How to Play Trivial Pursuit, No Matter Your Edition

Updated August 16, 2021
Trivial Pursuit game pieces which is a board game

If you've ever been to a trivia night at a local bar or club, you know that things can get heated pretty quickly as teams fight to answer whatever obscure question comes up first. The same can be said for people when they're playing the most iconic trivia game, Trivial Pursuit. First released in 1981, you might be surprised to find that younger generations aren't as familiar with the beloved board game as older ones are. Yet, even if you were there from the very beginning, it doesn't hurt to have a primer on how to play Trivial Pursuit so that you're ready and rearing to take down your family and friends with your strategic knowledge of all things trivia.

The Legend Begins

The brainchild of two Canadian reporters, Scott Abbott and Chris Haney, Trivial Pursuit, was first developed in 1979 and sold about 1,100 copies before its major international release in 1982. Once the game was paired with Selchow & Righter n 1984, its profits exponentially grew, prompting the company to capitalize on the success and create dozens of subsidiary card packs and specialty editions. In fact, many of these limited editions are still being manufactured to this day.

Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition (1981)

The first edition of Trivial Pursuit was labeled Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition. It included a couple of basic pieces as well as a masterboard. This masterboard was a clever design that Haney and Abbott used to their advantage to revitalize the game over and over again. By reusing the color scheme and keeping the pieces the same from the Genus Edition or each of the categories of every new card pack they released the creators could produce endless numbers of new packs of question cards to develop a repeat customer base and keep the company afloat.

Game Pieces to Expect

Within the Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition, you will find:

  • Instructions
  • 1 Trivial Pursuit game board
  • Questions/answers cards
  • 2 card storage boxes
  • 1 die
  • 6 tokens (a circular playing piece with six pie-shaped holes)
  • 36 scoring wedges

Standard Question Categories

Of the thousands of question cards in the Genus Edition, there are six standard trivia categories that all players must master in order to win the game:

  • Geography
  • Entertainment
  • History
  • Arts & Literature
  • Science & Nature
  • Sports & Leisure

How to Play Trivial Pursuit

Made for ages 12+ and supposedly for anywhere between 2-24 players, Trivial Pursuit is a rather easy game to set up and play. The hardest part of the game is correctly answering the variety of questions featured on the question cards. To start the game, players choose their colored token and place them in the center hexagonal hub of the game board. Then, players roll the die to see who goes first (highest number starts the game). Upon determining the order, players roll the die to circle around the board, answering questions from the corresponding category of the square that they landed on.

As players move around the board, they aim to land on the "headquarters" space of each category. If they answer the question from this category correctly, they're awarded a pie piece of the corresponding color. Once one player has received all of the pie pieces, they then move from the nearest category headquarters up towards the game board's hub in the center. When they reach the hub, they are asked a game-winning question. If they can't answer the question, they have to wait for their next turn, leave the hub area, and answer a question to reenter the hub to try again.

The first player to enter the hub and correctly answer the question wins the game.

Subsidiary Packs of the Late-20th Century

The first Trivial Pursuit comes with a standard masterboard, meaning that players can buy customary packs of new question cards - called subsidiary packs - to liven up their game and extend their game play. This not only keeps the game fresh by constantly adding new material for players to master but also lets people not have to constantly buy entire master sets for double the cost. Some of the most notable subsidiary packs released for Trivia Pursuit include:

  • All-Star Sports Edition (1983)
  • Baby Boomer Edition (1983)
  • Silver Screen Edition (1983)
  • Genus II Edition (1984)
  • Young Players Edition (1984)
  • RPM Edition (1985)
  • Welcome to America Edition (1985)
  • Walt Disney Family Edition (1985)
  • The 1960s (1986)
  • The Vintage Years (1989)
  • The 1980s (1989)
  • TV Edition (1991)
  • Show Edition (1993)
  • Know-It-All (1998)

Specialty Editions

As Trivial Pursuit's popularity began to wane in the early 2000s, the manufacturing company attempted to capitalize on a different arena of trivia, which appealed to younger audiences. Thus, special editions that focused on hyper-specific subjects like films, television series, decades, and so on were created. If you're a Millennial or Gen Z'er, chances are high that you've played on one of these boards before:

  • Trivial Pursuit 90s (2003)
  • Trivial Pursuit: Lord of the Rings (2003)
  • Trivial Pursuit: Book Lovers Edition (2004)
  • Trivial Pursuit: Disney Edition (2005)
  • Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s (2006)
  • Trivial Pursuit: The Beatle's Collector's Edition (2009)
  • Trivial Pursuit: Classic Rock (2011)
  • Trivial Pursuit: 2000s (2016)

Trivia Never Gets Old

If there's one thing that Trivial Pursuit's lasting popularity proves, it's that knowing trivia never gets old. There's something so pure about humanity's constant pursuit of new knowledge, and Trivial Pursuit does a great job of transforming that drive into something competitive. Now that you know how to play Trivial Pursuit properly, head on out to your local thrift store and see if you can find one of these vintage Genus Editions to test if you and your friends or family are up-to-snuff.

How to Play Trivial Pursuit, No Matter Your Edition