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Balderdash Board Game

Michele Meleen
People holding in hand colourful playing figures on blurred board game field background

If you love words, who dunnit games, and a little trickery, you'll love playing the Balderdash board game. This game of made-up definitions is great for small groups like families, classes at school, and youth groups.

What Is Balderdash?

The word "balderdash" is defined as "oral or written communication that is silly or dumb." This educational and fun game is a word game, trivia game, and strategy game. Subtitles for the original Balderdash board game include "The Hilarious Bluffing Game," "The Classic Bluffing Game," and "The Game of Twisting Truths."

Brief History of the Board Game Balderdash

The Balderdash board game is based on the old parlor game Dictionary, where players would be given four to five possible definitions for an obscure word selected by one of the players from the family dictionary. The parlor game was very popular because the only skill required was the ability to bluff all the other players. The well-loved parlor game was recreated and published as a board game in 1971 called The Dictionary Game. In 1984 Mattel reintroduced The Dictionary Game with a new name, Balderdash.

How to Play the Balderdash Board Game

No matter which year your Balderdash game was published, the rules and gameplay remain similar. Your game should come with a set of rules, but if you can't find them or bought the game used, these directions can help you play.

Balderdash Board Game Setup

While the look of the game board, cards, and answer sheets may change from year to year, these are the basic elements of the Balderdash board game setup. If your game is missing pencils and answer sheets, you can simply use scrap papers cut into equal sizes and any writing utensils of the same color ink/lead.

  • One game board
  • Game cards with obscure words and the actual definition for each (Newer Balderdash games include word categories like: Weird Words, Peculiar People, Incredible Initials, Marvelous Movies, and Laughable Laws.)
  • One pad of answer sheets
  • Six colored playing pieces
  • One die
  • Six mini pencils
  • One instruction sheet

Balderdash Board Game Rules

You'll need two to six players, all who can read and write on their own and about an hour to play. Most Balderdash games are recommended for kids ages 10 or 12 and up. The objects of the game are to develop a definition for each word being played that could be mistaken as the correct definition by the other players and pick the right definition for each word being played.

  1. All players are given an answer sheet and a pencil. Players place their selected colored playing pieces on the board in the space marked "START."
  2. Each player rolls the die, the player who rolls the highest count is designated as the "Dasher" who selects the first word and reads the definition options.
  3. The game starts with the Dasher selecting a game card which contains several real words. She rolls the die to determine which word on the game card will be played.
    1. For example, if a "1" is rolled, the first word is read, if a "2" is rolled, the second word is read and so on.
    2. If a higher number is rolled than the number of options on the card, the Dasher may choose any of the words on the card.
  4. The Dasher reads and spells the word aloud to the other players.
  5. Each player creates a definition for the word that sounds believable and writes the definition on their answer sheet.
  6. Each player initials their definition and the answer sheets are handed to the Dasher.
  7. The Dasher reads all the definitions aloud twice, including the real definition and all player definitions in any order.
  8. Starting clockwise from where the Dasher is sitting, each player says out loud which he or she believes is the correct definition.
  9. The Dasher takes notes on which player chose which definition.
  10. After all players have guessed, the Dasher reads the real definition.
  11. Points are awarded and players move their game pieces one space for every point they earn.
    1. One point is given to each player for every vote that is given for his or her definition.
    2. Two points are given to each player who chooses the correct definition.
    3. Three points are given to the Dasher if none of the players choose the correct definition.
    4. Three points are given to any player who submits a definition that is similar to the correct definition.
  12. The player to the Dasher's left becomes the next Dasher, and game play is repeated.
  13. The first player to reach the space marked "FINISH" is the winner.

Balderdash Board Game Strategies

Strategy plays a role in Balderdash because you'll want to choose a focus that will help you win the game.

  • Real Definition Strategy: You get the most points in this game if you guess the correct answer and if you submit a definition similar to the real answer. With this strategy you focus on etymology of words as a way to figure out something similar to the actual definition of the word.
  • Professional Definition Strategy: Getting others to choose your definition can get you a lot of points, especially if there are a lot of players. When writing your definition, use language and words that sound professional to make others think it's too proper to be fake.
  • Cooky Definition Strategy: Throw everyone off by coming up with the most off-the-wall definitions you can think of. If your definition is wacky and memorable, it just might get the most votes since that's the whole fun of this game.

Examples of Balderdash Words and Definitions

There are thousands of words used in Balderdash board games and each comes with its real definitions. Check out these examples of words taken from Balderdash game cards to get idea just how wacky the game can get.

  • Xanthic: Yellow in color
  • Ochive: A cutting knife
  • Coprolite: Fossilized excrement
  • Sialogogue: Drug that increases flow of saliva
  • Pooks: Small stacks of crops

Variations of the Balderdash Board Game

Balderdash is best played with five to six players, so you may want to vary how you play with fewer players. Different versions of the classic board game also have different types of words and altered game play.

How to Play With Two or Three Players

The fewer the number of players, the fewer the number of definitions there are for players to select. To make the game more challenging for smaller groups, the Dasher can submit a bluff definition in addition to the real definition. The Dasher could also pick one of the words on the game cards and read all definitions listed on that card to one opponent. If the other player selects the correct definition, he or she scores two points and moves two points on the game board. If the player selects the wrong definition, he or she only receives one point and moves one space on the game board.

Other Balderdash Board Games

The popularity of the Balderdash board game warranted the creation of several modified versions over the years, each geared toward a specific group or niche of players.

  • Published by Parker Brothers in 1997, Beyond Balderdash is the second edition of the Balderdash board game and is where categories first came into play.
  • Balderdash Junior was created in in 1991 for kids between the ages of 8 and 11 and contains all funny sounding words that kids can read.
  • Manufactured by Canada Games Company in the 1980s, Bible Balderdash features only words related to the Bible.
  • Absolute Balderdash is a UK version of the board game and features the categories: Laws, Movies, Initials, and People.

Board Games Like Balderdash

Once you've already played all the versions of Balderdash you can find, you might want to try other similar board games.

  • Apples to Apples is a fun party game focused on funny word associations.
  • Another funny party game that includes word association and making up clues is BuzzWord.
  • If you love the trivia aspect of Balderdash, try out the ultimate trivia board game, Trivial Pursuit.
  • Just as you try to decipher your opponents' strategy in Balderdash, the Mastermind board game requires that you decode your opponents' codes.
  • Scattergories is a simple word game where you have to write down words in specific categories that all start with one letter and you get more points if you use unique words.
  • With similar game play to Balderdash, the Wits and Wagers game has players writing down answers to a question then betting on which answer is correct.

Where to Get Balderdash Games

The current version of the Balderdash board game is made by Mattel and can be purchased at Walmart,, Target or the Mattel Shop. Older versions are available at yard sales, thrift stores, and on websites like eBay. While you won't find sanctioned online versions of the game or apps, you can find app games that are similar. Pscyh! Outwit Your Friends and Bluffinition are both free to download from the Google Play store and are nearly identical to Balderdash.

The Game of Twisting Truths

Balderdash is a great board game for those who think they know each other well and those who have just met. You'll be asked to bluff your way through the game while trying to figure out every other player's bluffing strategy. In this fun party game, there's no such thing as a dumb answer!

Balderdash Board Game