Balderdash Rules

Name: Balderdash

Number of players: The typical Balderdash rules say that up to 6 people can play at once, but you can increase this by playing in teams.

Recommended ages: 12 and up, or younger if they can write and have a creative vocabulary.

Average playing time: A full game could take around an hour, but each round should take around 5 minutes or so.


Fans of Pictionary and Scrabble will look at Balderdash with interest, as the game is a combination between the two. It resembles Pictionary in that it is a guessing game, and fans of Scrabble will enjoy the witty word play. It’s a great game to expand your vocabulary as you learn new and interesting words, and it is a great party game as you try and pull the wool over the other players’ eyes.

How to Play

The Balderdash rules are very simple. Each player chooses a playing piece and puts it at the start of the board. The playing board looks like a long trail, and players can earn points in any round to move their piece closer towards the finish. Each player will also need a notepad, either the one supplied by the game or identical sets.

The youngest player starts a typical Balderdash game, but this practice is just gaming convention. The starting player takes a card from the deck and rolls the die to see which word on the card they should read. They then read it aloud. Each card contains a different unusual word/person/movie/law and its true meaning. However, the player initially reads just the word, spelling it out if the other players request. All players then come up with their own definition or answer to what they think the word or phrase is. This can be a serious attempt or just something that they feel will make the other players laugh. Either way, Balderdash is all about sounding plausible.

Once they’ve written out their answer, players hand their pieces of paper to the player who read out the word. This player writes down the true meaning as written on the card and adds it to the pile. When all players have submitted their pieces of paper, the starting player mixes them up and reads them all out. Each player then votes once for which answer they think is the true one.

The players get points in a variety of ways.

  • Players score one point for guessing the right answer out of all the answers read.
  • They get one point if they correctly answered it with their paper.
  • They get one point for every vote that their answer gets from other players.

Winning the Game

Winning the Balderdash game is a question of being the first over the finish line. According to Balderdash rules, after each round, the number of points gained by each player is totalled and they move their game piece forward that many spaces. If two players cross the line on the same turn, one further round is played to get an overall winner.


The Balderdash rules say nothing about lying or using your knowledge of your opponents to get votes and therefore points. The key to the game is sounding plausible, so you’ll find you get a lot of points if your answers match the tone of voice used by the cards. This does make you sound like you’ve swallowed a dictionary, but people will find it hard to tell your fake answers apart from the real ones.

Final Thoughts

The words used in Balderdash are so unusual that it is incredibly unlikely that anyone will know them, let alone be able to define them. However, the Balderdash rules also allow you to use a dictionary instead of the cards if you’re finding that you know all of the cards in the set. The game is played in the same way except that the choosing player picks a word and definition from the dictionary instead of the cards. Either way, it's fun with family and friends for hours!

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