Pass the Pen (Rules and Instructions)

Pass the Pen is allegedly the world’s quickest drawing game. So what does it mean in practice? Shortly, it’s fast-paced undemanding fun for a whole family. If you’re up to this exciting challenge, these Pass the Pen rules will teach you how to proceed.

Drawing is an excellent and fun way to enhance your creativity, imagination, and motor skills. Even if you’re no Picasso (I am certainly not either), playing drawing games such as Pictionary (see our Pictionary rules) is a worthwhile activity for a whole family.

From my experience, Pass the Pen is also a perfect ice-breaker for kids and adults at parties or family gatherings (explore more great small group games, if you’re interested). I immediately recall lots of laughter just seeing the quirky yellow pen with the timer. 

This Pass the Pen rules guide will cover the following: 

  • What is Pass the Pen?
  • What you’ll need to play Pass the Pen
  • Shanghai Rummy rules
  • How to play Pass the Pen (video tutorial)
  • FAQs
  • Other similar games to Pass the Pen (our guides)

Learn how to play Pass the Pen fast and effortlessly with the following rules guide.

What is Pass the Pen?

Pass the Pen is one of the most popular board games by Pressman, a renowned American producer of family-friendly games since 1922. The game is built around the idea of fast-paced drawing and guessing what other players’ drawings represent.

Number of Players: 3+ 

Ages: 8+

Difficulty: Easy

Length of Play: 15 – 30 minutes

Category: Drawing and guessing party game

Similar to: PictionaryBackseat DrawingDrawing Without Dignity

Main Objective: Have the highest score after ten rounds of play. 

Why We Love It: Pass the Pen is an authentic way of improving your drawing skills, enhancing your imagination and overall creativity. But most of all, it’s always great fun.

What You’ll Need to Play Pass the Pen

The idea of the Pass the Pen game revolves around the concept of a pen that gradually disappears as you use it. This would be pretty hard to replicate, so I recommend investing in the original Pass the Pen game set by Pressman.

The set contains:

  • One ‘magic’ pen with a timer
  • One colorful die
  • 104 cards with 520 drawing challenges
  • One drawing pad
  • Instructions
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Pressman Pass the Pen Yellow, 5"
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08/04/2022 09:50 am GMT

Pass the Pen Rules and Gameplay

In principle, Pass the Pen is a pretty simple game. You don’t need special skills or experience to play it, and you’ll undoubtedly learn its rules quickly. 

On the other hand, thanks to the abundance of included challenges (and the possibility to add your own), this game will not become dull even after many rounds of play. 

Starting the Game

Before you start playing, take out the entire content of the box and prepare the materials as follows:

  • Shuffle the cards and set them in a down-facing pile at the center of the table.
  • Prepare a die.
  • Take the pen and turn the red dial on top to 10 seconds. If you are playing with younger kids, turn the dial to 15 seconds to make the game slightly easier.
  • The oldest player goes first.

How to Play Pass the Pen

This is how you play the game:

  • The first player draws one card from the pile and hides it from the opponents. 
  • Next, the player rolls the die. Keep the dice in front of you when you’re finished with rolling so that no one forgets whose turn it was as the round proceeds.
  • Each card contains five color-coded drawing challenges. The color on the die reveals the task you must cope with. If you roll the question mark, you can choose the challenge yourself.
  • The first player takes the pen and presses the yellow button on top to start the timer. 
  • The pen’s tip appears, and you have 10 seconds to draw the image according to the selected challenge. 
  • During this period, each remaining player has one try to guess correctly what the image represents.
  • The pen’s tip will gradually retract until it completely disappears when 10 seconds run out.

There are two options for how the game proceeds:

If someone guesses correctly…

If someone guesses the image correctly, the round is over, and both the drawing and guessing players get points (I’ll get to scoring shortly). 

If no one guesses correctly…

No one guesses the image correctly within the 10 seconds? The first player must pass the drawing, the information on the challenge, and the pen to the next player (clockwise). The second player starts the timer and has 10 seconds to finish the drawing.

The remaining players try to guess the true meaning of the drawing again. Of course, the first player is eliminated from this challenge as he already knows the correct answer.

Pass the Pen Scoring 

If one of the players guesses the drawing correctly within the given period, both guessing and drawing players get an equal number of points

How many points they get depends on how many players are involved in the game (e.g., if five players play, they get 5 points each)

In each new round with the same challenge, deduct one point from the score (in the second round, the guessing and drawing players can get only 4 points each).

If all the players already guessed and the image is still a mystery, the round ends without anyone earning points. 

The game continues for ten rounds. Count the total scores – the player with the most points wins the game.

How to Play Pass the Pen – Video Tutorial 

Pass the Pen Frequently Asked Questions

Can you replace the inside of the pen used in Pass the Pen if it runs out of ink?

Yes. The unique pen with the timer used in Pass the Pen is actually a standard replaceable pen.

Is the Pass the Pen game played in teams?

Officially, the players should act individually and play against each other, but you can team players to make the guessing easier, especially if you play with smaller kids. 

Can two players play Pass the Pen?

The classic game of Pass the Pen is intended for three or more players. However, if you only have a single opponent, you can try playing a simplified version of the game where one player draws and the other guesses.

Other Similar Games to Pass the Pen (Our Guides) 

Would you like to try more creative family-friendly games? Check our guides to the following Pass the Pen alternatives:

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Read all the articles (51) written by Lucia Fajnerova