Culture

9 lively but low-key indoor games for rainy days and heat waves alike

What to do when left to your own devices, without devices

What to do when left to your own devices, without devices

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Smartphones, television and game consoles can instantly connect us to people all across the globe, but they tend to keep us isolated from those who are actually in the room with us. And when we do want to engage with one other, freeform conversation is not always a perfect solution. On these occasions, fun can use some structure. So next time you and your friends, family, or a group of friendly strangers are together and looking for something fun to do, try one of our favourite indoor games. We've chosen five parlour games that require no special equipment and a few old faithfuls that call for a deck of cards or game set. All of them are great for holidays, cottage weekends and get-togethers of all sorts — especially when the weather is less than agreeable outside. 

Celebrity: Players are divided into two teams. Each player writes the names of five to 10 celebrities/historical figures/fictional characters on individual slips of paper, which are then placed in a hat. On each turn, a player has one minute to pull slips out of the hat, describing them without using the actual name or "sounds like" clues. When their team guesses who they are describing, they move on to the next slip. When all the slips are done, they go back into the bowl and the second round begins. This round works the same, but the player is only allowed to use one word and gestures. The third round is played using only charade-style clues. Although it seems simple, the game inevitably winds up generating a lot of shouting and laughing.

Players: 4+

Shush: The leader of the game chooses a short common word, such as "um", "the", "and", or "or." The leader then asks the other players random questions, and they must answer without using the chosen word. Players who hesitate too long are eliminated. If a player uses the forbidden word, the others say "shush", and they are eliminated. The last player remaining assumes the role of leader for the next round.

Players: 3+

Fictionary: This is a word game in the vein of Balderdash where players attempt to guess the definition of an obscure word and invent their own fictional definitions to try to fool other players. On each round, one player (the "picker") chooses a word from the dictionary that they expect nobody to know. They read the word aloud and each player writes down a made-up definition for it. The picker writes the correct definition on their slip. When everyone's done, the picker collects the definitions and reads them out. All players then take turns guessing which is the correct definition. One point is awarded for guessing correctly, and an additional point is awarded every time someone else guesses a definition you wrote. If nobody guesses the correct definition, they picker gets three points. For a slangy twist, this can also be played with urbandictionary.com.

Players: 3-7

Pictionary: Like charades, but with drawing. Players divide into two teams and write clues on slips of paper that all go into a hat. On each turn, the player draws a slip and attempts to make their team guess what's written on the paper by drawing pictures of it. This game was the basis of the popular game show Win, Lose or Draw.   

Players: 4+

Werewolf: This is a turn-based game, also known as Mafia, that is all about lying, mutual accusation and suspense. In the basic version, there are two teams: the werewolf (or werewolves) and the innocents. It begins by determining each person's role, which remains a secret for the duration of the game. This can be done by passing out playing cards or slips of paper with "werewolf" and "innocent" written on them. The ratio should always be about ⅔ innocents to ⅓ werewolves. Then everyone puts their heads down and the werewolves are asked to open their eyes so they can see who is on their team.

Turns are divided into two parts. In the first part, "daytime", all players discuss and hold a vote on who to arrest, with the aim of catching the werewolves. The "arrested" person is eliminated from the game. In the second phase, "nighttime", everyone puts their heads down and the werewolves raise their heads, quietly decide who to "kill" and then touch their hand to indicate to them that they have been eliminated. Then it is daytime and the whole process repeats itself. The object is to continue until all the werewolves are eliminated — or until they're the only ones left standing.

Warning: since this game involves so much deception, it can get quite emotional.

Players: 6+

Crokinole: This board game is a Canadian original, and works something like a tabletop version of curling. Players take turns flicking small disks onto a board marked with concentric circles, trying to knock out their opponents' disks and score points by leaving their own disks closest to the centre. Check out our full guide to crokinole.

Players: 2-4

Euchre: Euchre is one of the most popular card games in the world. Like Bridge, it is a trick-taking game involving bidding, trump and teams of two. However, Euchre is simpler and more fast-paced making it a favourite for newbies and experts alike. Our guide to euchre is here.

 Players: 4 (though 2- and 6-handed variations exist)

Cribbage: Technically, all you need to play cribbage is a deck of cards and a sheet of paper for keeping score. However, the game is usually scored with a familiar board that consists of a kind of race-track for pegs leading to the 121-point finish line. It involves scoring points by getting pairs, sets of threes, and adding up cards to 15. It's also a game with a long history and some great specialized slang ("one for his nob" = scoring a point for having a certain jack). If you don't already know and love crib, check out our complete guide to the game here.

Players: 2-4

Taboo: Taboo is a word-guessing game published in 1989, making it the newest game on our list. That it's still going strong is a clue that it'll be around for a long time. It's a fast paced game that's a lot of fun, especially for word-oriented people. Players divide into two teams. On each turn, one player draws a card with an answer and five taboo words printed on it. They attempt to describe the answer to their teammates without using any of the taboo words. If their team guesses correctly, they score a point and move onto the next card. If they accidentally use a taboo word, their opponents score a point and they move onto the next card. All turns are timed, ramping up the pressure.

Players: 4-12


Clifton Mark writes about philosophy, psychology, politics, and other life-related topics. Find him @Clifton_Mark on Twitter.

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