Everyone likes to play games, and pen and paper games are a quick and easy way to pass the time. Our selection includes games for one, for two, and for groups. We have games easy enough for small children and challenging enough for adults. Our selection includes old favorites and some you have probably not heard of before. Carry a pen or pencil, and a tablet or a few sheets of paper in your pocket or purse, and you are ready to play these games anywhere.
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Pen and Paper Games for Adults
Often, we need a quick way to fill time. A party bogs down, we are caught waiting at a restaurant or airport, or we simply want something quick and easy to help us pass the time. All one needs is a pen and some paper for the following easy games to challenge the thinking and create some fun. The following games are challenging enough for adults, but older children will enjoy them as well.
Categories Pen and Paper Game
Simply choose five to ten categories and write them at the top of a paper. Each player takes turns picking a letter of the alphabet. Then all of the players take turns listing something in each category starting with that letter. The players each have one minute for their turn. Each round, the points are totaled. A player only gets points for words that are uniquely theirs. After all of the categories are finished, the player with the most points wins the game. Try the following categories or choose your own:
- TV Shows
- Things That Whistle
Pen and Paper Pictionary
Any number of people can play this game. Give each person a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Instruct them to write down a common phrase and fold the paper up. Collect all of the papers and place them in a box or basket. Players take turns choosing a paper and either act out the phrase or draw it on a large piece of paper. (Newsprint works well). The person who guesses correctly draws or acts out the next phrase. If you wish, you can provide a category for the game, such as one of the following:
- Book titles
- Movie names
- Sports teams
- Famous places
Bulls and Cows Pen and Paper Game
Put on your thinking cap for this one! Each player creates a secret numeric sequence of four numbers. Players take turns guessing the number with “Bulls” indicating the correct number of digits in the correct place and “Cows” indicating correct numbers in the wrong position for each guess. The goal is to discover secret sequence in the least number of turns.
Pen and Paper Games for One
Sometimes one sits alone and wishes to look busy. Or maybe one is bored or trying to pass time while waiting for a friend, phone call, or appointment. Solitary pen and paper games are difficult to find. We have original pen and paper games for one person you will find easy and fun.
Word Watch Pen and Paper Games
Wherever you are sitting, jot down as many words as you can see easily from your surroundings.
- Game 1: Form sentences or even a short story from the words you find.
- Game 2: Put the words you find in alphabetical order.
- Game 3: See how many smaller words you can make from larger words.
- Game 4: See if you can find a word for every letter in the alphabet.
Close Your Eyes Drawing Game
Close your eyes and draw a picture. Choose something simple, such as a house, tree, or stick figure person. Those watching may think you are praying, meditating, or in deep concentration. All the while you are attempting to draw a familiar object from memory without looking at the paper.
Category Doodling Pen and Paper Game
Choose a category of something that is simple to draw and see how many variations you can create. Examples are leaves, decorated balls or boxes, circles with designs, hearts, flowers, or drink glasses.
Pen-or-Pencil Paper Games for Multiple Players
Even though we live in a technological world, there are times when one can use a pen and pencil game to have fun in a group. The following two games work well at parties and as icebreakers in classrooms and offices. Although they are challenging, older children will enjoy them also.
Word Square Pen and Paper Game
Two or more players will enjoy this simple yet challenging game. Each player begins by drawing a four space by four space square on a piece of paper and hiding it from the other player(s). The players take turns calling out a letter. As each letter is called out, players must write the letter somewhere on their grid. The goal is to make as many four-letter words as possible. Called out letters may be repeated. When all of the grids are full, players disclose their grids and count how many four-letter words they were able to create vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. The player with the most wins the game.
Pen and Paper Telephone
You will need three or more people to play this pen and paper game also known as “Gossip!” Begin with a standard 8 ½ x 11-inch sheet of paper for each player. Everyone draws a picture at the top of the paper and passes the paper to their left. Then each player captions the picture and folds it so only the sentence shows. The papers are passed again and the next player draws a picture to fit the sentence. This continues until the paper is full. The papers are unfolded to see a funny story. If you wish, you may begin by folding the papers into four or more sections – one for each player.
Pen and Paper Games for Two Players
Pen and paper games are perfect for two players and there are many two-player games out there. Very young children begin with Tic-Tac-Toe and move to more challenging games. Students become secretive proficient players when bored in class. Some of the following games provide a challenge to even the most sophisticated players.
Probably the first and easiest pen and paper game learned by a child is Tic-Tac-Toe. Grids of two vertical and two horizontal lines are filled with either an X or O as players take turns. The goal is to have three marks in a row – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – before your opponent. The player who goes first can have the advantage. Two experienced players often end the game in a draw. Tic-Tac-Toe teaches good sportsmanship and beginning reasoning to young children.
Sim Pen and Paper Game
You need two different colors to play this two-player game, but we have included it here as it is so much fun. Draw six dots in a hexagon (a six-sided geometric shape). Take turns drawing lines between each dot. You can either use two different colored pens or a pen and a pencil. The object is to avoid making a triangle. The first person whose line completes a triangle loses this game.
Dots and Boxes Pen and Paper Game
Begin with a grid of dots drawn on a piece of paper. You can choose what size grid you wish to use. A six-by-six grid works well for younger children. More advanced players may wish to draw a much larger grid. Two or more players take turns with different colored pens or pencils drawing lines between dots. The goal is to complete a box while preventing the other player from doing so. When a block is completed by a player, they write their initials inside and draw another line. When all of the dots are connected, the person with the most completed blocks wins.
Sprouts Pen and Paper Game
Another connect-the-dot game, Sprouts is challenging and fun. Two players take turns drawing curved lines to connect dots until one of the players is unable to do so. Begin with two or more dots drawn on a piece of paper. Take turns drawing lines to connect dots with the following directions and rules:
- A line must not pass through another spot or cross another line.
- Lines may be drawn joining two spots or a single spot to itself.
- No more than three lines can emerge from any spot.
- When a player draws a line, they draw a spot on the new line.
The last player able to draw a line wins the game.
You may know this as a boxed strategy game, but it is easily played with pen and paper. Players begin by drawing two grids with ten vertical and ten horizontal lines on two separate sheets of paper. The horizontal side is lettered and the vertical side numbered. On one sheet, each player draws rectangles representing a fleet of ships without letting the other player see their location. On the other grid, hits are marked with an X and misses with an O. The ships must take adjacent squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player’s fleet consists of the following:
- 1 aircraft carrier covering five squares
- 1 battleship covering four squares
- 1 cruiser covering three squares
- 2 destroyers covering two squares each
- 2 submarines covering one square each
Players take turns firing a salvo of seven shots, calling out guessed locations of the other player’s ships, example F6, G9, etc. An opponent must state the number of hits and the type of ship, but not which shots were hits and which misses. Once all the squares of a ship are discovered, a player must say, “You sank my battleship (cruiser, destroyer, etc.).” Each time a player loses a ship, the salvo is reduced by one shot. The goal is to sink all of an opponent’s ships to win the game.
- The grid can be made smaller.
- Players can have fewer ships.
- Only one shot is allowed each turn.
If you wish, you can play with the optional rule that no two ships can touch.
Hangman Pen and Paper Game
An expert player of this simple word pen and paper game knows how to stump their opponent with repeated letter words and short words. One player draws gallows with an empty rope and blanks for each letter of a word below it, leaving space to complete the drawing of a hanged man. The other player guesses each missing letter of the word with each incorrect guess resulting in another part of the hanging man’s body – head, torso, two arms and two legs. If the player guesses the word before the hangman is completed, they win. If not, the player who chose the word wins.
Connect Four Pen and Paper Game
No need for a store-bought version of this fun game. Simply draw ten lines horizontally and vertically to create twenty squares. Then take turns drawing circles in an attempt to get four in a row. Once the bottom row is filled, players must “drop” their circles on top of another. Players can either mark the circles with their initials or use X and O. The first to get four in a row wins.
SOS Pen and Paper Game
SOS is played on a grid of squares of any size, usually 3 x 3. Two players attempt to label sequential squares either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally with SOS. Once a player succeeds, they take another turn and continue until they cannot create any more. Players may play either an S or an O on their turn. To differentiate between players, one player circles their letters, and the other places a line through theirs. (They can also use different colored pens.) If neither player gets a SOS, the game is a draw.
Pencil-or-pen and paper games provide a quick and easy solution to the complaint, “I’m bored!” These games can be played anytime and anywhere. So, grab a pen or pencil and challenge a friend, introduce a group game at your next party, or teach you child strategic thinking with our collection of fun games.
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.