How to Play the Guess Who? Board Game (and Win It All)

Updated May 19, 2022
Girls playing game in train

First introduced in 1979 and still in production, Guess Who? is a guessing game that involves coming up with questions to guess the other player's character. Suitable for players six years of age and up, this two-person board game can provide hours of entertainment for pairs of friends or family members. It's not complicated or complex but does provide a lot of fun and thoughtful enjoyment while also helping players build strong reasoning skills.

How to Set Up the Guess Who? Board Game

Guess Who? is simple to set up. The Guess Who? board game includes two game trays (one red and one blue) with character cards built in and a deck of mystery cards that correspond to the characters on the trays. When you unbox the game to play, you'll need to:

  • Flip open each game tray so that the character cards are standing up.
  • Give each player a tray. It doesn't matter who gets which color, as both trays have the same characters.
  • Position players so the two participants are facing one another (such as on opposite sides of a table).
  • Place the stack of mystery cards where each player can reach them.

Step-by-Step Instructions: How to Play Guess Who?

The object of Guess Who? is to figure out the identity of your opponent's mystery character by a process of asking identification questions that help you narrow down the possibilities. You can play just one round if you want, but consider playing a best of series to expand the fun. For example, decide up front that you will play five rounds and declare the player who wins three of the five rounds to be the victor.

1. Choose a Mystery Character

Before play can start, each player must select a character by secretly choosing a mystery card. One player should pick up the deck of mystery cards and shuffle it, then draw a card without showing it to their opponent. The player should place the card in the card holder slot at the front of their game tray. The second player should repeat this action.

2. Observe the Cards on Your Tray

Each player should take a few minutes to observe the character cards in their tray to get ideas for questions to ask their opponent in their quest to narrow down which of the characters is the one on their mystery card. Looking for similarities and differences among characters that will help you hone in on the correct character.

3. Start the Game By Asking a Question

Decide which player is going to go first. Each player takes turns asking the other a question. The player who goes first will ask the other player one yes or no question regarding their character's identity. The other player must answer truthfully. Sample questions include things like:

  • Is your person a man?
  • Is your person a woman?
  • Does your person wear glasses?
  • Does your person have red hair?
  • Does your person have blonde hair?
  • Does your person have brown hair?
  • Does your person have black hair?
  • Does your person have gray hair?
  • Does your person's name start with a vowel?
  • Does your person's name start with a consonant?

4. Eliminate Characters

Based on the way your opponent answers the question, turn cards for any players that have now been eliminated face down. For example, if you asked if their character wears glasses and they said yes, then turn over any characters that are not wearing glasses. They can't be the character you need to guess, so it will help you to adjust them so you no longer see them.

5. Take Turns Asking Questions

Once the first player has asked a question and eliminated characters based on the other player's response, then it is the second player's turn. They will follow suit, asking their own question and eliminating options that cannot be the other person's mystery character based on their response.

6. Guess the Mystery Character's Identity

Once you have eliminated enough characters to believe you know who is on your opponent's mystery card, you can opt to ask if their mystery card is a specific person. If you are correct, you are the winner and the game is over. If you are wrong, the other person will continue with their turn. Players continue taking turns until someone guesses the other's character and wins the game.

Strategies for Winning

Winning the game comes down to asking the right questions. When looking at the characters, you'll notice that most of them have several features that are similar. While you'll want to get the obvious questions like, "is your character a man?" out of the way, think about multi-part questions that make up several characters. For example:

  • Several characters have black hair, glasses, and large noses. If you ask a question like, "Does your character have red hair or glasses?" you can weed out more characters than a simple one-part question.
  • You can also ask questions about attributes that only a few characters have like, "Does your character have long hair or earrings?" While a negative answer might not get you too far, a positive one can take you from 48 cards to six really quickly.

Skills Learned Through Playing

Like most board games, Guess Who? is more than just fun. Players can hone their reasoning abilities and build other important life skills while having a good time. Examples of skills Guess Who? helps to build include:

  • Deductive reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Logical thinking
  • Observation
  • Forming appropriate questions
  • Discriminating among similarities and differences
  • Process of elimination

Guess Who? Board Game Versions

The Guess Who? board game is popular with young kids and has inspired different versions. The classic game, a travel version, and a card game version are readily available, but other versions are no longer in production. Previous versions can sometimes be found at resale stores, eBay, or other secondhand resources. Costs range from $5 - $12 for the current versions. Classic versions typically sell for $10 - $50 (or even more), depending on condition and rarity. Previous versions of Guess Who? include:

  • The Disney Edition featured favorite Disney characters such as Cruella de Vile, The Little Mermaid, and Dopey.
  • Disney Princess lovers had a blast guessing their favorite princesses through Guess Who? Disney Princess Edition Game.
  • The Disney Jr. edition featured characters from beloved preschool shows like Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Doc McStuffin.
  • The Nickelodeon edition featured characters from classic Nickelodeon shows like Big Time Rush and iCarly.
  • The Guess Who? Marvel Edition allowed players to weed through their favorite superheroes, from Iron Man or Captain America.
  • The Guess Who? Star Wars edition featured characters from all of the Star Wars movies.

Family Fun With the Guess Who? Board Game

When you're looking for a family board game that is both fun and educational for elementary schoolers, Guess Who? could be a perfect choice. Siblings and friends will love pairing up to play, and it's also a great game for parents and kiddos to play together. You might find you enjoy it almost as much as your child does! Even if you don't particularly enjoy playing the game, you're sure to love the impact it has on your child's critical thinking and deductive reasoning abilities.

How to Play the Guess Who? Board Game (and Win It All)