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Hangman 101 (Paper-and-Pencil Game): What Is It? Objectives, Purpose,…

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

There are a couple of games that require just a pen and paper. Hangman is one such game. Like Tic-Tac-Toe, we can play this quick game multiple times. The game has been around for centuries, and nowadays, just one person can play it if they wish, using their digital device, of course.  

What is Hangman & How is it Played?

Hangman is a fun guessing game that is all about words. If the players want to make things a little more interesting, they can also incorporate phrases and sentences. What’s nice about Hangman is that it can be customized to purpose, meaning it can be made easier or harder, and in some instances, it is even used for educational purposes. 

In a game of Hangman, one person will think of a word, and the other(s) take turns making suggestions as to what letter is required to complete the word. The person who comes up with the word will draw a set number of dashes in each row, representing letters within the word. 

Guessing the correct letter will lead to having that letter written down in its respective place on the dashed line. Otherwise, the Hangman stick figure will begin to form, piece by piece. Once the player(s) guess all the correct letters, they win. Then, another player will then choose a new word.

However, if the guessing player(s) fail to complete the word within the number of guesses allowed, the Hangman stick figure will be completed, bringing the game to an end. The player who chose the word will reveal that word and can choose a new word. 

When more than one person is playing, it is good to let the people guessing take turns instead of randomly calling out letters. The incorrect letters guessed should also be written down somewhere else on the paper so that players know those letters have been used before.

How Many Guesses Does Each Player Get?

Some players like to start the diagram with the gallows, and each incorrect guess leads to the stick man being drawn, first his head, then his body, then each arm and leg. We can even draw the stick man’s face, all at once, or each eye, nose, and mouth as separate elements. Once the figure is complete, all guesses have been used up, bringing the game to an end. 

Some players start without the gallows, and each incorrect guess will form a part of the gallows. Players may allow one final guess represented by hanging the man, typically indicated by drawing a line through his neck. So between six to fifteen wrong guesses are allowed. Of course, should a player guess the correct letter, they retain the number of wrong guesses they’re allowed.

What is the Purpose of Hangman?

People not only play this game when there’s a pen and writing material around to cure boredom, but this game is also effective in classroom-type settings. Teachers find this game useful to teach younger students new words or how to spell words. 

This game can also be used as a great activity for those learning a foreign language. It’s a fun game for both kids and adults alike. Let’s take a look at why it is particularly useful in facilitating learning:

  • When learning, students need to be motivated. Younger children and those learning a foreign language need to be motivated to have a willingness to continue learning.
  • Hangman is interactive and engaging. A teacher can involve everyone in the class to participate in this game.
  • We can learn new vocabulary through this game. Repetition is often a key that helps us learn new words, and what other way to increase repetition than through playing Hangman? Some educators like to provide definitions of the words and make students guess the word using this game.
  • This game is a great way to improve spelling. Young people have especially become used to auto-correct. Sometimes, we don’t necessarily notice that we don’t know how to spell certain words until we write them down.
  • Pronunciation is enhanced. Many students may have seen certain words before, but when they hear them being said, they think, “Oh, so that’s how you pronounce it!”

Is There a Strategy for Winning at Hangman?

Believe it or not, there are a few strategies for winning this simple game! The first is to start with vowels – A, E, I, O, U. Most words are bound to contain vowels. But what if the word you are trying to guess contains absolutely no vowels? You’re likely trying to guess the word “rhythm” or a word with the letter “y” in it. 

Another strategy is to guess commonly used letters. Some letters are more widely used than others. These include t, n, s, h, r, d, and l. You can also guess letters based on what you think the other person is thinking. You may be surprised that your friends, siblings, and people around you are often thinking the same things as you when playing this game! 

If you’re playing this game as part of a class, the words are likely to be ones you’ve heard throughout your lesson.

Do “Winning” Strategies Always Work?

Some words are considered hard words as they don’t follow a specific strategy. They contain uncommon letters such as z, j, or f. Difficult words like jazz, fuzz, or fox are considered difficult words because they use uncommon letters. 

Shorter words are also difficult to guess as you only have a limited number of guesses and 26 alphabets from which to choose. You’re more likely to guess all the letters when a longer word is used, or perhaps you are trying to guess a long sentence, which may contain much more letters, making the word/sentence/phrase easier to figure out. 

Certain letters are easy to identify in groups, like prefixes and suffixes. For example, “ing,” “tion,” “pro,” etc., so keeping an eye out where the correctly guessed letters are placed will help you with your next guess.

What Words are Allowed?

Depending on when and where you’re playing this game, people generally don’t allow proper nouns (words such as names of people and places). 

Slang words, otherwise known as informal words, are generally not used either. However, it is common to use proper nouns and slang when playing a casual game among friends. Of course, the person who initiates the game should know how to spell the words they want the other players to guess!

Making the Game Interesting

You can make the game a bit more interesting in the following ways:

  • Add themes: people include themes to make this game more interesting. For example, in a Christmas theme, we can use decorations, lights, presents, and other Christmas-related words. It would also make sense to use this theme around Christmas time.
  • Add a time limit: when a word is almost complete, and there are so many possibilities as to what the word can be, people tend to take a long time to figure out the word. Adding a time limit for each person can be great in these instances.
  • Provide clues: starting without any hints doesn’t motivate people to think. We enjoy little hints that require us to think in the right direction. Providing hints along the way may keep players interested. If, for example, a guess is incorrect and the game is about to end, the person who set the word can say something like, “You’re two letters away from your last guess,” or “The letter you’re looking for is toward the end of the alphabet.”
  • Make the game more challenging: use specific words that contain alphabets that are not commonly used, or make a rule where players have only one last chance to guess the word before they lose.

Last Word

As it turns out, Hangman is a game that can educate or entertain. It’s a versatile and fun way to pass the time!

JC Franco

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.