Chinese telegraph

As promised, I have come to share an amazing game with you. We played this not only on Family Vacay, but also at our fantastic New Years party, where I learned that it’s called “Chinese Telegraph.” Or maybe Dave made up that name–I’m not quite sure. Anyway. It’s a laugh and two halves, folks. And perfect for large groups, when you’re looking for a game that everyone can play together.

Here’s how it works.

First, count the number of people in the group. Let’s say there are 12 people: obtain a stack of 12 pieces of paper for each person. In this case, we had 12 half-sheets in different colors of construction paper. Everyone also needs a writing utensil.

Everyone should number their sheets 1-12. Note: the flip side of the sheets can be used for a second round of the game.

Now we begin: everyone writes a sentence. Any sentence. For example: Three girls stuff their faces with ice cream while a starving dog looks on dolefully. Or Elvis Presley mans the submarine bravely as the giant octopus attacks the vessel.

Once everyone has written their sentece, they pass their entire stack of papers to the right. Or left. Whatever.

Everyone looks at the sentence that has been passed to them, puts the sentence at the bottom of their new stack, and on the fresh sheet draws their interpretation of that sentence.

When everyone is done with their drawing, they pass the stacks again to their left. The next person looks at the drawing, puts it at the bottom of the stack, and writes a sentence to interpret the picture.

And so on, and so forth, until everyone receives their original pile back.

Just like the telephone game, the difference between the original sentence and its final embodiment is absolutely hilarious.

Now the most fun part begins: one by one, everyone takes a turn standing up to show the whole group the succession of pictures and sentences that takes us from the initial idea to the final interpretation.


Laughter is inevitable.


And it makes for great candid shots if you have a camera in hand!

Explanations are 100% necessary. What the heck did you try to draw here??

Why did you draw this person sitting on this other person’s head?

Have the Abominable Snow Monster and the sun teamed up to destroy Planet Earth? What is happening in this picture???

Next time you’re in a large group, play this game! If you hate it, a full refund* is guaranteed.

*No refunds will actually be provided to anyone at any time for any reason. That was false advertising up there, dude.

16 thoughts on “Chinese telegraph

  1. Circe

    I laughed so loudly at some of those pictures that my coworkers turned around and stared at me. These are hilarious. I will have to try this sometime.

  2. skippymom

    I must be slow [and I admit I am] but I read the directions 3 times and stll can’t figure it out.

    Looks like fun tho’. Cute pictures.

    Going to go back and kanoodle through it.

    1. Jenna

      Oh no! I was afraid that would happen . . . it’s hard to explain games in steps! Let me try again:

      1) Everyone sits in a circle.
      2) Each person has a stack of papers and a pen.
      3) Everyone writes a random, made-up sentence on the top piece of paper of their stack.
      4) Everyone passes their stacks of papers to the left.
      5) You look at the sentence you’ve been handed, move that paper to the bottom of the stack, and draw a picture that ‘interprets’ the sentence.
      6) Pass the stacks again to the left.
      7) You look at the drawing, put that paper at the bottom of the stack, and write a sentence to explain it
      8) Etcetera (keep passing stacks to the left until the original author receives their stack back).

      What you’ll end up with is a sentence-drawing-sentence-drawing-sentence-drawing sequence that gets further and further from the original intent, just like the telephone game.

      Hmmm . . . does that clarify the game, or does it just add to the confusion?? =)

      1. skippymom

        No, it’s not you Jenna – I am just a doof. I can retain….nothing. hee

        Thank you for these directions – I printed them out and when all of us are together in March [us, 5 kids and my sister’s family] we are SO playing.

        It looks like so much fun.

  3. Kat

    I LOVE THIS IDEA! And the snaps you shared were hysterical. I’m bringing this show to the next party I’m at.

    Planning to owe you big time,


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