Games Cards Do Not Actually Talk: A Guess Who? Retrospective


So simple yet so wonderful. Perhaps the perfect kid's game.

When was the last time I covered a board game? Too long I’d bet. After much soul searching I decided it was time to talk about a game that was near and dear to my heart: Guess Who. Or rather, Guess Who?, as it was commonly spelled. I played this one quite frequently as a child, partly due to seeing the advertisements on TV. But I’ll get to that in due time. First, a light history lesson.

Your History Lesson for Today

The year is 1979 and the world is once more ready for a new board game to enter into circulation. At this time, Ora and Theo Coster decided it was their duty to invent something new yet incredibly simple. While they called themselves Theora Design, it was Milton Bradley that distributed their game in Great Britain as Guess Who?, a simple game of questions and answers. It wasn’t until 1982 that the US would get in on the action.

The Rules, I Guess

The standard version of Guess Who? consists of two tablets of character faces containing 24 faces each with single names under them. Players draw one card each from a pile containing the 24 faces and then take turns guessing which character the other player has. This is done by asking simple elimination questions like “Is your person a girl?” The original version had most characteristics breaking the 24 into groups of 5 and 19 such as 5 girls, 5 people with red hair, or 5 people wearing red shirts. There’s a whole mathematical equation to figure out your probability with each guess, but more recent editions make thing trickier by making the genders equal 12 to 12 or having the blue set all have blue shirts and the red set all have red shirts.

Also a good idea for hair designs in case you've been looking for something new. "Give me the Felix" you'd say to your barber. Happens all the time.

Most games of Guess Who? don’t last past seven questions or so. You can play ten rounds super fast, making this a good game to play with kids right before they have to go to bed. “Just one more game” isn’t too difficult a request to accept. Things can get very funny when playing against kids who don’t exactly understand the function of logic. This example involves my 8-year-old cousin Alex, last seen being tricked into giving me his copy of Pokemon Sapphire. I’d always win by one question because he’d ask, “Is your person a boy?” to which I’d say, “No.” He’d flick down all the boys and then ask, “Is your person a girl?” I’d say, “Yes” and he’d stop, look at his tiles, and say, “Okay, good.” He’s older now, so I doubt I could pull the same simple tricks, but it may be worth a try.

Apparently there are variations of the standard rules that allow you to guess assumptions based on personalities, such as, “Is your person a bad driver?” or “Is your person divorced?” While this way of playing is frowned upon for being offensive, it sounds like a whole lot of fun and a great way to change the game from being a kid’s game to an adult party game. Personally, I can’t wait to try that out for myself with Kyle.

When I was a kid I’d see the advertisements for Guess Who? on TV all the time where the cards talked to one another. I didn’t own the game yet, so when I went to my cousins’ house to play with them, I kept asking, “How do you make them talk?” They insisted that the cards don’t talk and I just assumed they were either lying to me or didn’t have a very good version of the game. That’d be why Milton Bradley had to start printing the disclaimer “Game cards do not actually talk.” Seems I wasn’t much better at age 8.

So how are you going to play from now on? Are you going to just play with your kids or younger relatives? Or are you going to try out the more adult version with the offensive rules? Either way, it’s not like the game costs too much. In fact, here’s the Amazon link where you can find a copy for under $20. Who could have guessed?


About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.


  1. Can you do a retro look at the game of Life? I bought Life a couple years ago and they totally jacked it up. It was so not the same game I remember playing when I was little. The child-ized the game now and made it lame.

    I got a few board games I pulled out of the attic not long ago. I should snap some photos.

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