Telestrations: the "telephone" game, sketched out

If you haven't been to a games party in a while, you may not know the game Telestrations has been taking the party game world by storm for a few years now.  Games magazine declared it the "best new party game," and pronounced it the "Party game of the year."  High praise - but is it well deserved?  Read on....

Telestrations continues the tradition of old surrealist parlour games like "Exquisite Corpse" and "Eat Poop You Cat."  With the addition of dry-erase boards and markers, plenty of drawing ideas on cards, and rules for optional friendly or competitive scoring, USAopoly has brought these old paper-and-pencil concepts to a new and very receptive audience.  The company deserves special kudos for listening to their customers and releasing the 12-player Telestrations Party Pack! This expands the game so you can play with more than 8 players.  Every Party Pack contains everything you need to play with up to 12 people.

The concept of the game is simple.  The roll of a standard 6 sided die determines which item you will write on the first page of your erasable booklet, out of six on a card.  (You and your group may also opt to make up your own wacky words or phrases.)  Pass your booklet to the player on your left, and receive a booklet from the player on your right which contains a word or phrase that player wrote down.  Now everyone flips to the next page in the book they currently have, and draws the item that was written, without using any letters or numbers (symbols are ok, as in Pictionary and other drawing games).  Then the process repeats, and now the person on your left is guessing what you drew and writing that guess, while you are guessing the drawing of the person on your right.  This continues until everyone has contributed either a drawing or a guess to each booklet.

The absolute brilliance of the game is that each player only has one piece of information to go on, and never sees the full evolution until the round is complete.  This causes some absolutely hilarious twists and turns along the way.  Though one may initially feel intimidated if one is not artistic by nature, not only does that not matter, it actually makes the game MORE fun if a drawing is incomprehensible or weird (a sand timer is included to keep things moving and to make drawing more challenging, and although clean-up cloths are provided to help in erasing, no erasing is allowed during the round.)

The result is a party game activity that almost anyone can participate in and enjoy.  Written clues can be made easier for the youngest players (for example, a young player can be given the option to choose one of the six items on a card, rather than rolling a die to choose one randomly) and if only adults are playing, the drawings and guesses can be of a more scatological or adult nature.  The game scales beautifully to the participants.  And it's fun with almost any number of people (more is generally better.)  The game is easy to tailor to the players - use the timer or don't; use the cards and die or don't; really the payoff is in the final reveal where you see what happened to the initial secret phrase along the way.  If you're like my players, you'll want to have the person revealing flip back to re-show an especially hilarious drawing just after reading the following uproarious guess.  The only improvement I can suggest is rigging up some sort of webcam system to show the final reveal on a big living room screen, similar to the old overhead projectors - this would be helpful in a big game where it can be a little hard to see the detail in the drawings.  That will be my next experiment.

It's easy to see why hundreds of customers have given Telestrations a perfect five-star rating on  For more information, check out the USApoly web site.

Here is an example of how things can change and morph over the course of a round - that's Barney Rubble on page 3, obviously: