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Boredom is a part of life. Sometimes it’s waiting for the bus, sometimes it’s long summer days without anything to do. To help cure boredom, here are 22 paper games to play with friends and family ranging from simple to challenging, but always fun.

## Tic Tac Toe

This is a perennial favorite and for good reason, it is simple enough for kids to play and fast enough that young ones stay engaged.

The Gameboard: A 3×3 grid of squares

How to play:

One player will draw O’s in the squares, the other will draw Xs. After deciding who goes first, players draw their respective letters in one of the nine squares. If three letters are in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, then the person who drew those letters wins the game. If all spaces have letters in them but three are not in a row, the game is a tie.

## Dots and Boxes

The dot & boxes paper game is an engaging two-player puzzle where players have to create squares from the dots. The player who can make the most squares wins. Of course, the challenge comes when players try blocking each other from completing a square.

The Gameboard: A square or rectangle arrangement of dots.

How to play:

Players take turns connecting two dots with a vertical or horizontal line. When a player draws a line that makes a four-sided box, they put their initials in that box. When a player makes a box, they take another turn. When it is impossible to draw any more lines, players count how many initials they have written. The one who has written the most initials wins.

## Sim

Sim is a less well-known game, but people looking for something a little different may find it an interesting change from the usual paper games.

The Gameboard: Six dots arranged in a hexagon

How to play:

Players, using different colored pens, take turns drawing (straight) lines between the dots (you may not draw over the other player’s line). The game ends when one player makes a triangle completely out of their lines. That player loses the game.

## Battleships

This is a classic board game that can also be played on paper. You will need a copy of the gameboards for each player so they can each track their hits and misses.

The Gameboard: Each player has two grids of ten squares by ten squares. Horizontal rows are labeled A to J and vertical columns are labeled 1 to 10.

How to Play:

Players should keep their game boards hidden from their opponents. Players begin the game by filling in a certain number of squares in a row horizontally or vertically on one of their boards. These filled-in areas represent ships. Each player draws one five squares longship, one – four squares long, two – three squares long, and one – two squares long. After setting up their ships, players take turns saying the names of the coordinates (e.g C7). The player not giving a coordinate will respond “hit” if a ship is present in that space or “miss” if there is no ship there. Players must mark the squares where their ships have been hit on their board and should mark where their opponent has missed. The other board should be used to record one’s own hits and misses. When all of the squares of a ship have been hit, that player must announce that a ship has been sunk and state how many squares long it was. The first player to have all of their ships sunk loses the game.

## SOS

Another childhood classic that is simple to play, but takes a little longer than tic-tac-toe. You can make the game easier by using smaller gameboards, and more challenging with a larger gameboard.

The Gameboard: Any grid of at least 4×4 squares or more

How to play:

Players alternate writing an “S” or an “O” into any vacant square on the board. When a player spells SOS horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, they draw a line through the word, score a point, and take another turn. The game ends when there are no empty spaces left on the board. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

## Hangman/Apple Tree

This is a classic word-guessing game that has taken on a variety of gentler variations. The original game consists of drawing a stick figure on a gallows for every wrong guess. One kinder variation is to fill in apples on a tree for every wrong guess.

The Gameboard: A simple gallows or a tree with seven apples

How to play:

Players take turns thinking of a word or phrase and write lines for each letter in that word or phrase. The other player then guesses letters that may be in the word/phrase. If the guess is correct, then that letter is written above the line where it would be in the word/phrase. If it is incorrect, a body part of a stick figure is drawn under the gallows. If all the letters in the word are guessed, then the guessing player wins the game. If all the body parts of the stick figure are drawn (two arms, two legs, a head, and an upper body) then the other player wins the game. It is advisable to set a limit on the length of the word or phrase.

## Obstruction

In this competitive two-player game instead of trying to place X’s or O’s in a row (like in tic-tac-toe) the objective is to not place your letter next to another letter.

The gameboard: A grid of 6×6 squares, or more if desired

How to play:

This is a game for two players. One player will use X’s, the other O’s. Players then alternate writing their letter in one of the boxes on the grid. One cannot play a letter, however, in a square next which is beside an already-played letter. The player who cannot place his letter anywhere on the board loses.

## Connect four in a row

This is a paper version of a popular board game where players are trying to make a sequence of four of their letters in a row.

The gameboard: A grid of six (horizontal) rows and seven (vertical) columns

How to play:

This is a game for two players. One player will use X’s, the other O’s. Players alternate drawing their letter in one of the squares. The catch is you need to play your letter in the lowest available space in a column. When four of the same letters are in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, the person who played those letters wins.

## Gomoku

This is a variation of four in a row, however, you aren’t restricted as to where you can place your letters and the game board is larger.

The gameboard: A grid of at least 15×15 squares

How to play:

This is a game for two players. One player will use X’s, the other O’s. Players alternate drawing their letter in one of the squares. When four of the same letters are in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, then the person who played those letters wins.

## Panagrams

This is a word game that grows increasingly more challenging as the words get bigger. A great mental exercise. This is a perfect family game to play in a camper or hotel room.

The gameboard: squares or lines to write words in starting with three spaces, and then getting one letter longer with each round.

How to play:

This game is for two or more players. One player writes a three-letter word. Another player uses these letters and one more to make another word. The next player then uses these four letters and one more to make yet another word, etc. Once all of the players have made their turn, everyone takes another turn in the same order. Players are eliminated from the game when they cannot come up with a word. The last player remaining wins.

## Word Ladder

This is like six degrees of separation for words. The objective is to transform the beginning word into the end word in as few steps as possible, replacing just one letter at each step of the way.

The gameboard: A ladder with spaces for words in between the rungs. Ladders can be a few squares long or more.

How to play:

This game is for two players, who each play on separate boards. One player gives out a starting word and the other an ending word of the same length. Both players then replace one letter with another to make a new word. Then another letter is replaced to make another word. This process is repeated until the end word is created. The player who creates the end word using the fewest words wins.

## Word Squares

Word squares is another word creation game, but arguably a little easier than Word Ladders where the first and last words are fixed.

The gameboard: A 4×4 grid of squares

How to play:

This is a game for two or more players. Each player uses a separate board which they do not show other players during play. Players alternate naming a letter. There is no restriction on repeating letters. When a letter is named each player must write it in one of their grid’s squares. After the grids are full, each player sees how many four-letter words they have made horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. The person with the most words wins.

## Domineering

This game is another two-player blocking game that is fast when played on a small grid. A variation is called Cram, where there is no restriction on whether the block is placed horizontally or vertically.

The gameboard: A grid that is at least 3×3, but 4×4 is the most common.

How to play:

This is a game for two players. Players alternate shading in a two-by-one area on the board. The player who goes first must place these blocks horizontally; the other player must play them vertically. The player who cannot draw a block loses the game.

## Dots

Similar to dots and boxes, but a little more complicated. Dots are drawn at the intersection of boxes on a grid and the object is to surround your opponent’s dots.

The gameboard: A grid of squares, 10×10 is a good size

How to Play:

This is a game for two players. Each player will need a different colored pen. Players alternate drawing dots on the intersections of the squares. When a player makes a chain of dots that surrounds at least one of the opponents’ dots and are next to each other horizontally, vertically, or horizontally, then a line is drawn to connect these dots. No dot may be placed inside the space surrounded by this line (called an “enclosure”). Enclosures can be surrounded by another enclosure. A player may choose to skip their turn. When both players have skipped their turn consecutively, the game ends. Players earn one point for every dot of their opponent that is in their enclosure. When one player’s enclosure is within the opponent’s enclosure, their enclosure counts for the opponent, but the opponent’s dots within the player’s enclosure do not count. The player who enclosed the most dots wins.

## Virus War

This game is a little more complicated and would be perfect for older kids and adults. Each player takes multiple moves and a player loses when they can no longer make three moves in a given turn.

The gameboard: an 8×8 grid

How to play:

This game is for two players. One will play X’s, the other O’s. An O is drawn in the bottom left corner and an X in the top right corner. O goes first and makes one move to start. After that, players alternate after three moves. A player can make one of two moves: draw their letter in an available square or destroy one of their opponents’ letters in an available square by shading over it. A square is available if it is adjacent to one of your letters horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. A square is also available if it is adjacent to shaded spaces of your opponent’s letter that are connected to your letter either directly or through a connected series of other shaded letters of your opponent (This connection may be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal). The player who cannot use all three of their moves loses the game.

## Chomp

A competitive two-player game played on a smaller board where players are trying to avoid a poison square.

The gameboard: a 5×4 grid

How to play:

This game is for two players. Players alternate choosing a block and marking it with a pen. The blocks below and to the right of the originally marked square are also marked. The block in the top left corner of the board is considered poisonous. Marked blocks are unable to be marked again. The player who is forced to mark the poisoned block because there are no other moves available loses the game.

## 3D Noughts and Crosses

A challenging take on tic-tac-toe that brings it into 3 dimensions.

The gameboard: Four grids drawn on top of each other

How to play:

This is a game for two players. One player plays “X”s, the other “O”s. Players alternate writing their letters in any vacant space on the grid. A player wins the game if a line of four of their letters in a row is made. This line can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal on one of the four grids; or it can be vertical or diagonal between grids.

## Snakes

A variation of dots and boxes where the objective is to make a continuous line yet avoid connecting and closing the loop.

The gameboard: a 10×10 grid of dots

How to play:

This is a game for two players. Each player uses a different colored pen. One player begins by drawing a line between two adjacent dots in the horizontal or vertical directions. The next player must draw a line connecting the previous line to another dot. Players continue to take turns doing this until a line is drawn connecting two lines together. The player that does this loses the game.

## Join 5

Another dot connection game with a twist, this game takes the play off of the game board for an added challenge to ordinary dot games.

The gameboard: a grid of dots arranged like a + sign

How to play:

For two players. During each turn, a player will draw a line that is a total of five dots long. Four of those dots are on the playing grid, and the fifth is added in just off the grid (the fifth dot is added in by the player). Each new line must not overlap an existing line, though it can add on to one or cross it. When no more line segments can be made, the person who was last able to draw a line wins.

## Andantino

This game uses a more complicated game board, making it perfect to play on printed-out hexagon paper.

The gameboard: A grid of hexagons

How to play:

This is a game for two players. Players each use a different colored pen. Players alternate marking one of the spaces on the board. No space may be marked twice. A player who surrounds one or more of the opponent’s tiles, or creates a line of five spaces in a row wins the game.

## Crossline

This game is similar to others where players are drawing lines that can only cross in certain ways. In this game rather than a grid, players are drawing lines between dots arranged in a circle.

The gameboard: A circular arrangement of 10 dots

How to play:

The first player draws a line between any two dots that are not next to each other. Then players take turns drawing lines between two dots. Each new line can only cross one other line. The last player who is able to draw a line wins.

## Copolymer

In this game by Mark Steere, players are trying to color in the most circles on the game board.

The gameboard: A hexagonal grid of circles

How to play:

Players take turns coloring in circles on the board. If you color a cell that is adjacent to two or more of your opponent’s cells you must color in one more cell during your turn. You can color more than one cell per turn and your turn ends when you color a circle that doesn’t have two or more connections to your opponent’s cells. See the full rules at http://www.marksteeregames.com/Copolymer_rules.pdf

So there are 22 games that can be played with just paper and pens or pencils. These boredom busters are perfect for road trips, campgrounds, hotels, or just those long summer days when there’s “nothing to do mom.”