How To Play Guggenheim With Just Pen & Paper

Improve Your Memory Or Use This Fun Game As A Study Aid

Guggenheim (pronounced "GOO gan hime") is a word game that requires nothing more than two pencils, two sheets of paper and a timer. It's a fun way to improve your memory, keep bored children occupied or help students study.

There are at least two ways to play Guggenheim, but we'll focus on the more challenging method here. First, create a grid on a sheet of paper. (See our visual example below.)

On the left side of your paper, draw a vertical line to create a thin column. It should be just wide enough to accomodate a capital letter. Next, draw four more vertical lines to create five columns of equal width. Don't worry... Your lines can be less than perfect.

Now create the rows. Start at the top of the page. The first row should be just big enough for one line of writing. Draw four more horizontal lines to create five rows of equal width. Your Guggenheim sheet is ready!

The players should choose a five letter word. The letters of this word will be written in the thin column at the left of the page, one per row. To avoid discouragement, don't use "tough" letters like x and z. Next, the players take turns choosing categories to go across the top, one per column.

The categories are entirely up to the imaginations of the players, but here's some ideas:

Guggenheim example
  •  Songs
  •  Athletes
  •  Movies
  •  Historical Figures
  •  Books
  •  Authors
  •  Musicians
  •  Actors
  •  Car Models
  •  TV Shows
  •  Sports Teams
  •  Animals
  •  Plants
  •  Cities
  •  States
  •  Countries
  •  Languages
  •  Artists
  •  Politicians

If you were studying for a test on the Periodic Table, you might have a category called "Elements". Likewise, if you were about to go to a family reunion, you might jog your memory with a category called "Relatives".

After all the categories are chosen, the players decide on a time limit. usually, this is 15 or 30 minutes. The goal is to list as many items under each letter of each category as possible.

For example, if your word is STRAP and your first category is "Authors", the first box might have "Shakespeare, Shelley", the second box might have "Tolstoy, Tolkien" and so on. Handwriting is not graded. As long as you know what it's supposed to say, you're ok.

Different players may mean different things by their responses, so be specific. For example, there are many authors with the last name of "Anderson". Give a first name or book title as well. There have also been several hit songs with the title "Superman". Specify which one you're alluding to. You can list more than one as long as you make it clear that each item is unique.

Guidelines for deciding if an item is acceptable or not are up to you. You can use group consensus, an encyclopedia, the Internet...whatever you agree is fair.

Scoring depends in part on the number of players. For two players, each unique item counts as 10 points. If both players have the item, for instance "Shakespeare", it's scratched off. For three players, each unique item gets a full 10 points, two players with the same item get 5 points each and if everyone has the item, it's scratched off.

You can adjust scoring accordingly, depending on how many players you have. Of course, the more players, the more complex the math, but that could be a benefit! For four players, you might give unique items 10 points, two players with the same item 5 points each and three with the same item 3 points each.

In addition to being just plain fun, we can testify that playing Guggenheim regularly can prevent nouns from getting stuck to the tip of your tongue. So...exercise your brain and save your pride!


Upcoming Holidays