundary sections (such that it could "interlock" with another crystal); not overlap with another crystal; and contain no holes. Play until no further crystals can be formed.
by Eric Solomon
The Dictionary Game
The Reader selects an obscure word from the dictionary, reads the word aloud (checking that no player knows its meaning) and copies the definition onto a piece of
paper. The other players write their own definitions on identical papers. The Reader collects the papers to read aloud in a random order. Going clockwise, other
players vote aloud on which definition they believe to be correct. Then: score 1 for selecting the true definition and 1 for each player who selected your false
definition. If nobody guessed correctly, the Reader scores as many points as players. Take turns to be Reader.
Ex Post Facto
Each player takes a piece of paper and writes any single sentence at the top, and then writes every other player's sentence beneath it. Players then have three minutes to privately discover as many "rules" as possible that fit all sentences (eg. "must end with a vowel", "must contain exactly three Gs"). Rules cannot include "or" clauses, "at least/most" or refer to absences. Score 2 points for each rule which is unique, 1 point if another player found the same rule. If one rule defines a more specific subset of another rule, the less specific rule scores nothing.
by Jim Gladstone?
Take turns to roll six dice. Whenever you roll, if you roll any scoring combinations (100 times the face value for a triple, 1000 for a triple 1, 100 for a 1 outside of a triple, 50 for a 5 outside a triple) set at least one combination aside and either reroll what's left, or end your turn, scoring the combinations you set aside. If you ever make a roll that scores zero, your turn ends immediately, scoring zero. If you set aside all six dice, remember those combinations' total and continue with six fresh dice. First to 10,000 wins.
One player writes a letter, and players then take turns to add a single letter after it. The letters must always be building towards a proper word. If a player causes the letters to spell a complete word of three or more letters, they lose the game. If a player suspects that the letters cannot be built into a word, they may challenge the previous player; the loser of the challenge loses the game. (The Superghost variant allows letters to be played on either end of the fragment.)
Put two chips per player in the middle. Take turns to: roll three dice,
then (optionally) reroll some of them, no more than twice, then score
the total. If your dice total ever exceeds 15, you are eliminated and
take a chip. After each round, the player(s) with the lowest score that
round takes a chip, unless they are the only uneliminated player. When
all chips are taken, phase two begins: continue without taking chips;
instead, discard a chip if you alone have the highest score below 16 in
a round. A player with no chips during phase two wins.
Give one player the spade cards and the other clubs (if there's a third player, give them hearts). Shuffle the diamonds and reveal them one at a time. For each diamond, each player secretly bids a card of their choice from their hand - the highest bid (if any) takes the diamond, and bid cards are discarded. In a tie, the diamond is discarded. Highest diamond total wins.
Each player draws the same large 5x5 grid, each row labelled with a randomly chosen letter and each column titled with a category (eg. "cities", "colours", "mammals"). Players fill in the grid with answers that match the category and begin with the letter. When a player's grid is full, they call "done"; when only one player has yet to call, the game ends. Score 2 points for each unique answer, 1 point for each shared answer, 0 for an answer voted to be incorrect.
Deal six piles of four cards to each player (four piles for three players), and four cards face-up into a middle row. Play is simultaneous: players swap cards from their piles with cards from the middle row, but may only pick up one pile at a time, and swap one card at a time. If all of a player's piles contain four matching cards, they call "James Bond" and win.
One player chooses a secret rule that any given sentence may or may not fit (eg. "ends with a vowel"). Other players ask yes/no questions, which the rule chooser answers with "yes" if the question sentence fits the rule and "no" if it does not. The first player to guess the rule wins.
by David Greene Kolodny
On a square grid of any size, players take turns to add a dot of their colour (or an identifying symbol) to an intersection. After placing a dot, you may connect a loop of your own adjacent dots (including diagonals) by drawing a line through them. This forms a "territory". If one territory encloses another, the enclosed one is no longer counted as a territory. At the end of the game, score one point for each dot of an opponent inside your territories. Alternate scoring: score the total size of your territories.
On a 9x9 grid, fill the middle 3x3 with random letters. Take turns to: add any letter adjacent to two or more existing letters; for each row, column and diagonal containing that letter, you may claim one word you can anagram from a line of adjacent letters (including the new letter), and must claim at least two words. Multiply the length of claimed words for that turn's score. Game ends when all four edges of the board contain a letter.
by Sid Sackson
Each player rolls five dice in secret. The starting player predicts the minimum number of times a particular digit appears across all dice (eg. "eight 5s"). 1s are wild, always counting as the predicted digit. Going clockwise, a player may either raise the previous player's bid (either a higher quantity of the same digit, or any quantity of a higher digit) or challenge it. When challenged, all dice are revealed - the loser of the challenge discards one die and leads the next round. If you lose all your dice, you're eliminated. (Also playable with banknote serial numbers, barcodes, etc.)
Prepare as many cards as players: two "Mafia", one "Detective" and the rest "Citizens". A Moderator deals these out secretly then moderates repeating Night and Day phases. Night: Players close their eyes, the Moderator asks the Mafia to open theirs, silently nominate a player, and then close their eyes. Moderator asks Detective to open their eyes and indicate a player, and gives a thumbs-up if they are Mafia. Day: Everyone opens their eyes, the Mafia-targeted player is eliminated and players vote on one player to eliminate. Mafia lose if eliminated, and win if only two non-Mafia remain.
by Dimitry Davidoff
Deal five cards per player. One player thinks up a secret rule regarding legal plays (eg. "cannot play a club onto a heart"). Players take turns to play one card into a middle pile; if you break a secret rule, the player who invented the rule informs you that you have done this (without explaining the rule) and hands your card back, you draw one penalty card and your turn ends. First to empty their hand wins the round, and invents an additional secret rule for the next. With two players, both create a rule in the first round.
Rule 1: Going clockwise, players take turns to roll a die and add the result to their
score, then propose the enactment, repeal or amendment of any rule. Rule
2: When a proposal is made, every player must vote for or against it;
if the vote is unanimously in favour, the proposed change takes immediate effect, otherwise the proposer loses 10 points. Rule 3: If players disagree about rule interpretation, the player to the left of the current player resolves the dispute. Their decision is binding. Rule 4: The first player to reach 100 points wins.
by Peter Suber (adapted)
Discard 2s through 6s and deal out the remainder; put any leftovers
into a discard pile and announce their total. Take turns to play a card
to the discard pile and announce the new total of the pile. (Aces are
worth 11, Kings 4, Queens plus or minus 3, Jacks 2 and other cards at
face value.) The "obstacles" are 55, 66, 77, 88, 99 and 111: score 1
point for hitting an obstacle, lose 1 point for skipping over one in
either direction. If the total exceeds 120, reset it to zero. Continue
until all cards have been played.
by Jürgen Göring
Each player has 1-10 and the Jack ("Ohio") of a single suit. The first player plays any card. Going clockwise, each player must either play a lower card, or retire from the round. Ohios are counted as 0.1 less than the previous played card. Repeat until all but one player has passed; that player wins the cards on the table and leads the next round, unless any player has no cards, in which case the game ends. Score total face value of won cards, minus face value of cards in hand; Ohios score -10 wherever they are.
by Reiner Knizia
Prepare a deck of the numbers 1 through 9 for as many suits as there are players. Shuffle and deal nine cards each, and allow players to sort their hands. Play is then simultaneous: any player may offer a trade of a specific number of cards ("Two! Two!"), and if an opponent accepts, both swap that number of cards, unseen. Cards handed over in a trade must all be of the same suit. If a player has nine cards of the same suit, they win. Optionally: add a king (a wildcard) and a joker (cannot win while held).
by Edgar Cayce (adapted)
Deal five cards to the starting player, who examines them privately and announces a poker hand, optionally naming specific cards (eg. "a pair" or "pair of nines and a six"). They may lie. The next player either challenges the call or takes the hand. If they challenge, reveal and discard the hand: the challenge loser takes a penalty point and starts a new round. If they take the hand, they may discard (face-down) and redraw up to four cards, then claim a higher poker hand for the next player to judge. Play to a pre-agreed penalty total.
Each player has their own sheet of paper, and thinks up and writes down three trivia questions that they know the answer to, with spaces to write three answers to each of the other players' questions. Going around the table, each player asks one of their questions and the other players write down an answer. When all questions have been asked, score the game: each question is worth 2^X points to its questioner and those who answered correctly, where X is the number of players who answered incorrectly (unless everyone answered incorrectly, in which case the questioner loses 2^X points).
by Lawrence Bryan
Draw a 5x5 grid. Write any vowel in the middle square. Take turns to add a letter adjacent to an existing letter, then score for the longest words you can make in each of four directions (vertical, horizontal and two diagonals). Letters of a claimed word must lie consecutively, and must include the added letter, but need not be in order. Add the lengths of the words together for your score that turn. (Scoring variants: multiply instead of adding; or score 2 for 2 letters, 6 for 3, 10 for 4, 15 for 5.) Play until the grid is full.
by Richard Sharp
Players start with 100 Energy. Each player designs two game-modifying
Superpowers with any text (eg. "gain 3 Energy after each round", "+10
Defence if Attacks are zero", "pay 40: target opponent can't attack next
round") and these are secretly bid upon; highest bid pays that much
Energy and gets the power. Each round, each player secretly divides
their Energy between Defence, Attacks against other players and (if
relevant) their Superpowers; this is then revealed, and if a player
sustains Attacks greater than their Defence, they lose the difference in
Energy. Repeat until one player survives.
by Ben Wray
Deal ten cards each (seven for 3/4 players, six for 5/6) and one face-up to the discard pile. On your turn: draw a card from the top of the deck or discard pile; optionally play one "meld" (3+ cards of a rank, or a consecutive run of 3+ in a suit) onto the table; optionally add cards from your hand to expand any melds; discard one card (but not one you drew from the discards this turn). When your hand's empty you win and score the total face value of cards in opponents' hands (face cards are worth 10).
Draw a 12x12 grid. One player writes a letter in any square. Players
then take turns to add a letter adjacent to an existing one,
crossword-grid-style. If a player completes a word of three or more
letters, they lose. Instead of their turn, a player may challenge the
last move: if their opponent can show that every horizontal and vertical
sequence of two or more letters can be extended to form a word, forming
no illegal words in the process, the opponent wins. Otherwise the
by Jim Gladstone
Each player draws their own 5x5 grid (6x6 for a game with five players,
7x7 for six). Players take turns to call out a letter; for each letter,
every player must privately add it to a single square in their own grid.
When only one square remains, each player fills it in with a letter
of their choice, and the game ends. Score points equal to the length of
each word in your grid which is not wholly inside another word; 3 for 3
letters, 4 for 4, 10 for 5 (12 for 6, 15 for 7).
Shut the Box
Lay out nine face-up playing cards numbered 1 through 9 (or note them on paper if you have no cards). On your turn, roll two dice and then "shut" (turn face-down) any group of un-shut numbers whose totals add up to the dice total. (So a roll of 6 may shut either 6, 5+1, 4+2 or 3+2+1.) If 7-9 are shut, you may choose to roll just one die. Repeat until you produce a roll which can shut no numbers, then score the total of unshut numbers. Each player takes five turns, lowest overall total wins.
Six Card Golf
Deal each player a 3x2 grid of face-down cards, one face-up as the discards. Players flip two of their cards face up and cannot examine the others. Take turns to: draw a card from deck or discards, then either place it face-up replacing one of your cards (discarding the replaced card), or discard it. Round ends when a player has six cards face-up. Score: king = 0, jack/queen = 10, 2 = -2, all other cards at face value. A pair of equal cards in a column are discarded without scoring. Lowest score after nine rounds wins.
Six Six Six
Players take turns to roll three dice, concealing the roll beneath a cup or cover. They peek and call out the result in descending order ("5-3-1"), which must be higher than the previous player's call, and may be a lie. They then pass the dice, covered, to the next player, who either challenges the call as a lie (the loser of a challenge loses one of their three lives) or accepts it. After the first turn, a player can choose not to reroll some of the passed dice before calling.
So Long Sucker
Players have open hands of seven cards of their own suit. On your turn: play one card as a new face-up stack, or onto an existing stack. If a stack has two consecutive same-suit cards, that suit's player discards any card from that stack, takes the rest, and takes the next turn; otherwise you choose someone with no cards in that stack (if it had all four, pick the lowest down) to play next. Players may discard or gift opponent-suit cards from their hand at any time. If you can't play you're eliminated, play returning to the previous player.
Each round, deal three cards to each player, and three face-up onto the table. Taking turns, each player may either pass, knock or draw a card from the table and replace it with one from their hand. If all players pass, the table cards are discarded and three replacements laid out. If a player knocks, all other players get one more turn and the round ends: each player picks a suit and totals the value of cards in their hand with that suit (three of a kind are instead worth 30½). Lowest scorer loses one of four lives.
Verish' Ne Verish'
For a 2/3 player game, remove 2s through 5s. Remove one random card from the deck. Deal the remainder out. Each turn, play one to three cards face-down and announce them (eg. "two sevens"). The next player either accepts or challenges; if they accept, they take their turn, naming the same card rank; if they challenge, played cards are revealed, the loser draws the discard pile, may optionally discard a single four-of-a-kind, and play continues to the loser's left, naming any rank. Retire when your hand's empty; last player remaining loses.
Categories are named: "1" through "6"
(score = total of that number rolled), "3-of-a-kind" (score total on
dice), "4-of-a-kind" (score total on dice), "Full House (triple+pair)" (score 25),
"Small Straight (sequence of four)" (30), "Large Straight (five)" (40),
"Yahtzee (5-of-a-kind)" (50) and "Chance (any dice)" (score total on
dice). Take turns to: roll five dice, then reroll any number of them,
twice. Pick a category and score it for your final roll; each player can
only score each category once. If you score a Yahtzee, further Yahtzees
score 100. Scoring more than 63 in first six categories gives 35 bonus
Pick any medium (coins, words, drawn shapes, etc) for constructing small, unambiguous "koans". The Master picks a secret rule (eg. "a circle surrounds a square"), and builds one koan that fits the rule and one that doesn't, marking which is which. Students take turns to: build a koan, and optionally call for all Students to privately guess whether it fits the rule. The Master marks whether the koan fits, correct guesses earn 1 point. On your turn, you may spend 1 point to guess the rule; if wrong, the Master builds a koan that disproves it; otherwise you win.