The complete rules for the party game Categories

Categories is an excellent party game that can be played with just pencils and paper.


3 or more players, best with 6 to 8.


A pencil (or pen) and a piece of paper for each player.


To score the most points by choosing legitimate answers other players don't.


Each player draws a 5x5 grid on their piece of paper, leaving enough space in the boxes to be able to write words.

Five categories are chosen, and each player writes them down the left side of the grid, one category per row.

Categories can be almost anything, and as easy or difficult as the players wish to make them. Examples include birds, television shows, novelists, cities in Pennsylvania, and U.S. presidents.

A five-letter keyword is chosen and written across the top, one letter above each column. Keywords cannot have repeating letters (e.g., PIPES would be an illegal keyword because it has two Ps). Keywords also should not include Q, X or Z, unless the players want a serious challenge.

The categories and keyword may be chosen by any method the players agree to. One option is to roll a die or dice, with the highest roller choosing the keyword and the next five choosing the categories.


A time limit is set, perhaps 5 or 10 minutes depending on the skill of the players.

Each player tries to fill in the grid with words that fit into the categories and start with the letters of the keyword.

For proper names, the last name should be used (e.g. George Bush would fit under “B” but not “G”).

In cases where a person goes by only a single name (e.g. Shakira or Madonna), that name should be used.


When the time limit expires, players compare their answers. Each block is taken up, one by one. Each player announces the word, if any, they have for that block. One point is scored for each other player who does not have the same word.

If a word is of questionable legitimacy, the players should vote on whether or not to accept it.

After all 25 blocks are scored, players total their points.


The player with the most points wins.