For those of you who are unfamiliar, let me introduce you to the game, the myth, the legend – Catchphrase. Regardless of how boring the people around you are, Catchphrase makes any party fun. It can amusingly frustrate the most arrogant verbalist while making the most soft-spoken wall-flower feel like a social genius. It’s a great game, and it is fast-paced and competitive.
The electronic version of Catchphrase makes it the easiest party game out there. The little Frisbee-sized disk has all the clues and count-down timer in one, portable plastic shell. If everyone is seated in some version of a circle, you’re all set. Teams are as large as you want to make them, and anyone next to you is not on your team.
Catchphrase is a modern, talking out-loud version of charades with an ominous, nerve-wracking countdown timer. Once one of your teammate guesses the phrase you’ve been trying to describe, you hit the “next” button on the disk and pass it to the poor sucker on your left, who has even less time to describe the next phrase to her teammates. This hilarity continues until the buzzer goes off and whichever team is holding the disk loses the round.
I’ve played this game with everyone. From family get-togethers over the holidays to house parties with college friends, everyone gets into it. The rounds are fast enough to keep everybody’s attention because it isn’t very long before the disk back is in your hands and you’re scrambling to shout out anything inside of your suddenly vacant brain that will somewhat resonate with the blank faces on your team. Of course, depending on how old or young you are, some phrases will make little to no sense. That’s when you have to attack the phrase with the fearless use of synonyms and non-synonyms.
Often times, the best way for teammates to figure out what phrase you’re trying to convey is by saying what it is not. I’ll quickly say, “not fly into circles, but…”, and my quick-witted teammate will shout out “jump through hoops!” That was a quick example, but often the phrases are much less common and involve much more hand gestures. My teammate holds one hand behind her back and makes a gun with her other hand, “give me all your money,” she says, pretending they’re all as easy as “one-armed bandit.”
If passing the disk is too much effort or the lateness of the hour makes it too cumbersome, just hold onto the disk and give catchphrase clues until the buzzer runs out. Whoever has the most articulate clues and gets the most phrases guessed, wins the game. A lot of times, it isn’t the size of the vocabulary but the ability to relate to your teammate that wins games. Just think, “how does my teammate see the world?” or “what tv shows/movies do they watch?”
It’s only a matter of time before you relay Dostoevsky’s masterpiece “Crime and Punishment” to your Dawson’s Creek obsessed cousin as the episode when Pacey gets in trouble for beating up the kid who vandalized the school mural. I’m not embarrassed, it’s a competitive game, and there are no points for second place.