10 Main Rules of Charades – Easily Explained (with Pictures)

woman smiling and gesturing for interested friends while playing charades
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When was the last time you played Charades? Are you familiar with the rules? I love to play Charades, but I often encounter people who excuse themselves from the game because they “don’t know the rules”. The last time it happened, I remember thinking to myself that that has to be changed. If you have found yourself sitting out of a game of Charades because you do not know the rules and feel uncomfortable, now is the time to change all of that. 

By familiarizing yourself with the rules of Charades, you can participate in the action and turn your previously mundane social evenings (feeling left out) into evenings filled with fun and excitement.

10 rules of Charades:

  1. Players are divided into two teams.
  2. An equal amount of Charades cards are dealt to each team.
  3. Timing and scorekeeping are essential. 
  4. Words/phrases must be acted out.
  5. Players cannot speak, point at room objects, or move their lips.
  6. Only 1 player in each team can see the Charades card to be acted out in each round.
  7. The team chooses the actor for each round – limitations per player apply.
  8. There is a 2 – 3-minute time limit for each actor.
  9. Standard gestures can be discussed and agreed on before play commences. 
  10. Teams take alternating turns until each member from each team has acted out a word/phrase.

When it comes to Charades, there is no reason to miss out on the fun if you know the rules, so familiarize yourself with these abovementioned rules and get ready to start playing Charades! If you want to find out a bit more about the rules of Charades, read on. 

How to Play Charades | The Rules

Just like every game, Charades comes with a set of rules. You will find that the rules are quite easy to learn, and in some instances, groups tweak the rules to make the game more interesting to them – that’s up to you. There are 10 basic rules that you need to be aware of if you are a first-time player. Check out each of the rules in a bit more detail below:

1. Players are divided into two teams.

two teams with flags
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When playing Charades, the group of people willing to participate is divided into two groups of equal numbers of people. There is no limit to the number of people that can play Charades, but for comfortable fun, 4 to 10 people are recommended. 

Before the game begins, 2 people can pick their team members. This is where I often advise people to apply some caution. It is a good idea to choose people for your team that you communicate well with, as you will have a bit more insight into how they communicate. Remember that you will need to communicate with these people on another level, so you need people who are open-minded, ready to have fun, and are good communicators. 

2. An equal amount of Charades cards are dealt to each team.

To play Charades, each team needs to have a set of cards to reference. Each Charades card has a word or phrase on it that must then be acted out to the team. It is easiest if you are playing from an actual Charades game set, as you can simply divide the cards equally between the two teams.

If you do not have a Charades game set and would like to play anyway, each team can create Charades cards for the opposing team by writing possible words and phrases on pieces of paper. You might be worried about the opposing team creating cards that are far difficult; however, only words/phrases that half the team can accurately guess can be written down onto pieces of paper as words for the other team. Alternatively, someone not playing the game can come up with some options.

3. Timing and scorekeeping are essential. 

Time and scores must be kept, preferably by someone who is not playing the game. Alternatively, members from the opposite team can keep score and time for each other. When a player receives his/her Charades card, he/she must act it out. Then, the team is given 2 to 3 minutes to guess the word or phrase correctly. 

Scoring works on correct guesses within the given time frame. If the word or phrase is correctly guessed within 3 minutes, the team gets one point. If they do not, no points are awarded. 

Time and score keeper
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4. Words/phrases must be acted out.

This is probably the most important rule. When the chosen actor receives his/her Charades card, the word or phrase must be acted out or pantomimed. If the word cannot be easily acted out, the actor can pantomime similar sounding words or words that can be easily associated with the phrase or word. This must be communicated to the team by using the “sounds like” sign, which is done by the actor pointing to his ear. 

5. Players cannot speak, point at room objects, or move their lips.

The entire object of Charades is to use non-verbal communication to relay a message from the actor to the team. There is absolutely no talking or singing allowed – in fact, no vocal sounds can be made at all, although other sounds can be made, such as clapping hands or stamping feet. 

The actor may also not point to certain objects in the room to help players guess the word. They may not move their lips either as this can be used by team members to lip-read the clue, which is not allowed. 

6. Only 1 player in each team can see the Charades card to be acted out in each round.

When the Charades cards are dealt out to each team, the team may not look at the cards. At the end of each round, the team chooses a new actor. The actor then selects the top card and stands in front of the group, ready to act out the word/phrase on the card without showing other teammates or saying anything. Only the actor is allowed to see the content on the card.

7. The team chooses the actor for each round – limitations per player apply.

miniature scene of two teams
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Before each new round can begin, the team must decide who will act next. In order to ensure fairness and so that the teams do not only rely on their good communicators, each person in the team must act at least once before anyone in the group can take a second turn. Charades focuses on everyone having a turn. 

8. There is a 2 – 3-minute time limit for each actor.

Once an actor has read the Charades card, he/she must stand in the front of the group and act out the word or phrase. To ensure that there is complete fairness, 2 to 3 minutes is allowed for the actor to act out the word and for the team to guess the correct answer. If the team guesses correctly, a point is awarded. If the team runs out of time and guesses incorrectly, no points are awarded and the next team is then able to take their turn. 

9. Standard gestures can be discussed and agreed on before play commences. 

There are several standard gestures that are used in Charades games. Of course, some people might not have played the game in years and some might be complete newbies to the game, so it is important to go over these gestures and their meanings before the game commences. The most important gestures that help team members guess correct answers is that of the category that the word is from. The categories and gestures attached to them are:

  • Books: press hands together in front of you and then open them as if opening a book.
  • Movies: hold your left hand up to your eye as if looking through a spyglass and with your right hand; make motions as if you are cranking an old film crank wheel. 
  • Songs: hold up your fist and pretend you are singing into it like a microphone.
  • TV shows: use your hands to draw the shape of a television in the air.
  • Plays: use both hands to pretend you are pulling down on a theater curtain’s drawcord. 
  • Phrases & quotes: use both hands to make finger air quote signs. 
cartoons making gestures
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10. Teams take alternating turns until each member from each team has acted out a word/phrase.

The game must be played until each member of the team has had a turn to act. This is considered the fairest way to determine which team wins the game. 

Last Word

Now that you know the general basic rules of Charades, you are ready to play your first game. If it’s your first time, I would personally recommend that you watch a few of your teammates taking their turns acting just so that you can pick up on some of the gestures and movements that they use. When your time comes around, you will be ready and confident.