Fairly Tales

Release Date: 
Saturday, May 15, 2004
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Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
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by Benjamin J Gibbs
banner art by Shawn Sharp


Guess words chosen by the other players from a fairy tale while keeping yours secret.

You Need

  • Pencil and paper for each player

Setting Up

Once everyone has pencils, paper, and magic beans, choose a fairy tale for the game. Tales like The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk—you get the idea.

Once a fairy tale has been selected, each player needs to write down five words commonly associated with that tale. Words like, “the,” “and,” and, “of,” are not the words that we’re looking for. We’re looking for the kind of words that would make it obvious what story you’re thinking of if taken all together. Words like:

  • wolf, bricks, puff, chimney, and build for The Three Lttle Pigs
  • apple, blood, witch, mirror, and coffin for Snow White

Keep your words secret; let no one else see them.

Once everyone has five words written down, choose someone to go first and start the game.


The object of the game is to get the other players to say their secret words by asking questions and through general conversation. Once the game has started, you must not speak your own secret words. If you do, then you must tell everyone that that word is one of your secret words. Plural forms and alternate tenses of secret words still count as that word (ex: build and built, brick and bricks).

Asking a Question: On your turn, pick a person and say, “Say, (his or her name).” He or she will respond with, “Yes, (your name)?” Now you get to ask a question about the story and he or she has to answer it. Remember, not only is your subject not allowed to use his or her secret words, but you aren’t allowed to use your secret words either. Good questions to ask are:

  • “What’s the name of your fairy tale?”
  • “What did Jack climb up to get to the castle?”
  • “What were the three pigs’ houses made out of?”
  • “What are the names of the seven dwarves from the Disney version of the story?”

You’ll notice that these questions avoided using the secret words from the previous examples. At the same time, everyone else knows that, “fairy,” “castle,” “house,” and, “dwarf,” are not your secret words.

You may not ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no question.

Once you’ve asked your question and received an answer, your turn is done and play passes clockwise to the next player.

Answering a Question: When answering a question, you must give the most direct answer possible, but you may use synonyms and other “dodgy” language to avoid saying one of your secret words.


At the beginning of your turn, you may instead pass your turn. If all of the players in the game but one pass their turns in one round, then the game ends.

At the end of the game, jot down what you think each player’s secret words are. Take turns declaring your secret word guesses. Score one point for every correct guess. Score a point for every one of your secret words that no other player guessed. The player with the highest score wins.


Magic Beans! You’ll need a bunch of tokens to act as magic beans for this variant. Each player starts the game with five magic beans. You may spend a magic bean to:

  • prohibit the use of “dodgy” language in response to a question,
  • ask a yes-or-no question,
  • ask a follow-up question,
  • give a secret answer,
  • or to listen in on a secret answer.

When you spend a magic bean, you must give it to the person on whom you’re using it. If you’re listening in on a secret answer, give the bean to the talker, not the listener.

At the beginning of your turn, you can spend eight beans to end the game.

Bluffin’ Words: In addition to your secret words, you also get to make a list of five “bluffin’” words. Unlike regular words (words that are not secret words), you may deliberately use dodgy and circuitous language to avoid using them while talking—just like your secret words. If you use a bluffin’ word, you don’t have to declare that you used a bluffin’ word. If asked directly if a bluffin’ word is one of your secret words, you must say that it is not.

Origin and Credits

This game happened during a long and pleasant afternoon visiting with two Invisible Citizens. I wanted to make a game that combines my love of fairy tales and my love of bluffing and came up with this.

Thanks to Jon and Sharon for developmental and playtesting help on the game. Thanks to Mom for reading SneeWittchen all those years ago and to Noah for “translating” it.