Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play Taboo board game. This is a very fun party game that tests your communication skills with the hurdle of not being able to say all the words that you really want to say. A buzzer will keep everyone on their toes if they break the rules. Learning how to play Taboo is a snap and can be picked up in just a few minutes.

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The Taboo game is the game of unspeakable fun! Who can get their teammates to say “Brain Freeze” without being able to say Ice Cream, Headache, Eating, Cold or Fast? When playing the Taboo game, the obvious clues are strictly forbidden. Players race against the timer as they try to give creative and carefully-worded clues to get team players to guess words fast. But don’t mention unmentionables, or it’s time for the squeaker, which means losing the point.


Time Needed: Approximately 20 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Taboo the popular imperfect communication party game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Take Out Buzzer
To kick off how to play Taboo setup, you need to put out the iconic buzzer. It needs AA batteries if you have not already put them in.

2. SETUP | Put Out Sand Timer
Take out the sand timer hour glass and place it centrally on the table.

3. SETUP | Put Cards in Sleeve
There have been many versions of Taboo over the years so this might all be a little different in your version, but the important thing is to take the cards and put them in the sleeve so you can only see the top one.

4. SETUP | Divide Players Into Two Teams
The final step of how to play Taboo setup is to just split everyone up into two equal teams.

5. GAMEPLAY | Team A Chooses Clue Giver
Turns go back and forth between the two teams. For their turn, each team selects one of their individuals to be the person to give the clue, everyone else on the team will be trying to guess what it is.

6. GAMEPLAY | Flip Over Sand Timer
You see an hourglass and you ask how long is the Taboo timer? The answer to that question is that the timer lasts one minute once you flip it. Once you are ready to go, flip over the timer and immediately start going, once the 1 minute passes, all sand will reach the bottom and the time will be over.

7. GAMEPLAY | Team A Clue Giver Gives Clue
Once the timer is flipped the clue giver takes out the top clue card. It will have a highlighted clue, which is the word you need to get people to say, and it will have a list of “taboo” words that you CAN’T say while trying to give the clue. When a clue is successfully guessed, the giver sets that card aside and takes the next one. This keeps going until time runs out.

8. GAMEPLAY | Team B Buzzes Any “Taboo” Words
Team B does not participate in the guessing and clue giving of Team A’s turn but they do buzz. They sit beside the clue giver with the buzzer. Every time the giver says a word they were not supposed to, the buzzer hits the buzzer and that clue card is now failed. The buzzing team gets the point for that bizzed card.

9. GAMEPLAY | Take Score
After the timer finishes and the round is over, count up all the successful clue cards gotten (none of the failed cards) and that is how many points you get for the round.

10. GAMEPLAY | Pass to Other Team And Repeat
After a team has taken score, their turn is over. It now passes over to the other team and everything is reversed. They give clues to their team and the other team buzzes. This back and forth continues until the game ends.

11. GAME END | Every Player Gives A Clue
You play enough rounds so that everyone has a chance to be the clue giver once. That means if you have four player teams, you will be playing four rounds. If the teams have an uneven number of players, someone gives twice.

12. WINNING | High Score
After you have played all the rounds, whoever has accrued the highest score overall their rounds have won. In the case of a tie, each team chooses their best clue giver and there is a final showdown. As you can see, learning how to play Taboo is incredibly easy.



No form or part of ANY word printed on the card may be given as a clue. Examples: If the guess word is PAYMENT, “pay” cannot be given as a clue. If DRINK is a taboo word, then “drunk” cannot be given as a clue. If SPACESHIP is the guess word, you can’t use “space” or “ship” as a clue.

No gestures may be made. Examples: You can’t form your hand in the shape of a gun as a clue for “shoot”; or point to your nose for a clue for “beak”.

No sound effects or noises may be made, such as explosions or engine noises, however, feel free to break into song.

You cannot say the guess word “sounds like” or “rhymes with” another word.

No initials or abbreviations can be given if the words they represent are included on the card. Examples: MD cannot be used in MEDICAL or DOCTOR is the guess word or a taboo word. TV cannot be used if TELEVISION is the guess word or a taboo word.


  • 504x Cards
  • 1x Card Holder
  • 1x Buzzer
  • 1x Timer
  • 1x Scorepad


We hope you can now say that you know how to play Taboo. This lively party game about imperfect communication will get any gathering going and is a ton of fun. It originally released in 1989 and still holds up today. It is a simple concept to have people give clues with the only limit being they can’t use a handful of words, but it is surprisingly effective in making for a very fun experience. Now that you know the rules, go out and enjoy yourself with friends or family.

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