List of games with concealed rules

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Games with concealed rules are games where the rules are intentionally concealed from new players, either because their discovery is part of the game itself, or because the game is a hoax and the rules do not exist. In fiction, the counterpart of the first category are games that supposedly do have a rule set, but that rule set is not disclosed.

Actual games[edit]

Discovery games[edit]

  • Eleusis: A card game in which one player secretly decides on a rule which determines which cards may be played on top of each other. The other players then use deductive logic to work out the secret rule.
  • Haggle: A party game in which the Gamemaster divides the a set of cards and a subset of the full rules among players and allows them to trade for other cards and rules.
  • Mao: A shedding-type card game where the winner of a round adds a concealed rule of their choice to all subsequent rounds.
  • Paranoia: A tabletop role-playing game in which the rules are considered "classified" and demonstrating knowledge of the rules is considered treasonous. Only the Gamemaster has full knowledge of the rules, while other players must deduce them by trial and error as they proceed through the game.
  • Penultima: A chess variant in which the spectators make secret rules governing how the pieces move and capture. The two players are unaware of the rules and must discover them by inductive reasoning.[1]
  • Scissors: A party game in which a pair of scissors is passed between players, with the passer declaring that they are being passed "open" or "closed" based on an individual and secret rule. The other players must use observation to deduce the rule each player uses to make the declaration.[2][3]
  • Whose Triangle Is It?: A party game in which one player points to three people or objects, forming an imaginary triangle, and then asks "Whose triangle is it?" The triangle belongs to whichever player is first to talk after the question, but this rule is not told to new players, and the game is for new players to figure out what the rule is.[4][5]
  • Therapy: A party game in which all but one player sit in a circle and answer questions posed by an "active" player, who knows nothing of the game. The players in the circle decide beforehand what rule they will use to answer questions; typically they answer as if they were the person sitting a set number of places left or right from them in the circle.
  • Petals Around the Rose: A dice game where one who knows the secret announces the result of each roll, but never the formula to determine the result. Observers must use deductive reasoning to guess the formula.
  • Minooka Moose: A person who is a "friend" of this peculiar moose may give another person examples of things that Minooka likes and dislikes, but never reveal why she likes and dislikes these things. If you can figure out the reason from the examples, then you also become a "friend" of Minooka Moose.

Hoax or joke games[edit]

  • 52 Pickup: A card game in which dealer scatters the cards on the floor and non-dealer must pick them up.
  • Mornington Crescent: Originally a round in the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.[6] The game consists of each panelist in turn announcing a landmark or street, most often a tube station on the London Underground system. The apparent aim is to be the first to announce "Mornington Crescent", a station on the Northern Line. Despite appearances, however, there are no rules to the game, and both the naming of stations and the specification of "rules" are based on stream-of-consciousness association and improvisation. Thus the game is intentionally incomprehensible.
  • Numberwang: A recurring 'game show' on the sketch series That Mitchell and Webb Look.[7] Similar to Mornington Crescent above, the 'contestants' call out random numbers in an attempt to score a 'Numberwang', though the responses are scripted and there are no actual rules in winning a 'Numberwang'.

Games in works of fiction[edit]

Games with undisclosed rules[edit]

  • Calvinball: In the comic series Calvin & Hobbes Calvinball is a game regularly played by the main characters. The only consistent rule of Calvinball is that "Calvinball may never be played with the same rules twice".
  • Double Fanucci: Featured in the computer game Zork Zero, Double Fanucci has mind-bogglingly complex "rules". Legal play can depend on things like the phase of the Moon and the ancestry of the players.
  • Dragon Poker: A fictional card game by Robert Asprin in the MythAdventures series. The rules change depending on weather, seating position, time of day, and other undisclosed modifiers. However, a playable version has been created by fans, based on the rules and play that are presented in the books.
  • Guyball: On the British sitcom Green Wing, the game according to Guy consists simply of "putting the ball into the basket". The basket in question is part of the toppmeiler, a special helmet worn by one or more of the players.
  • MAD Magazine published an article outlining 43-Man Squamish, a college sport designed to be unplayable. The sport features a pentagonal field, silly-sounding terms and a dummy on each team.

Hoax games[edit]

  • Clique: The online satirical gaming magazine Critical Miss featured rules for a card game called Clique, a parody of collectible card games that used printed cards and spurious spoken rules to confuse onlookers.[8]
  • Fizzbin: In the Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action", James T. Kirk created this game while he and Cmdr. Spock were being held prisoner. They "taught" the game to the guards, improvising the rules until their captors were sufficiently distracted, then overpowered them and escaped.
  • Slippery Jack/Forty Card Drag/Go Johnny Go Go Go Go/Hoover/Eight Men Down/Bamalamafizzvag - various hoax card games mentioned in a sketch by The League of Gentlemen in which a naive newcomer is engaged in a game of "Go Johnny Go Go Go Go" wherein the convoluted rules are created on the fly by the other players in cahoots.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fryers, Michael (1998). "Penultima". Variant Chess 3 (28): 164–166. 
  2. ^ "Two Jolly Games, A Noisy Play Imported From Peru and 'The Spider And The Fly'". Los Angeles Times. October 15, 1899. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  3. ^ Hofmann, Mary Christina (1905). Games for Everybody. New York: Dodge Publishing. 
  4. ^ "Mind Games". Yarps. 
  5. ^ Outbound Training. "Team Building Games & Activities". Slide Share. 
  6. ^ "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: A History". BBC. Retrieved July 31, 2007. 
  7. ^ "BBC - Comedy - That Mitchell And Webb Site - Numberwang". BBC. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  8. ^ "Clique: The Uncollectable, Unplayable Card Game". Retrieved September 5, 2007. 

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