The hostess has cleared the dinner dishes, everyone has their coffee, and now come the tense moments when guests pray for terrorists to burst into the living room and take hostages, conveniently excusing everyone from having to play Pictionary. For those of you who have not been invited to a dinner party since 1986, let me explain Pictionary, and if there's time, hygiene and table manners.
Players take turns drawing objects named on a Pictionary card while their team makes incorrect guesses as to the object's identity until the timer expires. Teams are often married couples, which come in two categories: Psychics, and Entertaining Bickerers. The psychic couples are those who know each other so well, they can guess what their mate is drawing before he or she is finished. A squiggly line elicits the correct response "Empire State Building!" from the psychic spouse. Sometimes the partner gets the answer just from the way the other one picks up the pencil. Everyone hates these people.
The Entertaining Bickerers, however, are beloved by all, for not only do they score fewer points than would a blind pet, their aggravation amuses everyone. One partner draws a picture that could be used in a textbook, but the spouse is clueless: "Tree? Airplane? Bea Arthur?" Be sure to keep spare pencils handy to replace those lodged in bodily orifi.
If you are new to Pictionary, or simply lack any right-brain skills, you might appreciate some valuable pointers to help you next time you play, but all I can offer are the following cheap tricks:
If the thing you are supposed to draw is too hard, draw something easier instead, such as a triangle. If the other players find out the Pictionary card does not say `triangle', you say "Oops. Do over."
If your teammate's drawings suck so bad they could pull your eyes from their sockets, say things like "a decaying Strontium 90 nucleus?", "Man's inhumanity to man?", "Bea Arthur?"
If you run out of time during your turn, distract the other players and then flip the hourglass over. Some tried-and-true distractions:
"Is that [name of local celebrity] in the back yard?"
"Should those rats be up on the counter like that?"
"Look! Those people outside wear nothing but cheese!"
Make up cards of impossible things to draw, inserting them in the deck beforehand, such as 1948 Hudson, the Sherman Antitrust Act, Bea Arthur. This won't help you, but it's mighty entertaining. And isn't entertainment what board games are really all about? No. You're thinking of movies.
But perhaps you can avoid Pictionary altogether by suggesting one of these other popular parlor games:
Trivial Pursuit: Players take turns answering obscure inane questions in six different categories until all players realize they are too stupid to even finish a game, let alone win.
Twister: Players start by having too much wine at dinner. Players then take turns contorting their limbs around each other on a slick vinyl mat until someone is injured or becomes visibly aroused.
Charades: Players take turns pantomiming titles or phrases until other players suddenly remember urgent dental appointments.
Scrabble: Players use letter tiles to create words known only on other planets, then argue about the inadequacy of the host's dictionary. Play ends when all players have letter tiles consisting of only Z, X, Q, and V.
Parcheesi: Players take turns rolling dice and moving markers around an endless path until they die of ennui.
Monopoly: Players take turns acquiring real estate for ridiculously low prices, and are then forced to rent each other's property despite having adequate dwellings of their own. Contrary to the law of supply and demand, the more hotels competing for a lone guest, the higher the room rate. Play ends when short-tempered player lands on Park Place with 26 hotels.