by Graeme MacDougall
(Chicago IL)

Have you ever been stuck in the car on a long road trip, with family or friends, with nothing to do? The kind where there's only so much radio that you can listen to before you go crazy?

Well my family used to take 7-9 day long road-trips seeing the sites as we drove across the US or Canada. And I'm the kind of guy who just HAS to be doing something. I don't remember when exactly I learned this game, but it's pretty fantastic.

The name of the game is GHOST. You can play with 2 or more players of any age 10+ (or younger if you're a good speller). The object of the game is to NOT spell a word!

It doesn't require a dictionary, but it sure does help for challenges. If you don't have a dictionary, challenges are approved or rejected based on group consensus. (Which can be a fun little discussion on its own!)

The game usually takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes per round. So it is a very long game. Which is great when you have a lot of time to kill and still want to have fun (e.g. a long road trip or airplane flight).

Here's how the play works: Pick someone to go first. They say any two letters (e.g. HI). It doesn't matter if this is a word, only consecutive play matters for spelling a word.

The next player then adds a letter either to the beginning or the end of the word. (e.g. HI-G, now spelling HIG).

The next player then adds a letter again to the beginning or end (e.g. HIGH). OOPS! He spelled a word! That means he loses and he gets the letter G.

As soon as he messes up again, he gets the letter H (now spelling GH). This happens until he spells GHOST! When a player spells GHOST (aka messes up 5 times) He's out of the game. Play continues until only 1 player isn't a GHOST.

Now there's one other rule - and this is the deal-breaker that makes the game so much fun. You HAVE to be thinking of a REAL word when you add a letter to the beginning or the end of the concoction that you are creating, and you have to be able to spell the word.

For example, if we're at HI and I add a G to the end I'm thinking of the word HIGH so I'm fine.

The next player has the option of challenging me if they think that I'm not thinking of a word. So if the next player challenges me, I then say HIGH H-I-G-H. The challenger then gets a letter (from G-H-O-S-T).

If the challenger is right, though, and I'm not thinking of a word (e.g. we're at THITHISTH and I add the letter Q to the end, obviously I'm not thinking of a word) then I get caught and I get the next letter in GHOST.

Now why might someone do this you ask? Great question!

Let's say we're at SPOO, and I can't think of a word that doesn't get me caught -- e.g. I can only think of adding an N or a K spelling SPOON or SPOOK -- then I might add the letter M to the end spelling SPOOM. Now if I can make the next player THINK that I'm thinking of a word and get them to add a letter to SPOOM then only they would get a part of their GHOST and I would be safe!

When a player gets a part of his GHOST then that player starts the next round with any 2 letters.

Although there isn't a time limit on choosing your letters, my family set a rule of approximately 5 minutes so that the game would remain fun for everyone. If you take longer than about 5 minutes thinking of a new letter, or thinking if you should challenge or not, then you should probably just accept your next letter in GHOST and move on.

The game-play is really fun when you trap someone who thinks that they're going to trap you -- e.g. we have TRAI right now and they think I'm trapped with TRAIN, but instead I add an S to the front spelling STRAI now they're trapped with STRAIN!

Now go turn your friends and family into GHOSTs with your new word power!

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