People have been wanting to learn how to play Pictionary ever since Seattle Games Inc. first released this party favorite in 1985. It has sold millions of copies since that time, and the game is now distributed by toy giants such as Mattel and Hasbro.
In case you’ve never played Pictionary, think of it like Charades with a pencil and paper. I’ve taken part in Pictionary games on a number of occasions, and I’ve yet to see a player without a smile on their face. That’s because everyone winds up looking like a fool, even those with a measure of artistic talent.
The success of the game has spawned a number of spin-offs over the years, such as Pictionary Jr., Pictionary Card Game, Pictionary Man, and a version created specifically for Australian players. There have even been Pictionary video games made, as well as two different television game shows based on the original.
In this article, we’ll examine the Pictionary rules, as well as detailing a few pieces of strategy that you can employ the next time a game breaks out. But even if you wind up on the losing team, you can count on having fun.
Each game comes with a set of Pictionary instructions, as well as the following components: a one-minute timer, four playing pieces, four pencils, four pads of paper, a six-sided die, a game board, several hundred cards, and a card holder.
Newer editions may also come with a challenge die, which is an optional feature of the game. If you choose to use it, players will roll the die before their turn and be asked to draw clues while performing tasks such as using the wrong hand, keeping their eyes closed, never taking the pencil from the pad, etc.
A minimum of three players are needed, although four or six players remain the most common variation. I have also seen games where up to 16 people (8 teams) were competing.
Teams begin by placing their colored token on the game board in the square marked “start.” Each team then rolls the six-sided die to see who gets to go first. The team who rolls highest will begin by choosing a card at random from the pile. Cards are divided into the following categories:
P - Person, place, or animal
A - Action
O - Object
D - Difficult word (denotes a clue that is harder than other categories)
AP - All play (meaning all teams compete simultaneously to guess the word on the card)
Pictionary rules are simple to understand, and all you need to know is listed below:
Once the starting team has been determined by a roll of the die, select one player from the team to be the “picturist” for this turn. They will draw while their teammates attempt to guess based on the visual clues provided.
The selected player (or “picturist”) selects a card and has five seconds to study it. The timer is then started, and the player will have one minute to draw clues. Numbers, letters, and words cannot be drawn. If this occurs, the team’s turn is over and play moves in a clockwise direction.
If the team fails to guess the word on the card within the time limit, their turn is over and play moves clockwise. If they are successful, however, they roll the die and move their marker on the board by the number of spaces indicated. They then draw a new card and keep going until they are unable to identify a word (or until they lose during an All Play round).
Gameplay continues in this fashion until one team’s marker moves across the finish line on the board. In some versions of the game, a team must weather a final All Play round before they can claim victory.
When it comes to Pictionary strategy, those looking for an edge will be limited. The party game from Hasbro/Mattel is straightforward and simple in its approach, rendering clever tactics almost useless. But since you’ve stuck with us this far, I’ll do my best to provide a few suggestions.
Know Your Partner - When it comes time to choose teams for Pictionary, it’s always a smart idea to pair up with people you know best. Clues that might be indecipherable to a stranger may be easily interpreted by an old friend, allowing your team to score at a rapid pace.
Slow and Steady - Some players get nervous when asked to draw, and this causes them to rush things. When you’re providing clues for your teammates, take a deep breath and try to draw as fast as possible without rushing. If you get in too big of a hurry, your picture may wind up as a series of jumbled lines and leave your teammates confused.
Divide and Conquer - Keep in mind that words can often be broken up into multiple parts, and some Pictionary players find this more convenient. For example, let’s say that you are trying to convey the word “shortstop.” Instead of trying to draw the position of a shortstop on a baseball field, you could draw a short person and then the outline of a stop sign. Of course, if you were on a team with baseball fans, attempting the former might be easier. That’s where knowing your partners comes into play.
Less Is More - When it’s your turn to draw, try to convey your information with as simple a picture as possible. Keep in mind that Pictionary is not an art competition; the object of the game is to get your teammates to guess the word on the card as quickly as possible.
Ignore the Challenge Option - In some of the later editions of Pictionary, players can roll a challenge die and move additional spaces by successfully performing tasks such as drawing with their eyes closed or with their off hand. While there’s nothing wrong with giving it a try once or twice, serious Pictionary players may want to stick with the standard rules.
Check Your Pencil - This may seem like an obvious piece of Pictionary strategy, but you would be amazed at how many people try to draw pictures with a dull pencil. Always make sure your pencil is sharp before you begin, and this will allow your pictures to be drawn quicker and with greater clarity for your teammates.
Learning how to play Pictionary is simple, as the game is designed to be enjoyed by both adults and children. Whether you’re looking to spice up a party or find something to do on family night, this gaming classic can be set up within minutes and provide hours of good, clean fun. You might even discover your inner artist along the way.