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How To Play Pictionary Without the Actual Game (Step By Step) – No Board Game…

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

Did you know that Pictionary has existed for many decades? The game was created in 1985 by Robert Angel and published through Angel Games, Inc. About a decade later, Hasbro came into the picture and developed it into the game we all know and love today. 

It didn’t take long for Pictionary to become a classic, and soon everyone had to have and play the game. Therein lies the problem. How do people who don’t have the actual game get to play it? Is there a way? 

The good news is that even if you’ve never played Pictionary before and don’t own the game, you can still play it. Pictionary is a fun family activity and a perfect solution for parties, so why miss out on the fun when you can make your own game! 

If you want to play Pictionary with your friends and family but don’t feel like spending money on purchasing the actual game, there’s no need to worry – making your very own Pictionary is straightforward. Not only is it easy to make, crafting your own game allows you to personalize it for your tastes and purposes:

1. Come up with the categories and words

The first step is to come up with categories you wish to include in your game. Once you’re set on four to five categories, start making word notes for each. Categories may be of varying difficulty and contain as many or as few words as you wish; just make sure the number of words is even across categories. 

The words are to be written on cards that can be stacked face-down, or written on pieces of paper that can be folded so that the writing is not visible. The goal is to prevent the person who’s going to draw it from seeing it before they pick it. You may include the word category on the card or paper as well. 

If you’re having trouble coming up with categories and words for them, you can browse for one of many word generators online to help give you some ideas.

2. Make the teams

Pictionary is a social game. Get your family, buddies, or coworkers together and split them into teams. The suggested number of players per team is three; however, you may go as high as five or more. The minimum number of players per team is two. 

Depending on the size and dynamic of your social group, feel free to organize it as you best see fit; just make sure that each team has the same number of players. If you have a large group of people, you should decide whether you want fewer larger teams or multiple smaller teams. 

If your group of people is comprised of Pictionary beginners, setting them up in larger teams is probably a good idea until they get more familiar with the game. As a general rule, the larger the teams, the faster the game. If you just have three people, one person can draw while the other two take turns guessing. 

3. Set goals

Set the winning parameter. The most common threshold is ten points, as this usually gets the game going for twenty-five to thirty minutes. As a general rule, you may multiply the number of points by two-point-five to estimate how long your game is going to last, and decide from there. 

If you feel like the game is drawing on too long, you may speed it up by allowing players to draw multiple cards at once.

4. Get the needed supplies

Make sure your players have easy access to drawing supplies and timers. This is a game that employs time limit measurement, so you should make sure there’s a stopwatch ready on hand. 

For drawing supplies, make sure whatever you choose for the drawing board is big enough for everyone to be able to see. Your choice of drawing tools will then depend on that choice.

5. Choose the first team

This step is rather simple but can be a lot of fun in itself. Pick the team that will get to go first in one of many fun ways, such as rock-paper-scissors, dice throw, team draw (teams pick names, numbers, or symbols that they write on pieces of paper and put in a large bowl from which you draw the first team), coin flip, etc.

6. Pick the one to draw

The team that’s been selected to go first should be given the option to choose which person from each team will draw at the start of each round.

7. Set the timer

When all teams are ready, begin the game. The person chosen to draw steps up to the ‘blackboard’, and the timer/s are set to thirty seconds.

8. Begin the round 

Read out the category of the chosen word to the players and start the timer. The designated sketcher must draw the word on the card on the drawing board. Their team must then work together in trying to guess what they are drawing.

9. Not permitted

The person chosen to draw is not allowed to make any sounds or hand gestures. They are also not allowed to draw any numbers or letters.

10. Assign points

Each time a team guesses correctly, they get a point. If their round ends without them making a correct guess, they receive no points for the round.

11. Rotate teams

As we mentioned above, a winning condition (a points threshold) should be assigned before the game begins. The game is to go on through teams until the first among them scores the set number of points. They are then proclaimed winners. You may choose to assign some interesting rewards if you’re feeling generous and deem it appropriate.

Potential Variations of the Game

Above, we have described the standard game of Pictionary optimized for making at home. If you have a group of experienced players, wish to make the game last longer, or wish to personalize it further for any other reason, below we have suggested some rule variations you may employ for these purposes:

  • We already explained how to speed up the game if it takes too long. On the other hand, a game of Pictionary can end ‘too quickly,’ or the players may feel like they want more. In that case, you may choose to play ‘best of 3’ (2), ‘best of 5’ (3), and so on, for as long as you want and everyone is having fun.
  • You may choose to allow everyone, not just the drawing team, to guess in each round. The team that guesses correctly gets the point.
  • If a team guesses correctly before the timer is up, allow for drawing another word for an additional point. Teams may draw/guess as many words per round as they can fit in the timer.
  • Assign different numbers of points for different categories. Simple categories like common nouns should be awarded one point, while more challenging words such as verbs or abstract concepts could be given two or even three points.
  • If you choose not to employ the first variation we suggested here, you can allow other teams to make their guess in case the timer has run out and the team whose turn it is failed to guess correctly.
  • Have teams go simultaneously. The designated sketchers from each team are to draw the same word at the same time, and the team who guesses correctly first earns the point/s.
  • If you have any type of board game with spaces to move around, such as Ludo, you can roll a die before each round and advance that many spaces if the word is guessed correctly. The first team to get to the end of the board is the winner. 


Pictionary is a fun, engaging, interactive game appropriate for all kinds of settings and social groups. Purchasing the original game is the quickest and easiest way to play it; however, setting up your own is quite simple and easy and allows for variations that can make it even more intriguing and exciting.

Once you make your first Pictionary game, you and your friends may feel inspired and keep adding onto it, subtracting, or changing it until it becomes a unique experience that perfectly fits your board gaming requirements. It’s a game, and it’s supposed to be fun; don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with rules and structure. Good luck!

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.