15 Easy Pen and Paper Games Your Family Will Love
When you want to disconnect from your devices, or you’re all stuck at home, these easy pen and paper games are fun for everyone in your family.
Chatting, laughing, and playing free games with just pen and paper is a classic way to spend time as a family.
Whether you are on a holiday together, waiting for the doctor or stuck at home because of illness, you and your kids will love trying these fun games.
Easy Pen and Paper Games for All Ages
Grab a notebook and some pens and get ready for some old-fashioned fun!
A few of these games can be changed to be a one-player game. But most of them are two-player or more. A few of them are fun to play with small groups or even parties of people. Which will you try first?
Do you remember playing the game called “hangman” as a kid? A less deadly and more kid-friendly version of this game is spaceman. The rules are the same, but you aren’t drawing a stick figure hanging from a noose.
How to Play: One player thinks of a word and writes one dash for each letter in the word on a piece of paper. The other players guess letters. If they get a letter correctly, the first player writes it where it goes.
If that person guesses a letter that isn’t in the word, that letter is written above and the head of the spaceman is drawn on the paper.
Players keep trying to guess letters. They win if they can guess the entire word before the other player finishes a complete spaceman.
This is a very popular game. You can make it take longer to finish by drawing more dots on the paper. It goes by different names like the dot game.
How to Play: This game requires at least two players but can be played with more. You basically draw dots and then each player takes turns connecting two dots with a straight line.
The first person to make a complete square puts their initials in the box.
Play continues until the last two dots are connected. Players get 1 point per box. The player with the most points at the end wins.
The popular board game can be changed and become one of the most fun pen and paper games for two.
How to Play: Each player sets up a grid with letters and numbers. Then, they place their “ships” on the grid.
Just like the board game, each player takes turns calling out positions to strike the player’s ships. You can draw your own grid, or use a free printable version.
Have you ever heard of the board game or game show “scategories”? This is the pen and paper version. This is one of the most fun pen and paper games for groups, but you can also play this with as few as two people.
How to play: Decide on four categories. Then, pick a letter. Set a timer for 2 minutes. In those 2 minutes, try to think of as many words in your set categories that start with your chosen letter.
When the timer beeps, players take turns reading the words they chose. Cross off any words that other players used too. The player with the most words that no one else had gets 1 point for each word.
5. Mastermind or “Bulls and Cows”
This is a really fun guessing game that is best for older children. This paper game takes a little more thinking and strategy than a few of the others.
How to play: One player, “it,” writes down a secret 4-digit number. Then, the other players try to guess the number. After each guess, the person that’s “it” tells them how many digits are correct and in the right position and how many digits are correct but in the wrong place.
Players keep making guesses until they are able to guess the 4 digit number correctly.
Want to make it tougher? Limit the number of guesses the players have.
6. Paper Soccer
Paper soccer is a game that involves a bit of strategy. The goal is to be the first player to get the soccer ball into their goal. You only get one move, unless you are able to bounce the ball off another line or the side of the board.
To draw the borders for this game, it will save you lots of time if you just use graph paper.
How to play: This is another way to connect lines and dots, with the goal to reach your goal. It’s a two-player game.
First, set up the game with dots, one goal at each end, and lines around the edge to mark the boundaries of the field.
The ball starts out in the middle of the paper. Each player can only connect two dots with one line. However, if the “ball” (or dot) hits the side boundaries or a current line, that player gets to go again.
The first player to reach their goal wins.
Here is a quick video showing you how to play it. This video shows a computer-version, but you can draw this gameboard on paper.
7. Nested Tic Tac Toe
This game takes the naughts and crosses game and kicks it up a notch. Ultimate tic-tac-toe takes a lot longer to play and has a few more rules.
How to play: First, you have to have one large tic-tac-toe board where each grid or square contains a smaller board.
X goes first and can place their x anywhere on the board.
The O player then must play in the grid corresponding with where the x played. Look at where the “x” player moved, then compare that to the larger board and that’s the area where the O has to move.
Then, X has to play based on where O was played.
Play continues in this manner. When someone gets 3-in-a-row in one of the smaller boards, they get to place a large X or O on that board.
Players continue playing until there are three large Xs or Os in a row.
If that doesn’t quite make sense, here is a video that explains it step-by-step.
8. Blind Drawing
There are lots of different blind drawing games. All of them are laughter-inducing games perfect for parties and small groups of people.
How to play: In one variation, player 1 takes a piece of paper and draws a simple picture on the back of player 2. Then, player 2 attempts to guess what player 1 drew by drawing in themselves.
Another way to play this is player 1 calls out directions to the rest of the players. With their eyes closed (or blindfolded) these players attempt to follow these directions. Then, at the end, everyone laughs when they see what they drew.
9. Finish the Doodle
This could easily be a one player game. It’s also really quiet, doesn’t require any talking or conversation. If you are looking for quiet pen and paper games for one, this is perfect.
How to play: One person draws a random doodle on a piece of paper. The other person has to use this doodle to create a complete picture.
There are other variations you can do. You can take turns drawing different parts of the picture. This could result in some really fun portraits!
To play it by yourself, start out with a silly, nonsensical doodle and attempt to create something recognizable out of it.
10. Finish the Story
The only thing you need for this story is a pencil and a piece of paper. By the time the game is over, the story will be so funny and strange that you will want to play it again and see what else you all can come up with.
How to play: One person writes a sentence of a story. Then, they hand the paper to the next person, who continues this sentence.
Then, they fold the paper over so only the last sentence is visible and pass it along to the next person in line.
Play continues like this until the paper is filled, time is up, or they decide to end it and read the story.
This can last as long as you let it.
The sim pen and paper game is for two players. It involves lines and triangles and it’s a lot of fun to play this game with your kids.
How to play: The goal is to avoid being the first person to draw a complete triangle in their color.
First, set up the game board. Draw a hexagon, with a dot at each corner. Then, draw lines connecting each dot to each other. After you draw the lines, you are ready to play the game.
Players should use different colored highlighters or markers to make this game easier to play.
Players take turns coloring one line at a time. The first player to create an entire triangle out of their color loses.
This game is similar to tic-tac-toe, but it has a larger board and more chances to gain points.
How to play: The goal is to be the player that connects the most SOS patterns. You can make the grid as large or as small as you want.
Players take turns writing either an S or an O in a spot on the grid. If a player makes an SOS sequence, they use a marker to highlight it in their color and take another turn.
Game ends when the paper is completely filled. The player that has the most SOS sequences wins the game.
Sprouts is a game of curved lines and dots. The goal is to be the last player to be able to draw a line without intersecting other lines.
How to play: Start out by drawing anywhere from 2-6 dots randomly on the paper.
The first player draws a line – straight or curved, doesn’t matter – from one dot to another. It can even curve around from one dot and end on that same dot. They finish their turn by placing another dot somewhere on the line they just drew.
Then, the next player draws a line between two dots and puts another dot on their new line.
Play continues in this pattern – but remember, lines cannot cross or intersect. And one dot can only have a maximum of 3 lines connecting to it.
When one player is stuck and unable to move, the other player wins!
Here is a video showing you how to play.
This is one of the most fun pen and paper games for groups. How funny or creative are you? It’s all about trying to get people to believe made-up definitions of words. It will have everyone laughing!
How to play: create fake definitions of strange real words. Players get a point for every person they get to vote on their definition. You can find strange words by searching for “free balderdash game word list.” Here’s a list to get you started.
Finally, this pen and paper game requires one more thing to play – a die. This is such a simple game that children as young as 5 will be able to play along.
How to play: You need a die to play this game. Each number on the die represents a part of the beetle. Start out by drawing the different parts of the beetle and assigning a number to it. Here is an example to save you some time.
Players take turns rolling the die and drawing the part of the beetle they roll. The person that finishes the beetle first wins.
When To Play Easy Pen and Paper Games
There are lots of times when an old-fashioned game with just pen and paper can be useful – like when you don’t have any cellphone signal or the batteries are dying.
Some of the best places to play these games include:
- On car road trips
- Self quarantined due to illness (flu, measles, viruses etc)
- On an aeroplane
- In the library
- In a waiting room
It’s also fun to declare a night of low-tech fun, without any screens. It breaks up repetitive habits and can feel like a whole new experience.
More Fun Family Activities
Spending time together doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are some more entertaining and fun things you can do as a family, right here in London.