A Comprehensive Rule Book to Pop Culture’s Fictional Games

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It’s getting colder, folks, which means we’ll be spending more and more time indoors. How do you like to spend the winter months? Watching TV? Playing games? Reading Flavorpill? Well, let’s combine all of three, shall we? Every now and then, our favorite fictional characters will use their fictional brilliance to invent some awesomely fictional games, and we’ve been itching to play ’em. The rules of these fake games, however, are often left somewhat unexplained, so why not piece together what we do know and add a few guidelines to create real, playable games? Gather some pals, order a pizza, and read on for the real life rules to 10 of pop culture’s most competitive creations. It’s game night!

Chardee MacDennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

4+ players, ages 21+

Background:

“It’s not just a game. It’s a war.” — Charlie Kelly

The recent It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games” lends us an entertainingly hazardous game of the same name. Naturally, there’s an unhealthy amount of alcohol, flesh wounds, and a high risk of salmonella poisoning, but what else would you expect from a Paddy’s Pub drinking game? We suggest that real-life Chardee MacDennis players tone it down a bit, but here’s how The Gang plays (with some bonus tips).

What You’ll Need:

Chardee MacDennis Wooden Game Board — $40, FX Shop (or just make your own out of cardboard, fellow cheapskates)

Personal game pieces — Action figures, Barbies, anything destroyable

Wine, beer, hard liquor

1 Pile of MIND Cards — Trivia, Puzzles, and Artistry cards shuffled together. Make your own cards like the Always Sunny gang, or use Cranium cards (for Puzzles and Artistry) and Trivial Pursuit cards (for Trivia).

1 Pile of BODY Cards — Physical Challenge, Pain, and Endurance cards. They’re fun to make, so make your own. Example: “The Grape Gobble,” a Hungry Hungry Hippos-like game in which a player from each team collects as many rolling grapes in his or her mouth as possible. The collector of the most grapes in ten seconds wins the card.

1 Pile of SPIRIT Cards — Emotional Battery and Public Humiliation cards. For Emotional Battery, merely write “Emotional Battery” on several cards. If a player draws one, they must be emotional berated with “really personal stuff” that “cuts to the core” by the other team. If the player cries, their opponent gets the card. Make your own Public Humiliation cards with challenges that involve the outside world.

Shuffle several Chance cards from Monopoly into each pile.

A timer — $6, Amazon

Team photos (optional)

Game Play:

“Now what we did, is we took our favorite aspects of a bunch of different board games and we mashed them all together. Now the point of the game is really quite simple; it’s a race to the finish from level 1 to level 3.” — Dennis Reynolds

Ready? Split into two teams.

Things to remember:

— If anyone asks a question throughout the game, their team must drink for 5 seconds.

— When one team successfully answers or fulfills the duty on a card, the other team must drink.

— If a team member spills a drink, his or her team must chug the other team’s drinks.

— Nail the board down, or else an angry player will probably tip it over.

— There is a two-minute break between each level. Questions can be asked during this time.

— Cheating is tolerated, accepted, and a big part of the game, but if a team is caught cheating while both teams are at the same level, the opposing team advances to the next level. If the team at a higher level is caught cheating, the losing team jumps to the leading team’s level.

— If a player draws the “Chance: Go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200” card, that player is put in a dog kennel (or a closet, bathroom, basement, attic, etc.). The only way out is to eat the unbaked ingredients of a cake.

— If the timer goes off while the teams are tied, the Black Card must be drawn. The card reads, “In the event of a tie, a winner must be chosen. There can be only one, and so it comes to this. Flip a coin.”

PRE-GAME: Wine and Cheese Reception

Begin with the “Ritual of Sportsmanship,” a two-minute wine and cheese reception to give the illusion of respect for your opponents. When the time is up, smash your wine glasses and do a Maori war dance to intimidate your rivals. Put 15 minutes on the “game clock,” which should be stopped for breaks and medical emergencies.

LEVEL 1 (MIND): Trivia, Puzzles, and Artistry

The alcohol consumed in Level 1 is wine.

Flip a coin to decide which team goes first. The first team must pick a card from the MIND pile, which is read to one of its team members. If he or she answers correctly, they get the card. If not, the other team has a chance to answer and steal the card.

Trivia Card Example:

-Question: What is the greatest band in the world?

-Answer: Chumbawumba

Artistry Card Example:

ALL PLAY: The artist from your team must draw the clue from the card on your teammate’s back. The teammate must guess the clue solely on feel.

Once a team collects three MIND Cards in Level 1, they can advance to Level 2. The other team must remain until they collect three cards.

LEVEL 2 (BODY): Physical Challenge, Pain, and Endurance

The alcohol consumed in Level 2 is beer.

From this level forward, no cursing is allowed. Instead, try “Jeezum crow,” “Sheets,” or “Mother-father.” A cursing team must drink for 5 seconds.

Pain and Endurance Card Example:

Throw darts at a player’s hand. If he or she flinches, the other team wins the card… Don’t do that, we’re not all Dennis Reynolds.

Once a team collects two BODY Cards in Level 2, they can advance to Level 3. The other team must remain until they collect two cards.

LEVEL 3 (SPIRIT): Emotional Battery and Public Humiliation

The alcohol consumed in Level 3 is hard liquor.

Public Humiliation Card Example:

ALL PLAY: Go outside and find a stranger who will come to a hurricane bunker underneath your bar. The first person to return with someone to repopulate the race gets the card.

The first team to collect two SPIRIT Cards in Level 3 wins the game.

Winners get to destroy the losing team’s game pieces.

Calvinball, Calvin and Hobbes

2+ players, all ages

Background:

Other kids’ games are all such a bore! They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score! Calvinball is better by far! It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre! You don’t need a team or a referee! You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me! — Calvinball Theme

The rules of Calvinball are pretty easy to define — because, well, there are none. Those are up to you. Just get in a wide space with a ball and start shouting out random rules; you’ll get the hang of it. According to Calvin, it’s much better than baseball.

What You’ll Need:

Masks

1 Calvinball — any kind of ball, but often a volleyball

Anything else you decide is necessary to your Calvinball experience (see above comic for inspiration)

Game Play:

“No sport is less organized than Calvinball!” — Hobbes

Calvinball can never be played with the same rules twice. Make up said rules as you go along. How you win is up to you, and such is the glory of Calvinball.

Flonkerton, The Office

2+ players, ages 7+

Background:

Got a few extra boxes of paper lying around? How about a rousing game of Flonkerton? After all, it IS the national sport of Icelandic paper companies, or at least that’s what Jim tells his coworkers during Season 2’s “Office Olympics.” Think you can beat Phyllis?

What You’ll Need:

2 paper boxes per player — Dunder Mifflin (Make sure the yellow bindings are still on them, those are the “flonks”)

Finish-line string

Game Play:

Each player must secure their feet to the boxes via the aforementioned “flonks.”

Race around the room.

The first player to reach the finish line is the winner of all things Flonkerton. If you’re feeling extra Jim Halpert-y, feel free to give the winner a gold medal made out of a Yoplait top.

Marshgammon, How I Met Your Mother

3+ players, ages 21+

Background:

“It’s called Marshgammon. It combines all the best features of all the best games — Candy Land, I Never, Pictionary. Backgammon sucks. I took the only good part of Backgammon, the ‘gammon, and I left the rest of it in the trash where it belongs.” — Marshall Eriksen

Marshgammon, as invented during the “Game Night” episode of How I Met Your Mother, is the intricate hybrid drinking board game that only Marshall understands. It’s mostly used to drill Ted’s new girlfriend on her past love life, but let’s throw together what we know of Marshgammon and give it a whack, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

Candy Land game board — $11, Amazon

Answer buzzer — $18, Amazon, typically borrowed from Taboo

Twister spinner — $18, Amazon

Poker chips — $10, Amazon — not important, we recommend using potato chips, they’re cheaper and tastier

Pictionary board/paper pad/writing utensil

Pictionary cards — use cards from a Pictionary card box, or have each player write several drawable words or phrases on index cards

Alcohol

Dice

Game Play:

Each player chooses a Candy Land game piece and begins with five (poker/potato) chips. The Candy Land game board is the primary board.

If a player asks, “What?,” the Taboo buzzer is buzzed and the player has to drink.

If a player rolls a 1, they must move one space on the Candy Land board and spin the Twister spinner. The player to whom it points must drink and tell an embarrassing story or secret.

If a player rolls a 3 or 5, they receive an Autobiography: The person to their left must ask the roller a personal question. A player can only move the rolled number of spaces if they answer truthfully, as judged by their fellow players. If the player is judged as dishonest, they must drink and cannot move forward.

If a player rolls a 2, they move two spaces, “Marshall Out,” and all their chips go into the pot. Take a shot.

If a player rolls a 4, they must pull a Pictionary card and draw what it says. If a person guesses correctly, both player and the correct guesser get to move ahead four spaces on the Candy Land board. The rest must drink. If no one can guess what the player is drawing, the player must drink for five seconds and may not move ahead.

If a player rolls a 6, they must initiate a round of Marshall’s beloved I Never (also known as Never Have I Ever). The winner of the round gets to move ahead six spaces.

The first player to reach the end of the Candy Land board earns the chips from the pot and the winning title. The losing players must drink.

Poohsticks, Winnie the Pooh

2+ players, all ages

Background:

Here’s one for the kids. Y’know, unless you want to turn this childhood gem into another drinking game, in which case you could probably chug a drink until your stick reappears. Just saying.

What You’ll Need:

A stream/river

A bridge

A stick for each player

Game Play:

Each player must choose a stick. Know your stick, love your stick, because you’ll have to recognize your stick later. Stand on a bridge in a line with your friends. All at once, drop your sticks into the water, then run to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick reappears first. And that’s how you play Poohsticks.

Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock, The Big Bang Theory

2 players, all ages

Background:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that in the game of rock-paper-scissors, players familiar with each other will tie 75 to 80 percent of the time due to the limited number of outcomes. I suggest rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.” — Sheldon Cooper

Okay, a 2005 article in The Times proves that Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock was invented before its 2008 appearance on The Big Bang Theory, but we’ll be darned if we meet someone who knew about the game before it was popularized as a Sheldon Cooper original. Here are the rules. Live long and prosper, little game.

What You’ll Need:

Hands

Game Play:

Your average game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, but with some bonus rules:

— Scissors cut paper

— Paper covers rock

— Rock crushes lizard

— Lizard poisons Spock

— Spock smashes scissors

— Scissors decapitate lizard

— Lizard eats paper

— Paper disproves Spock

— Spock vaporizes rock

— Rock crushes scissors

And a graphic for the visually inclined:

Cups, Friends

2 players, ages 7+

Background:

In an attempt to give a broke Joey some cash, Chandler invents a card gambling game. The rules are catered to Joey’s cards, so join us as we add a few twists and turn Cups into a playable game.

What You’ll Need:

1 deck of cards

Cash (*optional)

Game Play:

In every round, each player draws two cards. In Cups, there are several pairs that always win or always lose:

— A 2 and a 5 always wins

— A 2 and a 3 always wins

— A 4 and a 5 always wins

— A 4 and a 9 is the “Full Cup” and always wins

— A 3 and a 6 is the “D Cup” and always wins

— A 2 of Clubs always wins, no matter what it is paired with

— Two Queens, two Jacks, and two Kings always lose

— A King and a Queen always lose

*If playing for money: When a player gets to $700, their winnings must be doubled. After receiving a doubling bonus, the player gets one card. If that card happens to be a 2 of Clubs, the player receives an additional $100.

If the cards drawn don’t apply to the above rules, a player has the option to trade one of their cards three times in hopes of creating a winning hand.

Example:

A player draws a 2 of hearts and an Ace. That player may trade a card thrice in hopes that a 5 or 3 is drawn, creating the unbeatable “2 and 5” or “2 and 3” pair.

If a winning (or losing) pair is never made after three trades, the players must add their final card point values to determine the winner. An Ace is valued at 1, the cards from 2 through 9 count at face value, and the Jack, Queen, and King are valued at 10. The player with the highest total wins the round. If playing for money, the loser gives the winner $50 after every round.

Scrabbleship, The Simpsons

2 players, ages 7+

Background:

“This game makes no sense.” — Lisa Simpson

All we really know of Scrabbleship is that Bart’s yelling “B-6” somehow sinks one of Homer’s Scrabbleships. Luckily, David J. Conner made up the rules to a certain Scrabbleship for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic in 1996. We’re not sure if that’s what Bart and Homer are actually supposed to be playing, but it’s a pretty cool concept, so we’re going to bring you those rules instead of our own, since — well, the Scrabble-Battleship-Bananagrams-Dice hybrid game we just accidentally invented would further baffle Lisa Simpson. We’ll save Bananagrabbleship for another day, and in the meantime, here’s Scrabbleship:

What You’ll Need:

Scrabble board — $10, Amazon

Battleship game ships — $13, Amazon

Graph paper

Game Play:

Like in Scrabble, each player must begin by drawing 7 letter tiles.

Each player has a sheet of graph paper where they must draw a 15 x 15 battle field to correspond with the 15 x 15 Scrabble board. Each player draws battleships on their respective grids:

— Four one unit ships, 4 x #

— Three two-unit-long ships, 3 x ##

— Two three-unit-long ships, 2 x ###

— One four-unit-long ship, 1 x ####

Carry on and play some Scrabble. As letter tiles are placed on the Scrabble board, the corresponding Battleship grid places are hit. Be sure not to put letters on your own ships’ corresponding places, and once a ship has been “sunk” by the opposing team’s letters, it can be placed on the Scrabble board (as seen in the cartoon above). The Scrabble word score is added to the Battleship score for each ship hit, and landing triple letter and triple word scores double the hit score on the respective battleship. Got it? Yeah, stare at that for a while. Lisa told us it didn’t make any sense.

Jiggly Ball, Scrubs

2+ players, ages 7+

Background:

Have a friend who doesn’t know how to play Jiggly Ball? Perfect! Entice them with the mystery of the game until they volunteer to play. Hopefully you’re already the janitor to this person’s J.D., otherwise they might never forgive you. Alas, here’s Jiggly Ball.

What You’ll Need:

Tennis balls

Chalk

Game Play:

Draw a large chalk circle.

Make the volunteer stand in the center.

Everyone on the outside of the circle throws tennis balls at the volunteer.

Anyone who caught a “Jiggle Rebound” may step up to the death line (at the perimeter of the circle) and throw one last ball at the target.

There are no winners in this game, just the satisfaction of having tricked someone into Jiggly Ball.

Spank the Monkey, Rocko’s Modern Life

2+ players, all ages

Background:

We’ll end this saga with a mildly inappropriate fictional game from Rocko’s Modern Life. It’s what Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt are playing when Mr. Bighead comes to invite them bowling in Season 2. Oh, ’90s Nickelodeon, the things you got away with. Without further ado, we present to you, “Spank the Monkey.”

What You’ll Need:

Ping-pong paddles — $17, Amazon

Monkey stuffed animal — $7, Amazon (this guy’s name is Dangles)

Monopoly — $18, Amazon (or any other board game, really)

Game Play:

All we know about Spank the Monkey is that it’s a board game where a monkey gets spanked. Since we can’t make you a physical game board, feel free to play any normal board game by its normal rules with some Spank the Monkey alterations:

Put a stuffed monkey in the center, then spank it whenever something advantageous happens. In the example of Monopoly, a player would spank the monkey whenever they bought new property, passed go, got out of jail, and so on. Cool? Cool.