Games People Play: Taboo

8 Jan

Games People Play is a series where I attempt to make the world a better place by encouraging more game playing.

Taboo is the game of unspeakable fun. But I’m gonna do it anyway. Here I go. Speaking about Taboo.


Game play: Divide into teams. Teammates take turns being The Giver. The Giver’s job is to take a card and get their teammates to say the Guess word, but the catch is they can’t say any of the five Taboo words (or any variation of the Guess word itself). A member of an opposing team serves as The Censor and hits the “squeaker” if a Taboo word is spoken. The Giver tries to get their team to guess as many words as possible before the timer runs out.

Variations: There are several spin-offs including Taboo Quick Draw and Tabu Body Talk (warning: involves pretending your teammate is a marionette). There’s even something called Big Taboo that includes a purple stuffed toy called “Bendy Bob.” I promise I would not have made that up.

Fussiness: You need the cards, the timer, and the “squeaker” (in earlier editions it was called a “hooter.” Again, I am not making this up.)

This game is fun for: Me! This is my favorite game!

Risk of making someone feel bad: Taboo tends to bring out embarrassing stories on teams where people know each other well. Sometimes the fastest way from here to “Vibrate” is alluding to an embarrassing story known amongst friends.

How to cheat: Occasionally people try the fill-in-the-blank song lyric strategy, which I think is kind of cheap (although it’s allowed according to the official rules). I’ve played with people I know so well I can just give them a “Remember that time…” and they immediately know what I’m talking about. When you’re playing against a team like that, it feels like they’re cheating.

Benefits of playing: Mental flexibility. Recalling funny memories. It’s also sort of a word association Rorschach test so you can psychoanalyze your friends based on what comes into their brains first.

Upgrades: Tabvark.

Verdict: I won’t say it. Here are the Taboo words: Amusing, convivial, diverting, laughter, merriment.


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