Names 20in 20a 20Hat

Names in A Hat

I don't think enough people know about this fun PartyGame, but, as luck would have it, it's an easy game to teach.

  1. All players write, out of view of the others, a half dozen or so names on individual slips of paper. I have always played with names of (relatively) well-known celebrities, characters or associates, but your group can use place names, book titles, or even chemical nomen. It's often best for a game of reasonable duration to use names you can expect other people to be able to guess, or at least stumble upon. 2. The papers are folded and placed in the titular chapeau. 3. The players divide into teams as the group sees fit. 4. The hat is handed to the first team and a stopclock (typically one-minute) readied. 5. When "start" is called, one player from the team commences drawing chits from the hat and trying to prompt his or her teammates to say the names. He or she may use any means to this end except actually saying the name or any part of it (articles excepted), before that part has been guessed. When the group guesses a name, the paper is placed aside and another one drawn, until time elapses. Passing is not allowed. 6. The hat then passes to the next team, and so on, until the last name is pulled. If the hat goes all the way around to the first team, another player should take a turn drawing names. 7. The teams receive one point for each name guessed, and lose one for each time a prompter used part of a name aloud. 8. The second round then begins. This round is identical to the first round, except that the prompters may now only say three words per name to clue in the guessers. More than these, and a point will be subtracted at the end of the round. It's easier than it sounds, as all players will have heard all the names at least once. 9. Finally comes the third round, identical to the previous two except that the prompters may now use no words. If any words are uttered the team gets a negative point for that name.


I learned a similar version from Peter Sarrett, who I'm told invented the game, at Origins in 1994. When, years later, I tried to teach the game, the rules looked something like this:

  1. You don't lose points for a bad guess. 2. In round two, you may only use one word, although you can repeat it over and over again if you like. 3. In rounds two and three, the guesser gets only one guess. If incorrect, the name is set aside and another is drawn.

It's not uncommon for a player to draw a name they don't recognize. One person can be baffled by a famous football player, another by a well-known 19th century Admiral, and so on. So I developed rules for passing, so that a team doesn't get too horribly punished by losing their entire first turn with a name that the presenter doesn't recognize.

D. The guesser may call 'pass.' The name in question is set aside.

I may scrap rule C, although it's made for some pretty funny moments during the games.

Also, this game is now available commercially as "Time's Up".

I strongly recommend it be played with teams of two people, no more, no less.