The Great Panjandrum

(Poison Letter)

The Great Panjandrum (also known as Poison Letter) is a simple parlor game for adults and children who can spell everyday words. It requires no equipment and can be played at parties, family reunions, etc.

Age: Adults and older children (who have reasonably good spelling skills)

No. of players: Large groups

Equipment: None

Time: 10 minutes+

Aim: To be the last player in the game.

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1. For each round, one letter of the alphabet is chosen as the poison letter. Each player takes it in turns to choose the letter and to start the round by saying, "The Great Panjandrum does not like the letter ... What shall we ...?"

For example, "The Great Panjandrum does not like the letter 'T'. What shall we give him to wear?"

2. Starting on the player's left and continuing in a clockwise direction, each of the players must answer the question with words that do not include the poison letter. Some answers could include shoes, jumper, sandals, cap or sunglasses, but not trousers, shirt or hat since they contain the letter 'T'. Players must not repeat words which have already been said and must answer within five seconds of the previous answer. If they do repeat an answer, they must give a correct answer within five more seconds. Any player who takes too long, cannot give a correct answer or gives an answer with the poison letter is out for the rest of the round. Play continues until every player but one is out. The last player wins that round.

3. The player who started answering that round then chooses a new poison letter and a question to ask. Some samples of questions are;

    What shall we give him to eat?
    What flowers does he like?
    What is his favourite colour?
    What did he do this morning?

4. The overall winner is the player who has won the most rounds after every player has chosen a poison letter and question, or after an agreed time limit.


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