Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play Snake Oil board game. The game uses the popular submit and judge mechanic that has a rotating judge to choose a winner among the other players. Here they do not reinvent the wheel but they bring their own unique mechanic to make for its own interesting experience. In a game that has you bumping your creativity up to a 10, you need to use your limited resources (word cards) to come up with products or inventions that would best help whoever the customer is that round. The game is for 3 – 10 players at ages 10+. The rules for how to play Snake Oil are incredibly easy, take a look below.

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In the Old West, the sly snake oil salesman had a special talent. He could get the most skeptical customer to buy the most dubious products. That is what is happening here. Different roles like Pirate, Plumber or last person on Earth will pop up and each player will need to mash together two word cards to form the best product for them and pitch it. Who wouldn’t need a “Truth-Light” or an “Underwear-Oven”. The winner is the one who wins the most, but at the end of the day it is about creativity and having a fun journey.


Time Needed: Approximately 20 – 30 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Snake Oil the submit and judge party board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Place Word Cards
The cards that have rounded corners and a “snake oil” back are the word cards. These are what players will use to form products. To kick off how to play Snake Oil setup, shuffle these up and place in the center of the table, accessible to everyone.

2. SETUP | Place Customer Cards
Shuffle up the 2-sided role customer cards and place them in the center of the table accessible to everyone.

3. SETUP | Players Draw 6 Word Cards
Each player draws six word cards from the face-down deck to form their opening hands.

4. SETUP | Select Starting Player
The final step to how to play Snake Oil set up before getting into gameplay is to choose who will be the starting customer. Use your randomizer of choice to decide.

5. GAMEPLAY | Choose Customer Card
The player in the “Customer” role takes one of the customer 2-sided cards and chooses one of those sides. That chosen role is the active one for the round and the one that players need to pitch to.

6. GAMEPLAY | Players For Item
Based on what came up for the customer card, each player need to take two cards from their hand to form an invention or product they would need. They have to choose the cards and come up with a 30 second pitch to make their case for it.

7. GAMEPLAY | Players Take Turns Pitching Customer
All players have 30 seconds to pitch their item to the customer. There is no set order, anyone can hop in and make their pitch once someone else is done. Sometimes it is smart to lead, sometimes it is smart to end. The customer can cut off any pitch that goes over 30 seconds.

8. GAMEPLAY | Customer Chooses Winner
After all the players have made their pitches, the player in the “customer” role chooses a winner. That player gets to keep the role card as a marker they won the round.

9. GAMEPLAY | Players Refill Their Hands
All Word cards used this round are discarded and all players draw cards again so they go back up to 6 total. These are drawn from the central pile. If there are no more, shuffle up the discards and make a new pile.

10. GAMEPLAY | Pass & Repeat
After a winner has been chosen and players have refilled their hands, the “customer” job is moved to the player to the left and the process is repeated. This happens until the game ends.

11. GAME END | Each Player Is Customer
You play round after round until every player in the game has been the “customer” once. After the last person has done it, the game ends and it is time to count up customer cards.

12. WINNING | Most Customer Cards
After the game has ended, the player who has acquired the most customer cards wins. As you can see, learning how to play Snake Oil is easy, it is just about how creative you can be.



“The More The Merrier”

To give players more options in creating items for the Customer, decide as a group to hold eight or even ten cards per hand instead of the standard six.

“Snake Oil Live”

With this variation you can entertain a large group for hours as Snake Oil contestants pitch to an audience to see who is the best Snake Oil salesperson. To run Snake Oil Live, you need a host, contestants and an audience.

  1. Select one person to be the first host.
  2. Select three players to be the first contestants. Each contestant draws six Word Cards and the host reveals a customer card. The audience acts as the customer.
  3. The contestants each create a two-card item and then take turns pitching to the audience.
  4. After all of the contestants have made their pitch, the show host asks the audience to cheer or raise their hands for who they liked the best. Majority wins.
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 with new contestants for each round.
  6. Play one final round with the players that won earlier rounds to have a finals. The winner of that final round is the Snake Oil champion.

“Snake Oil Tournament (12 – 24 players)”

These rules will help you host a fun and simple tournament using just one box of Snake Oil.

  1. Divide the players into three groups of 4, 5 or 6 players. Groups can be uneven if necessary.
  2. Divide the Word and Customer Cards so that each group has approximately the same amount.
  3. Each group plays one game, with each player being the customer once and determining a winner of that group.
  4. Play one final game with all the winners to determine and overall Snake Oil champion.


  • 340x Word Cards
  • 30x Customer Cards
  • 1x Rulebook


We hope you can now say you know how to play Snake Oil. This fun party game about pitching crazy inventions for any given role is a light and enjoyable one. It is built for families but is a title that any gamer can enjoy. This uses the submit and judge mechanic that has been around for some time but it puts its own unique spin to create a fresh experience. As you can see, the rules for how to play Snake Oil are very easy, you just need to get out there with the right group of friends or family and play.