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the name game

Now that we have young children, New Year's Eve has become a night of marathon game playing. Kids play Monopoly and Candyland with their grandparents and cousins. Adults play a card game we call Blackout and maybe a round of Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride.

It also happens to be my sister's birthday so we usually spend it together, ringing in the New Year and singing Happy Birthday simultaneously. Looking for a fun game to play tonight while you wait for the clock to strike twelve? Try the Name Game. I'm sure this game goes by many other names, but this is what my friends and I always called it. It's great for groups of about 6 to 12 adults, and requires nothing more than paper and pens.

Cut some paper up into little strips (you'll need a decent amount). Each person grabs a handful of paper strips and a pen and writes one name on each. Names can include celebrities, historical figures, people you all happen to know, fictional characters, etc. As you can see from the sampling above we like to include a wide range of interests, and it's best to try and think of names that are well known but a little obscure. Remember that both teams will be using the names, so if you make it TOO obscure like John Tyler (our 10th U.S. president) you'll be hurting when you pull that name yourself.

All the names are folded in half once and put in a large bowl (the folding is important since you don't want people to see other names). Divide your people into two teams, alternating turns between the teams. Each person takes a turn. Reach into the bowl and pull out a name, then try and get your team to guess who it is. There aren't a lot of rules about what you can and can't do. Obviously you can't say the person's name, and you can't do any "rhymes with" tricks.. but you can list movies they've been in, or sing the theme song for their show, or name the books they wrote.

For example, if you pulled out Wes Anderson, you'd say "He's the director who's really skinny and he did Royal Tenanbaums and Rushmore.. and they always star Bill Murray and the Owens brothers!" Your team tries to guess as quickly as they can. The turns are timed (1 to 2 minutes) and you win by scoring the most points for your team. If you get stuck on a name, you can throw it back in the bowl and choose another, but you lose a point. The team with the most points at the end of the bowl wins.

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Reader Comments (27)

Yes! We love this game! My favorite names from last time we played were Hurricane Katrina and Old King Cole. Alex Keaton--THAT is a good one.

12.31.2010 | Unregistered Commenterbecca l.

I used to play this in college all the time! We did a variation where after the 1st round, going through all the names, we'd put them back in and replay as charades--no speaking. So everyone knew what all the possible answers were, but you had to act them out. Highly recommend!

12.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKendall

ooh I like the sound of that game Brooke. Thanks for sharing the details. I'm going to bookmark this post for future reference.

12.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristine

Happy new year to you and yours!

01.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill

i'm snatching up this idea for our new year's gathering tomorrow--thanks! i love a good low-prep high-laughs activity.

01.1.2011 | Unregistered Commenternic

we played this game last night!! so fun. we include a third round- use only one word to describe the person, and if you start with "um" or use more than 1 word, you have to throw the name back in the bowl.

01.1.2011 | Unregistered Commentermichal

We played this last night with the Riches and the Palmers! It was so great. Big kids were playing too, and somehow I ended up with EVERY KID on my team. Kinda weighed me down but I didn't let it get to me.

Best was Ada's description of Sponge bob... "Well, he's this sponge with square pants." Basically said everything but Bob. We've got a ways to go to up the competition!

01.1.2011 | Unregistered Commentersara

The name game! Such great memories :). Miss those Brooklyn days.

01.1.2011 | Unregistered Commentermer

I love this game! We call it celebrity, and do three rounds: 1) say almost anything to get them to guess; 2) say one word (often the hardest round); 3) charades.

01.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterla_sale_bete

I've never played this before. Fun! And cheap. Happy New Years! I wish you and yours the best 2011 ahead. xx

01.2.2011 | Unregistered Commentercheryl

So funny, we played The Name Game on NYE as well, with kids! Which made for simpler and even more hilarious clues and guessing. (Example: when my 5 year old picked "Jesus," he said, "He comes from China.")
We actually have 3 rounds, if you're feeling energetic: Round 1 is just as you described it. Then, using THE SAME NAMES, put them all back in the bowl, and Round 2 you can only say one word. Just one word. So think about that word. Round 3 (again, use the same names!) is standard charades. Because you know what's in the pot, some are easy and some are still unbelievably hard. Try it next time! Happy New Year!

01.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCay

Sara already mentioned we played NYE too, love it! We played this in Brooklyn, right? Just making sure that you had the race car driver "Dick Trickle" and solid gold's "Marilyn McCoo" in the pot. Those are two names I hope anyone who has played with me carries into each game. xo

01.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenteramy p

I am bookmarking this for future reference! Sounds like a fabulous game.

01.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline C

This sounds like a fun variation of the name game we usually play, where the players tape a note with a name on it on the forehead, and has to guess who it is using yes and no questions (like Am I a historical figure? Am I sitting at the table right now?). It's a really funny game, but van get a bit boring if there are many players and you are among the first to guess who you are or if there are a couple of player who never manage to figure out who they are.

01.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMims

So...we played this last night for FHE and it was so, so funny. My daughter is almost 4, so we picked characters from books + movies that she would recognize, along with grandparents + other family members. We didn't have any time limit or teams, everyone was free to guess. The clues she gave about her names were hilarious and had us rolling, "She likes to skibble into the bawthroom. She lives in Plaza Hotel. She says funny words in French that mom can't EVER read." It was Eloise. And I can't read those French words for the life of me.

Thank you for all of the great things you share, Brooke. You're blog is truly one of the best.

01.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Swan

I love this game Brooke! I used to play this in college all the time!

01.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSherman Unkefer

good because its simple. the problem is that one person always knows whats on one particular paper and the group can very quickly guess which one could be if they talk to each other about it.

01.5.2011 | Unregistered Commentersaigon

I've played the version where Mims mentioned where you write down a name and lick it before sticking it to the forehead of the person next to you - it can be really hilarious - you can include people in the room - or ones we've had good laughs with people over were the Pope (just cos the questions my friend asked were so funny and she got so exasperated when she couldn't work out who she was) and Moby Dick.....

01.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDi

We play it the same as Cay. So. Much. Fun. On NYE we added a twist, whatever you wrote down had to be related to 2010. It could be people or events. We had a ball.

01.9.2011 | Unregistered Commenterkate so

This reminds me of an old-fashioned party game, I love that! :)

01.23.2011 | Unregistered CommenterErica

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