How to play

Players sit in a rough approximation to a circle. Whoever starts will pick a starting direction around the circle by quothing "To my left.." or "To my right.." and then start play.

Play is made by counting out loud upwards towards 21. The first player will start at 1 and then each player will continue from where the last player left off until 21 is reached. When it is their turn each player has 3 options
Count 1 number - In this case play will pass to the next player in the circle in the current direction of play.
Count 2 numbers - In this case play reverses direction and play passes to the next player in the opposite direction. play then continues in the new direction.
Count 3 numbers - In this case play continues in the current direction of play but skips one person.

Players must drink if they
hesitate when it is their turn
Count when it is not their turn
generally screw up
reach 21 on their turn

A new round of play then starts again at 1 with the person who screwed up. obviously the object of the game is to force others to say 21 while avoiding it yourself. ( TIP: its fun if you gang up on someone )

But it doesnt end there! If someone reaches 21, then after they drink they have the privilege of replacing one of the numbers with another word. For example "4 is now Aardvark". For all subsequent rounds players must remember to replace the number '4' with 'Aardvark' or else they will have 'screwed up' and must drink. (This continues until enough numbers have been replaced for everyone to agree it has become too confusing at which time they may wipe the slate and return everything to their original numbers.)

TIP: When replacing words try to build humourous phrases using subsequent numbers
TIP: If you want to be really nasty try replacing a number with another number eg " 6 is now Seven "

So after a few rounds, a round of 21's might sound something like this...
"To my left..1,2"
" 3, Aardvark, 5"
" 7 "
" 8 .. oh shit"
Twenty-One (My favourite drinking game)

Kung’s version of the game sounds like much fun, but it is quite different from the way we play here.

Players sit around in a circle with their drinks. A starter is chosen and each person in order counts one number up to twenty-one. Sounds hard doesn't it?

Each time twenty-one is reached, the person that reaches it, makes a rule. As with all rule games, the players get to decide to make it difficult or funny or ridiculously complicated. Some common rules are:

  • Replacing numbers with words or phrases
  • No using people's names
  • No pointing (a great counterpart to no names)
  • No swearing
  • Counting backwards
  • Counting some numbers in french or spanish
  • Skipping numbers
  • Whispering some numbers, yelling others
Of course, players are not limited to keeping things simple. For example, a perfectly appropriate rule would be, "Instead of counting the number six, you have to stand up, spin in a circle, pat your head three times while yelling "I like to fuck goats!"

Similar to Kung’s version, players must drink if they:

All players drink when twenty-one is reached. Which, as you can imagine, happens less and less frequently as the game progresses. Everytime a mistake is made, the next person starts counting again at one.

It is important to determine whether or not to allow an “omit rule” before you start playing. The omit rule allows the person who is making a new rule to omit one of the old ones, before s/he makes a new one. Some people don’t like this, but it comes in handy if you’re playing with beginners who tend to make stupid rules. Here’s an example:

A bunch of us were playing one night, with three or four people who had never played before. In the early rounds a rule was made that the person to the right of anyone who had to drink, also had to drink. This caused much detailed discussion about whether or not that would lead to everyone drinking on every turn, but it was clarified that it would count for the one person to the right of the drinker, but not the person to their right. This was, although difficult to explain at the onset, not a bad rule. At the very least it stopped the person on your right from purposely trying to screw you up.

One of the girls who was playing, Christina, had a crush on my roommate Rob, and was slightly bitter over the fact that he didn’t share her feelings. Her turn came to make a rule, and she said, “Rob has to drink every time anyone screws up.” We all laughed at his misfortune, and I said something like, “Man, that sucks buddy,” and he said, “for you too, eh?” because I was sitting on his right. I yelled something profane at Christina, and had to take a drink for swearing, which meant Rob had to take a drink because of Christina’s new rule, and I had to drink again because I was sitting to his right.

The downward spiral continued until Rob got a chance to make a rule and stop the insanity. He omitted Christina's rule, and probably saved us both a trip to the hospital.

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