Everyone should know how to play pen and paper games! They make great icebreakers, waiting games, quick boredom busters, and fun activities for gatherings with friends or family.
And best of all? All your need is a pen or pencil and paper to play!
Fun pen and paper games come in several types. There are drawing games for one or more players, two player games of strategy and logic, of which the most well-known is tic-tac-toe (a.k.a. noughts and crosses), and paper games that can be played with two or more players. So whatever situation you find yourself it, there is a pen and paper game for every occasion!
Single Player Pen and Paper Games
Most of these pen or pencil and paper games are suitable for more than one player as well! Children can collaborate on the activity with another person, or they can play them side by side.
Blind Drawing. Grab a pencil and paper, take a look around you and pick one object. Close your eyes and try to draw it without picking up your pencil!
Word Flip. Click here to read the full instructions for the funny flips game. This is a fun pen and paper game to practice grammar skills and make you laugh. When you’re done, pass the game off to another person if possible and have them put together sentences with your creation.
Drawing Game. Based on the game exquisite corpse, this is a flip picture game. While it can be played by just one person, getting another artist into the action to alternate drawing the body parts will increase the fun. Watch the video below to see how it is done.
These pen and paper games require two players. Some of the games require that players have pens of different colors.
Dots and Boxes. You can’t go wrong with this classic pencil and paper game! You can use graph paper, but it’s not necessary; simply plot out dots in an array. Watch the video below to see how to play!
Hangman. This game needs no explanation, but I’ll give it to you anyway. One person thinks of a word and draws dashes along a paper to represent each letter in the word. Above the dashes he draws platform and stand. The other person guesses one letter at a time. If the letter is in the word, the first person fills in the blank(s). If not, the incorrect letter is written below and the first person draws one body part at a time. If the person guesses the word before the body is completed (head, torso, 2 arms, 2 legs), he wins, if not — well, he loses.
Apple Tree. This is a less-macabre version of the old favorite, Hangman. One person thinks of a word and draws dashes along a paper to represent each letter in the word. Above the dashes he draws a tree with 7 apples. The other person guesses one letter at a time. If the letter is in the word, the first person fills in the blank(s). If not, the incorrect letter is written inside one of the apples. If the person guesses the word before all the apples are filled, he wins, if not — well, he loses.
Bridges. Begin by drawing an abstract shape and dividing it into sections, 30-50 sections is ideal. (see photo below) Taking turns and using different colors, players build bridges by starting in one section, crossing a second, and ending in a third section. Players may not start, cross or end in a section that has previously been used. Players alternate building bridges until no bridges can no longer be built. The last player to build a bridge wins.
Nim. Nim is a very old game that is usually played with stones or tokens. But it’s also a game that can be played with pen and paper. Draw 1, 3, 5, and 7 marks in the shape of a pyramid as shown in the illustration. The objective is to force your opponent to cross out the last remaining mark. Players alternate turns crossing out as many marks as they wish on each turn. However, they can only cross out marks on one line per turn.
I have a variation of a Nim subtraction-type game here, or watch the video below:
Sim. Click here to read the full Sim instructions. Draw six dots as the vertices of a hexagon. Players alternate drawing lines from dot to dot in their own color. The first person who is forced to draw a triangle formed from their own color and three of the vertices loses.
Lasso. Draw a grid of dots on paper, as many or as few as you want. You can experiment to see how many dots you prefer. Taking turns players start at one dot, draw a line to any other dot and circle it. Lines must stay within the confines of the grid. You may only circle a dot that has not yet been used and your line may not bisect any other line. You may start on a dot that has already been used as a starting point. When there are no available moves left, the last person to draw a lasso wins.
Tandem Drawing. This is a very enjoyable, low-stress way to connect with your child. Watch the video to see how it’s done!
Two or More Players
These pen and paper games work well when you have more than two players. Potentially, you could try playing Bridges and Lasso (see above) as three person games.
Unscramble. Write a list of 10 words, but instead of spelling them correctly, mix up the letters and challenge your opponent(s) to unscramble them. To make it a little more fun, select all words from a single category. For example: kcae, kieooc, epi, ssertde, eci mreac become cake, cookie, pie, dessert, ice cream. The first player to unscramble all the words wins.
Words Within A Word. Write out a long word on a piece of paper or a white board if you have one. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and everyone tries to find as many smaller words as they can using only the letters in the designated word. (See photo below for an example.)
What pen and paper games will you play today?
More games here: