When your family and friends gather for the holidays, you could go to the movies or spend an hour digging through Netflix. But your family did not gather from far and wide to stare at a screen. Instead, play some silly sketching games that will fill your home with laughter and conversation. All that you will need is a bunch of pens, some paper, and a group of people eager to have a great time. The rules for these games are simple.
The first game is called Telestrations (age 10+, 4-8 players). There is a retail version of this game, but all you need are pens and paper for each player.
- Sit in a circle. Each person needs a writing utensil and a piece of paper. Write a goofy sentence across the top of the paper. For example, you might write: “A penguin eating a birthday cake” or “an angry robot ate my cheeseburger” or “blackbird singing in the dead of night.” The more creative the prompt, the better!
- Pass the paper to the person to the left who will then attempt to draw the sentence they have just received. Don’t use any letters; only images are allowed in the sketching round. Take only a minute or two. When everyone has finished, fold the paper over so that only the drawing and not the sentence is visible. Pass the paper to the left again.
- Look at the image and write a sentence that you think the drawing represents. Then fold and pass. This process continues until the papers have travelled all the way around the table. Lastly, one by one, each player takes a turn showing the group the original phrase and presenting the silly pictures and ridiculous sentences.
This game is a riff on the game of telephone, in which, with each step the sentence morphs into something new and strange. There is also an adult version called Telestrations: After Dark (age 17+, 4-8 players) which includes a deck of naughty sentences. But for the holidays, I recommend playing the family friendly version with paper and pens found around the house.
Another great sketching game is A Fake Artist Goes to New York (age 8+, 5-10 players), which can be purchased online, but is easy enough to create with some note cards, paper and a different colored marker for each player.
- In each round, one player acts as the clue giver. The clue giver secretly writes an X on one note card, then writes a clue, in the form of a word or phrase, on note cards for the remaining players. The clue giver mixes up the cards and passes them out, keeping everything hidden so nobody can see what the clue is or who got the X.
- Players then look at their note card. The player who sees an X, is the fake artist and should pretend not to be. Everyone else will see the clue and know what the group is supposed to draw. Their collective job is to identify the fake artist.
- The clue giver gives a random player a pad of paper. Taking turns, the players will pass the sketch paper around the circle twice. Each player will draw a small detail — a line, circle, or whatever — to the picture, attempting to prove to the group that they know the clue. But players should not be too obvious, or else the fake artist will figure out the clue. The use of different colored markers makes it easy to identify who drew which lines.
- After the sketch has traveled around the circle twice, the clue giver will announce that it is time to guess the fake artist. Everyone will examine the drawing and discuss who seems like they might be the fake artist. When everyone is ready, everyone will point at who they suspect to be the fake artist. If a majority picks correctly, and the fake artist cannot name the clue, the real artists each score a point. Otherwise, the fake artist and the clue giver each score a point.
- Then the next player in clockwise order takes a turn as clue giver. Play until you are tired of laughing.
This holiday season, enjoy eating good food with family and catching up with friends. Then grab some pens and paper and play some family-oriented sketching games that are sure to bring laughter to your home.
Sylvester is an associate professor in the creative writing program at Lewis-Clark State College. He is the co-author of “Legends of the Lost Causes” series, a rip-roaring adventure set in the fantasy West. You can send him your questions about tabletop games at firstname.lastname@example.org.