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Taboo Game Rules and How to Play

Taboo was once a popular party game. While it might not be quite as popular these days, there is still plenty of fun to be had with a game of Taboo. In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to know about the Taboo game rules. 

But before that, let’s take a more in-depth look at the game itself. 

What is Taboo?

What is Taboo

Many people think Taboo is a 2 player card game. While it can be played with 2 people, it is much more fun as a larger group game. Taboo was originally published by the Parker Brothers, who you likely know because of their Monopoly fame

But it’s now published by Hasbro. Taboo is essentially a guessing game but with a twist! One player will need to describe a word to their teammates. However, there are certain words (the titular taboos) that they can’t say. If they do then you have to move on to the next word. Which essentially means players lose a point. 

You’ll also be racing against the clock in Taboo which can make it surprisingly frantic at times. Taboo is a great party game and would no doubt be a fun addition to any game night. 

Let’s now take a look at what you’ll need to play Taboo.

What You’ll Need? 

If you want to play Taboo, you’ll need a game set. Now while Taboo doesn’t have numerous different themed sets like Monopoly, there are a few variations to be aware of. One of the most popular versions is the family edition

Which tasks children to battle against their parents with special cards. But we’re looking at the traditional Taboo game. The Taboo game rules are very similar across each version, though. So, once you know how to play the base game, you’ll be able to play other versions. 

On Sale Taboo Board Game
On Sale Taboo Kids vs Parents

The products above will give you a good idea of what to look out for. When you open the box, you’ll see plenty of cards. But there are a few other pieces of equipment included as well. 

Taboo Cards 

Taboo cards will give you the word the other players must guess. Underneath the word will be a list of 5 other words that you can’t say. For example, if the word to guess was “Boat,” then some of the Taboo words could be things like “Sea” or “Sailing.” 

Taboo cards are double-sided and come with their special card tray. The tray also acts as an aisle for you to hold the card up as well. The number of cards you’ll get can vary depending on the edition you buy. But you will usually get around 250 different Taboo cards.


Taboo comes with an hourglass timer. Each round in Taboo will only be a minute long before it moves to the next player. While using the hourglass is recommended under standard Taboo game rules, you can just as easily use a stopwatch or your smartphone. 

Buzzer/ Squeaker 

The buzzer or squeaker is a way for the non-playing team to say you have used a Taboo word. If they notice this and sound the buzzer, then that card must be instantly discarded. Remember, this will also add a point to the opposing team’s total. So, it’s best to avoid Taboo words whenever you can. 

Taboo Rules and Gameplay 

Taboo Rules and Gameplay

The Aim of The Game

Taboo is a very relaxed game which makes it great for parties. However, like many group games, it does have a points system. Your aim is to score as many points as you can when playing. 

But when you’re not playing, you’ll need to be monitoring the other team closely. This way, you can be sure they aren’t using any Taboo words. Or trying to get around them in other ways. Let’s now take a more in-depth look at the Taboo game rules. 

Setting Up 

Taboo is best played with a group, ideally with an even number of people. People should separate into 2 groups. Then decide on the play order. The team who isn’t playing first should sit behind the other team so that they can supervise. 

They’ll also need the buzzer/ squeaker with them. The team who is going first should shuffle the Taboo cards and place them in the tray. Once you are ready to begin playing, start the timer and go. 

Playing Taboo

To play Taboo, each team member will need to take a turn being the Giver. The Giver will take a card from the tray and place it on the aisle. They’ll then start the timer and have 1 minute to try and get their teammates to guess the word. 

They can do this in any way as long as they don’t say the Taboo words. If their teammates guess the word, then they’ll need to pick another card. Once their time runs out, the team will score a point for each card/ word they have guessed. 

This loop continues till each member of the team has had a turn being the Giver. The team that isn’t currently playing will need to supervise the team to ensure they aren’t using any Taboo words. If they spot the other team using one, they should hit the buzzer/ squeaker. 

The team playing will then need to discard the card. Any discarded cards will add 1 point to the other team’s score. Once the playing team is finished, they’ll then supervise the other team as they play. Once both teams have finished, they should tally up their scores. The team with the most points wins! 

The Taboo Words

The big thing about the Taboo game rules is the Taboo words. Whatever is listed on the card can’t be said by the Giver. But they also can’t be hinted at or acted out either. Givers can’t try to be smart either by using similar words or by trying to spell them out.

Taboo – A Terrific Party Game 

Taboo is a great game for a group of friends to play. It offers a clever twist on the traditional guessing game formula and is sure to be entertaining. If you’re looking for a new game to add to your next night-in, why not give Taboo a try?

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