The Name Game


The Name Game is a group game (3 or more players) that
calls upon the knowledge base of the participants as it pertains
to…names! Names of famous people, people in history, people
in entertainment, people in sports, people in the news, cartoon
characters, you name it (no pun intended!). The more “notable
figures” that you have knowledge of, the better your chances of
excelling at this game. Read these rules and gather some
friends together to play a round or two. But remember, the
best way to enjoy The Name Game is over a few drinks*!

Basic Rules

All contestants start with a game sheet and a writing utensil.
Click here to download and print out the official Name Game
Score Card.

The contestants take turns, rotating around the group in typical
board game fashion. The contestant who is chosen to go first,
henceforth referred to as the “lead contestant”, picks a name,
for example, John. Now all contestants have a few minutes to
complete a full name using what has been offered up by the
lead contestant. There is no strict time limit, however it should
be a group decision to call “time’s up” if need be. Names must
be of “notable figures”, whether they be the names of historical
figures, sports figures, people in the news, etc. Chosen names
can be of figures that are
living or dead, real or imaginary,
human or otherwise

Once all contestants have come up with their choices, then
each player, starting from the left of the lead contestant,
reveals their pick. The objective is to come up with a unique
name, of which nobody else in the group has chosen.
Contestant #1 for example may choose John Denver. If nobody
else in the group has chosen this name, then contestant #1
earns a point. However, if anyone else in the group has chosen
this name, then those who have “cancel out” with each other,
and receive no point for that particular round.

The game makes its way around the group, with each
contestant revealing their choice, each unique name receiving a
point, and those canceling out with each other receiving no
point. Use the score card to enter names and to tally points for
each round of play. When all contestants have revealed their
choices, the game proceeds to the next round, with the
contestant to the left of the lead contestant now having his/her

What’s Allowed & What’s Not

Names chosen for play can be first names, and they can be
first names that can be used as last names. Using the above
example, the name chosen was John. Someone in the group
could have legitimately chosen the name Elton John. Another
example is the name Thomas. A player can use Thomas Edison
as an acceptable choice. A player can also choose to use
Thomas as a last name, for example, Frank Thomas (of
Chicago White Sox fame).

Last names that are strictly last names cannot be chosen for
play. You cannot choose the name Edwards, for instance,
unless you can use it as a first name as well. The group must
decide (by majority) whether to allow any “questionable”
choices made by any contestants.

The chosen name cannot be modified to another variation of
itself for any given round of play. For example, if the name
offered up for the current round of play is Thomas, contestants
cannot use variations (such as Tom and Tommy) as part of
their choice. For example, a contestant cannot offer up the
name Tommy Hilfiger if the name being used in the current
round is Thomas. And the contestant cannot submit the name
Thomas Hilfiger if the person if famously known as Tommy.

Three-name monikers are acceptable, as well as middle initials.
For example, Lee Harvey Oswald would be an acceptable
entry given the name Lee, and so would Robert E. Lee. Use of
the word “the” and “of” in the name is also acceptable, Billy the
Kid, Cedric the Entertainer, Attila the Hun, and Joan of Arc are
all perfectly acceptable entries. Other variations not described
here could be acceptable, yet would be at the discretion of the
group (in other words, make a “house” ruling).

The full name that you choose must be acknowledged by at
least one member of the group as a “notable figure” in order for
you to gain a point. So know your group! Know what you can
and can’t get away with. Just because you’re a literary genius,
don’t choose a literary figure if nobody in your group has ever
opened a book! Your choice will be shot down because nobody
will be familiar with it, and you will not earn a point.

If it hasn’t become clear by now, the full name that you choose
must be someone (or something) that everyone has the
“opportunity” of knowing. You cannot pick the name of your
buddy in Toledo, for example, unless he is famous enough for
everyone else in the group to know or have heard about. Keep
the choices limited to “notable figures”, and there will be no

Tips & Strategies

It does nobody any good for the lead contestant to pick a name
that is so common that everyone earns a point. For instance,
offering up the name Joe will no doubt garner everyone in the
group a point. Seeing as there are so many famous Joes to
choose from, it’s unlikely that two people in the group will
choose the same Joe and cancel each other out. The object for
the lead contestant is to choose a name that has limited
possibilities, to better the chances of earning a point while
forcing others to potentially cancel out.

A contestant will increase his/her chances of avoiding
cancellation by picking the full name of a figure that is “lesser
known” to the general group. Of course make sure that at least
someone in your group can vouch for your choice. Choose a
name that perhaps your buddy whose into sports will
acknowledge, yet will not pick. And don’t overlook the obvious.
Often contestants will try to stay away from picking the obvious
for fear of everyone else picking it as well. Know how to read
your group. You may just end up with a point by picking what
everyone else is avoiding.

Finally, a key strategy to this game is for the lead contestant to
choose a name that can be used as both a first and last name,
and having a good choice in mind that others in the group may
tend to overlook. As the lead contestant, you have the
opportunity to stack the odds in your favor of earning a point,
as you are the one choosing the name. Make the most of your
choice, and have a few choices made in advance, for use in
upcoming rounds. A bit of thought up front and before it’s your
turn can give you the advantage you need to win in the end.

Final Words

Unlike other games that tend to dry up after they’re played
enough, The Name Game is a game that transcends time and
stays fresh throughout the generations. If the game was solely
based upon using historical figures, for example, the players
would run out of names after enough rounds, and the game
would be defunct. Yet the game is open to all names, past,
present, and future, and there will always be more names to
choose from, thereby making it as enjoyable the next time you
play as it was the first time you played!

*Although we do not condone the consumption of alcohol, we
ask that if you do, please drink responsibly.
Engineering Solutions