Cranium (board game)

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For other uses of "Cranium", see Cranium (disambiguation).
Cranium logo.png
Players 4+
Age range 8+
Setup time approx. 2 minutes
Playing time > 35 minutes
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required Creativity, General knowledge

Cranium is a party game created by Whit Alexander and Richard Tait in 1998, after Richard spent a weekend playing games with another family and recognized the need for a game involving a variety of skills. He left his job at Microsoft, convincing his friend and co-worker Whit Alexander to join him in the creation of Cranium. Cranium, manufactured by Hasbro subsidiary Cranium, Inc., is billed as "The Game for Your Whole Brain". Unlike many other party games, Cranium includes a wide variety of activities. Giorgio Davanzo handles packaging and branding for the game, and the artwork is done by Gary Baseman, creator of the animated television series Teacher's Pet.


The board is laid out as a circuit, consisting of different color spaces. Each color corresponds to a question card category. Purple "Planet Cranium" spaces give the team their choice of category.


Players are divided into two, three, or four teams. Each team picks a mover (game piece).

Order of play: The team with the player whose birthday is coming up next starts the game. Play then continue clockwise to the next team. Each team, in turn, places its mover on a purple "Planet Cranium" space.

Card categories[edit]

Creative Cat - These blue cards are creative activities. All of the blue cards have vague hints.

  • Cloodle cards require a team member to draw on a piece of paper while the other team member(s) attempt to guess the word or phrase, much like Pictionary.
  • Sensosketch cards work similarly, but require the drawer to have his eyes closed.
  • Sculpturades requires one player to mold the included play-dough into shapes for the other player(s) to guess the word or phrase being sculpted.

Data Head - These red cards revolve around knowledge of data and facts.

  • Factoid cards present a question that the player's team must answer outright.
  • Selectaquest cards ask a question and present four possible multiple choice answers, of which the player's team must choose the correct answer.
  • A Polygraph card requires the player's team to evaluate a statement to determine whether it is true or false.

Star Performer - These green cards are themed around:

  • Acting out clues with a vague hint such as in charades
  • Acting and speaking like a famous person or fictional character but without using proper names, as in doing impressions
  • Humming or whistling a popular tune to get your group to guess the song, such as with Hummdingers

Word Worm - These yellow cards are themed around words, spelling, and anagrams. Two types of spelling challenges and three types of cards are involved in this category.

  • Spelling challenges
    • One type of spelling challenge[which?] requires one team member to correctly spell a moderately difficult word (such as vacuum) on the first try without writing down the word.
    • Gnilleps challenges require the team to correctly spell, on the first attempt, a moderately difficult word (such as achieved), with the caveat that they must spell it backwards.
  • Cards
    • Blankout cards require the team to use a vague hint to fill in the blank words with only some letters filled in.
    • Lexicon cards require teams to correctly identify the definition of a word out of four possibilities, usually a relatively unused word such as syzygy or bedizen.
    • Zelpuz requires the player's team to use a vague hint to rearrange the letters in an anagram to form the correct word or phrase.


On each turn, a team has a chance to complete an activity on one card and advance along the board. If the team is on a purple space (as all teams are on the start space), they can choose the first card from any of the four categories. If they are on a colored space, the first card from the corresponding category is selected. If the team successfully completes the card they have chosen, the die is then rolled to determine what space the team moves to. Whether the activity is completed successfully or not, the turn always ends after one card.

If the team completes an activity successfully before timer runs out, they roll the color-faced die and move to the next space of the color they roll, or to the next Planet Cranium space, whichever is closer. If they roll purple, they go to either the next purple space or the next Planet Cranium space, whichever is closer.

Scenic Path and Fast Track[edit]

A team's first activity on a Planet Cranium space, including the start space, determines whether they will take the "scenic path" or the "fast track" to the next Planet Cranium space. If they complete their first activity on a Planet Cranium space successfully before time runs out, they will take the inside fast track to the next Planet Cranium space. If they do not complete their first activity successfully, or if time runs out, they will not be able to take the fast track, and, when they do complete an activity successfully to get off the Planet Cranium space, they will have to take the longer scenic path to the next Planet Cranium space.

Club Cranium[edit]

On some of the Creative Cat and Star Performer cards, there is a "Club Cranium" symbol. When one of these cards is drawn, every team competes and has one of its members do the activity for them. Acting is to be performed in front of all the teams. Each team may guess the answer by looking at anyone performing. The same applies to sensosketches and cloodles. Whichever team gets it first gets to roll the die and move, and play continues with the team who the Club Cranium card was originally for. If no one guesses the answer before time runs out, no one moves and play continues with the team whose turn it was. If a team gets a Club Cranium card correct while on a Planet Cranium, they may move on the fast track if it was their first activity while on the Planet Cranium; if their first activity on a Planet Cranium is a Club Cranium and they do not win it, they still try for the fast track on their next turn. The only penalty for not getting a Club Cranium right is not being able to take an extra move.

Cranium Central[edit]

Around the "Cranium Central" space in the center of the board are four black spaces, each with the name of one of the decks on it. Before a team can go into Cranium Central, they must collect one card from each deck by moving around these spaces.

When a team reaches the end of the path, they must place their mover on the black space that with the deck name that corresponds to the color of their roll. If they roll purple, they may decide which black space to start on. They continue play in the normal fashion, except that when they complete an activity successfully, they keep the card, and instead of rolling the die, they move clockwise to the next black space.

Once the team has a card from each deck, they may move into Cranium Central. Once they are in Cranium Central, on their turn, they will receive an activity from the deck that the other teams decide on. If they do not complete the activity successfully, they must wait until their next turn, when the other teams will pick another activity for them, either from the same deck or another deck. Once the team successfully completes an activity while in Cranium Central, they have won the game.

Expansions and spinoffs[edit]

  • Booster Boxes: boxes of cards (and clay) sold separately from the game that contain a new deck of each type of card. As of 2007, Booster Boxes 1 and 2 are available, along with a special New York edition pack.
  • Cadoo: a children's version of the game that has some elements of tic-tac-toe.
  • Conga: a version with a slightly older target audience than Cadoo. Incorporates a musical timer and magnetic drawing pad.
  • Cranium Hoopla: a timed version of Cranium, designed for two or more players to play cooperatively.
  • Cranium Kabookii: a video game version available on the Wii platform. Activities comprise a mixture of some from the original game and new games better suited for a video game environment.
  • Cranium Scribblish: played very much like the game of telephone. Players start by drawing a caption card from the deck and must draw the caption, then pass to another player who captions what they believe the other person has drawn, then draw said caption. Winners correctly guess which drawing started as their own.
  • Cranium The Family Fun Game: a game similar to the original Cranium with some minor changes.
  • Cranium Turbo Edition: a version of Cranium designed for a faster game.
  • Cranium Wow: a similar game to the original with new cards and activities from Cranium Turbo.
  • Cranium Brain Breaks: 200 one-minute mini games.

External links[edit]