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12 Alternatives (Variations) to Telephone (Chinese Whispers)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Children on a bench playing Chinese whispers
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What if your usual go-to game of Telephone (aka Chinese Whispers) isn’t met with the same excitement from the kids as it usually is? Now what? Are there any alternative games to play or perhaps variations to the game that players might enjoy? The answer is a great resounding yes!

There are many alternatives and variations to the Telephone Game, and today you’re going to learn about several of them. 

Having a decent number of games to play instead of the traditional Broken Telephone is a good idea, especially if you are working with a group of children. By adding something new or different to options, you will undoubtedly grab their attention and intrigue them. Let’s jump right in.

These are 12 alternatives and variations to Telephone:

1. Tracked Telephone Game 

This is a variation of the Telephone Game and is designed to see where things got a little mixed up along the way. 

In this variation, each player has a piece of paper and a pen. As the message or word is whispered to them, they walk away and write down what they believe they heard. They hang onto their piece of paper until the end, when the final person in the line repeats what they heard. Then players can refer to their pieces of paper to determine where things were misheard. 

2. Pictionary

Pictionary is an alternative game to play, if players aren’t too keen on playing Chinese Whispers. It’s important to gather words and phrases before playing. 

On pieces of paper, have someone who is not playing write down a series of words, phrases, and ideas. Group the players into 2 teams. Then, each player is provided with a piece of paper and a pen (or colored pens) and must select a piece of paper from the words and phrases pile (without looking). Each player must draw in detail what they see on the piece of paper. 

Then, they must present the drawing to their teammates, who must guess what the word or phrase is based on the drawing. If they get it right, it is one point for the team. The team with the most points in the end wins. 

3. Nonsense Telephone

Nonsense Telephone is a variation of the Telephone Game that is just meant to be silly fun. Young children really enjoy this game. 

To start, one of the children must make up a nonsense word, sentence, or phrase and let the controller (or parent/teacher) know what it is. Then, they must whisper this to the first player, who in turn whispers the message to the next player, and so on. 

When the message reaches the last player, they must try to repeat the nonsense message as they heard it. This proves to be heaps of fun. After all, kids love a little nonsense talking.

4. Telephone Charades

Telephone Charades is an alternative to the Telephone Game that is very popular because the message can become quite warped. For spectators, the acting can become hilarious, especially as they see where the message is becoming distorted. 

The game takes 5 or more people to play. Players line up and face the left side of the room. The first person must turn around and be given the message or word. They then turn around and act out the message silently to the next person in line. 

Without guessing what the clue is, the player must then act out the same message to the next player. When the act reaches the last person in line, they must take a guess at what the original message was. 

5. Paper Telephone

This alternative game to Chinese Whispers is very similar to Pictionary, although there are some differences. It is thoroughly enjoyed by kids of most ages and well worth introducing to kids in the classroom or even at a party. It’s also enjoyed by adults! 

To play, each player will need a piece of paper and a pencil. Players should be seated in a circle and should write their names lightly in pencil on the bottom of their piece of paper. Each person should write a sentence on their piece of paper about absolutely anything and then pass their piece of paper to the person on their right. 

note book pencil on old wood table
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Underneath the sentence, players must draw what they read in the sentence. They then fold the piece of paper over so that the sentence cannot be seen, but the picture is still displayed. The pieces of paper are then passed on to the person on their right again. Each player must then write the sentence or word that they think is depicted in the picture, below the picture. 

Consequently, the piece of paper is folded again, hiding the picture and only displaying the sentence and then passed to the right again. This is done until there is no more space (a predetermined number of rounds can be agreed on at the start of the game). Then the pages are all opened up to see where people went wrong (or right). 

6. Whispered Name That Song

This is a great variation of the Telephone Game and is usually enjoyed by people who aren’t too shy. The game involves the first person whisper singing a line or chorus of a song to the next person in the line. In the end, the person needs to sing the line from the song aloud and try to guess what song it is. 

This isn’t a variation for everyone, so only introduce it if everyone is onboard with participating. Some people don’t know music and others might not want to sing. 

7. The Winking Assassin

This is a great game in a large group and proves popular in all age groups, even adults. Players sit in a circle. To start, all players close their eyes, except the first person who is predetermined as the “Godfather”.

The Godfather must tap one person on the shoulder when everyone’s eyes are closed. This person becomes the “Assassin”. This person must keep it a secret that they are the assassin. Still, during the course of the time spent (which can be used to talk about anything and everything), they must ‘kill’ players off by winking at them without anyone else noticing. 

When the assassin winks at someone, he must slump over and pretend to be dead. This goes on until someone else catches the assassin winking at someone and calls out their name.

8. The Story Writing Game 

The story writing game is fun for creative teens as well as adults. It’s not a great game for very small children who cannot write yet. 

In this game, one piece of paper and a pen or pencil is needed. Players sit in a circle, and the first player writes 2 sentences on the paper. They then fold the piece of paper, so only part of the last sentence is seen. The next player must then do the same, folding over the paper and only leaving a portion of their sentence showing for the next player. This continues until the paper is full.

Then, someone stands up and reads the story on the paper. This can end up being quite hilarious, especially if some of the players are funny or like to write creatively. 

9. Telephone Translate

Try to teach the players how to say a few things in another language. This is actually used in some foreign language classes to teach words and pronunciation. The word or phrase is whispered in the foreign language to the first player, who then translates it to the next player, who then translates it back to the next player. 

What comes out, in the end, will determine if everyone knew the foreign word and what its meaning is. Learning in this way is fun and filled with pressure, which will mean that players will remember the word in the future.

10. Action Chinese Whispers

This variation of the game is quite popular with people who are energetic and like to get involved. It starts off with the first person whispering a word or phrase to the second player, who must then act it out to the next player without other players in the line watching.

Telephone game isolated cartoon vector illustration
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The next player then whispers what they think they saw to the next player, who then acts it out to the following player. And this goes on until it reaches the end of the line, and the last player must shout out what they think the message is. 

11. My Favorite Things

For those who don’t want to play Chinese Whispers, a game of My Favorite Things might be a fun alternative. 

To play this game, all the players are given a piece of paper with 4 squares on it. The category or theme of each square can be predetermined by the group, but should be along the lines of animals, hobbies, favorite songs, and so on. 

Once everyone has written down their favorite thing, all the pages are mixed up and put in the middle of the group. One person reads the favorite things listed on the page, and everyone has to guess who it belongs to. It’s a great all-inclusive game that helps people get to know each other a little better. 

12. What Is It?

This is a great alternative group game to the Telephone Game. Instead of standing in a line, the players sit in a circle. 

One by one, children take turns to describe something. For instance, an apple can be described as a green or red item of food that’s sweet. The person who guesses it right is the person who takes their turn describing next. The person who gets the most correct guesses wins a prize!

All things considered

Playing the Telephone Game is fun, but some players might want to try something new. The above-mentioned games are great variations and alternatives to Chinese Whispers. If you would like to introduce a game that’s just a little bit different from the traditional Telephone Game, the above 12 options are great alternatives to choose from. 

Perhaps you just want to spruce up the traditional Broken Telephone Game, or maybe you want to do something completely different. Either way, these games will not disappoint.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.