Gaming with nothing, or next to nothing.

Gaming with nothing

This Monday was Labor day, a great day for getting together with loved ones, barbecuing, and just generally having fun.  Monday also happened to be my gaming groups usual night together, so in the spirit of the holiday we all trooped down to the neighborhood shelter to utilize the grills.  Delicious beer brats, and beer, abounded.  However we were met with one small problem.  It was a windy day, which felt pretty nice, but meant that any board games or card games were just going to blow away, leaving us with a great dilemma:  How to game with little or nothing?  In order to help future gamers with this problem, here are a few of my favorite minimalist games:

Gaming with Nothing:


Ghost is a fantastic car game, because you don’t even need to be able to see each other or anything else in order to play.  Ghost is a word game.  Each player takes turns adding a letter to the end of a started word.  The goal is to force your opponents into finishing the word on their turn, any word with three or more letters counts.  If you think that an opponent doesn’t really have a word in mind when they add a letter, you can call them on it.  Every time you finish a word, or are called out on a word and don’t have one in mind, you gain another letter in the word ghost (although if you did have a word in mind, the player who called you on it has to take a point instead!).  Last player to not spell out ghost is the winner.   Here’s an example of how it might go:

Player 1: “Let’s play ghost!  I’ll start! D!”
Player 2: “O!”
Player 3: “Hmmm…. DO….. so I can’t add a G, that would be dog… and I can’t add a T, that would be dot… so I’ll add an L!”
Player 1: “Back to me… hmm… DOL…. I can’t think of anything that starts with D-O-L.  I’m going to call you on that!”
Player 3: “Doll!  Doll starts with DOL.”
Player 1: “Ahh drat, ok, that gives me a letter.  I have a G against me now.”

And that is Ghost in a nutshell.  We’ve gotten some pretty long words going before, and people legitimately had words in mind.


“I Never…” is an oldie but a goodie, and it’s a great way to get to know people.  It also doesn’t require anything to play, although we like to turn it into a drinking game when we have that option.  Each player takes turns annoucing “I have never done _____”, everyone who has done that thing takes a point against them.  If no one has done that, then the person who declared initially that they had never done it takes point.  Pretty easy.  This also can more easily fall into the category of “games to play with next to nothing” as it’s nice to have something to keep track of how many points you have against you.  We usually play to ten points, because you can always count that high on your fingers, should you not have something else to keep score with.


I’m going on vacation and I’m taking an apple, balloons, cat litter, drapes, envelops, fishing line, gorillas…

“I’m going on vacation” is a memory game.  Each turn players must recite the list of things that are being taken on vacation and add one element to the end of the list. Usually we play that items have to be added alphabetically, so the first person takes something that starts with “A”, the next player takes something that starts with “B”, and etc. If someone forgets an item in the list then they are out, if they take an unreasonably long time (more than a couple of seconds) to think of a new item, they are also out.  The last man standing wins.

Gaming with next to nothing:

If you have a few things in your possession your gaming can really be ramped up, it just takes a little creativity and you can play a remarkable number of games.

–If you have some dice…

Dice are such handy little widgets.  If you find that you have some of these with you there are a myriad of games you can play.  A couple of really easy ones to accomplish are “Liars dice” and “Farkle”.  Although if your going to play Farkle, a pen and piece of paper for score keeping would be darn handy too.

Liars dice is a bidding game in which you bid on how many of a given number you might see on the table, hidden under dice cups, or your opponents hands.  This game was seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies being played among the pirates.

Farkle is a press your luck style game where you keep rerolling dice to try to get the highest score possible, keeping at least one die each turn.  However if your new roll ever contains no points, you have just farkled and you lose all the points you have accumulated that turn.  The scoring is really easy and is as follows:

One 1 – 100 points
One 5 – 50 points
Three 1’s – 1000 points
Three 2’s – 200 points
Three 3’s – 300 points
Three 4’s – 400 points
Three 5’s – 500 points
Three 6’s – 600 points
1,2,3,4,5,6 – 1500 points

These combos must be rolled in a single roll of the dice.  So unless you roll a 1,2,3,4,5,6 on your first roll, your not going to get that score, even if you manage it on a successive throws.  If you roll all of your dice, and all of your dice are being used for scoring, you get all of your dice back again to keep rolling with and try to press your luck a little bit further.

–If you have some loose change…

Tiddlewinks or quarters is completely a possibility if  you have some change and some way to notate a target either with a cup, piece of paper, or just a line in the dirt.

Quarters is often a drinking game.  Players take turns trying to bounce a quarter into a glass (usually a shot glass), and if successful dictates who it is that drinks.  This can of course be altered into a point system where the goal is to either gain or not gain points, depending on your goal.

Tiddlewinks is a game where players use one coin or chip to flip another one into designated areas of the board.  Each area of the board is worth a different point value and players are trying to get the highest score.

These are of course only a few of thousands of games that you can play with nothing or next to nothing, but we hope that this will get you thinking about gaming whenever you have some down time with friends, regardless of where you are.

Happy Labor Day, and Happy Gaming!

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 at 10:57 am and is filed under Random Things that Fall out of my head . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Comment

  1. Thomas Ax says:

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