A Three-Player Pictionary Variant
by William Hoza, Paige Kubenka, and Alicia Torres
Pictionary is a classic game in which players try to guess what
other players are drawing. Quintessentially, Pictionary
is played by two teams of two players (one teammate draws while
the other teammate guesses.)
official Pictionary rules
also describe a "three-player" version
of the game. In Hasbro's "three-player" game, one player is designated
as the artist for the entire game; the other two players compete
to win by guessing. Hasbro's game has some merits, but the
poor artist can hardly be considered a "player" in the game. Hasbro's game is
more like a two
-player guessing game.
In this document, we describe a Pictionary variant with no teams
in which every player has a shot at winning. Our game is
designed for three players, but it also works with more than
How to play our game
A source of words (e.g. the cards from the original Pictionary game)
A drawing surface that everyone can see
A one-minute timer
In each round, one player is the artist and all other
players are guessers.
The artist gets a word from the word source and spends up
to one minute drawing it. (Standard Pictionary rules apply:
no alphabet symbols, no gestures, etc.)
If a guesser correctly identifies the word, the round is over.
The successful guesser and the artist each get one point.
(In the rare event that multiple guessers correctly identify
the word simultaneously, each successful guesser gets one
If none of the guessers identify the word within one
minute, the round is over and nobody gets any points.
Players take turns being the artist with one
exception: if it would be your turn to draw, but your
score is strictly greater than each of the other
players' scores, then you are "ineligible to draw" and your
turn is skipped.
If you have at least 9 points and you have strictly
more points than each other player at the beginning of a
round, then you are "eligible to win" during that round.
If you get a point in a round in which you are eligible to
win and no other guessers get points in that round, then
the game is over and you win!
Example: At the beginning of a round, A has 7 points, B has
8 points, and C has 9 points. B draws and C successfully
guesses the word. The game is over. The final scores are (7,
9, 10) and C wins. This example demonstrates that the win
condition is not simply "game to 10, win by two."
The reader may wonder why our rules are so complicated. For the
sake of discussion, let's consider some simpler rules, focusing
on the three-player case. Let's imagine a game where players
take turns being the artist; the artist and guesser each get
one point when the the word is successfully identified; the
first player to 10 points wins the game. To handle ties
we'd better stipulate that the game continues until some player
has strictly more points than each other player.
These simple rules have a serious defect: in some situations, a
player knows that he or she will not win
even though the
game isn't over. For example, suppose the scores are (8, 9, 9).
It's impossible for A to win, because if A ever gets a point,
then so does either B or C.
To fix this defect, let's change the winning condition. Let's
say the game continues until some player has at least 10 points
and is ahead by a margin of at least two points ("game to 10,
win by two"). These rules still have some serious defects:
In some situations, one guesser doesn't want to
guess. Suppose the scores are (7, 9, 8) and B is the
artist. If A successfully guesses the word, the game will
end and B will win, whereas if C successfully guesses the
word, the game will continue. So A would rather wait until
C is the artist to guess.
Even worse, in some situations, neither guesser wants to
guess! Suppose the scores are (5, 6, 9) and C is
drawing. If A or B correctly guesses the word, they'll
immediately lose! They'd rather wait until one of them is
In some situations, the artist doesn't want to draw.
Suppose the scores are (7, 8, 9) and A is the artist. If A
draws, there's a risk that C might correctly guess the word
and win the game. On the other hand, A can just wait for B's
turn as artist. When B draws, even if C successfully guesses
the word, the scores will be (7, 9, 10) and the game will
Our rules avoid all these defects:
With our rules, there can never be a tie. After all, in
each round, at most one player is eligible to win.
With our rules, if the game isn't over, any player might
win. Indeed, no matter what's happened so far, you'll
win if from now on, whenever you're a guesser, you
successfully guess the word, and whenever you're the
artist, the guesser with fewest points successfully guesses
With our rules, it's always reasonable for all guessers
to guess. After all, if another player is eligible to
win, guessing will prevent that player from winning.
With our rules, it's always reasonable for the artist to
draw. After all, if a guesser is eligible to win, that
guesser will still be eligible to win next round if you
refrain from drawing. You're going to have to get points
eventually if you want to ever win.
Admittedly, even with our rules, there are still some contrived
scenarios in which someone might choose to not guess or choose
to not draw. For example, the two guessers might feel that the
artist is actually much better than they are and is only
eligible to draw due to bad luck, so they might refrain from
guessing. For another example, suppose A is the artist and B is
eligible to win. A might feel that B is particularly good at
guessing A's drawings and A is particularly good at guessing
C's drawings. A might therefore choose to not draw. In
practice, we haven't encountered these issues.
We hope you enjoy our game!
We thank Paige Hardy for helping us playtest.