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The Name Game

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The Name Game is a team-based party game for four or more players, and requires only a pad of paper, some pens and a hat from which to pull the pieces of paper. It shares similarities to games such as 'Articulate' and 'Pictionary', in that players have to describe words to the other players on their team, but has the advantage that the players themselves choose the words at the beginning of the game, making it more likely that the subjects are familiar to all involved.

The Game in Brief

Before the game begins, each player writes a number of words to be described on pieces of paper and puts them in the hat. The players split into teams and take turns attempting to describe the words to the other members of their team within a previously-agreed time limit. The game progresses through three rounds, each harder than the last. The team that described most words at the end of the game wins!

Setting Up

Each player is given eight small slips of paper1, and writes a word or phrase on each of these. This should be the name of something: a person, or a place or maybe a film or TV programme (though technically, it should be a proper noun). The players should write a different word on each piece of paper, although it is often the case that different players will have written down the same things. If, for instance, a person or place had recently been talked about, or something happened in the news; more than one player may have written that. Players should not share what they have written down at this point. The slips are folded and placed in the hat.

Round One

The players are split into roughly equal teams (having a few big teams is better than lots of little teams as it ensures a quicker flowing game) and one team is randomly chosen to go first. The team nominates their first describer and that player has one minute to describe as many words in the hat as possible without saying any of the following:

  • The word on the piece of paper, or any shortening of it

  • Any other proper noun (for instance, if the word to be described is Paris, you could not say 'capital of France', as France is a proper noun)

  • North, South, East or West

  • First, Second, Third etc, (although you can say 'last')

  • Yes or No, or any word meaning Yes beginning Y or meaning No beginning N; you could not, therefore, say Nope, Nah, Negative, Yep or Yeah.

As the describer attempts to describe the word, other members of the team attempt to guess the word on the slip of paper. If the word is correctly guessed, it is placed in a pile for the team and the describer picks out a new word to describe. When the time runs out or the player says any of the things he is not allowed to say, the word he is describing goes back into the hat and his turn ends. The next team chooses a describer and play resumes with that team. Players should not attempt to guess the word during other teams' turns, as they cannot score this way and it would only serve to help the other teams. Play continues with the teams taking turns, until the hat is empty. When this happens, the number of slips each team has is noted down and the slips go back into the hat for the second round.

Round Two

Play resumes as in the first round, except this time the describing player may only use one word in their description. For instance, for 'Safeway' you could say the word 'supermarket'. You may say this word more than once but may not change words halfway through. This is not as hard as it sounds, as all the players will have heard the words in the hat in the first round. The word chosen must follow the rules of the first round; it cannot be a proper noun or any of the other forbidden words. If a player says a word they are not allowed to, or says more than one word for each slip of paper, the turn ends as before. When the hat is empty, the new totals are added to the score from the first round and then the third round begins.

Round Three

In this round, no words of any kind my be used, and players must attempt to 'describe' the word using only sounds such as humming and beeping etc, and may also use hand motions. This round can require some invention as you would be surprised to learn how difficult it can be to get some concepts across without using words. When this round is finished, the scores are added to the total and the team with most points is declared the winner!

Alternative Rules

The rules above are those that this Researcher has learned to play by, but many variations exist. In one variation, the game is kept truer to its name by having only the names of people, who should all be known to the players, on the slips of paper; and in the first round the describing player can say anything except the name on the piece of paper. In a slightly harder version of this variation, neither the name of the person nor their career can be spoken, or any other proper noun. Later rounds play the same.

Some players may choose to play the third round a little differently, allowing describers to make only sound effects and no gestures. This variation tends to lead to long arguments about whether an accidental movement was unintentional, or intended to help team-mates work out the clue

On the BBC TV comedy sports quiz They Think It's All Over, the final round takes the form of a round of the name game, where only the names of sportsmen and sportswomen are used, and there are no limitations to the words allowed for describing except that the name of the sportsman or woman cannot be spoken.

1The easiest way to do this is to give each player a piece of A4 paper, and ask them to fold it in half three times and tear along the creases.

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