Say it’s your team’s turn, and you’re the one who has to try to get your team to correctly identify as many words as they can in the remarkably short time it takes the sand to travel from the top to the bottom of the timer.
You open up the convenient card storage and display case, take the top card and put it on the display thing, and you try to get your team to say, for example, “Bacon.” You can use as many words as you want, except for the list of “taboo” words appearing on the card, meaning, in this case, you can’t say “pig,” “eat,” “breakfast,” “sausage,” or “eggs.”
This is, to say the least, moderately disturbing. Just seeing the words on the card makes you want to say them. So you have to strain your poor brain, not only to hurry, but also to be careful. And then there’s this guy from the other team, sitting right next to you, not playing, but making sure you don’t, shall we say, “accidentally,” use one of the forbidden words.
Taboo is a party game. It can engage as few as 4 players and as many as 12. You get 504, two-sided cards. A sand timer, a AA-battery-powered buzzer, a card holder/display case, and a score pad. All you really need are the cards and the timer. But the rest add a certain gamish panache that do their bit to add to the fun of it all.
Since you’re trying to get your team to guess as many words as possible in the allotted time, you will find some comfort in knowing that you can pass, and some added discomfort in knowing that each card you pass on gives the other team a point.
All in all, the game is very easy to learn, and simple enough to be easily adapted to the players and their playing styles. You can make it easier on the clue-givers (and a lot more happily hectic) by allowing two or more people on their team to work together. You can make it still easier by not taking points for every time the clue-giver decides to pass. And still easier, if you need, by giving each team more time. You can decrease the tension of competition by having players change teams every other turn. And, of course, you can increase the tension and competition just as easily
Though Brian Hersch may not have had these particular variations in mind when he designed the game, he did manage to create a game that can stand up to a lot of rule changes, generate a lot of hysteria as well as hysterical laughter, and, after more than 20 years, still be a party favorite.