‘Fishbowl’ Game: Rules, Ideas, Tips

Sabina Nisioi
Sabina Nisioi
'Fishbowl Game'

Table of Contents

Have you ever imagined playing ‘Charades’, ‘Taboo’, and ‘Password’, all at the same time? Well, today’s your lucky day, because we introduce you to the ‘Fishbowl’ game! 

Are you having some friends over, or you’re meeting new people and you need a great icebreaker? Keep on reading & we promise you that this group game will do magic! 

What is the ‘Fishbowl’ game?

First things first. In order to play it, you must know more about it. ‘Fishbowl’ is a complex game that involves a lot of guessing. It combines three different sets of rules: Charades, Password, and Taboo.

Materials and equipment

For the ‘Fishbowl’ game, you will need:

  • At least 4 players (the more, the merrier)
  • Paper 
  • Pens 
  • A fishbowl (to hold the pieces of paper) would be great! If you don’t have one at hand, any container will do the trick.
  • Scissors
  • A 60-second timer 

*Spam alert: Have you checked out our ‘Minute to win it’ fun games? 😁

The great thing about the ‘Fishbowl’ is that it can be played almost anywhere – on Facetime or in-person, as an indoor game or as an outdoor team-building activity, when you’re having a friendly gathering in your backyard, or when you’re with your students in a summer camp

Players and purposes

‘Fishbowl’ is perfect for any age group, so feel free to suggest it during family get-togethers, when kids, teens, adults, and grandparents are in for some fun. This game is great when there are a lot of participants involved. The minimum number you need to get things up and running is 4, but it would be best to think ‘Fishbowl’ in terms of 10 to 20 players. Everything is much more exciting and competitive when the clock is ticking and the urge to win kicks in.

The main goal of each player is to correctly guess as many of the words or phrases that are being described or played out by their teammates. 

How to play the ‘Fishbowl game’?

  1. Begin by splitting the players into 2 teams. (*Tip: Make it more fun by naming them somehow representative!) 
  1. Then, use the scissors to cut the paper into small strips. Watch out though – the strips should be big enough to fit a word or a phrase. 
  1. Then, every player receives 3 strips of paper and a pen. They are asked to write a word or phrase on each of them. 
  1. Once all the players do that, they must fold the pieces of paper and put them into the ‘fishbowl’.
  1. Someone should take the container and shake it so the words and phrases mix up really well. 

*Fun fact: Did you know that this game is also known as the ‘Salad Bowl’? It might be because of all this shaking and mixing!

  1. Good. Now that we’re all set, the game can begin. One of the team members starts by drawing a strip of paper from the ‘fishbowl’. He must give clues to his teammates to guess the written word or phrase. Once they nail it, they can draw another word, and another, and so on and so forth, until they run out of time. Each player’s turn is 60 seconds, so make sure that you keep your eyes on the timer! The players from each team have to alternate turns.
  1. Now… here comes the fun part. The way in which players give clues depends on the round. We’ve already mentioned in the intro that ‘Fishbowl’ includes 3 other challenging games – Taboo, Password, and Charades – and now it’s time to dive deeper into this. There are 3 rounds, and cards must be recycled after each and every one of them. 

The first round: ‘Taboo’

  • The first one is the easiest one. Once the clock starts running, players must give hints by describing the word or phrase written on the slip of paper. Let’s say, for example, that they draw ‘Cinderella’. They could say things like: ‘she’s a princess’, ‘she lost her glass slipper at midnight’, or ‘she’s got an evil stepmother and two mean sisters’. When time is up, the slips of paper that were drawn are put aside. Every team scores a point for each of the words/phrases they get right. 
  • Next, the second team is up. As expected, one of their players has one minute to describe the words and phrases on the slips of paper, while the team tries to nail as many as possible. 
  • When the last clue is correctly guessed, the timer is stopped. All the clues are put back into the ‘fishbowl’ and mixed up.

The second round: ‘Password’

  • It’s important to know that the same player who ended the first round must begin the second one, with the remaining time on the clock. It doesn’t matter if they’ve got 55 seconds or 3 seconds left, they must give clues to their teammates using only one word. 
  • Here is where your memory should kick in. It’s important to pay attention to the words and phrases described in the first round so that you can figure out faster the written word on your teammate’s slip of paper. For example, if you draw ‘Lord of the rings’, you could say ‘hobbit’, and your people should get the point. 
  • In this round as well, teams take one-minute turns and add up their points after each one of them. Once all the slips of paper are drawn and guessed, round 2 ends, and the timer is stopped. All the words are put back into the container and are thoroughly mixed up. 

The third round: ‘Charades’

  • Just like in the previous round, the same player who ended round 2 must begin round 3, with the remaining time on the clock. This round is the toughest one… for those whose acting skills are not that good. In the third round, players must play out the phrase they draw from the ‘fishbowl’. 
  • The timer begins again, and the player draws a phrase to act out. Teams take turns until all the words within the container are correctly guessed.

‘Fishbowl’ game: Rules

If you want to learn how to play the ‘Fishbowl’ game properly, you must follow some rules:

  • The standard version of the game is played with no passes. However, you may agree on one pass per turn. If you choose to do so, it means that one player can pass on a phrase by putting it back into the bowl and drawing another slip of paper.
  • When it is team 1’s turn, only team 1 guesses.
  • When it is team 2’s turn, only team 2 guesses.
  • In rounds 1 and 2, you can not give as a clue any part of the word or phrase.
  • In round 2, you can not give a hint of more than one word. 
  • In round 3, you can not use sounds or words while acting. 
  • If any of the 3 rules of the above are broken, the player’s turn ends on the spot.

‘Fishbowl Game’ Ideas and variations

An alternative for the words and phrases put in the ‘fishbowl’ for the ‘Taboo’ round would be… some questions. Here are a bunch of fun ideas to get you started:

  • What U.S. state is known as the “Land of Enchantment”?
  • Donuts are traditionally sold in boxes containing how many pieces?
  • The Dingo is a free-range dog found mainly in which country?
  • After his crucifixion, who takes down the body of Jesus Christ off the cross of Calvary?
  • In what country are April Fool’s jokes climaxed with the saying “Doroughe sizdah”?
  • The concept of promoting and measuring an entire locality’s happiness level is known as what?
  • Which element, previously used in the production of felt, lead to the expression “mad as a hatter”?
  • Why did the production team decide to fine anyone who showed up late in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”?
  • Which Country won the 2015 Davis Cup?
  • Which labor standard was the striking workers out to achieve which eventually led to the Haymarket Affair?
  • Who trains Luke Skywalker to fight against the Galactic Empire?
  • The vernal equinox signifies the advent of which season in the Northern Hemisphere?
  • What substance is Han Solo frozen in during “the Empire Strikes Back”?
  • The first male African-American tennis player to win the U.S Open and the Wimbledon tournaments was…?
  • What ingredient in bread causes it to rise?
  • “Life is Beautiful” has been named one of the top-five favorite films of which prominent figure?
  • Screenwriter Luc Besson and actor Jean Reno worked on another assassin movie before “Leon”. What is its name?
  • What cartoon character is popular in Sweden during Christmas?
  • In 2007, a major motion picture was released. On which television show was it based?

You could also go for something more enticing and… spooky! Take the ‘Fishbowl’ game to a whole new level by getting a bedsheet from the cupboard and draping it over the player who is reading the pieces of paper. The team will then have to guess the word written on the slip of paper while the player makes movements beneath the sheet! Imagine how challenging and fun that can turn out! (*Just a suggestion: Maybe you could try it this Halloween!)  

Skills and abilities

Besides guessing, this game also taps into the players’ imagination and vocabulary.

  • To begin with, the focus is extremely important. Players must be sharp and pay attention to their teammates’ acting skills, facial expressions, and voice inflections.
  • Strategic thinking. They must be able to come up with clues that are relevant for their teammates (*and do that very quickly). For example, they could make use of their inside jokes.  
  • Problem-solving. Players will be challenged during the 3 rounds of the ‘Fishbowl’, so they must be ready to solve some issues. 
  • Memory. They should try to remember the words and phrases described in the first round, to guess them faster in what follows.
  • Teamwork. It’s true what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work. Players must collaborate to guess as much as possible, as fast as possible.

eTeamBuilding is here so that you & your friends can paint the town red each time you get together! And if the ‘Fishbowl’ game is not a great fit for you, maybe you could try something else:

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