Time Waster Tuesday: Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the early renaissance. However, that has nothing to do with this amazing game we love to play to waste time.

Basically, when we were kids, games like I Spy and 20 Questions got boring very quickly. I grew up in a logical family, and games like those just didn’t stimulate our minds quite enough to distract during our twenty-hour drives from New Jersey to Florida. Nor did they keep us entertained while waiting in long Disney World lines, before they invented Fast Passes.

We had to come up with new ways to entertain ourselves, and to this day we continue to invent and create games that fit our specific waiting situation. However, we always tend to fall back on this old classic: Botticelli.

Basic game play is two layers. The first is similar to a general game of Twenty Questions, but with a few twists. First, there is no question limit on the yes or no questions. You can ask as many as you would like, as long as you earn them. Second, the person who is “It” in this game is always acting as a real person or fictional character – none of these places or things! Last, the “It” tells all the other players the first letter* of the name of their person or character.

So, I said you have to earn these “Free Questions,” and that brings us to the second layer of the game. In order to earn a question, the players must stump the “It” person, by asking tricky questions about other people or characters starting with the same letter.

Sound complicated enough? Let’s look at a few examples.

Example Game 1: The letter of the person/character is M
Player: Did your name change from Mortimer to what it is now?
It: No, I’m not Mickey Mouse.

The clue the player gave was far too simple, and so the “It” player knew immediately to say they were not Mickey Mouse, preventing the player from earning a free question. But what happens if the player does stump “It”?

Example Game 2: The letter of the person/character is M
Player: Did your name change from Mortimer to what it is now?
It: Umm, I have no idea!**
Player: I get a free question! Are you a real person?
It: No.

The goal of the players is to continue to stump “It” until they have earned enough Free Questions to figure out the person or character “It” has been thinking of from the beginning. Once this occurs, a player will ask a last stumping question, to which “It” will respond: Yes I am Blank. The player that asked the last question becomes the next “It” and the game starts again on a new letter.

It’s seems more complicated than it is, but any geeks like you should be able to grasp it pretty quickly. We taught a few new friends while waiting in line at PaxEast in March, and they caught on. If the game is too broad for your group or family, try playing a variation like we do:

Disney Botticelli: “It” must be a Disney character or related real person. However, players can stump “It” using any Disney or non-Disney character or real person starting with the given letter. Try this with any large fandom.

Trivia Stumping: This can make earning Free Questions a little bit faster. In addition to the players trying to stump “It” with other characters and people, they may also ask trivia questions in which the answer begins with the chosen letter. For M, a player might ask “What is the fourth planet from the sun?” If “It” did not answer Mars, then the player earns a free question.

Confirmation Mode: If “It” is stumped, another player, different from the first to ask the question, must answer the question correctly in order for the player to earn a Free Question.

Vermicelli: Instead of a person, the entire game revolves around food! Don’t play this one when you’re hungry.

Think it sounds like a good time? I know we have been playing it for practically my entire life, and we’ve even had games last between vacations, so we had to return to them a year later! Try playing this next time you have to wait in a line or at a restaurant, and let us know how it goes. If you play a different version already, tell us about it! We love to add new games to our repertoire.

*For fictional characters, use their most common name. For real people, last names are always used except when the person has only one commonly known name, e.g. Madonna.

**To make game play more fair, at least half the group of players must recognize the name of the character or person used in the stumping question. “It” is not required to know who the person/character is, however.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eleni
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 00:56:21

    OK, old post, but I followed the link train from the most recent post. Anyway, I am so glad other people play this game! My family would always play it on long car rides. I taught it to a few friends in college, but most people think it sounds too complicated when I describe it to them. It’s not, it just takes a little time to explain.

    We refer to the initial questions the players use to stump the “It” person as “indirect” questions, as opposed to the “direct” yes or no questions. One of our house rules is if you ask an indirect question that’s not specific enough, so that the It person answers correctly but not with the name that you were thinking of, you can say “Again” to make the It guess again. We allow two “again”s (total of three answers) before the player has to pick a new question.

    It’s kind of funny (or annoying, depending which side of it you’re on) when the players still haven’t solved who it is, but just happen to ask an indirect question about the person that It is really thinking of. So It has to say, “Yes, I am ___” to everyone’s surprise.

    That’s a good criteria to check that someone else there knows the answer (or half the people do) to determine whether or not it counts. Then my dad wouldn’t have stumped us all on obscure Shakespeare characters, and I couldn’t have used all the obscure Redwall characters (or maybe I could have, since my brothers read those too).


    • GirlsAreGeeks
      Aug 25, 2010 @ 01:44:32

      Yeah, we’ve played the “again” game, I typically do it with composers! Though we never had a limit on it. I’ve also hit the “yes, I am” as funny moments.



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